Meyer & McGuire
Song of the Month #18 - “Put Another Trophy on the Shelf”
(Track #8 on the Caught in the Middle CD)
Lyrics: If your web browser does not support the Flash Player* included with the Lyrics, or you are uncomfortable allowing/downloading the plug-in/add-on, you can still listen to this song while you read. Just go to our Downloads Page and click on the link, “Buy Caught in the Middle Songs from Napster”. Then, click on "Put Another Trophy on the Shelf." You can listen to it for free (not available outside the USA).
*Not being a techie, I use the term “Flash Player” loosely.
Speaking the truth is not very popular. Quite often, it is unpleasant, and of course, no one wants to hear something that is displeasing. To catch my drift here, just reflect on a time when you presented some bit of harsh reality to your spouse, kids, friends, colleagues, employer, etc. Certainly, there is an outside chance they accepted the truth, but I doubt it happened very often. Most likely, there were two responses to your facts. One, what you presented was viewed as not being true, or you, the bearer of bad news, were being negative.
When I wrote “Put Another Trophy on the Shelf” I presented some distasteful truths about education. While some viewed the song to be offensive, others highly praised it. So, your response to the song will be determined largely by how much you like hearing reality. If you do not like it, you will almost certainly view the song as an inaccurate piece of bitter negativity. On the other hand, if you embrace authenticity, you will view the song as a warning that education, like most systems, needs to be continually cleansed of its improprieties.
Anyway, here is how the song got its start. In the late ‘90s, I was watching CNN news, and a report came on about a teacher being caught in an inappropriate relationship with one of his students. I can’t remember where this happened, but it doesn’t matter because it happens everywhere. For some reason, this report launched me into thinking about all the unacceptable behaviors that were ignored at the high school where I taught. I began to make a list of these deplorable deeds, and quite soon they formed into verses that depicted the improper actions of administrators, teachers, and students. If you check out the lyrics, you will read about administrators sexually harassing their staff members, teachers accommodating cheating, and athletes beating up their girlfriends. Hey, folks, where do you think Michael Vick, the Atlanta Falcon quarterback who is doing time for cruelty to animals, got his start? If I had to speculate, I would guess signs of his unacceptable behavior began to emerge during his high school years. In all probability Michael’s inappropriate behavior was accommodated because he was too valuable to the team.
After I finished the verses for “Put Another Trophy on the Shelf,” I searched for a chorus that would enhance the irony already described in the song’s details. It came to me when I was walking into school the next day. As you enter our high school from the athletic wing, there is a long hallway filled with trophies and banners. They honor teams, bands, orchestras, choruses, dramatic productions, individuals, members of our Hall of Fame for athletes, and members of our Hall of Fame for graduates of distinction. I am proud of most of the names appearing on that wall, but several names should not be there. The ones who should not be there are those whose character did not match up to the talent that earned them the honor. At any rate, as I walked down the hall thinking about these trophies and banners, the chorus came to me. The trophies and banners covered up the walls making them walls of glitter, instead of just plain cinderblock walls. They hid the real picture of the high school just as they hid the true image of the walls. They justified all the undesirable activities that went on in the high school so that the painful truths no one wants to recognize could remain obscured.
When Caught in the Middle, our second CD, was released, the local newspaper reviewed it. Following the review, the paper did a special article on the song “Put Another Trophy on the Shelf.” Naturally, rather than focusing on the song’s artistic merit, the article attempted to stir up controversy in the community. Well, the debate regarding the song did not get very far because I did not reveal any of the juicy details the interviewer wanted to hear. I was not out to embarrass anyone. Instead, I wanted my song to merely expose some of the unattractive realities of high school life. I wanted to offset the false impression that trophies, banners, and awards depict the essence of education. These ornaments, if we let them, can cause us to lose focus on truth, beauty, and freedom. I believe we have nothing if we stop our pursuit of these ideals, and I want my song to encourage the listener to continue struggling toward these principles.
The setting for “Put Another Trophy on the Shelf” focuses on the high school scene, but the theme transcends high school and reflects the on-going problem that exists in all bureaucratic systems: people let their accomplishments be an excuse for ignoring the presence of ugly and undesirable truths. The song and its theme are pure Americana. It is a folk-rock song with a flare of blues appearing in the mix. With an electric guitar, a harmonica, a bass, drums, and backup harmonies, John Dady, Joe Dady, and Tim Chaapel help Siobhan and me in creating one of those songs that hits you in the face with some of the negative aspects of education. With his electric guitar, John Dady adds a superb sound that naturally embellishes this rather unpleasant theme. Joe Dady drives the song with his drums, and with his harmonica he enhances the disagreeable topic by weaving a gutsy blues-like sound around John’s guitar. Tim’s harmonies blend flawlessly with my voice, and Siobhan, as always, adds the perfect touch with her bass. So, if you enjoy songs that present the harsh side of reality, this could be one for you! I like it, and I hope you do too!
I dedicated this song to those who constantly struggled to face the harshness and humor of the ugly truth. These were some of my colleagues and friends who took our school for what it truly was. They are the folks who were not misled by trophies, banners, and awards. They saw these honors as an important part of school life, but in no way did they feel these tributes dismissed the improprieties that needed to be corrected. They fought to stop whatever bad behaviors they could. Sometimes they were successful, and sometimes they failed; but nevertheless, they never gave up the fight to reach the truth.
As John Keats once said, “Beauty is truth, truth beauty.” I am sure he would have appreciated my colleagues for striving to implement his idea in the course of their daily struggle!
We recorded this song in 1998 at The Garage, a little studio in Rochester, New York. The Garage, as I have told you before, is owned and operated by John and Joe Dady, two quintessential musicians. When you record with them, you can always count on great coffee, good stories, and an aching stomach from laughing. I highly recommend John and Joe if you are interested in recording. Also, The Dady Brothers, John and Joe’s group, have many recordings of their own, and they tour the United States and Ireland. Check them out on the web at www.dadybros.com.
Tim Chaapel owns Mobile Music, a great music store in Canandaigua, New York. If you think you might be interested in playing an instrument, stop in. Tim will get you off to a great start! He has guitars that make you look really sexy! Also, if your instrument has fallen on hard times, Tim will get it sounding like new in no time. Check him out on the web at http://www.mobilemusic.downtowncanandaigua.com.
Well, there you have it. I’ll have another song of the month for you next month. If you have any comments or suggestions, please pass them on to me. This is a work in progress, and I am always looking for new ways to improve it.
E-mail us at McRiley@Frontiernet.net