Forgotten verses

June 22, 2018

In one of those dreams that returns from time to time, I wander through what is purportedly my house, discovering levels and wings that I either had forgotten about or long neglected. It is somewhat disappointing to awaken and realize there are no forgotten rooms to be remembered or revisited.

Some songs offer a similar, but quite real aspect. Consider these lyrics:

She said, ‘I’m home on shore leave,’
though in truth we were at sea
so I took her by the looking glass
and forced her to agree
saying, ‘You must be the mermaid
who took Neptune for a ride.’
But she smiled at me so sadly
that my anger straightway died.

Sound familiar? Can you identify the rhythm in those lines? How about this:

If music be the food of love
then laughter is its queen
and likewise if behind is in front
then dirt in truth is clean
My mouth by then like cardboard
seemed to slip straight through my head
So we crash-dived straightway quickly
and attacked the ocean bed.

Still nothing? Then let me throw in the chorus that falls between those verses:

And so it was that later
As the miller told his tale
That her face, at first just ghostly
Turned a whiter shade of pale

Yes, those are the third and fourth verses of Procol Harum’s Whiter Shade of Pale that were not part of the official recording yet vibrate the air at some of their live performances.

I am interested in how one can, as the above video does, use the entirety of the song to form a somewhat more coherent narrative than with its popular truncated version. However, I still regard the song’s nautical references more as metaphors about a negotiation that ends in a sexual act than being about a man and woman on a ship.

Let’s look at some more forgotten verses, which you have a much better chance of recognizing:

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream,
‘Tis the star-spangled banner – O long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

The flag that flew over Fort Sumter

Of course that is about the flag above Fort McHenry, for that is the second verse of our national anthem, with two more to boot which most of us would struggle to recite, let alone sing to the old drinking song Anacreon in Heaven.

This sort of thing reminds me of church hymnals with their plenitude of forgotten verses. As a youth, I was always intrigued when Charles Mohr, the choir director at Western Oaks Christian Church in far west Oklahoma City, would have the congregation sing some of the forgotten verses of popular hymns.

Just as I Am from 1835 has seven verses, but how many times have all seven been sung? Alan Jackson selected verses 1, 3, 4, and 5 for his rendition, as did Tennesee Ernie Ford.

Just as I am – without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am – and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To Thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am – though toss’d about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am – poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need, in Thee to find,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am – Thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because Thy promise I believe,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am – Thy love unknown
Has broken every barrier down;
Now to be Thine, yea, Thine alone,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am – of that free love
The breadth, length, depth, and height to prove
Here for a season, then above,
-O Lamb of God, I come

That seventh verse is often omitted, as the first six appeared as a poem in 1835 and the seventh came a year later, but from the same author, Charlotte Eliot.

And, of course, like The Star-Spangled Banner, a poem can be set to alternate tunes. If you know the hymn as popularized as Billy Graham’s altar call, you probably know the Woodworth version. But here’s the alternate Saffron Waldon version:

Let’s shift back to something secular, although this one is now associated with a Christian holiday. Riddle me this:

Now the ground is white
Go it while you’re young,
Take the girls tonight
And sing this sleighing song;
Just get a bob-tailed bay
Two-forty as his speed
Hitch him to an open sleigh
And crack! you’ll take the lead.

The middle lines of the verse rescued you, I trust. That is the fourth verse of Jingle Bells, although I reckon you might, like me, only truly know the first verse with perhaps a dim recollection of the occasional Fannie Bright enlivening the Christmas season.

But do you feel reality shift a bit when you discover that the song was intended for the Thanksgiving season, not Christmas? And please note how some of the words of the first verse have changed since its composition in 1857:

Dashing thro’ the snow,
In a one-horse open sleigh,
O’er the hills we go,
Laughing all the way;
Bells on bob tail ring,
Making spirits bright,
Oh what sport to ride and sing
A sleighing song tonight.

Time has not even left the well-worn chorus fully intact:

Jingle bells, jingle bells,
Jingle all the way.
Oh! what joy it is to ride
In a one-horse open sleigh.

I notice that in many versions they don’t add the “Ha ha ha” I learned to insert after “laughing all the way”. I do find these variations fun…or should I say joyful?

We’ve seen a tune substitution, so let’s consider lyrical substitution as well. Consider this verse:

When you were lonely, you needed a man
Someone to lean on, well I understand
It’s only natural
But why did it have to be me?
Nights can be empty and nights can be cold
So you were looking for someone to hold
That’s only natural
But why did it have to be me?

A very few of you might recognize that is from ABBA’s Why Did It Have to be Me? on their Arrival album, the album which more successfully featured their biggest hit in America, Dancing QueenHere’s how the song goes for those unfamiliar with it:

Now I’m a big ABBA fan who bought all of their albums on vinyl back in the day. So imagine my surprise when I heard a rare B-side of theirs called Happy Hawaii, which goes like this:

Early this morning I drove in the rain
Out to the airport to get on the plane
Hey Honolulu, we’re going to happy Hawaii
Alice has been there, she said it was fun
Swimming and surfing, enjoying the sun
Hey Honolulu, we’re going to happy Hawaii

After all I’ve had to go through
I’m making no plans (making no plans oh-ooh)
But I, but I believe love gives me a second chance

Guess I’ve been working a little too hard
Need a vacation, I’ll send you a card
From Honolulu, a greeting from happy Hawaii

It’s so exciting, why should I pretend
In a few hours the plane will descend
Hey Honolulu, we’re going to happy Hawaii
I can imagine the beach and the sand
Walking with someone and holding his hand
Hey Honolulu, we’re going to happy Hawaii

After all I’ve had to go through
I’m making no plans (making no plans oh-ooh)
But I, but I believe love gives me a second chance, mmm

I’ve got a feeling the dream will come true
Somebody’s waiting and I’ll forget you
Hey Honolulu, we’re going to happy Hawaii

Do you sense the similarity? It goes far beyond that:

Yes, they completely rewrote the lyrics during the song’s development and gave it a weird Fats Domino vibe for the released version on the album.

I started this post remarking on my dreams of lost rooms. But dreams can sometimes turn into nightmares. There is a forgotten verse of Big Rock Candy Mountain or Hobo’s Paradise that, once you hear it, will change your understanding of the song.

Here’s the version as released:

But perhaps you grew up with the bowdlerized versions where the cigarette trees bore peppermints, the streams of alcohol transformed into lemonade, and there were no lakes of whisky, just soda water fountains? Burl Ives had ridden the rails, but he cleaned up the song considerably, although perhaps his tobacco-chewing pipe-smoking grandmother – who taught him scores of Scottish, Irish, and English folk ballads – led him to leave in the cigarette trees:

Now, those vices are not shocking. But there was a final verse that was understandably omitted. I warn you: don’t read on unless you are prepared for a rude awakening as to what the hobo in the song was about. Here’s the missing final verse Harry McClintock performed when busking with the song in the 1890s:

The punk rolled up his big blue eyes and said to the jocker, “Sandy
I’ve hiked and hitched and wandered too, but I ain’t seen any candy
I’ve hiked and hiked till my feet are sore, I’ll be god damned if I hike any more
To be buggered sore like a hobo’s whore on the Big Rock Candy Mountains.

Oh, dear. Perhaps some forgotten rooms are best left unexplored. But don’t let the occasional odd turns stop you, for there is much delight to be found in the variations of verse and song.

About Granger Meador

I enjoy day hikes, photography, podcasts, reading, web design, and technology. My wife Wendy and I work in the Bartlesville Public Schools in northeast Oklahoma, but this blog is outside the scope of our employment.
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