Elf Elvi and the Stupefied Bagpipes


I was just lounging around, thinking about my old college days, when I remembered my first (and only) encounter with a horrible auditory pox known as the Stupefied Bagpipes.

This nauseating experience occurred when I was a young man of about 18 years of age. Beer was considered by many of my acquaintances as something of a fifth food group. John Lennon's Double Fantasy was still a few months away. I was still hypnotized whenever I saw someone roll a cigarette with one hand, while steering with the other. I was attending a hole in the Wall University in a hole in the wall town that pretty much consisted of hole in the wall everything. Hole in the wall theaters, hole in the wall apartments. You know the type of town. The closest thing to a cultural event was the hog calling contest at the county fair. Everything but the taverns closes sharply at 5 P.M.

One such tavern was Art's Hole in the Wall. It was an appropriate name for an inappropriate little watering hole. My friends and me, we liked the place because on Saturday nights, Art's had ripe little nobody bands that were not even talented enough to be considered garage bands. Bottom of the rung. Bottom of the barrel. Crap de la crap. My friends and me, we had a keen thirst for cheap beer and could not get enough of that wonderful sizzle sound made when large insects hit the bug zappers that hung near the front door and just outside every window. I guess that was

Art's idea of ambiance.

We thought the joint was the bee's knees.

We saw Dred Zeppelin there. A great big fat Elvis singing Led Zeppelin tunes. It was hysterical. Same night as the Stupefied Bagpipes, the Beatles' impersonator band that gave the word bad a bad name. Awful was not an awful enough word to describe the Stupefied Bagpipes, but I'll get to them in a moment.

The Bleach boys came the following week. They were almost mistaken for the authentic Beach Boys, except for one curious fact. They were all from Pakistan. About the only detail worth mentioning is that their Hawaiian shirts were so colorful loud and bright that it was hard to notice much else. Maybe they planned it that way? My friend, Danno, he wanted to beat one of them up in the parking lot and steal a shirt. We had to lock him up a spell in a trunk until his urge to do mayhem passed.

One night, some posters promised us The Elf Elvi. Aware that the King was thoroughly dead, we knew we were going to see someone very much like him. The Elf Elvi were little munchkin people dressed half-Viva Las Vegas and half Santa's workshop. They reminded me of the Chipmunks when they sang. At first, they were funny. Then we all realized they were laughably horrible and proceeded to pound on the tables and spill our drinks and heckle them like we were death row inmates on our last night above ground. One of our gang was insistent that they do the Lollipop Guild song from the Wizard of Oz. The manager, Bart, Art's brother, asked us to leave and that was that. Some of the gang squealed their tires in the parking lot and some did not.

One weekend, a poster tacked up somewhere on campus promised everybody a special magical mystery treat, the Stupefied Bagpipes! When I looked closely at the poster, the members of the band sort of almost looked like . . . the Beatles! Being prone to fits of unrestrained fancy, as these were my pre-Prozac days, back when I could talk in complete sentences and didn't need help going to the toilet, I thought "What if these ARE the Beatles doing that Paul McCartney thing? Playing in small hole in the wall clubs for the heck of it? Assumed names and the whole nine yards?"

I told two friends and they told two friends and so on and so on and so on. Soon, the entire campus was ripe with rumor. "The Fab Four are coming to town!" I saw people running around the campus like chickens with their heads cut off. (Has anybody really seen a chicken running around with his head cut off? If so, what was he smoking at the time?).

I remember this one particular guy, and I swear he was the spitting image of Edward G. Robinson, he was running around going, "Nyeah, the Beatles. Nyeah, nyeah. Coming to town. Nyeah."

Another guy, a gangly red-haired fella what went by the name of Ox was absolutely sure he drove past a big bus pulled to the side of interstate 55. He said he thought he saw Ringo taking a whiz on a tire. Of course, no one paid any attention to Ox. He was the same guy who was always reporting alien abductions. When he got to the part about being probed, he always lit up and smiled a big wide dumb grin, just like a little kid would if he had just gotten back from Disney World or some place like that.

When the night of the big show had arrived, everybody who was anybody (and even those who were nobodies) were properly liquored up and standing in line, waiting for the door to open, hoping in earnest for a chance to glimpse Pepperland in all it's splendid glory. Me and my sorry lot of friends fell giggling out of the back of a van. We were lit up grinning, Cheshire cats, the lot of us.

The Stupefied Bagpipes were no Beatles. They weren't even musicians and did not have the common decency to at least try to lip sync to some old tapes. No, they weren't even an incredible simulation or even a half-assed one. They sported mop top Beatles' wigs. They had the boots and the jackets with the Neru collars. They had the costumes almost somewhat right. The way they had tried unsuccessfully to conceal an extra 50 to 75 pounds or more of excess gut into those suits, buttons straining, rolls of beer-fed whale blubber squirting through in all the wrong places, it was nothing short of a bad dream.

They got the words wrong. "I Want to Hold Your Hand" became "I Want To Hold Your Ham." The words to "Michelle" (and all the other covers they did) were Completely ass-backwards screwed up.

I grew annoyed at each and every foul up. Believe me, there were far too many of them to count. It was like seeing some good old boy's Cousin Clem and uncle Jeremiah playing Beatles' music on a sour mash-induced bet.

"So, this is a lectrik git-tar?"

"Gee, lookit me, Pa. I'm a rock star!"

Between sets, "Paul McCartney" came from the back and seated himself at my table. I recall that he had a lot of flies buzzing about his head like some sort of Mad Magazine caricature. He said, matter of factly, "I am the Walrus." Danno's girlfriend, Nicole, looked him squarely in the eyes and said, "No you're not." Our "Paul McCartney" got up without so much as another word and the second set soon began. This is when I leaned over to Nicole and suggested she book the Stupefied Bagpipes to play at her up and coming wedding to Danno.

During the second set, "John Lennon," or Slim or whoever he was, came out with a toilet seat hanging around his neck and fake side burns pasted on his head (crooked, I might add), dressed in some Salvation Army vintage psychedelic garb. Garbage was more like it!

The drummer was chewing on a big greasy turkey leg with one hand and banged on the drums with the other. He really wasn't too bad, even if he looked more like the fat guy from Hee Haw than he looked like Ringo Starr. I am ashamed I can't remember any more details, but by this time me and my friends were slogging down lager and limes, trying to drink ourselves retarded so we could forget all about the Stupefied Bagpipes.

I do remember some more of the songs they screwed up. "Don't Pass Me Pie" "The Loud and Whining Toad." "Jello Submarine." "Day Stripper," which wasn't even a bit like the Beatles' "Day Tripper." No, this song was about a school marm, turned stripper at a truck stop. At least, I think that's what it was about. There were some speaker problems and a lot of people shouting for the next act. What's more, the Stupefied Bagpipes managed to mutilate every Beatles' song they played with the skilled precision of a surgeon forced to do intricate brain surgery with a rock. How they managed to turn a beautiful love song like "Something" into a perverse little ditty about a farm boy who loved his cow in ways I dare not repeat in polite company. I think I shall never know! How could anyone get that classic wrong? "Something in the way she moos..."

There was a steel guitar and violin 27-minute country -fried version of Helter Skelter that sounded scary to me, kind of like Travis Tritt gone Motorhead. If that wasn't enough, a toothless old gran pappy type came out, sat himself down in a rocking chair that hadn't been there a moment before, and then "George Harrison" gave him a microphone. The old gran pappy type said that his name was "Skeeter Thompson" and was having a lot of trouble keeping his filthy yellow choppers in. Over and over, he had to reach down and pick up his choppers because, I guess, he forgot his Polygrip. I don't think it was part of the show, either. No one was laughing. In fact, some of the other patrons were on the verge of ripping the place down to the foundation. Still, after about ten more minutes of this nonsense, Skeeter's teeth fell behind the stage, leaving him

toothless and embarrassed, microphone in his hand. The show must go on, as some wise man once said, and so too this show went on (and on and on and on...) Old Skeeter launched into a toothless version of Rocky Raccoon, reminding me of a poor man's Walter Brennan. The band tried to play along but couldn't. It was as embarrassing as it was just plain down right silly.

There was not a patron in the place who was not 100 per cent completely thankful to God Almighty when the show was over and the next act came on, Dred Zeppelin. It was the difference between night and day. Of course, it could have been the shots of Johnny Walker kicking in.

It was like this every weekend for the three short semesters I attended the university. After two particularity embarrassing incidents; one involving farm animals stampeding through a dormitory, and then another involving exploding Founder's Day parade floats, I found it in my best interest to shuffle off to Buffalo University.

The End


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