Thursday, January 10, 2008

And the Band Played On

I'm not having the musical hallucinations
Oliver Sacks describes in Musicophilia. But I can't get the old song "The Band Played On" out of my head. Not the melody itself, but the lyrics of the chorus:

Casey would waltz with a strawberry blonde,
And the band played on.
He'd glide cross the floor with the girl he adored,
And the band played on.
But his brain was so loaded it nearly exploded,
The poor girl would shake with alarm.
He'd ne'er leave the girl with the strawberry curls,
And the band played on.

Most recently, I heard this song when Bill Carrothers' Armistice Band performed it as an encore at the Artists' Quarter. It was written in 1895 (words by John F. Palmer, music by Charles B. Ward) and dedicated to the New York Sunday World newspaper.

The waltzing part I understand, and the band playing part. But what does "his brain was so loaded it nearly exploded" mean? What an odd phrase. Sometimes "loaded brain" is used to describe an intellectual, but the other lyrics don't give any hint of that meaning. Casey is a guy who forms a social club and hires a hall where he and his friends can dance with their sweethearts every Saturday night.

I sent an email to John Kenrick, author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Amateur Theatricals and webmaster of He replied:

As I've understood the lyric, it meant that dancing with his "strawberry blonde" gave Casey ideas -- so many ideas that his brain nearly exploded.

The song itself was a Tin Pan Alley creation that became famous in the early years of vaudeville. In fact, the inventor of vaudeville, Tony Pastor, made the song a trademark feature in his own stage appearances.

Thank you, John.

The music. Verses are in 2/4 time, the chorus is in 3/4 (waltz) time.


  1. I think his brain was so loaded means he was very drunk or loaded. That would cause the poor girl to shake with alarm.

  2. And that's another way to look at it. Thanks.


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