After my dismal defeat two years ago, last year I tried another strategy. If I couldn’t get them to change the playlist on the strength of the songs I was suggesting, I thought maybe if I could somehow defame the songs or the artists that sang them then maybe they’d be a little more open to my recommendations. So, to this end, I used to walk around the school whistling and/or singing Christmas tunes like The Pogues’ Fairytale of New York and Prince’s Another Lonely Christmas (the long version). These are a couple of my favorites but I knew they were inappropriate for the kids. I threw on my best mask of cheer and good will towards men and waited for one of the English teachers to take the bait.
“What’s that you’re whistling?” Takahashi Sensei asked me last year while we were discussing the December lesson plans.
“Really? I don’t know it. Who sang it?”
“Prince and the Revolution.”
“Oh, I know Purple Rain. He’s great!”
Btw, I’m a die-hard sleep in the rain for tickets Prince fan so when I encounter these “He hasn’t really made anything good since Purple Rain” people my first instinct is to shove my I-Pod headphones into their ear drums and blast them with some Sign of the Times or Emancipation or any of a number of other hot albums he’s done since then that these Purple Rain fans missed. It seldom works, though. They’re a hard hearted lot usually.
But, I maintained a smile and said, “It was a B-side of a Purple Rain single.”
Takahashi Sensei is all of 24. She wouldn’t know nothing about B-sides, cassette tapes…hell she might now even know what a Walkman is.
“Long story…anyway, it’s great.”
“What’s it about?”
“Well…” and this is where I start my maneuvering. “Ummm, well, it’s about a guy who misses his girlfriend who died on Christmas day.”
“Oh, that’s so sad…”
“Isn’t it? Every Christmas he drinks their favorite drink, banana daiquiris, and cries and wishes she were, um, next to him intimately and…”
“Well, a little. I mean, it’s Prince. You’re a Purple Rain fan…What do you expect?”
“I don’t think a…well one of those songs is appropriate…I mean…”
“Well, what do you think Last Christmas is about?”
“Eeeee….it’s about, ummm….Christmas, deshou?”
“Yeah, kinda…I mean, it’s about a guy who had a Christmas night one-night stand with his gay lover who doesn’t even remember him a year later. I mean, if that’s appropriate, I don’t see why…”
“Are you sure?”
“Well, George Micheal is gay so he ain’t singing about no one-night stand with a woman, that’s for sure…”
“I understand, though. I mean, he is an artist- a great one at that-and a poet, to be sure, but come on,” I said, and then sang: “A man undercover but you tore me apart…not very subtle is he?”
Apparently I’d stumped her. Nevertheless, the result: she pretended the conversation never happened and continued to play the song and have the kids sing the lyrics. However, when ever the song reached the part when George Micheal talks about being undercover and being torn apart she’d glance at me and pout her cheeks.
I tried the same thing with Kawaguchi-sensei, who favored Mariah Carey’s All I want for Christmas is you. We sat down to the formality of discussing what song we should use, though we both knew she had already made up her mind 80%.
“How about Nat King Cole’s The Christmas Song,” I suggested, going through the motions.
She screwed up her face into a mask of confusion.
“Nat-to Kin-gu Co-ru? Shirimasen.” (I don’t know him)
“He’s very famous, and it’s a very famous song, one of my favorites.”
“Uh huh…is it about…um…Cristo?
“Who? Jesus? No! It’s about … well, it’s not about anything really. It’s just a Christmas song about christmasy things…”
I whipped out my I-Pod. “Here, take a listen,” I said handing her the headphones.
“Ah sooo! Shitteru, shitteru!” (I know it, I know it!)
“It’s very famous,” I reiterated and braced myself. I knew the routine.
“…But the students don’t know it, I bet.”
“Well, then they can learn something new. They might get a kick outta that.”
“Sou da ne…demo saaaa…( That’s true, but…) and she made a face of helplessness that pretty much sighed it’s out of my hands and signaled the end of the meeting, at lest for me it did.
I had planned to get into Mariah’s mental meltdown and purported drug use at the time but I’d felt petty suddenly and said fuck it and prepared myself for another season of Mariah’s high frequency ululations I think only dogs or pre-teen girls should be capable of accomplishing.
Yep, last year went by without change…and I was so distracted by the changes going on in my own country (Obama, Mr. Change himself) that I really didn’t even care so much.
This year, however, I came up with the master plan! And I wouldn’t have to talk about John Lennon’s acid use or anything like that…The answer was simplicity itself, and, like most of the answers to life’s puzzling questions, right in my face the whole time…
to be continued…
PS: Mariah was awfully cute wasn’t she?
My co-worker didn’t recognize her and asked me if she was Japanese…hmmmm
PPS: Here’s the Pogues’s Fairy Tale of New York with the lyrics…