Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Grand Funk Railroad -- "Get It Together" (1970)

Got to get it together 
Got to get it together
Got to get it together

It was pretty easy for me to choose the 2 or 3 lines to quote from this song.  (Kind of like shopping in a Moscow grocery store back in the old days.)

Part Five:  The Rice Marching Owl Band (a/k/a "The MOB")

The roots of the Rice University "Marching Owl Band" -- better known on campus as "The MOB" -- go back to 1916.  The band was a typical marching band until 1970 -- also the year that I arrived at Rice, although that is probably just a coincidence -- when it began to break with tradition and build its halftime shows around political parodies, off-color humor, etc.

The MOB is what is known as a "scatter" (or "scramble") band.  Such groups move from one formation into the next by running around chaotically until everyone is approximately where they should be.  Members of scatter bands like them because they eschew all that complicated marching stuff -- it's so much easier when all you have to do is learn the music.

The Rice Marching Owl Band (or"MOB")

Scatter bands are endemic to fancy-pants private universities -- it's mostly Ivy League and Ivy League-wannabe schools that have such bands.  Brown, Columbia, Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn, Princeton, Rice, Stanford, and Yale all have scatter bands.  Their halftime shows usually consist of equal parts of "intellectual" humor and appalling bad taste -- sort of a cross between  "Saturday Night Live" and Howard Stern's show.  To truly appreciate the performances, it helps to have a smug and condescending attitude to anyone who's not a student at (or an alumnus of) a top-20 college.  

The Princeton University band

(Just to be clear, I'm not singling out the band members as being smug and condescending.  Most of the students at schools like that are smug and condescending.  I certainly was.)

Scatter bands seem funniest when they are juxtaposed against traditional marching bands.  Given that 7 of the 8 Ivy League schools have scatter bands (Cornell being the sole holdout), what's the point?  Wouldn't it be much more daring and cutting-edge for an Ivy League school to have an old-fashioned marching band?

One school that you might not expect to have a scatter band is Humboldt State University, a school that is definitely not an Ivy League-wannabe.  It's located in Arcata, CA, some 279 miles north of San Francisco.  The "Marching Lumberjacks" appear wearing yellow logger's hardhats, suspenders, yellow T-shirts, green work pants, and boots. 

Here's a video of a 2009 Marching Lumberjacks halftime show:

Not quite up to the standards of the Harvard, Yale, and Stanford bands, but not bad.

I could do another eight-post series just on the wacky and/or offensive bits included in scatter-band performances over the years, but I'm not sure I could stand eight more Grand Funk Railroad songs.  So I'll just list a few "highlights" from past scatter-band halftime shows:

-- In 1967, the Harvard-Princeton game was broadcast by the ABC television network.  The Princeton band opened its halftime show by forming the letters "NBC."  

-- In 1977, at the conclusion of their show at the Yale-Brown game, the Yale band's announcer stated that they had been chosen as the "Most Pampered Band in the Country."  Band members then dropped their pants, revealing that they were all wearing diapers.  The band then marched off the field with their pants around their ankles.    

-- In 1991, Notre Dame banned the Stanford band from performing at Notre Dame after the band's male drum major dressed as a nun and conducted the band using a wooden cross as a baton.  

-- In 1992, the Columbia University band pantomimed the consummation of a same-sex marriage at the halftime of the Yale game.

-- In 1994, Stanford band members drove a white Ford Bronco with bloody handprints around the Stanford stadium track during the halftime of the USC game.  (USC is O. J. Simpson's alma mater, of course.)

Of course, EVERYONE knows about the time when the Stanford band came on to the field to celebrate an apparent victory over rival Cal a bit prematurely:

Th Colorado State band is not a scatter band, but this bit -- titled "Suicidal Trombones" -- is too good not to include.

Back to the MOB.  There are a number of MOB videos available on YouTube.  Most of the jokes are very inside, and would take too long to explain, so I'll settle for embedding a brief video of the MOB playing the unofficial Rice fight song -- "Louie, Louie" -- during last year's homecoming game.  (Note the young lady in the evening dress playing the violin -- the MOB's membership includes several string players and various other instruments not usually seen in a marching band.)

Before bringing this post to a close, I have to tell you about my favorite MOB bit.  During one halftime performance when I was a student, the band formed a rectangle as the announcer explained that the MOB was paying tribute to the state of Colorado.

Then, the band members that made up the left and right sides of the rectangle slowly marched toward the center of the formation, passed through one another and stopped when the rectangle was re-formed -- the only change being that the kids that had been on the left were now on the right (and vice versa).  The announcer then explained that the band was now paying tribute to the state of Wyoming.

If you don't get it, maybe this map (which depicts not only Colorado and Wyoming but also throws in Nebraska at no additional charge) will help:

Here's a link to buy this song from iTunes:

Get It Together - Grand Funk Remasters: Closer to Home

Here's a link on Amazon you can use to buy a CD that contains the MOB playing "Louie, Louie":

1 comment:

  1. I never thought the Yale Precision Marching Band was all that funny, and until I got older I didn't realize it was supposed to be a comedy act. Of course, that Ivy League humor went way over my head.

    YouTube was made for clips like these of the Aggies band - thanks for sharing.