National Lampoon ‘Lemmings’

 

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Lemmings Lament” by National Lampoon

“Welcome to the Woodshuck Memorial Festival: Three Days Of Peace, Love And Death!”

So began one of the funniest and spot-on parodies of the Woodstock generation with this announcement made by none other than John Belushi. Lemmings was performed as a stage show by National Lampoon in 1973, and not only launched the career of Belushi, but also introduced many of us to Chevy Chase, Tony Hendra and Christopher Guest.

The show opened at the Village Gate, in New York City, on January 25, 1973, and ran for 350 performances. It included a then-unknown John Belushi performing a parody of Joe Cocker on the song “Lonely At The Bottom” (with fellow Lampooner Paul Jacobs taking on the part of Leon Russell).  Belushi’s Cocker would reach a much wider audience on Saturday Night Live several years later.

Other parodies included “Highway Toes” performed by Christopher Guest (This Is Spinal Tap, Best In Show, Waiting For Guffman and A Mighty Wind, to name a few) taking on James Taylor, “Positively Wall Street” also by Guest, this time as Bob Dylan and “Pizza Man,” a send up of ‘50s Rock and Roll hilariously performed by Alice Playton. Today’s Song Of the Day, “Lemming Lament” was performed by Paul Jacobs, Christopher Guest, Alice Playton and John Belushi, billed as Freud, Marx, Engels and Jung, taking the piss out of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

I’ve been a fan of this album since it came out in 1973, but I never knew of the existence of a filmed performance that was released on VHS many years ago. Of course, it is now out of print on video again, but can be seen in its entirety on YouTube.

The Lemmings album was not National Lampoon’s first foray into musical parody. They released the album Radio Dinner the year before which also featured Christopher Guest and Tony Hendra (who does a great John Lennon on “Magical Misery Tour”), along with SNL alum Michael O’Donoghue and Melissa Manchester. The Lampoon would go to the well again in 1975, with the album Goodbye Pop with Christopher Guest, Paul Jacobs, Paul Shaffer, and future SNL alum Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Gilda Radner.

John Belushi as the Woodshuck announcer parodying an actual Woodstock announcement: “There isn’t enough food to go around. There just isn’t enough food. So remember, the man next to you is your dinner.”

Eric Berman

 

Acts

  • Welcome to the Woodchuck Festival: Three Days of Peace, Love, and Death; plus band introductions throughout – John Belushi
  • Freud, Marx, Engels, and Jung, performing Lemmings Lament. – A parody of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, and the songs Woodstock, Long Time Gone, and others. (Also referred to in performance as Freud, Pavlov, Adler, and Jung)
  • Bob Dylan, performing “Positively Wall Street,” a parody of several of his styles, with the title taken from “Positively 4th Street” – Christopher Guest
  • Goldie Oldie, a parody of old, 1950s-style performers, performing “Pizza Man,” a parody of the “teen tragedy” songs – Alice Playten
  • John Denver, performing “Colorado” – Chevy Chase
  • Joan Baez, performing Pull the Triggers, Niggers, a parody of her protest songs and of Dylan’s song George Jackson, in particular. Listed on the album cover as Pull the Tregroes, Negroes. – Mary Jennifer Mitchell (later replaced by Rhonda Coullet)
  • Joe Cocker, Lonely at the Bottom – Belushi as Cocker, Paul Jacobs as Leon Russell on piano.
  • James Taylor, Highway Toes – Christopher Guest
  • Motown Manifestoes” singing Papa was a Running Dog Lackey of the Bourgeoisie, with most of its lines taken from The Communist Manifesto.
  • Donovan, Nirvana Banana – Zal Yanovsky (later addition to the show).
  • Joni Mitchell, I Do For You – Alice Playten (replaced by Rhonda Coullet).
  • Farmer Yassir (parody of Max Yasgur, owner of the land on which Woodstock was held), greeting the audience – Gary Goodrow
  • Megadeath, a parody of heavy metal groups, who end their act by turning the amps so loud that the audience dies.
  • “Jackie Christ, Superstar”. Parody of “Jesus Christ, Superstar.” Jesus is a stand up comedian, while John Belushi played King Herod.
  • Deteriorata“, A Tony Hendra parody of Les Crane’s recording of Desiderata.
  • “Defeat Day” – a parody of America’s first military defeat in the Vietnam War. “Put all your troubles in a nickle bag and smile, smile, smile.”

Cast

  • John Belushi
  • Chevy Chase
  • Garry Goodrow
  • Christopher Guest
  • Paul Jacobs
  • Mary-Jennifer Mitchell
  • Alice Playten
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Here is Eric Berman’s Song of the Day

 

Here is the full performance of Lemmings

 

Posted by Larry Carta


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