Robin’s Egg

This holiday season, as inevitably happens at some point during every holiday season for as long as I can remember, I heard the opening notes of Jingle Bells, and immediately thought:

Jingle bells, Batman smells

Robin laid an egg,

The Batmobile lost a wheel

And the Joker got away.

This little ditty — we’ll call it Batman Smells for ease of reference — is probably the most well-known parody of a Christmas song ever created. (The only real competitor, in my mind, involves three kings and a rubber cigar.) Batman Smells was sung by Bart on the first episode of The Simpsons, in 1989, but it’s been around since long before then. Who came up with this sad story of the Caped Crusader and the Boy Wonder, set to the strains of a holiday favorite?

Some people have tried to uncover the history of Batman Smells and have traced its lineage back to an early version of the song in a 1967 entry in the Lawton (Oklahoma) Constitution, with different lyrics in which Robin doesn’t lay an egg and the Joker doesn’t escape. They theorize that the initial version of the song was created by kids in southern California in the mid-60s, when the campy Batman TV series was a hit, and the song was then spread across the country by military kids who moved from base to base with their families. At some point, obviously, the song morphed, with later kids added the crucial touches about Robin’s egg and the Joker’s getaway that made the parody into a classic.

Whether that theory is true or not, it’s pretty easy to see why the parody became so popular. It’s the kind of irreverance that kids around the age of 10 just love, and who can’t sing Jingle Bells? It’s interesting to think that, at some point in the ’60s, some anonymous kids who were briefly touched by genius had the inspiration that has forever linked Batman and Christmas, long after the TV show ended its run.

Now, if we could only figure out the true story of that rubber cigar . . . .

Bing Christmas

If you like popular Christmas music, you probably like Bing Crosby.  It’s hard to think of a performer who is more identified with the holiday than Der Bingle.

Everyone knows about the Crosby version of White Christmas.  According to the Guinness Book of World Records, his 1942 recording of the song remains the biggest selling record of all time, having sold more than 50 million copies worldwide.  And if you grew up during the ’50s and ’60s, you remember the family getting together to watch Crosby’s annual Christmas show, in which the Old Groaner — whose actual first name was Harry — and his family and friends sang traditional carols and encouraged those at home to sing along.  But Crosby had a series of big hits with Christmas songs, including a classic swing version of Jingle Bells recorded with the Andrews Sisters, above, and the irresistible Mele Kalikimaka (The Hawaiian Christmas Song), below.  And that’s not even including the definitive Crosby treatment of I’ll Be Home For Christmas, either.

During this baking weekend, I’ve got my holiday music playlist on the iPod to keep me going as I mix, cut, and bake.  It just wouldn’t be the same without the offerings of the crooner from Tacoma, Washington.

A Winter Wiper Fluid Ditty

Driving on Midwestern winter days makes you realize that windshield wiper fluid is one of the greatest inventions in the history of mankind.  Without it, we would all be driving blind, behind windshields coated with winter grime.

Wiper fluid hasn’t received the praise it so richly deserves.  In hopes of remedying this gross oversight, I’ve composed a little musical tribute, sung to the tune of Jingle Bells:

Wiper Fluid, Wiper Fluid

Driving down the road
on a crappy winter's day
Through grit and salt we go
My car looks painted grey
That semi passing by
He's coating me and then
Clear sight lines gone awry
I'd love to see again.

Oh, wiper fluid, wiper fluid
Don't run out today!
I'm driving on a slushy road
It's much to my dismay, hey!
Wiper fluid, wiper fluid 
Through salt, cinder and grime
My windshield's coated dry again
I need you one last time!


My windshield's dark and bleak
The blades leave it all smeared
Transparency is weak
It makes the world look weird
I pull the fluid knob
To get a needed spritz
And hope to God that I won't get
That "fluid's empty" hiss.

Oh, wiper fluid, wiper fluid
Don't run out today!
I'm driving on a slushy road
It's much to my dismay, hey!
Wiper fluid, wiper fluid 
Through salt, cinder and grime
My windshield's coated dry again
I need you one last time!

About Jingle Bells

If you listen to holiday music, you’ve heard Jingle Bells.  It’s been recorded by just about everyone.  Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters sold more than one million copies of the song in 1943.  It’s even been barked out by dogs. In fact, during 1890-1954, Jingle Bells was one of the top 25 most recorded songs in America.  So . . . who wrote Jingle Bells?

His name was James Lord Pierpont.  He was an organist and choir director, and he wrote the song for a Thanksgiving church service during the 1850s.  Precisely when and where he wrote the song — both Medford, Massachusetts and Savannah, Georgia claim it — is unclear, but the sheet music was first published in 1857.  It was originally entitled The One Horse Open Sleigh.

It’s amazing that a song written before the Civil War could still be popular more than 150 years later.  How often do you hear anyone singing Camptown Races?  And who even rides in horse-drawn sleighs these days, or uses words like “upsot”?  But Christmas is a time when tradition reigns.  People eat traditional foods, sing traditional songs, and put up Christmas trees and Christmas stockings, just as they did 100 years ago.  We like those traditions because they connect us to our past and help us to remember our childhood.

Even though its context is traditional, Jingle Bells remains fresh and appealing. It’s got a bouncy rhythm and words that are easy to remember.  And, although people tend to forget it, Jingle Bells tells the story of young men vying for the affection of Miss Fannie Bright, who apparently liked horses and sleighs. It’s even got some pratfall humor — consider the third verse, which unfortunately almost no one ever sings:

A day or two ago,
The story I must tell
I went out on the snow
And on my back I fell;
A gent was riding by
In a one horse open sleigh,
He laughed as there I sprawling lie,
But quickly drove away.

With a verse like that, I’m guessing that James Lord Pierpont might not mind that many boys at heart hear the Jingle Bells melody and think of Batman, the Batmobile, and Robin laying an egg.