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3/01/2009

Tonio K., Prophet?


Now they've handed us the mantle and they've handed us the key
Left us sittin' here in limbo in the lap of luxury
With a pocket full of credit cards and a mountain full of debt
And a vision of the future that I'd just as soon forget


I sang those lyrics during a little blues gig at my church a week ago. Afterward I told the audience, "That's a little song about current events, written 15 years ago." The song is, of course, "Stuck," from the 1993 album Ole! by Tonio K., and those lines are truer now than when he wrote them.

But that's par for the course for Tonio. 1979's Life in the Foodchain featured a puzzling ballad called "Willie and the Pigman," which made absolutely no sense at the time, but 19 years later, if you accepted the premise that Willie was actually Bill Clinton and the Pigman was Larry Flynt, then you could sort of interpret the song as a prediction of Flynt's attempt to rescue Clinton from impeachment by threatening to publish dirt on members of Congress. A line from the chorus, "They can dish it out from now until 1999," even predicted the year that the impeachment trial would take place. (If the connection still seems fuzzy, try it again after a few Jagermeisters.)

One of Tonio's legendary unreleased songs was inspired by his pet hamster, John Paul III. "Harness the Hamster" proposed using hamsters to solve the energy crisis of the late 1970s/early 1980s. Although Tonio performed it in concert, it never found its way onto an album (unless you count the instrumental version on his Rodent Weekend compilation). It's probably not the first Tonio K. song you'd pick as a prophetic statement — for the simple reason that many of his fans have never heard it.

Nonetheless, it's coming true, as widely reported in February in scientific journals:
Nanogenerators Harness Hamster Power

Could hamsters help solve the world’s energy crisis? Probably not, but a hamster wearing a power-generating jacket is doing its own small part to provide a new and renewable source of electricity.
Just makes you wonder: What will be the next Tonio K. song to come true? Let's hope it isn't "La Bomba"...

2 Comments:

Blogger Scott Zimmerman said...

In 1980, he released "Amerika". The album had another (very) prophetic song called "Trouble" which foretold of both Presidents named Bush.

I wake up every morning
I go to sleep each night
The communists Muslims
And war monger Texans
Are still trying to ruin my life
And all the kings horses
And all the kings idiot sons
Ain't never in all of their glorious battles
Solved anything with a gun
(you just can't do it)
You're just askin for it

(trouble) It's in every single headline
(trouble) I can't believe it
(trouble) Every day another hard time
(trouble) I don't need it

I don't like your tiny thinking
I won't fight your stinking war
You start something this time
We all get a half-life
Go figure it out on your own
And it's all in the name of Democracy
Or it's all in the name of the state
But you can name it your mammy
Name it when I'm through
You know it all works out the same
You must be insane

(trouble) Now you're getting out the big guns
(trouble) I just can't believe it
(trouble) You're gonna wind up killin' everyone with this
(trouble) But you just can't see it can ya'

(pastoral interlude in c# major)

(trouble) In every single nation
(trouble) It's so hard to believe
(trouble) Right out of the book of revelation
(trouble) Why don't you read it read all about it
(trouble) Ga..ga..I'm talking about trouble
(trouble) la la la
(trouble)

12:36 PM  
Blogger Martin said...

Thanks Scott -- "Trouble" is definitely prophetic in the sense of speaking uncomfortable truths, but in the predictive sense it's like shooting fish in a barrel. When has it ever not been true?

I hope you didn't go to the trouble of typing out all those lyrics. Because, boys and germs, you can find the words to all of Tonio's songs at his unofficial Web site.

2:51 PM  

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