Friday, October 14, 2005

Garden - Related Beatles Songs


Is this true? Did Paul McCartney really write these lyrics as stand-ins until the words to "Yesterday" arrived to match the melody? Can someone fact-check this, please? I'd do it myself, but I'm busy.

"Scrambled eggs
Have an omelette with some Muenster cheese
Put your dishes in the wash bin please
So I can clean the scrambled eggs"

Futility Closet

Well. True or not, I've got something even better: The Beetless Gardening Book, by Chris Roth, which has been out for almost ten years and would be impossible to find in a new bookstore--but here, I tracked one down for you at Powell's. This is an older but entirely accurate review I wrote of the book:

Within an hour of getting this book in my hands, I was humming “You’re Gonna Lose That Soil” to myself (“If you don’t add organic matter, you will deplete it soon--yes, yes you will deplete it soon...”) and considering how I could apply the lessons of “Paperback Mulcher” to my own life.

The Beetless, according to the book’s introduction, made singular contributions to the “agri-/horti-/literary/pop culture scene” of the late twentieth century. The band’s members, Jam Lemon, Pear Machete, Rutabaga Variety, and Joychoi Heirloom, formed to express in song the triumphs and challenges of organic vegetable gardening in the Pacific Northwest. Sadly, only fifty-seven of their songs were written down, and the rest are lost to today’s fans. However, the book’s author, Chris Roth, managed to gather together some information about the “Lost Songs of the Beetless”, which he includes in sidebars throughout the book.

Friends of Alan Chadwick will be saddened to learn that the lyrics to “Being for the Benefit of Alan Chadwick”, written by Jam after he found an apprenticeship brochure in the trash, have been lost forever. Other songs were left on the scrap heap after lyrical or musical difficulties. Another farmgirl favorite, “CSA Day” (set to the tune of “Sexy Sadie”), was scrapped due to the clumsy cadence of the lyrics, despite its insightful portrayal of a typical harvest/pickup day.

The good news is that many of the Beetless’ catchy, environmentally friendly tunes survived the ravages of time and life on the road. Their youthful enthusiasm for pollinators is evident in “Bug Me Do”:

“Bug, bug me do
You know I love you
You’ll pollinate too
So please...bug me do”

Fans of rich, loamy soil will be pleased to learn that the perennial classic, “A Hard Clay Soil” made it to this collection:

“I’ve got a hard, clay soil
And I’ve been working like a dog
To add humus so that when it rains
I’ve got a garden, not a bog...”

The Beetless weren’t afraid to tackle more serious, introspective topics, such as the destruction that cats can cause when they walk “Across the Seed Beds First” (to the tune of “Across the Universe”):

“Cats approach the garden beds I worked so hard in yesterday
I curse because I know they’ll walk
Across the seed beds first...”

“The Long, Eroded Path” laments the ravages of wind and rain to the tune of “The Long and Winding Road”:
“The long, eroded path
That leads from your door
May never disappear
I’ve seen erosion there before”

Other Beetless classics that you’ll find yourself humming in the garden include “Here Come the Slugs”, “I Saw Herbs Standing There”, and “Please Weed Me”. Most importantly, however, Beetless fans will appreciate the commentary on almost every song that is found in sidebars throughout the book. In the sidebar to “I’ve Got a Seedling”, Roth notes: “Personal gardening poems are a Beetless trademark. Here the plant’s dilemma becomes the gardener’s dilemma, the plant’s desire inseparable from the gardener’s desire to satisfy it.” Regarding “She Said Raised Bed”, Roth comments, “The pairing of this lyric with the tune of the Beatles’ ‘She Said She Said’ makes for an intriguing combination, highlighting the ambiguity and confusion which can occur whenever we seek truth or intimacy...”

I had a chance to speak with the author once about the origins of the book. “I had been thinking about writing a book on organic gardening,” he told me, “but I couldn’t come up with an original approach. Then one night, after a long, sleepless ride on an Amtrak train, the idea just came to me.” He jotted down most of the song titles in a couple of hours, then spent a few weeks fleshing out the lyrics. For about a year, he was part of a group that played Beetless songs whenever music-loving, organic farmers gathered, including the local county fair. Unfortunately, plans to record a Beetless CD were scrapped when Chris learned that Sony, the owner of the Beatles’ songs, forbade the recording or performing of “altered” Beatles songs for profit.

“That’s so corporate,” I said sympathetically. “If John were still alive, he’d let you do it.”

“I think so too,” said Chris.

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