Saturday, April 25, 2009

Never sing HOT ROD LINCOLN

One night in a sports bar in Syracuse, New York, I saw the greatest thing. Gary Cohen (now the TV voice of the NY Mets) and Dan Hoard (the voice of University of Cincinnati football and basketball) started reciting the lyrics of 70’s chart topper “Hot Rod Lincoln” real fast, in perfect unison (lyrics provided below). The entire song in less than a minute. When they finished the bar exploded in applause. I thought, this would be a great bit for Norm & Cliff on CHEERS. I laid it out for my partner, David who also thought it might be kind of novel.

So we pitched it the CHEERS producers a few months later when we were about to write a script. They looked at us like we were nuts. I said, “Trust me. This will work. This will become one of those classic CHEERS teasers.”

The producers shrugged, and I guess out of respect to our then-prestigious career said, okay, try it.

When they saw the finished draft they still had reservations. It seemed kind of stupid and pointless but so convinced was I that we had struck comedy gold that I made this offer: David and I would perform it at the table reading. We would show all these skeptics. Again, they said go for it.

Everyone assembled for the table reading. The cast, writing staff, some crew members, the studio, and the network. We took our cue and launched into “Hot Rod Lincoln”. And we were great. Having practiced diligently for a week we kicked some serious ass. Truly awesome! And when we were done….

Nothing. Nada. Dead silence. A vacuum. You could hear crickets from a field a mile away.

Just fifty faces staring at us with a mixture of bewilderment and sheer pity.

The embarrassment of that table reading was of course, just the beginning. Back in the writing room, David Lloyd got it started by saying, “So the ‘Hot Rod Lincoln bit – that worked.” Others said they were still not convinced, would we do it again for them? Next week could we perform “Stairway to Heaven”? These jokes continued…for four years. I’m hoping to out live them all because if not I just know they’ll reprise it at my funeral. Again, this is why I'm sooo glad I wasn't on staff when I went on TV last week with my Stevie Wonder glasses.

Note to young writers: NEVER guarantee a bit will be a classic. And second note to young writers: NEVER EVER make it worse by trying to prove it.

Here are the lyrics (written by Charlie Ryan). It was funny when Gary and Dan did it. REALLY.

My pappy said, 'Son, you're gonna drive me t' drinkin' ...
If you don't quit drivin' that - Hot ... Rod ... Lincoln!'

Well, you've heard the story of the hot rod race,
When the Ford and the Mercury were settin' the pace.
That story's true I'm here to say,
Cause I was a'drivin' that Model A.

It's got a Lincoln motor and it's really souped up;
That Model A body makes it look like a pup.
It's got 12 cylinders and uses them all;
And an overdrive that just won't stall.

It's got a 4-barrel carb and dual exhausts,
4:11 gears that really get lost -
Safety tubes and I'm not scared,
The brakes are good and the tires are fair.

We left San Pedro late one night;
The moon and the stars were shinin' bright.
We were drivin' up Grapevine Hill,
Passin' cars like they were standin' still.

Then, all of a sudden, in the wink of an eye,
a Cadillac sedan passed us by.
The remark was made, "That's the car for me."
But, by then, the taillights wuz all you could see.

Well, the fellers ribbed me for bein' behind,
So I started to make that Lincoln unwind.
Took my foot off the gas and, man alive,
I shoved it down into overdrive.

Well, I wound it up to 110;
Twisted the speedometer cable right off the end.
Had my foot glued right to the floor;
I said, "That's all there is - there ain't no more."

Now the fellas thought I'd lost all sense;
The telephone poles looked like a picket fence.
They said, "Slow down, I see spots."
The lines on the road just looked like dots.

Went around a corner and passed a truck;
I crossed my fingers just for luck -
The fenders clickin' the guard rail post;
The guy beside me was white as a ghost.

Smoke was rollin' outta the back
When I started to gain on that Cadillac
I knew I could catch him and hoped I could pass
But when I did I'd be short on gas.

There were flames comin' from out of the side;
You could feel the tension; man, what a ride.
I said, "Look out, boys, I've got a license to fly"
And the Cadillac pulled over and let me by.

All of a sudden a rod started knockin';
Down in the depths she started a rockin'.
I looked in the mirror and a red light was blinkin';
The cops was after my Hot Rod Lincoln.

Well they arrested me and put me in jail.
I called my pop to make my bail.
He said, "Son, you're gonna drive me t' drinkin',
If you don't quit drivin' that - Hot ... Rod ... Lincoln!"

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Being a longtime Mets fan, I'm very familiar with Gary Cohen. And I can picture him doing this (in my mind there's some average-looking mustachioed guy next to him, as I have no idea how Dan Hoard looks or sounds). And it cracks me up.

Great Big Radio Guy said...

Great story. The other fast-car song that pops to mind is "Beep Beep" by the Playmates. In my senior year, there were actually Jack-In-The-Boxes in New York. A bunch of us hit the drive-thru in Spring Valley and settled into the Shopper's Paradise lot across the street to feast. "Beep Beep" came on the radio and fascinatingly, as the song picked up speed, we caught ourselves unconsciously throwing food into our faces at a matching tempo.

Took me days to clean the car out.

Too long for a sitcom bit, but apparently the stuff of memories.

blogward said...

You know how it might have worked? If Cliff had been yarning about a car he once owned and Norm (or Frasier?) realized after a moment he was quoting from the song. Well sort of worked.

Willy B. Good said...
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Willy B. Good said...

Ken if you could have got Cliff and Norm to memorize all them lines and spit them out within a minute it sure would have worked for me, cheers.

benson said...

OK, I'm having a senior moment. Wasn't there a Cheers teaser that ended up with the bar doing the rhythmic clap/stomp from Queen's "We Will Rock you"?

Dimension Skipper said...
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Dimension Skipper said...
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Dimension Skipper said...
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Dimension Skipper said...

(Sorry for the multiple posts/deletions. I had trouble getting a paragraph break to appear correctly. Should have done the preview thing before posting, I know...)I have "Hot Rod Lincoln" in my music collection.

Ok. That's all I got.

Yes, Queen's "WWRY" was featured as you remember, Benson.
______________

And now for something completely different (though not necessarily interesting to most folks)...

I was very surprised to see Chuck Lorre listed as keynote speaker for the Nebula Awards ceremony (here is where I came across it this morning). I wondered if perhaps there was another Chuck Lorre, but I figured it almost had to be THE Chuck Lorre and it is, as the downloadable PDF of the program for the evening attests. It gives the obvious TV credits I knew of and goes on to mention:

"...A native of Long Island, Mr. Lorre turned his attention to television. He began writing animation scripts for DIC and Marvel Productions, as well as writing and producing themes and scores for such animated series as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The rest is history."
I didn't know that. That helps put a context to some of the humor associated with Charlie's jingle business on 2.5 Men, especially the episode where Charlie was supposed to write a theme for some sort of TMNT knockoff-type show of which Jake was a fan. Cool.

Dimension Skipper said...

Hmmm... Still didn't quite appear as it did in the preview mode, but close enough.

Dimension Skipper said...

Actually it appears one way on the post page and differently on the commenting page. Weird. But I've had enough of trying to force the paragraph break formatting through different tricks. It is what it is and it's not THAT important, so to Hades with it. It's readable enough.

VP81955 said...

Wasn't there a Cheers teaser that ended up with the bar doing the rhythmic clap/stomp from Queen's "We Will Rock you"?Yes, I can recall it being played at the Vet when the Phillies came to bat in a close game in the ninth inning.

Vermonter17032 said...

Ken,

I wish you had done this on Cheers. It would have been classic... I mean, maybe not the funniest bit ever, but funny isn't always the stuff that makes it classic. And besides, you and David are not John and George... so how do you know it wouldn't have gotten a laugh had Cliff and Norm done it?

I love the episode where Cliff is about to head off to Canada with Maggie, and then the bar starts singing the Ballad of the Green Beret... classic.

The Minstrel Boy said...

a friend and i have a reputation for singing "99 luftballoons" in german at very inappropriate times.

The Milner Coupe said...

Well, I just sang the lyrics real fast and it cracked me up. So maybe it would have worked? Cool story anyway, thanks.

PS. Did that paragraph look alright? 'Cause I could try again. Or maybe tell a great story about this cool mechaic I know. Please advise.

A. Buck Short said...

My wife just said, Hon, I know what you’re thinkin’
Staring at the screen with your lips a-lipsynchin’.
You’ve got it in your noggin to respond all in rhyme,
If you want a divorce, just try wastin’ that much time.

I said don’t have a cow, there’s no need to be wary,
Even Dylan writes his tunes with a rhymin’ dictionary.

Like that fateful night…his brain was stoned…upon the railroad track.
He whipped it out, and he was saved, as thoughts kept rushing ba-aa-aack….
Teen angel, can you hear me? Teen angel, can you see-ee me?
Are you somewhere up above?
This rhyme fits like OJ’s glo-o-ove….

She said Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, ‘cause yours are always stinkin’.
All I Really Want to Do, is whup your head like Booth got Lincoln.
What was it Ken was looking for, that took the laughs that night?
They said they found a high school song, in scripts he and David’d wri-i-ite…

Teen angel, can you hear me? Teen angel, can you see-ee me?
If you’re in the writers’ room? Please save us from this so-ong of doom….
If you’re in the writers’ room? Please save us from this so-ong of doom….

Sweet sixteen years, that Cheers is gone.
They’ve taken it away.
That song won’t part their lips again.
It died in L.A. that d-a-ay....

Teen angel, can you hear me? Teen angel, can you see-ee me?
I think we’d better g-g-g-go with that groin in-jur-y.
Yeh, at least you wear a cup with that grrrroin in-jury.

Er, sorry.

Randall said...

I had something similar happen in college. I took theatre appreciation for a semester. We had to put on a play for final credit. To prove my verbal dexterity I told our instructor that I could say the entire dialogue from the Ghost of Christmases Yet to Come from A Christmas Carol in less than one minute. My instructor took me on and as I stood in front of him not saying a word I kept getting this visual “Well?” from his face. He never got it either.

John said...

"Cheers" actually got close to that gag, with Norm and Cliff singing "Lollipop" in the Season 9 episode with the karaoke machine.

As far as the actual Hot Rod Lincoln bit, I think the problem was it's one of those "element of suprirse" gags, where the laughter comes from doing something totally out of left field. If you know the gag of two people singing quickly together at the dame time is coming, it loses the surprise factor and instead becomes two people auditioning for Simon in an early-season episode of "American Idol". If you and David had been a little more devious and snuck the gag up on the rest of the staff, you probably could have gotten it into the show.

(My own personal favorite "incident in a Syracuse sports bar that could have made a good sitcom gag" was standing next to a Boston Bruins fan at R.J. O'Toole's and talking to him during a playoff OT period, then offering extended condolences after Montreal scored the goal to end the series, before looking around to see that not only wasn't he standing next to me anymore, about a third of the bar had magically been transported out onto Nottingham road, and I was prattling away to no one. Could have worked with Fraser standing next to some wildly enthusiastic people watching a game on the bar's TV and then prattling on about after a last-second loss by the Bruins or a walk-off HR loss by the Sox on how this is a microcosm of the frustrations of real life before turning around to find everyone at the bar has left the building but Al-or-Phil, to deliver the scene-ending zinger).

cb said...

Hot Rod Lincoln's words are mostly an excuse to play an INSANELY great guitar riff...perhaps having the Fellas verbalise that, as well, might have put it oer the top.

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

How about the episode where everyone but Diane start singing the music to The Magnificent Seven? That was well done.

benson said...

Since music is the topic, maybe Ken or some of you MASH fans can answer this. Were different versions of the MASH theme "Suicide is Painless" used through the run of the series, or in syndication. I heard one last week on ION that sounded unlike the one I was used to hearing.

Joe said...

Wait. Did you do it in under a minute?

'Cause that could have been it, right there.

Forest said...

I wish someone would place that episode of them singing 'Balad of the Green Beret' to Norm on Youtube.
They sang it to him because he was going to move to Canada with his girlfriend, right?
Was he married at this same time?

Anonymous said...

The song is from 1955. It was redone in the '70s by Commander Cody but the original was by Charlie Ryan.

And I think it would have been areally funny bit.