After last week’s fictional Jabberwocky, a real-life deep-sea dinosaur, a fish-reptile with an extraordinary evolutionary history on land and sea, famous in fossils, but where can we dive to find it in song lyrics?
Ichthyosaurs were at their peak in the Mesozoic era, first appearing around 250 million years ago perhaps as late as 90 million years ago into the late Cretaceous. They also proved that evolution doesn’t necessarily mean crawling on to land and staying. During the the early Triassic period, ichthyosaurs evolved from a group of unidentified land reptiles that returned to the sea, in a development similar to how the mammalian land-dwelling ancestors of modern-day dolphins and whales returned to the sea millions of years later, which they gradually came to resemble in a case of convergent evolution. While they varied in size (between one and a whopping 16 metres long, and shape, essentially their legs evolved into four flippers and their conical teeth helped them catch small prey as well as big. The fish-lizard name also has some wonderfully colourful linguistic cousins, from ichthyic, meaning resembling or pertaining to fish, and in the study of ichthyonomy, or the classification of fishes, specialist might love a bit of ichthyocoprolite, in other words fossilided fish poo.
Which bring us to songs about this creature or fossils. They are almost as rare. The alternative American prolific rock band led by John Flansburgh and John Linnell, They Might Be Giants, are so far all we can dig out of the deep, with their eccentric song Nine Bowls of Soup, from the 2008 album Here Come the 123s. While this was conceived as another of their comical children’s edutainment works, not unlike that of Dr Seuss or something from Sesame Street, the lyrics appear to be about more than just counting numbers. Perhaps they are also about evolution itself - the absurdity of the ichthyosaur successfully carrying the bowls through time, while in a strange dialogue, is perhaps illustrative of the fragility and chance of survival. Or just a song about soup, primeval or otherwise. Or lunch.
Nine bowls of soup are balanced on the end
Of a rake on an ichthyosaur's head
Woah, woah, woah, woah!
Oh good, none of them spilled
Please can I have one Mr. Ichthyosaur?
No, you can't, I'm saving them for friends
But you don't have any friends
Yes, I do
No, you don't
Yes, I do. Now be quiet
I'm trying to concentrate
Nine bowls of soup on the wings of an airplane
Flown by an ichthyosaur
Woah, woah, woah!
Lucky thing they didn't all spill
Is there one that's kind of extra? Can I have it for my own?
No, you can't. I can't break up the set
But the soup is getting cold
No, it isn't
Yes, it is
No, I don't know what you're talking about
Nine bowls of soup are balanced on a snake
That the ichthyosaur is taking for a walk
Woah, woah, woah, waah!
Phew, I really thought that that was it
I just think that you have more than you can handle
What's all the soup for anyway?
I didn't think you even really liked soup
Why do you need nine bowls?
Why do you need
Why do you need nine?
If I tell you what these are for, then will you stop bothering me?
Nine bowls of soup
Arranged a certain way
Are some radar dishes
In a very large array
And the message they detect
From across the Milky Way
Says the aliens want to join us for lunch
I hope you guys like soup.
Is there an ichthyosaur lurking in the depths of your record collection? If so your examples, fictional, factual, nonsense or otherwise, or in comments below would be most welcome, or other unusual words or contexts. Does this song make you think of something else? Then feel free to comment below, on the contact page, or on social media: Song Bar Twitter, Song Bar Facebook. Song Bar YouTube. Please subscribe, follow and share.
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