ItÁ¢€â„¢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 childrenÁ¢€â„¢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 IÁ¢€â„¢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. IÁ¢€â„¢m highlighting quite a few of the songs because I had a problem deciding what I wanted to include here. DonÁ¢€â„¢t worry — I think youÁ¢€â„¢ll like them anyway!
The first song here is called Á¢€Å“The Special Expression Song.Á¢€ 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 Á¢€Å“please,Á¢€ Á¢€Å“thank you,Á¢€ and Á¢€Å“May I please be excused?Á¢€ when you want to leave the dinner table. And pay attention because thereÁ¢€â„¢s a test at the end!
Our next song is Á¢€Å“The Pet Song,Á¢€ where she explains how you should take care of your pets because a dog canÁ¢€â„¢t go to a restaurant when heÁ¢€â„¢s hungry, a cat canÁ¢€â„¢t take an aspirin when sheÁ¢€â„¢s sick, and your fish canÁ¢€â„¢t knock on his fishbowl if he needs clean water, which (to my knowledge) is all true.
In Á¢€Å“When Mother CallsÁ¢€ (one of the songs on FredÁ¢€â„¢s records), Brody tells a little story about a boy named Johnny who ignored his motherÁ¢€â„¢s calls to him, and the dire consequences of his foolish action. “That was too bad for Johnny!”
Á¢€Å“Let Your Daddy Sleep on Sunday MorningÁ¢€ probably got the biggest laugh out of both of us, since FredÁ¢€â„¢s dad was a preacher! And your ears arenÁ¢€â„¢t deceiving you; that is the exact same tune as Á¢€Å“When Mother Calls,Á¢€ 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 itÁ¢€â„¢s easy to understand why when you discover that it asks the musical question, Á¢€Å“Do you have a bathroom problem in your house?Á¢€ The lesson here? “Get out of the bathroom, you doofus! ThereÁ¢€â„¢s people jumping up and down on one leg out here!”
One thing I havenÁ¢€â„¢t touched on is the musical arrangements here. Even though itÁ¢€â„¢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, Á¢€Å“Let Your Daddy Sleep on Sunday MorningÁ¢€). ItÁ¢€â„¢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 youÁ¢€â„¢ll notice that this song, Á¢€Å“Kindness and Consideration,Á¢€ has a jazzy, honky-tonk piano and guitar accompaniment that really sets it apart from the other songs on the album.
We end with BrodyÁ¢€â„¢s magnum opus on the album, Á¢€Å“Do Things Right,Á¢€ wherein she explains that a good habit to get into is Á¢€Å“When 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!Á¢€ ItÁ¢€â„¢s hard to argue with that. You can try, but I think sheÁ¢€â„¢d take you down with her crushing logic and devastatingly good manners.
ThatÁ¢€â„¢s just a sample of whatÁ¢€â„¢s on the album. If you also want to hear her tell stories about Á¢€Å“The Donkey and Salt,Á¢€ and Á¢€Å“The Honest Lumberjack,Á¢€ find out why Á¢€Å“Your Mouth Is a HouseÁ¢€ and how to Á¢€Å“Make Each Meal as Happy as a Party,Á¢€ I urge you to get this album here. And Fred, if youÁ¢€â„¢re reading this, this one’s dedicated to you, buddy!