12.05.2013

i feel a song comin on


There's a rhythm that New Yorkers fall easily into, on subways and on sidewalks and in buses and good lord yes, in crowded supermarkets, but the rhythm in-transit is especially interesting. Where you're detained until your destination. No one to push past, once the initial entrance-- no groceries to distract you; can't snarl at a rude being like you might, oh, say in line at the post office-- you keep your eyes down but aware, cause the crazy next to you is itching for a captive audience, and you could have four or forty stops to go.

I have this daydream that I'll get a whole subway car to burst into song together, like a musical, only with awesome music (look, some musicals suck). Maybe after a Yankees game, or an election, or, you know, during the holidays. This time of year seems exactly right, everyone has an air of anticipation in these early days of December: there's still plenty of time to get everything done! And who remembers that the January-February-March post holiday blinding rage that goes ON AND ON AND ON is RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER? NOT ME, SIR!!! I think I could get that first-week-of-December-car to belt it out as deeply as I believe I have super secret mutant powers of invisibility, flight and telekinesis just waiting to blossom.

Yesterday on the A train (a bit on the nose for this musical musing, but true) a toddler quietly lalalaaaaaaa'd something extremely reminiscent of Barney's tune. YOU KNOW THE ONE. The train stopped between stations, indefinitely. Or rather, as the operator put it, indefffly. Toddler began to lala louder. After forty seconds or so of this, a stranger seated next to her looked down, smiled, and, almost embarrassed, barreled through iloveyouyoulovemewe'reahappyfamily (awkward pause)...that's whatcher singin, right? 

It's hard not to miss, I grinned from across the aisle. Stranger agreed: who c' forget it? Mother hung her head. Yeeeeeah.  

Only's it's way cuter coming out of her than a purple dinosaur, I offered.

We all smiled at each other as the train pulled forward, and with an air of nonchalance returned our gazes to the fascinating (yet obviously boring) things all around us. Three women: Latina, possibly Jewish, and whatever I am, staring at Art Of Shaving ads and the contents of people's pushcarts. When that train began to move again, we immediately adopted the proper amount of that was a nice exchange but don't worry I'm not crazy, you have no idea what stop is mine and I don't want you to freak about holding up a conversation with me till maybe the Bronx.

So far I've only reached the "support level" of singing in trains (although I do recall several occasions where Rob and I found it extremely necessary to figure out the harmonies to Sam Cooke + Lou Rawls' tune "Bring it On Home to Me," in what was probably not our inside voices).

If you did it, if you chose to burst into song like some 1940s musical star without a care in the world, someone who knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that there would be an instantaneous, resounding and raucous chorus creating a cacophony within seconds, what song would you choose? Whaddaya think would make them sing?

53 comments:

  1. I've been reading your blog for over year, and this is probably the first time I've commented. I've been in the local coffee shop before and certain songs will come on and I wish everyone would break out in song and dance. Can that please happen just once?? I would choose almost anything by The Supremes. When I was in high school drama, one of the first things we do at the beginning of the year is a solo lip sync in front of the class. I channeled my inner Diana Ross and "sang" Baby Love.

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    1. well hello amy!

      i lip synched "come see about me", so we are simpatico :)

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    2. Hello! Growing up my parents listened to oldies (50s-70s) and so I have a fondness for that music. It's my musical comfort food.

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  2. Oh me too!!!! I just want the whole world to sing in perfect harmony! I pick Say a Little Prayer for you by BB. Or Try a little tenderness. They both have that quiet beginning, which you could start sining quietly, and then get louder and as all the others started to join in, get a bit boppy, super happy, and the into the belty bits at the end together. Oh that would be SOOO great.
    GO make it happen, Oona, go on, you must know that really everyone is DYING to talk to each other really, and even sing, and they just need a gorgeous crazy lady to give them an excuse! xo

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    1. aaaah especially the ohgottaooonanananananananaaaaa trya little TENderness part, that would be killer!

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  3. I think the train should Rick Roll to Never Gonna Give You Up!!

    I LOOOOOOOVE musicals!! So, I always imagine this kind of thing happening whilst day dreaming :o)

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    1. Rick rolling an entire subway car! Genius!

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    2. This. I would totally join in for this one, the 80's girl in me just could not resist :)

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    3. I third this one!!! YES!! Especially if everyone did their best Rick Astley voice... oh you know you the one!

      But I'd also probably piss my pants in happiness if an entire train broke out into "Gloria" but I've been on a bit of a Flashdance kick that could be effecting my decision making on that one!

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    4. okay you guys are kind of on my list for putting rick astley in my head. that oversized suit. that oversized voice.

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    5. oooh but you could totally use the poles for gloria.....

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  4. I love this! I'm really happy imagining scenarios where our proximity to other people on the train could breed a great exchange like this and not, say, a scene like the one I witnessed last night between two women on the 4 who loudly debated whose "fat ass" was indeed too fat for the seat. It was heated. And AWKWARD ("No, YOUR fat ass is the one taking up all the room!").

    Also, pretty sure I would weep the happiest tears known to man if a group burst into "Bring It On Home to Me". Love love LOVE that song!

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    1. Man, people are starting to feel as anonymously entitled to pick on each other in the train as they are on the interwebs now, aren't they? I think the appropriate song response to that conversation would be: "Fat bottom girls you make the rockin' world go round!"

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    2. IF THE TWO OF THEM HAD BROKEN OUT INTO THAT GOOD LORD THE VIRAL OPPORTUNITY. THE VIRAL OPPORTUNITY!!!!!

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  5. I too, am always hoping to wake up in a musical. I mean, I always hear the music in my head, why does no one else? The closest I've come to the experience might be during Vancouver's 2010 Olympics. If we had a particularly stellar day, {translatation ~ hockey win} the train ride home would be a hopped up choir, albeit a drunken one with some off key singing. Ah, the memories.

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  6. I live in my own private musical, for reals - me and my OH sing loads of conversations, for some reason it is usually to 'do the hustle' or 'welcome to my world'

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  7. I was on the A train headed to work after voting for Obama in the first election, a man came through the cars singing, Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come" people starting singing the chorus with him but all I could do was cry! Discreetly of course because it was so prophetic. Most amazing thing to ever happen to me on the subway!

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    1. Just reading this gets me all choked up! Love it.

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    2. Me, too!

      Brenda

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  8. The closest thing I've seen in real life was when I was wandering around Dick Blick right after the Kanye West/Taylor Swift VMA debacle. You Belong With Me came on the in-store and you could hear EVERYONE in the store singing along under their breath. No one was quite willing to fess up and really start belting it out (this is still NoHo), but fifty people humming along adds up:)

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  9. Ha! I love the idea of this happening, mind you when I go to the football (soccer?) we have a full on song that we all belt out and after we won a cup a few years back as we were all making our way out the stadium (walking down a million steps) the song started off pretty quite and soon turned into full on singing at the top of your voice it was moving in an exciting way!

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  10. Gloria Gaynor, of course. This neck of the woods lacks A trains (or F trains, or any other kind of public-transportation poetry), but on those occasions when Alabama beats Auburn, you can get people in the deli line at the Walmart to chime in on "The Tide is High." We all know the words, even if we don't want to.

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  11. Oh this is easy:

    "Home" by Stephanie Mills from The Wiz

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  12. When I was 4 we got the entire train (from Escanaba , MI to Milwaukee ) to sing ALL of the sound of music with us...even the conductor!

    (BTW, love the blog, sorry I never comment!)

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    1. Awesome. That must have been one happy train!

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    2. what part did the conductor play? i'm picturing him as mother superior.

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  13. Ahh I love this idea. I don't think my choice would get people to sing but in my head I (with a really great voice of course and not my whiny cat-like vocals) burst into Gooooood mornin' Good mornin'... from Singin in the Rain. Then we all sing, and tap dance and jump up and down and off the seats and, I even hear some people say, well hey, she's even better than Debbie Reynolds ;)

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  14. Those type of interactions are exactly what I miss about living in a big city. (Mine wasn't New York but Chicago.) I just remember those brilliant short moments where you make a connection with a complete stranger. I returned to Kansas and was in a grocery store with another lady. I made a joke about something which would have gotten and smile and a nod in a larger city. She looked at me like I was CRAZY and I remember thinking "Oh yeah, I'm in Kansas now, we don't really talk to strangers in stores here." Ha ha. Every time someone tells me smaller towns are friendlier I tell them not to be so sure. (Don't get me wrong, Kansas is lovely and friendly. Just not the same way.) Wonderful story!

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  15. "If I knew you were comin' I'd a baked a cake" by eileen barton, hands down..... BUT if I could play an instrument? This would be amazing: http://grist.org/list/classical-music-flash-mob-turns-subway-car-into-symphony-orchestr/

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  16. Oh, I'm ready to share, because this happened to ME. Though, definitely not in New York. Imagine, a lift in Gatlinburg, Tennessee on our way to the top of a mountain covered in MAN MADE SNOW. I was with a small group plus maybe 20 strangers in the car swinging over the tree tops. Our group had some cheesy performance put together for a conference, had been working on it for weeks, and one person began to sing, quietly, "Once I was a funky singer..." One by one, maybe 3 others from our group joined in. Then the strangers. Maybe everyone felt safe isolated in the crowded little car. Maybe they felt terrified, but by the end of the chorus, everybody was singing, "Lay down the boogie and play that funky music til you die."
    Amazing.

    -Glenda

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  17. Heh, after the first two paragraphs I was thinking, you should get my toddler to start in on Jingle Bells...her current favorite song, and then I got to the toddler. Yup, toddler lisp might be key...or maybe it's just safety in numbers, based on the other comments.

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  18. That is such an amazing idea! A friend of mine and I both love to burst out in song whenever we feel like it, but instead of encouraging our company to join in it just causes a feeling of mortifying embarrassment amongst them.

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  19. I have also been reading your blog for ages and never commented, but singing ... I love singing, and some of my most moving experiences have come from group singing. There's something about the sound of massed voices that's more than the sum of its individual parts.

    My whole family are musically inclined, and random outbreaks of singing at my parents' house are entirely normal, especially when my mother's practicing the piano. I didn't actually realise this was unusual until I started bringing boys home and they'd comment that it was like being in a musical! The star example of my family's Von Trapp aspirations was when we were on a guided tour of the Waitomo Glowworm Caves in New Zealand (parents lived in NZ for a while; also, google it, the pictures are amazing) and the guide mentioned in a particular cave that it had beautiful acoustics and they sometimes held concerts there - and added, jokingly, did anyone want to sing? So we did, which I don't think she was expecting. The acoustics were indeed fantastic ...

    My favourite example of what you mention in the post - contagious singing in a group of strangers - happened when I was at the pub at some point in my first year of university. A lot of British pubs have jukeboxes and mostly they're just there for some background; people don't really pay attention. But there was one time where the place was fairly full and rowdy but not raucous, and when Green Day's "Holiday" came on the jukebox *everybody* started singing, until by the spoken section in the middle pretty much the entire pub was shouting along. Tunefulness was not much in evidence, but the sudden sense of camaraderie was brilliant.

    And to answer the actual question, if I was going to try and get a bunch of strangers on the Tube singing, I'd probably go for "Bohemian Rhapsody" because everybody seems to know it, and it brings out the inner drama queen in the unlikeliest of people.

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    1. what a great comment to break the silence on!!! i'm loving these singing stories. and bohemian rhapsody--no one can deny it. it started a car of 4 of us wailing on the first note, i can only imagine public transportation.

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  20. I've been on a singing train carriage before. It was two Christmases ago, 21st I think, about 7pm and the train broke down about 20 metres from the final destination. We were pissed and not in the English sense! Three burly tipsy men started singing Christmas songs and everyone started joining at Santa claus is coming to town. It was hilarious. They tried again with Rudolph the red nosed reindeer but the moment had passed. Then the train got moving again and we cheered! Good times

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    1. aaaah i felt bad for their second try, i'm glad they got a cheer!!

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  21. I would happily belt out "Don't Rain on my Parade" but I feel like I would be singing all alone.... DON'T TELL ME HOW TO LIVE NEW YORK!

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  22. Just brilliant. New Yorkers and Londoners aren't so different then... you could've EASILY been talking about the London Underground. Mind the gap.
    Oh- I'd probably go obvious, as in "clang Clang CLANG went the trolley, ding Ding DING! went the bell, sing Sing SING went my heartstrings, from the moment I saw him I fell". Tell me you were all singing that in your heads?! Or maybe something awfully cheesy (like Meet Me In St Louis isn't ;0)) like Walk This Way.

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  23. me and my gay soulmate may...once have started waltzing on a paris subway train singing "fly me to the moon."

    true story.

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  24. Oona, besides being such a talented actress, seamstress and baker, it seems you have a calling to be a writer! You have such a gift. Subway singing..well I can't think of a song that I think everyone would join in, but here in LA we have car singing. Sometimes that can be pretty good too.

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  25. This train is bound for glory, this train is bound for glory, this train is bound for glory, children get on board. Then we'd have to do the second verse for grouchy NYers: No more weepin and a'wailin, no more weepin and a'wailin, no more weepin and a'wailin, children get on board.

    Second place would be Paul Simon's "Cecilia" because it is such a hit for karaoke.

    Also, have you ever ridden the subway with opera singers? They have no problem starting something up! I can't tell you how many times various mariachi bands have cheered me up on the subway. They are always welcome on my car.

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  26. can anyone resist "the Lion Sleeps Tonight" ?

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  27. I was in a theater production once where we had a little piece of "Ode to Joy" as background music. One night after rehersal, the whole crew was standing in the subway station waiting for the train and I don't know who started it, but after a couple of lines we were all singing the first verse at the top of our voices. After we finished, the station manager came over the speakers and asked us to sing the second verse. Needless to say, we did... ;-)

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  28. If you started singing on the subway I would join in! It makes me think of Improv Everywhere. I'm always hoping I end up somewhere where they start something. I just got their email about the pantsless subway ride and it is on my bucket list, so I'm hoping I can make it. Of course, with me-made underwear!

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    1. It's the most awesomemest thing in the world. I am most certainly doing it again this january/feb whenever it is.

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  29. Oh, I'd try and get people singing anything by Queen! Bohemian Rhapsody. Somebody to Love. The aforementioned Fat Bottom Girls... Queen just rocks so hard. Perfect for subway singin'!

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  30. The closest thing I ever came to hearing people sing in harmony was (and i forgot the song of course) while waiting for the G.. this man with the most amazing voice ever, as most that I have encountered on the G, had a few people singing the song with him.

    ugh I wish I could remember... but this past weekend, again an angel of a voice was singing and playing guitar to Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper and a few others and when the train came, every person waiting for it was clapping in unison. This city is magical sometimes

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  31. My mum once got a busload of people to sing 'Always look on the bright side of life' from the film 'Life of Brian' - can't remember what calamity on the bus triggered the outburst though! traffic jam possibly? Not sure it was a particularly harmonious rendition either! and probably way too British for New Yorkers!

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i thankya truly for taking the time to comment, i love a good conversation-- and hope you know my thanks are always implied, if not always written!