Doctor Who

So I've never watched an entire episode of the British television program that this song's title suggests. It is a song about a college friend of mine.

My parents exposed me to Monty Python's Flying Circus, at an early age -- around the time it was first coming to the states. Unsurprisingly, I grew up loving Monty Python, a highlight of my week at one point was staying up late to watch it on PBS on Saturday nights. Later, when Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was becoming popular I became a big fan of that program (and the books) as well. Around that time, I had friends that liked Doctor Who, and I was curious -- it seemed like maybe it would appeal to the same sensibilities. Turning it on one Saturday evening, I recall there were a bunch of British people standing around declaiming quite seriously...however some of them were wearing bizarre, cheaply constructed 'alien' masks. It was basically exemplifying the production values of Hitchhiker's Guide -- but whereas Hitchhiker's Guide was self-consciously ridiculous, this show didn't appear to know it was ridiculous. It was like they were doing Shakespeare or I, Claudius dressed as Vogons. I imagined all the actors taking breaks every 10 minutes or so in order to just laugh at themselves. So for me Doctor Who represented something worthy of ridicule but seemingly unaware of its ridiculousness. Perhaps if I ever revisited it I would feel differently about it, but that is the connotation that stamped itself into my brain at the time.


As I recall, the first thing about this song that occurred was the chorus, "Doctor Who, what is this thing inside of you?" I'm not sure exactly what inspired it, but seemed useful enough. This was winter term of 1990. The consequent phrase developed more calculatedly, "don't you just break right down and laugh?" referred to the notion described above. That sat around for a while before I started cooking up a verse. Eventually in a practice room one day I found a nice chord progression, interesting but not totally out, with some little jazzy colorings of the chords. It never occurred to me at the time but I remember years later, friend came to hear Anomaly and remarked on this song as the "Steely Danish one" but that had never occurred to me. But it's completely apropos in retrospect. The song was first performed by my first college band, OCMR. I haven't revisited that recording recently, but perhaps it will surface here. Here, Anomaly's Demolition rendition doesn't differ significantly from that original, except for 2 noticeable things: the bass lick that answers the piano in the intro phrase; Matt's masterful, gorgeous, Walter Becker-esque guitar solo. The latter stands in stark contrast to my own piano solo, which precedes it. The piano starts out strong but then fails in inspiration and becomes rhythmically shaky. I didn't get into a habit of planning out my solos well. in later performances I solo on the Moog and again you'll find my rhythms very loose. Matt takes over confidently with a whole commentary on every corner of the chord progression, building nicely and easing out by trading jabs with the piano signature before the final chorus. On the rockier Anomaly numbers you can hear Matt starting out in rocker mode and then after a few phrases it's like he says "oh isn't this silly?" and starts to play like a parody of a rock guitarist. No such thing in this song. My takeaway is he liked the song. :-) I like also how Brian locks down the beat. There are a lot of syncopations in the melody and riffing, so he supplies the solid 2 & 4, providing the solid foundation that holds it all together.  On the other hand, I'm sad to listen now and notice how sloppy the rhythms are -- particularly my own. It's a song that contains a barrage of 16th notes, so it stands out when they are inconsistent....But then I've always been a fan of the 'quantize' function when using sequencers.

This recording is of course from our original demo recording, mostly done in Kenwood Dennard's practice building in the west 20s back in late '97, aided by our talented, skillful and generous friend, composer Peter Flint. As has been mentioned elsewhere the instruments are from a single take in the rehearsal studio, mixed direct to stereo. The vocals where added and synchronized in a more professional setting (Baron and Baron Studio perhaps?) a couple of weeks later.  

As for the lyrics, they are riddled with specific obscure references to a particular year in college. What's nice is the allusions are so obscure that I can play the song and the subject is not at all obvious -- the listener may listen and supply their own explanation to the narrative. I guess in this way too it resembles Steely Dan.  Its viewpoint is personal, it's not the sort of song that my old dorm-mates could all hear and laugh at. The only people that nod and wink are the ones to whom I've explained it all to. The only thing specific I will share is that the word that sounds like "fudge" is spelled FUJG.

Since this was one of Anomaly's 'first set' songs (alluded to in the "Gyroscope" article) when we played it in later performances the riff in the chorus between the sung lines was modified somewhat. instead of that syncopated riff Matt and I would trade arpeggiated figures. Matt also had a less rhythmic guitar part he would play against the 16th note phrase. It was another look at the song. I probably prefer the original, but it was a way to keep it fresh.