Humour in songs is fickle, and that’s a problem for verbally witty songwriter. Music lives in the memory differently from humour; a good piece of music will survive repeated listenings, and will reveal new depths and new details, but the best jokes explode quickly and fade rapidly, and don’t usually reveal any new facets with repetition.
There’s a great deal of wit in Pat Fish’s songs, early and late, and in the early ones particularly there are some very sharp rhyming couplets, usually delivered at a fast pace, so that you’ve scarcely absorbed one before the next one comes along. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, certainly on the first few listenings, but they survive as songs because of the musicianship, and because in most cases there’s something more to them than the joke. Even ‘What’s the Matter, Boy’, which I hope to come to in a later post, is about not fitting in socially.
‘Bigfoot Motel’ is great because there isn’t any higher justification for its existence, certainly not that wouldn’t require a strain of the interpretative faculties; but it bears repeated listening. It really is a song about a mythical North American creature checking into a motel only to find that it’s being processed for food. I wouldn’t claim that it still makes me laugh out loud, but I still enjoy being in its company. Here’s a live rendition:
Lyrics here: http://www.jazzbutcher.com/htdb/lyrics/bigfoot.html
For a long time I didn’t understand the basic conceit: in the USA there’s a device known as a ‘Roach Motel’ for catching cockroaches. In one of the recorded versions Pat begins by quoting the sales slogan from the Roach Motel: ‘They check in, but they don’t check out.’ The truly ingenious would see this as a song about counterculture (the West Coast mountain man in shaggy fur) being hunted down and destroyed. But I’d prefer to think of it as a very silly, very catchy song about a mythical beast with a credit card.