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Saturday, February 12, 2011

That Don't Make No Sense No. 1: 'Ling Ting Tong' — Chinatown, My Chinatown?

In this ongoing series, we shall explore the incongruities, illogic and idiocy to be found in many of our favorite songs.

The Five Keys announced themselves as the progenitors of "wok 'n' roll" with "Ling Ting Tong," their Top 5 R& B smash from 1955. This work of proto-doo-wop vocal harmony from Column A, coupled with a lyrical penchant for exoticism from Column B, became the recipe for a veritable pupu platter's worth of "chop suey rock" singles to follow.

And while one shouldn't have much of an expectation that a quintet of R&B slingers from Newport News, Va., would be Geography Bee champs, their curious knowledge of matters of a municipal nature can only be called, for lack of a better word, inscrutable.

Just take in the opening lines of "Ling Ting Tong" (okay, to be precise, the first words that are actually delivered in English, following the beautiful nonsense of "Tie-sa-mokum-boo-dye-ay/Tie-sa-mokum-boo"), and make sure to have your favorite head-scratching finger poised and at the ready:

I went to Chinatown
Way back in Old Hong Kong
To get some Egg Foo Yung
And then i heard a gong

Now, this author can't claim to be an absolute expert on provincial affairs as they pertain to Sino-British colonialism in the 19th and 20th centuries, but under what line of reasoning would someone presume that Hong Kong has its own Chinatown? That would be akin to singing about picking up a couple of scoops of gelato in Rome's Little Italy!

Why, the whole thing makes me throw my hands up and exclaim, "That don't make no sense!"


Debbie D said...

Yeah, that don't make no sense.

Unknown said...

I heard that what they are actually singing was "I smoke a boo", boo being jive euphemism for marijuana or maybe, in this case, opium. Gong, another 40's jive term
refers to Chinese dope, dispensed in opium dens in "China towns". Like Cab Calloway sang about Minnie the Moocher, "he took her down to Chinatown & taught her how to kick the gong around

Get Dorked! Zine said...

good column! you gotta spotlight the cellos doin "rang tang ding dong (japanese sandman)"!

Ralphus said...

Maybe we shouldn't read too much into it but a great post. Also from the same mould is Screamin' Jay's 'Hong Kong' which has some of the same rhymes. A whole genre of far eastern themed R'n'B is probably out there - maybe Hoagy Carmichael's 'Hong Kong Blues' featured in To Have and Have Not should be first out of the block.

Hbrix said...

Bo Diddley put this controversy to rest with "Hong Kong, Mississippi."

DJ SHIMMY said...

Great post! There must be something about Doowoppers and bad geography. Have you ever heard "Mexico" by the Rocketones? "I'm going down to Mexico / Where noone knows / that that is / my hometown" -- huh?!

Dave said...

While were at it, can someone please explain the line "2-3 the count, with nobody on, he hit a high fly into the stands" in Brown Eyed Handsome Man?

DJ SHIMMY said...

So they don't know Geography OR baseball! Dumber than punks!

Juke Joint jonny said...

Gaylord, a quick stab at Google brings us a restaurant in Hong Kong called, yes, Chinatown, 78-82 Jaffe Road. Who's got Egg Foo Yung on their face now??

Anonymous said...

Forget it, Gaylord. It's Chinatown.

Devlin Thompson said...

ANd then "Mambo Santa Mambo" where the Enchanters sing

Here comes Santa with his eight reindeer
He comes every time about this year
Here is something that you don't know
Santa's gonna do the mambo!

I suppose that rhyme trumps word order, but it's a bit disorienting. Maybe less so than Dexter Romweber informs us that

The sun goes around the moon
Moon goes around the Earth
So does my baby go around the world

...but that's just the way Dexter is.