Mount Holyoke College Class Of '66

A chef-d'oeuvre that flatters the audience's perception of the witty and even of the esoteric

Hey, I didn't write the liner notes

1966 in 1964: Shedding Light On Versylum - Self-Released
Rating = 5

As every turntable owner knows, there's no end to the miserable garbage you can find in a thrift store. More classical albums than even the oldest bag could possibly want to hear, the hilarious Bill "Jose Jiminez" Dana making you chuckle with his veritable monkeybarrel of wacky faces, the entire Billy Joel discography spraying fecal matter all over the other albums - yes, a thrift store truly is a hellhole on wheels.

However, if you're lucky, a thrift store can also hack up some unexpected gems like corporate musicals, song-poem albums and outsider vanity pressings of such a warped mentality that you can't believe the creators were allowed out in public to record them. Yes, a thrift store truly is a treasure chest with wings.

Unfortunately I've never been lucky and every 'interesting-looking' album I've ever bought at a thift store has been a boring piece of crap. An ugly woman singing Jewish love songs, an intentionally bad oom-pah band featuring the guy who draws 'Hi & Lois', an album of indecipherable Hitler speeches ("That was the sound of Adolf Hitler, the most ferocious dictator that the world has ever known!") -- even records by celebrated exotica artists like the Three Suns and the Harmonicats have wound up tossed in the Ol' Prin can-can after one listen (if nobody will buy them on ebay). Yes, it's a mite scant little lot of 'weird' records that wind up in my collection for the long haul. I always keep Pickwick albums (too awful not to love!), and, even though I never listen to them, I for some reason have retained a test pressing of a terrible unreleased '70s epic called "Disco Lady," a 10-inch of a guy playing his zither, and this -- an original musical written and performed by a bunch of college girls with no singing ability.

If you've ever been in a thrift store, chances are that you've been in a store full of items that were previously owned.

Also, if you've ver bb ain td hksstore, you'd know that far too many schools (in oldentimes) made vanity pressings of their faceless marching bands and vocal choirs playing and singing awful old chestnuts that bring joy to nobody. Perhaps you've even made the mistake of purchasing one of these, thinking that you've happened across another Langley Schools Project (now explain the appeal of THAT to me -- sure it was a nice idea to let the little kids play instruments and sing their favorite pop hits, but why in Hell would anybody want to listen to it!? I understand the appeal of the Kids of Widney High because (a) they perform original material, and (b) come on, they're fuckin' retarded - what kind of dick would you have to be NOT to like it? But that Langley record is as dull as any other school vanity pressing I've ever heard, only difference being that the Langley kids ruin songs I've actually heard).

Well, I too have been had here and there, especially by the ladies. But the key is to look for records by schools performing ORIGINAL material. That's where the bits and pieces of must-hear genius lie. When I was young, poor and foolish, I got rid of We Love Recess, a fantastic little musical performed by the 1967 7th grade class of Swarthmore Elementary School -- and I have never forgiven myself. Even today, over a decade since I last heard the album, my wife constantly catches me singing "We love recess! Of all our subjects, it can't be beat. We love recess! We really think it is neat." The plot has something to do with the kids wishing they were older so they could do what they wanted "without somebody yellin' at you all the time!" Then 'SuperTeen' comes by and makes them all older or something - I don't really remember what happens after that. But I'd give anything for the chance to hear that album just one more time for less than a dollar. Web searches have come up empty, though I did learn that one little girl who wrote songs for the musical has grown up to become classical composer Melinda Wagner. Look her up online! She's the 'real deal'! I can't imagine any of her classical works are as HOTTT as "We Love Recess" though. She should have retired when she was at the top, and 12.

As an aside, I just received an email with the subject line "You always wanted to use your penis as a billiards cue."

Yes, it's always great to hear from old friends. But little does know that I gave up that dream long ago, in order to become the world's greatest penis bowler!

Which brings us to Shedding Light On Versylum. Written by Norma Davenport, directed by Pam Berg, stage managed by Marcia Hoffmann, musically directed by Joanne Lupton, choreographed by Lornagrace Grenfell and Judy Swallow, headed up by Adrienne Ingley, and presumably performed by all of the above as there's no mention of 'actors' or 'stars' anywhere on the album cover, this work involves "Versylum, where we observe the sane in a minority among the insane." The burgeoning young actress/singers play the roles of psychiatric patients, each of whom believes that he/she (yes, some of the girls play guys -- HORRIBLY) is a famous historical character -- Queen Mary, Helen of Troy, Little Bo Peep, Cleopatra, Johnny Appleseed -- even Rin Tin Tin, a DOG(!) of all crazy things for an insane person to think they are! Then I guess at one point they decide to break out of the asylum and save the world. Failing this, they return to the asylum and try to create a Utopia. Ultimately, even this plan doesn't pan out because, you see, 'Utopia to one is not Utopia to another.' PRETTY DEEP, HUH??? Actually, I'm just guessing at the plot based on the unnecessarily playful liner notes; I honestly can't make heads or tails of the lyrics. Which is weird because usually I can make heads or tails out of any substance if I squeeze hard enough. After all, I'm God!

(*actually gives a shit about what each and every person on Earth does every second of the day*)

Official interview transcriber Jim Laakso, Yale graduate, said something funny the other day. When I complained to him that Paul McCartney's "Freedom" is one of the worst songs in the history of language, he replied by labeling me 'anti-American' and giving me the new name "Osama 'Prin' Laden". So that's my new name. I HOPE YOU LIKE IT, 'CUZ YOU'VE EARNED IT!!!!

Do you like flat vocals? How about girls who think if they push their lips southward and use a dumb British accent, they'll pass for male? How about girls who think that singing really loudly in a pinched-nosed voice is a hilarious comedy effect? How about 'regal old woman' voices that keep cracking because they're being performed by 19-year-old girls? If you like all these things and more, you'll love Mark Prindle's Irritating Sex Hideaway! Also, you'll like this album.

Witty lyrical couplets include "It's oh so fun/to be Napoleon," "If we don't learn to elocute/the world will think we're deaf and mute," "With your own orchard/you're never tortured," and "The dietician really ought to be retired/We are sick of eating all the pork they've acquired." Catchy musical pieces include standard singalongable piano pieces, rollicking bouncy piano pieces, waltz-time piano pieces, Peanuts-style blues piano pieces, and a piano piece with a funny slide whistle. Side one is actually quite great, with four really catchy and hilariously poorly-sung songs in a row right at the beginning ("How Come We're Such A Closed-Mouth Crew?" is a particular standout), but by side two the novelty wears off, the 'serious' themes kick in, and it's one dull ballad or acapella piece after another. 'Judy Swallow'? Yeah, I BET she does.

But to be fair, even legendary artists like the Ramones, Boston and Wire didn't hit home runs the first time out; sometimes artists need to simmer in their own juices for a while before developing a unique stylistic identity. So here's looking forward to the promising sophomore release by Mount Holyoke College Class Of '66. Keep practicing those chops, girls! And no boy visitors.

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