Definitions

dancing to different tune

One Song to the Tune of Another

"One Song to the Tune of Another" was the first game played on the BBC Radio 4 comedy panel game I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue and is still almost always played every other episode. It consists of panellists singing the lyrics of one song to the tune of another song, accompanied on the piano.

The four original panellists were adept at this game, and each took an individual turn. Since the death of Willie Rushton guest panellists have appeared, and the two team members occasionally sing together, presumably to compensate for the unsteadiness of a guest's voice. Guest panellists sometimes exhibit little or no musical talent, most notably Jeremy Hardy, whose dreadful attempts at singing are greatly anticipated by audiences, and this itself often makes for effective comedy.

The panellists also sometimes impersonate a singer associated with one of the songs (usually the tune). In several episodes, Graeme Garden was given a song with a tune by Bob Dylan and not only impersonated him, but broke off into a harmonica solo. Notably "How much is that Doggy in the Window", to "Blowing in the Wind".

Some of the humour derives from the incongruity caused by differences between the songs involved. They may differ wildly in genre, structure, tempo, and time signature, but unlikely combinations have sometimes worked surprisingly well. Examples include:

A contribution to the effectiveness of the rendition is made by the pianist (usually Colin Sell) who, given the uneven rhythm of the vocalists, often has a much more difficult task than is usually required from an accompanist.

Introduction

Additional humour is derived from the manner in which the host, Humphrey Lyttelton, introduces and explains the game. The concept is actually simple, and well described by the game's title, but Humph claims it to be complex and proceeds to give a long-winded and complicated "simple" explanation, which differs each time the game is played. For example:

"The game works like this. The teams have in front of them the words but not the music of a song which is different from another song of which they have neither the music nor the words. The tune of this second song, which is quite unlike the first song both in words and music, will be played but without the words to which the teams will substitute the other words they have from the first song which obviously will have no tune because that's made way for the tune from the other song without its words.
:
"This might be hard to explain, so perhaps this alternative definition will help. Despite the title, each contestant will be allocated two songs, or words sung to music, but from one he will concentrate only on the lyrics while trying to disregard the tune, and from the other he will focus on the music while ignoring the words.
:
"I know what you are thinking, which one is which? Well the first, or one song, is the set of words sung to music which no longer has the tune, and the second, or another as we know it, is the tune to some words without the lyrics but retaining the music. All you have to do is put them together, in other words — literally — one song to the tune of another."

In later episodes of ISIHAC, these monologues generally took the form of contorted analogies, ending with an extremely contrived and obvious joke at Colin Sell's expense. For example, from December 2006:

"How can I best explain this simply? Oh, I know, a song is very much like a garden lawn; the words are represented by the blades of grass, which are supported by the soil, or tune. However, over time, a lawn may become worn out, so the keen gardener may care to returf the lawn with new grass, or, in our terms, put different words to the old tune.

"Now, I know what you're thinking, teams: what happens to the redundant turf that's been stripped off? Well, that's a good point, because you do inevitably end up with some useless sod. (pause) At the piano, Colin Sell!"

The humour here being derived from the word 'sod' not only meaning turf, but also being British slang for an idiot.

Internet-based fans have taken the silliness a step further, in true ISIHAC style, by playing the game in text-based media, such as USENET and email. Liberal use of punctuation can give readers a hint of how the metre is being applied to the lyrics.

Similar examples from elsewhere

Members of the Barmy Army, devoted fans of the English cricket team, are known to mock Australian cricketers and fans by singing the Australian national anthem to the tune of the nursery rhyme "Mary Had a Little Lamb", and vice-versa.

The Australian television comedy program Spicks and Specks features a segment "Substitute", where a panelist sings a well-known tune substituting words from an unrelated text (usually a technical text like "Datsun 180B Service Manual" or "2004 Australian Government Tax Pack"), and the remaining team-mates attempt to guess the name of the song. The host, Adam Hills sang the Australian National Anthem to the tune of the Rock and Roll classic, Working Class Man, in one case accompanied by the latter's singer, Jimmy Barnes.

The Scared Weird Little Guys, an Australian comedy duo perform a similar vein of songs weekly on The Cage, the breakfast show on Triple M in Melbourne and Sydney. In their segment, "Stump the Scardies", listeners email in suggestions of songs to sing in another tune and the duo get about five minutes preparation time — usually just enough to find the guitar chords and lyrics online. This segment occurs weekly at 0845 AEST on Tuesdays.

In 1989 "Weird Al" Yankovic recorded "Money for Nothing/Beverly Hillbillies", the lyrics of "The Ballad of Jed Clampett" (theme from The Beverly Hillbillies) to the music of the Dire Straits song "Money for Nothing".

A serious example of the principle behind this game was Cliff Richard's "Millennium Prayer", in which he sang the Lord's Prayer to the tune of "Auld Lang Syne" (the Clue team retaliated in the 1999 Christmas special by performing "Auld Lang Syne" to the tune of "Bachelor Boy" and vice versa). Also in recent popular culture bootlegging and bastard pop have taken is a step further, employing the practice of laying down vocals from one track over the music from another.

Both The Star Spangled Banner and My Country, 'Tis of Thee are both examples of taking a song and writing new lyrics for the tune.

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