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January 24, 2009

"Wooly Bully"

By: Bernard Chazelle

Thanks to a catchy riff, the song transcends its rhythmic awkwardness. You heard it in "Full Metal Jacket," where it works beautifully. This video is hilarious. Sam the Sham is obviously wearing the right kind of hat to tell us not to be L7 (which means square, as in the shape formed by the 2 letters - I had to look it up). I think it was shot around the time Simon and Garfunkel were feelin' groovy. How time flies, how language dies.

The intro and the sax solo are both straight-ahead 12-bar blues but the song itself has 15 bars. Because of the call-and-response format, (nondelta) blues come in even numbers of measures (8, 12, 16, 24, etc), so 15 means there must be 2 calls (or responses) in a row. It's the former, as you can check at bar 8 over the first chord change (0:45).

CALL 1: "wooly jaw" - CALL 2 [OVER MISSING RESPONSE]: "Wooly bully"

The words "wooly bully" function as a preemptive strike against the second response (which never comes). So you squelch the other guy's voice with the word "bully" and then you bark out "Watch it! It'll get you!" Could describe US foreign policy. Perhaps Wooly Bully should be our national anthem.

— Bernard Chazelle

Posted at January 24, 2009 05:18 PM

Yes, Wooly Bully would be an excellent national anthem. I think the turkey vulture would be a good national symbol.

Obmana just got his baptism in blood when he ordered a drone missile attack in Pakistan murdering 20 people 3 or 4 being children. That didn't take long.

I'll get you indeed.

Posted by: Rob Payne at January 24, 2009 08:07 PM

It's wonderful that you can know so much about the structure and mechanics of music and still enjoy it.

Posted by: Murfyn at January 25, 2009 12:35 AM


Yes, and it is such a relief knowing that Obama and Bush agree on so many things.

Robert Gates, who has retained his job as defence secretary, said last week: “One of the points where I suspect both administrations come to the same conclusion is that the goals we did have for Afghanistan are too broad and too far into the future.”

Posted by: Rob Payne at January 25, 2009 02:42 PM

Afghani and Pakistani weavers beware. Wooly Bully indeed.

Posted by: dapajoe at January 25, 2009 04:39 PM

Thanks for that. Ultimate blast from the past.

Posted by: lightly at January 28, 2009 01:01 PM

Prof Chazelle, please let us not make it our national anthem. This music is meant for dancing. Makes me nostalgic. Reminds me of going to Sunday noon Jam Sessions with my aunts and we used to have a blast. Everyone in the the restaurant would scream the first of five "Wooly Bully" at top of their lungs and then the band would follow with the remaining four. It was great!

Posted by: Rupa Shah at January 30, 2009 01:17 PM