Support this Podcast on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/carlking
In this episode, Carl King examines Sleepytime Gorilla Museum’s “1997” and Summer School (1987)
Subscribe on Apple Podcasts
Subscribe on Spotify
SHOW NOTES / LINKS
The Nothing Show
Get SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM / GRAND OPENING AND CLOSING
Get SUMMER SCHOOL (1987)
Free Salamander Exhibit Interview (2018)
Danny Elfman / Happy (1987)
Danny Elfman / Happy (2020)
I’m Carl King, and this is The Carl King Podcast, where EVERY WEEK, we learn about music, filmmaking, and the other creative arts. To support this podcast, head over to Patreon.com/carlking, and join for just $1 or $5 per month.
Or send a tip through PayPal or Venmo to username CarlKingdom. Special thank you to my Illusionist $51 level patrons, both Hank Howard III and Chewbode.
Quick shout-out to my music endorsements: Vienna Symphonic Library, Fractal Audio, Ernie Ball Strings, Toontrack, and Millennia Media.Now let’s get this episode Beginned!
Carl King The Human Updates
Just a few Carl King The Human Updates this week, and I am going to FLY through them.
1 – First, I released a new Patreon-Only song. A re-recording of my 1997 Sir Millard Mulch song “The Boy With The Perfectly Square Butthole.” I’ll play a 30-second clip now. And you can hear the entire song, only on Patreon.
2 – Second, I just posted the Full-Length, rough “Text Animatic” of my new animated Pilot, Dragontooth Inn. It’s got all the voice acting, the rough musical score, and the shot timing. And you can also watch and hear THAT entire thing inside my Patreon.
3 – Nils Frykdahl of Sleepyime Gorilla Museum and Free Salamander Exhibit has taken us all by surprise. He just started his OWN Patreon project called The Nothing Show. It’s a sort of podcast in which he narrates and discusses eccentric works of literature, even releasing rare “audiobooks.” The Nothing Show is fantastic and 100% necessary. I’ll put the link in the show notes.
The Nothing Show
And now, let’s officially get BEGINNED, with this week’s analytical musical analysis of the week.
SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM: “1997”
This week’s Analytical Musical Analysis of the Week is: Sleepytime Gorilla Museum’s “1997 (Tonight We’re Gonna Party Like It’s)” from their album, The Grand Opening and Closing. What a coincidence!
I’m going to mainly focus on that instrumental breakdown or bridge. You know the one… where the guitar, bass, and violin are playing a DISSONANT, ascending chromatic line. Accenting a tricky syncopated rhythm with the drums. Some might be tempted to call this metric modulation, but since there’s a steady pulse and most of this is in 4/4, I would personally not call it that.
Also be aware that through MOST of this instrumental section, the hi-hat (or whatever cymbal that is, I’ll refer to it as the hi-hat part) and the snare are playing a consistent 4/4 pattern. The hi-hat is playing quarter notes, and the snare is on on 2 and 4. It is only the KICK DRUM pattern that changes — for the first several segments, anyway.
Disclaimer — there are other ways of counting some of these rhythms with other, more nuanced time signatures. But I’m choosing to relate everything here to 4/4, because that’s what the main groove of the song is, and it all fits into a quarter-note pulse.
I’ve broken this whole instrumental section into 7 separate segments with their own distinct syncopations.
And I think that as we go through this, you’ll realize that individually, MOST of these segments are quite simple and straightforward drum beats. But they sound tricky when strung together. And the length of each segment is another element that throws off our ears.
And I’d like to thank Linus Abrahamson for his notation assistance — he definitely cleaned up my mess.
So here we go.
Segment 1 – We’re in 4/4 with a SWUNG TRIPLET groove. This could have been written in 6/8. But we have a measure of 4/4 followed by a measure of 5/4. It looks and sounds like this. And with the counting. Hi-hat playing quarter notes, snare on 2 and 4. The kick playing on swung 8ths. That’s all it is. If a whole song were this rhythm, there would be nothing surprising. BUT — this groove only continues for 9 beats. I would count that as a bar of 4 followed by a bar of 5. And don’t get tricked by those kick drum 16th notes at the very end of beat 9, which is actually an anticipated syncopation that belongs to Segment 2.
Segment 2 – We are back to 4/4, and we are now moving from swung to a straight 16th subdivisions. The kick pattern changes to syncopated straight 16ths — playing on the E and UH of each beat. You might know 16ths are counted as 1 e and uh 2 e and uh. This continues for 2 measures and sounds and looks like this. And with the counting.
Segment 3 – In the next segment, Segment 3, we are back to the SWUNG 8THS again, or triplet groove. In contrast to the previous groove, it throws us off. But it’s nothing unusual. It sounds like this. And with the counting.
Segment 4 – For segment 4, we are back to STRAIGHT 16ths on the kick — but it’s playing on the down beat, and then from then on, every 3RD 16th note. In the notation we end up with dotted 1/8 notes and 16ths. This time, we have a bar of 4/4 and then a bar of 5/4. It sounds like this. And here it is with counting. So notice that the second bar is extended out to 5/4 to allow for that triplet kick drum groove to land on Beat 1 in the following segment. They seem to be doing this each time they introduce an odd pattern. So we have a total of 9 beats there.
Segment 5 – For Segment 5, this gets a little more tricky. We are back into SWUNG 8ths again, or a triplet groove. That kick drum is now playing a pattern of THREE swung 8ths, followed by an 8th rest. Which is conceptually a unit of 4. That goes for 3 measures of 4/4. That sounds like this. And here it is with counting.
Segment 6 – Now in Segment 6, this is where the beat gets downright difficult, because these subdivisions are not a NORMAL relationship between the feet and hands, outside of prog rock. As bizarre as this part sounds, that hi-hat is still on quarter notes. But the kick and snare are playing a pattern in 5/16. So it’s little groupings of 5 notes, in which the kick plays TWO 16-notes, the snare plays a 16th note, and then there is a 2-16 note (or 8th note) rest. And then the pattern repeats underneath that 4/4 hi-hat pattern. This can be very confusing to work out if you’re not used to it. The whole segment is 3 measures of 4/4, and one measure of 3/4. Which adds up to a total of 15 beats, allowing the pattern to come back around on the downbeat of the next segment. It sounds like this. And here it is with counting.
Segment 7 – Now, for our final segment, the drums shift into a solid pattern of FIVE 16th notes, bringing in the toms and some sort of china cymbal, repeated for 2 measures of 4/4. Then it extends another 2 beats, and we have a 2 beat REST before the CHORUS comes back in. So Segment 7 is 3 total measures of 4/4. You could also measure this pattern out in a time signature like 5/16, but as I said I prefer to keep everything in 4/4 when possible.
As extra Credit, I wanted to throw in a short explanation of that confusing, chugging rhythmic “Dun Dun Dun Dun” interlude that happens as a turnaround before the verses. And here’s how I *THINK* that works.
According to my math, it is 8 NOTES across 3 BEATS. So in this case they would be Dotted 16ths. And that is followed by 2 quarter notes, played staccato.
And I would notate that in 5/4, because that would contain the entire phrase.
I actually sent all of this stuff over to David Shamrock, the original DRUMMER on this track, and he had a different recollection of how that hook was constructed. He had this to say:
“Rather than eight beats over three, it’s actually two sets of triplets plus 2/3 of a triplet. (The last third of the final triplet is omitted.) That gives you the eight beats that you are hearing. If you tap your foot to the rhythm, it should sound like triplets, but with the last third of the final triplet cut off. I don’t believe there is a conventional way of notating that, but it is something that Nils and I have always been fond of doing on occasion.”
However, the plot thickens. I lined the original recording up to clicks in Cubase, all 3 of those Dun Dun Riffs, and they are not quite triplets. David did say that there maybe have been some pushing and pulling of the tempo, and that their intent WAS triplets. But 8 notes across 3 beats DOES ACTUALLY match the recording.
So thank you to David Shamrock for giving me insight into the original compositional intent.
I’d also like to thank Dale Turner for his late night assistance in solving that rhythmic mystery. Or not.
And quick reminder, I interviewed Free Salamander Exhibit, including Nils Frykdahl and David Shamrock, in Episode 12 of this very podcast. So go give that a listening. I’ll put a link in the show notes.
Free Salamander Exhibit Interview (2018)
I always learn a thing or two by analyzing and transcribing a piece of music, even a piece of music I THINK I know well. So if you have not done this before, I recommend you try it.
And now let’s move on to this week’s analytical filmmaking analysis of the week.
SUMMER SCHOOL (1987)
This week’s Analytical Filmmaking Analysis of the Week is: Summer School, from 1987.
This film was directored by Carl Reiner, and screenwrited by Jeff Franklin.
Now I happened to meet one of the stars of this movie last weekend at Pasadena Comic Con. And that star was none other than Dean Cameron, who plays the character Chainsaw. I got his autograph and watched him speak on a Panel, along with several of his co-stars. And it brought back memories of how much I loved this movie when it came out.
Now let’s talk about the musical score.
I had forgotten this was scored by Danny Elfman. The movie starts with an intro montage of the last day of school, over a song by Mr. Elfman called “Happy.”
Danny Elfman / Happy (1987)
But wait a minute. This is NOT his only song called Happy. He released another one in 2020 — 33 years later. With a much darker sound.
Danny Elfman / Happy (2020)
Does he have MORE songs called Happy? We don’t know yet. Would have been funny if every song he’d ever written had that title.
Now about the actual scoring… I had never noticed it before, but the Danny Elfman moments are obvious now, like that theremin in the horror scene.
But back to that opening musical montage.
Since it’s the last day of school, one of the students returns their text book. And it is totally destroyed. The binding is gone, the pages are all falling out.
Folks, that’s how bad my books were, and my mom had to pay for them every year. I never did my homework, but I’d still keep them all with me everywhere, and only use them to do destructive things. I would“skim board” on them, across the concrete sidewalks. I’d erase random words from the pages, and smash greasy chocolate chip cookies into them. I carried them in a large thin duffle bag. I’d swing that duffle bag over my head and repeatedly slam it onto the ground. It would eventually tear open, books and leftover food and trash going everywhere. It was a fun mess.
And of course, I went to summer school every year. So I identified VERY MUCH with these characters who did not take high school seriously.
So let’s talk about those Characters.
There is somewhere between 8 and 11 students in the summer school class. Some of them have non-speaking roles, and some seem to come and go randomly.
Because this movie is largely character-driven, we get to know their personalities VERY WELL. Every scene allows the characters to express their individuality. Whether they’re at a petting zoo, in a library, or at the beach — these are chances to reveal character. Not for the purpose of plot or action, but to make them feel real to us.
This movie is a dang good writing exercise. Take a dozen characters, place them in a random environment, and ask yourself how each of them would behave.
Now let’s talk about some of those notable characters:
There’s Francis Gremp, who likes to be called Chainsaw. I’m assuming that’s because he’s embarrassed of his real name. Was that detail necessary to the plot? I don’t think so. But it added depth.
And here’s a question: is Chainsaw the original inspiration for Kevin Smith’s trench coat and backwards baseball hat? It’s possible, but we don’t know yet. The character is a high energy, rebellious class clown. He pranks the teacher, he breaks laws, says clever things, all while wearing an Iron Maiden shirt.
The character Dave is his best friend, played by Gary Riley. But here’s an important writing AND budgetary question — with so many characters already, did the story really need TWO of that character type? Did it need both a Bill and Ted? And this movie was 2 years before Bill and Ted, by the way. But yes, having the duo definitely worked. We ended up with superb comedic acting by both of them, and it was a good representation of high school friendship — as we follow two smart misfits obsessed with horror films.
And not to belittle their roles, but we also get every 80s high school stereotype: a nerd who’s allergic to everything, a jock who carries a football, a pregnant girl, a dyslexic girl, a dude who moonlights as a male stripper, a foreign exchange student, and a surfer girl who is intent on moving in with her teacher. That is a HECK of a lot of characters, yet the movie wove their lives together PERFECTLY. And that’s only the STUDENTS.
There are three OTHER main characters: their teacher Mr. Shoop, played by Mark Harmon, the Vice Principal who hates him, and Kirstie Alley as his love interest. That’s somewhere around 15 main characters we get to know.
Even Mr. Shoop’s DOG named Wonder Mutt has a character and story arc. And the dog’s TOY has a name and story arc.
Now let’s talk about the editing.
There are few, if ANY establishing shots or indications of passing time between scenes. And this can create confusion if you’re paying attention.
For instance, there was a hard jump in time from when Mr. Shoop finds out he’s teaching summer school, which was the Last Day of School — and Day 1 of Summer School. Those two scenes are butted right up against each other. Same location, same time of day. But during that time, several days — or a week or more — should have passed. I had to rewind it and check: is he actually wearing the same clothes? Was this meant to be the same day? No. It’s clearly a different day.
In that Day 1 of Summer School scene, Mr. Shoop talks to his teacher crush next door, Robin, played by Kirstie Alley. But when he walks back into his classroom, because the scenes are glued together, we get another time jump and his classroom is now full of students. But these aren’t logic or continuity errors. I would call it dangerous editing.
ACTING AND DIRECTING
Let’s talk about the ACTING and DIRECTING.
There are many non-essential PHYSICAL character moments that are so organic they feel like improv.
When they’re in the library and Chainsaw says “The human BRAIN needs rest,” he knocks on Dave’s head 3 times. In perfect sync, Dave knocks on the wooden table they’re sitting at, making it sound like his head is wooden. Was that in the script? Because it reveals those two guys have coordinated jokes.
Another of my favorite moments is when Mr. Shoop is getting fired by the Vice Principal. In the middle of a conversation, at the very end of another unrelated line, he says “watch this.” And he throws his hat around a coffee mug on the desk, as if playing horse-shoes. It has NOTHING to do with the conversation or scene, but it brings it to life.
This list could go on forever. In another scene, Chainsaw is at his desk with his hat off and is scratching his hair furiously with both hands during roll call. Why was he doing that? It was a non-sequitur. And another when the principal opens his office door and for just a split second, Chainsaw is standing there smelling his own armpit.
Dave has moments like this as well, like when he is teasing the nerd character in the background throughout one of the scenes. He’s leaning over across the aisle and touching him constantly, making him uncomfortable.
These are small and powerful ways of inhabiting the characters.
Let’s talk about the plot, briefly. As I said, this movie is character driven, but it also has clear stakes. The students all need to pass summer school to save Mr. Shoop’s job. Which isn’t overbearing, and only comes in towards the end of the movie.
There’s only one Implausibility that I noticed. On the first day of summer school, Chainsaw and Dave already know Mr. Shoop. They call him by name, and they’re excited that he’s the teacher. But Mr. Shoop doesn’t know them AT ALL when he calls roll. And that’s for the sake of the movie introducing the characters to us.
MEANING & MESSAGE
To wrap it up, this movie has a positive meaning and message. And that is: through all his faults, instead of teaching them remedial English, Mr. Shoop actually helps EACH of the kids in the ways they need it. And because of this, in the end, he succeeds.
I gave this film 5/5 stars on Letterboxd, and a little heart, because of all that physical character acting detail.
OK, that’s the end of this Episode of the Carl King Podcast. Remember to subscribe on Spotify, Apple, or anywhere else you listen to these dang podcasts.
And support the creation of more episodes by joining my Patreon for $1 or $5 a month. That’s Patreon Dot Com Slash Carl King. Or send a tip through PayPal or Venmo to username CarlKingdom.
And as always, special thank you to my $51 a month Patrons, at the special Illusionist level, Chewbode and Hank Howard III. And thank you to ALL of the Very Good Friends of Carl King for listening, and as I always say: Okay Than. I will let everyone know.