Still groggy from a three-day weekend, but steeling yourself to get wild on a Tuesday night anyway? Bon Mardi Gras, mes amis! But what to listen to during the process of getting blotto? I’m glad you asked…
The gold standard in Mardi Gras pop continues to be “Iko Iko,” the vamped-up 1965 hit recorded in secret by super producers Leiber and Stoller as The Dixie Cups goofed around in the studio with drumsticks and ashtrays.
The Dixie Cups – “Iko Iko”
The impromptu nature of their hit-making left no time to anticipate a lawsuit from the song’s original composer, James Crawford, who first set the traditional chants of Mardi Gras Indians to music. Crawford’s “Jock-a-Mo” loses the charm contest though, and so has everyone else who’s tried to top them since. Notable failures include The Grateful Dead, Cyndi Lauper, Glass Candy, Dave Matthews, and Justine Bateman and The Mystery. Which suggests that it most likely cannot be done. Performers looking for their own slice of Mardi Gras immortality are advised to move on, and have.
Paul Simon – “Take Me to the Mardi Gras”
(If this one doesn’t just scream party to you, you probably need some new speakers…)
But rather than confining yourself to the old standards, or even sticking to tried and true search terms (there are some bad bad blues songs called “King Cake” in the world), you should ask yourself— “For what reason am I, a Brooklynite, actually celebrating Mardi Gras?” Only after pinpointing the root cause of your Tuesday night booze-up, can we subsequently select a proper anthem:
Are You Celebrating Frenchness?
While the Fat Tuesday tradition actually have a Venetian root, Mardi Gras remains the one American day when Francophilia is widely encouraged. If Frenchiness is what you crave, why not look to Serge Gainsbourg’s classic “Requiem Pour Un Con.” Despite the appropriately exotic bongo drumming, it might be the French-est song of all time. Look at this video! That recording studio might actually be on fire, the Gauloise smoke is so thick.
Serge Gainsbourg – “Requiem Pour un Con”
Are You Celebrating Cajun Culture Specifically?
Or is it New Orleans that’s got hold of your heartstrings? Because as deep and sensitive cultural portraits of the uniquely Cajun way of life go, “Jambalaya” by 70s party rockers Pusswhip Banggang (:14 seconds into this totally legitimate and serious retrospective, that starts with a terrible booger visual) has never been fully topped. Sorry Dr. John!
Are You Merely Expressing Carnival Envy?
Perhaps specific cultural identity is beside the point. Is your celebration really an expression of deep yearning to flee from even a pleasantly mild NYC winter? To dance in the streets of some Southern oasis? Because Rio’s Carnaval is wrapping up today too, and surely we can all admit it’s the better party? All-time great Brazilian psych rock band Os Mutantes can barely be heard above the din of a late-60s national crowd, who don’t seem to care much that they are singing about occasionally fun-challenged auteur Stanley Kubrick. The power of a festive costume.
Os Mutantes – “2001”
(Although surely the boogieing will be a bit easier with this one playing.)
Os Mutantes – “A Minha Menina”
Does Your Problem Drinking Need Convenient Cover, and St. Patrick’s Day Seems Tantalizingly Far Off?
Because Royal Trux will always be there for you. And as the video below shows, they are not about to get uptight if your holding-it-together pretense demands that you wear a frilly red flamenco bikini while bottoming out. Ah, if only the nights to remember weren’t so commonly blacked out.
Royal Trux – “A Night to Remember”
Are You Just Really Into Beads?
If you are a serious bead fetishist, you may scoff at the suddenly be-beaded masses who come out of the woodwork only once a year. (Similar to the annoyance felt by the city’s champion drinkers when surrounded by New Year’s Eve rookies.) This 1959 TV clip, starting with Peggy Lee’s gloved hand idly stroking a beaded curtain, caters to your private perversion in a manner more consistent with your personal dignity.
Peggy Lee – “Baubles, Bangles, and Beads”
Are You Just Looking for Nudity?
Because in comparison to sitting, felon-like, at a bar with a handful of plastic necklaces and asking young women, “What are you going to do for them?” this might be the one night of the year in which hitting up a strip club is your less-creepy Tuesday night option. Britney is likely waiting there (on some highly questionable iPod).
Britney Spears – “Give Me More”
Are You Looking to Get Nude?
Ah, but taking the creepers out of the equation still leaves us with the exhibitionists, standards pre-lowered to accept a bauble, bangle, or bead for a quick flash of skin. While I wouldn’t dare think of asking practitioners of male or female toplessness to cut it out, I might suggest that a little swagger will make your attention-grab a little less depressing. There might not be a song recorded that demands shirtless shimmying more The Cramps’ “Human Fly.” Lux Interior just wouldn’t have looked right in a wholesome, All-American sweater vest.
My work here is done. You’re welcome.
You can follow Jeff on Twitter, @jeff_klingman, if that’s something you can see yourself doing.