Imagining a Better Future by Re-imagining the Past

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Best Dieselpunk Song… Ever!

There’s a lot of Dieselpunk music out there. However, what is the iconic Dieselpunk song? What song should we tell someone to listen to when introducing them to Dieselpunk?

In my (not so) humble opinion the iconic Dieselpunk song is Minnie the Moocher by Wolfgang Parker. This cover song hits on all cylinders.

Minnie the Moocher by Wolfgang Parker

Let me count the reasons why:

Cab Calloway’s Original Is the Iconic Jazz Age Song
Released in 1931, Minnie the Moocher by Calloway has become one of the most recognizable songs of the 1930s. In 1999, Minnie the Moocher was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

The Lyrics Captures the Dark Side of the Diesel Era

According to Wikipedia,
The lyrics are heavily laden with drug references. The character "Smokey" is described as "cokey", meaning a user of cocaine; the phrase "kick the gong around" was a slang reference to smoking opium.

The November 22, 1951 issue of Jet magazine gives this account of the "Minnie" on whom the song was based:

        Minnie "The Moocher" has died. She was a familiar figure In downtown Indianapolis. A 82-year-old woman whose real name was Minnie Gayton, she acquired the quaint nickname of "The Moocher" by regularly begging food from grocers and carting it off in a baby buggy. She slept in doorways, on porches and in garages. During the record-breaking blizzard, her body was found on a porch, blanketed with snow. She died from exposure.


Folks here's a story 'bout Minnie the Moocher;
she was a red hot hoochie coocher.
She was the roughest toughest frail;
but Minnie had a heart as big as a whale.

Hi de hi de hi de hi
Ho de ho de ho de ho
Hee de hee de hee de hee
Ho oo waooo waoooo

She messed around with a bloke named Smokey;
She loved him though he was cokey.
He took her down to Chinatown and showed her
how to kick the gong around.


She had a dream about the king of Sweden;
he gave her things, that she was needin'.
He gave her a home built of gold and steel,
a diamond car, with the puh-latinum wheels.

Skeedle-a-booka-diki biki skeedly beeka gookity woop!
A-booriki-booriki-booriki Hoy!

He gave her his town house and his racing horses;
each meal she ate was a dozen courses.
She had a million dollars in nickels and dimes;
she sat around and counted it all, a million times.
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Poor Min! Poor Min! Poo-oor Min
Wolfgang Parker’s Cover is Artistically Perfect
In 2010 Dieselpunk Founding Father Tome Wilson interviewed Wolfgang Parker for the website Dieselpunk:

Let's talk a bit about your "swing punk" sound. It has all the technical guitar styling of the rockabilly era, but you're still able to put the swing edge into the songs with the rhythms and vocals.

For example, your 2010 cover of Cab Calloway's famous "Minnie the Moocher" on Petty Standards has the flavor and lyrics of the original, but your band drives it into the 21st Century with tight guitar licks and punk style beat changes.

When you start deconstructing a classic like that, it must be like taking apart a pocket watch. What kinds of challenges are involved in getting the song working again as a coherent piece when you're done?

That is a tough order. You don't want a version that doesn't at least give the original a run for its money and these songs are classics. So you have to be confident.

I look at what qualities the song has that drew me to it in the first place. Then I use that quality as the basis for the re-construction. The process also allows you to really see the beauty of great songwriting, when you can re-vamp a song and it sounds totally different than the original, but still sounds great.

Calloway Would have Approved of Wolfgang Parker’s Cover
In that same interview Parker was asked by Wilson, “Do you think Cab would have approved?” He replied,

A woman that was directly related to him saw us perform that song in Pittsburgh years ago, and she said he would have loved it. I guess I gotta trust that.

These are just a few reasons that I believe Wolfgang Parker's cover of Minnie the Moocher is the best Dieselpunk song ever.


Mack the Knife cover by Dee Snider

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