The recording was made on March 20—21, in Sanders Theater at Harvard. The lyrics refer to killing pigeons with strychnine -treated corn, a method used by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to control pigeon populations in Boston public areas during the s. This song borrows heavily from " The Whiffenpoof Song ", the traditional signature song of the Yale Whiffenpoofs. The lyrics of " The Elements "  are a recitation of the names of all the chemical elements that were known at the time of writing, up to numbernobelium.
Since that time, 16 more have been discovered. At his concert in CopenhagenLehrer admitted, "I like to play this song every once in a while, just to see if I can still do it! That is, he sung it in its entirety, but with slight hiccups. Lehrer comments that most popular movies of the time have a catchy title song that helps to draw in audiences. Believing that a recent film adaptation of Sophocles ' play Oedipus Rex had failed at the box office because it did not have such a song, he wrote this one in ragtime style.
The first verse was in the style of Cole The Elements - Tom Lehrer - An Evening Wasted With Tom Lehrer suggestive of "Night and Day" ; the second verse an aria for baritone in the style of Mozart "or one of that crowd "; the third verse in the style of the Beatnik "Cool School" suggestive of Thelonious Monk 's " 52nd Street Theme " ; and the rousing finale was, in Lehrer's paraphrase of Shakespeare"full of words and music, and signifying nothing," in the style of Gilbert and Sullivan suggestive of " My name The Elements - Tom Lehrer - An Evening Wasted With Tom Lehrer John Wellington Wells " or other patter songs.
Lehrer's argument for rewriting the song is that folk songs in general are "so atrocious, because they're written 'by the people'," and that the original "Clementine" has "no recognizable merit whatsoever. A parody Chapters 23 To 25 - H. G. Wells* - The Wheels Of Chance the official songs in use by the various branches of the United States military.
Lehrer explains that the Army "didn't have no official song" when he started basic training; he wrote this one in an attempt to remedy the situation.
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