Itâ€™s time once again to dig deep into the Way Out Junk archives to bring you another installment of “Way Out Wednesday.” This week, we spotlight the wonderful childrenâ€™s album A Calendar of Happy Thoughts, with songs written and performed by Selma Rich Brody. While I never actually owned this album when I was younger, Fred Dunagan, my best friend and next door neighbor when we were kids, had some 45s with a few of these songs on them. We always just thought of them as silly, catchy little tunes. Now that Iâ€™m older, I see them as catchy little tuneswith some pretty nifty messages.
The concept was that you were supposed to have a song for each day in a month, and then I guess they expected you to start over at the beginning of the next month until the messages stuck. Iâ€™m highlighting quite a few of the songs because I had a problem deciding what I wanted to include here. Donâ€™t worry — I think youâ€™ll like them anyway!
The first song here is called â€œThe Special Expression Song.â€ After Ms. Brody pounds into your head the importance of thinking about things, she sings a nice little song about remembering to shake hands, saying things like â€œplease,â€ â€œthank you,â€ and â€œMay I please be excused?â€ when you want to leave the dinner table. And pay attention because thereâ€™s a test at the end!
Our next song is â€œThe Pet Song,â€ where she explains how you should take care of your pets because a dog canâ€™t go to a restaurant when heâ€™s hungry, a cat canâ€™t take an aspirin when sheâ€™s sick, and your fish canâ€™t knock on his fishbowl if he needs clean water, which (to my knowledge) is all true.
In â€œWhen Mother Callsâ€ (one of the songs on Fredâ€™s records), Brody tells a little story about a boy named Johnny who ignored his motherâ€™s calls to him, and the dire consequences of his foolish action. “That was too bad for Johnny!”
â€œLet Your Daddy Sleep on Sunday Morningâ€ probably got the biggest laugh out of both of us, since Fredâ€™s dad was a preacher! And your ears arenâ€™t deceiving you; that is the exact same tune as â€œWhen Mother Calls,â€ although it is a different arrangement of it. (Hey, you try to think up a song with a valuable lesson every day for a month and see how you do!)
This song has traveled around a bit on the Internet, and itâ€™s easy to understand why when you discover that it asks the musical question, â€œDo you have a bathroom problem in your house?â€ The lesson here? “Get out of the bathroom, you doofus! Thereâ€™s people jumping up and down on one leg out here!”
One thing I havenâ€™t touched on is the musical arrangements here. Even though itâ€™s just Ms. Brody singing all these songs and the arrangements are pretty simple affairs, they mix up which instruments are used. One song may use a banjo, the next might be prominently piano, and another uses what sounds like a church organ (like, ironically enough, â€œLet Your Daddy Sleep on Sunday Morningâ€). Itâ€™s subtle, but it makes for a lot more variety, especially when Brody decides to use the same tune for a different song. The reason I mention it here is that youâ€™ll notice that this song, â€œKindness and Consideration,â€ has a jazzy, honky-tonk piano and guitar accompaniment that really sets it apart from the other songs on the album.
We end with Brodyâ€™s magnum opus on the album, â€œDo Things Right,â€ wherein she explains that a good habit to get into is â€œWhen no one has to tell you what to do and what to say, you just do it, and you do it right, and do it right away!â€ Itâ€™s hard to argue with that. You can try, but I think sheâ€™d take you down with her crushing logic and devastatingly good manners.
Thatâ€™s just a sample of whatâ€™s on the album. If you also want to hear her tell stories about â€œThe Donkey and Salt,â€ and â€œThe Honest Lumberjack,â€ find out why â€œYour Mouth Is a Houseâ€ and how to â€œMake Each Meal as Happy as a Party,â€ I urge you to get this album here. And Fred, if youâ€™re reading this, this one’s dedicated to you, buddy!