Nelson Barbour and the Rochester Connection
Dr. Who, Dr. Jastrow, and Living Forever

You Know Exactly What I Mean

 If he hadn’t flat-out called me a liar, I’d let the point slide. But he pummeled me again and again - liar! - liar! he taunted. Me! Tom Sheepandgoats! He grabbed me by the lapels and shook me like a dog with a rat. But now there is new light. An update. And, sure enough, the asinine point he was harping on is every bit as asinine as I thought it was. Moreover, by hashing this out again, I get to put in a plug for the delightful (based on what I've heard, which is not all of it)  new Randy Newman album Harps and Angels.

It all began when I commented here  on the blog of a certain atheist, whose name I will not mention, but whose initials are Plonka. He and the like-minded Dikkii were hoo-hawing over Australian Prime Minister Kevin Ruud, who had said something reverential, or at least not sufficiently anti-God. What an ass he must be, they mocked. What proof does he have? Pandering for the religious vote, and so forth. As for me, I’d just been reading Rolling Stone magazine, and had come across an interview with Randy Newman in which the songwriter explains Harps and Angels, his new CD, and the background behind it. Now, he is in his 60‘s, he says, and reaching that age “doesn’t make you want to run out and hold up a banner for atheism.” What about that, Mr. Plonka, I queried. But Plonka ran to the newstand, got the same article, found the song lyric (one of the few published) “you boys know I'm not a religious man,” and, like Johnny Cochran and the fitting glove, threw that in my face!

As often happens, I took the seed of that exchange and worked it up into my own post: “It Doesn't Make You Want to Run Out and Hold Up a Banner for Atheism.”The first one to comment was Plonka, armed with his favorite lyric: “And once again you seem to have neglected the lyric "You boys know I'm not a religious man..."“

‘What about that, Tom, hmmmm? you liar? He said “You boys know I'm not a religious man,” didn’t he? What about that?! You haven’t admitted to that, yet!’ As if imagining Mr. Newman's new CD is a musical lecture on atheism.

So I said: “Randy Newman, in a song, included the lyric "You boys know I'm not a religious man..." There.

“Look, I didn't portray him as a raving Bible thumper. Most likely he is agnostic, like the majority of people today. What would you have me believe.....that he "hardly wants to run out and hold up a banner for atheism," but he runs out and holds it up anyway?? Being "not religious" and being atheist are not the same thing. I've done Randy no injustice. Let him comment here himself if he feels I have.”

He didn’t, so it’s obvious he agrees with everything I said. Of course, Mr. Newman was never more than a lead-in tangent to that original post, but he became the main topic when Plonka started harping on his smoking gun lyric “you boys know I’m not religious,” and he is the main topic of this post.

So here I am, today, driving down the road with my radio tuned to my favorite station, the way it always is, when I hear “you boys know I'm not a religious man.” They’re playing Randy Newman’s song! Of course, they didn’t just play that line. They played all the other ones, too:

Hasn't anybody seen me lately
I'll tell you why
Hasn't anybody seen me lately
I'll tell you why
I caught something made me so sick
That I thought that I would die
And I almost did too

First me knees begin to tremble
My heart begin to pound
First my knees begin to tremble
My heart begin to pound
It was arrhythmic and out of tune
I lost my equilibrium
And fell face down upon the ground

As I lay there on that cold pavement
A tear ran down my face
'Cause I thought I was dying
You boys know I'm not a religious man
But I sent a prayer out just in case
You never know
Lo and behold almost immediately
I had reason to believe my prayer had
been heard in a very special place
'Cause I heard this sound

Yes, it was harps and angels
Harps and angels coming near
I was too sick to roll over and see them
But I could hear them singin ever so beautifully
in my ear

Then the sound began to subside
And they sounded like background singers
And a voice come down from the heavens above
It was a voice full of anger from the Old Testament
And a voice full of love from the New One
And the street lit up like it was the middle of the day
And I lay there quiet and listened to what that
voice had to say

He said, "You ain't been a good man
You ain't been a bad man
But you've been pretty bad
Lucky for you this ain't your time
Someone very dear to me has made another
clerical error
And we're here on a bit of a wild goose chase
But I want to tell you a few things
That'll hold you in good stead when it is your time
So you better listen close
I'm only going to say this once

When they lay you on the table
Better keep your business clean
'Fore they lay you on the table
Better keep your business clean
Don't want no back stabbing, ass grabbing
You know exactly what I mean
Alright girls - we're outta here"


"Encore. Encore."
(He spoke French)
"Tres bien
And off they went into the night

Almost immediately I felt better
And I come round to see you boys
'Cause you know we ain't living right
And while it was fresh
I wanted to tell you what he told me

He said, "When they lay you on the table
Better keep your business clean
When they lay you on the table
Better keep your business clean
Else there won't be no harps and angels
coming for you
It'll be trombones, kettle drums, pitchforks,
and tambourines."

Sing it like they did for me one time
Ooooh - yes
Ooooh - beautiful
Wish I spoke French

So actually the main thing about this story is for me
There really is an afterlife
And I hope to see all of you there

Let's go get a drink

Okay, okay, so he doesn’t exactly approach God with fear and trembling. Not a lot of reverence. No. More like the amiable codger you meet in service who, when he thinks of it, which is not too often, supposes he must be “okay” with “the Man Upstairs.“ I won’t ask what Kingdom Hall Mr. Newman attends. But it‘s hard to infer from those lyrics that he‘s an atheist. I mean, you really have to work at it.

So that’s my admonition to you, Mr. Plonka: “Better keep your business clean. Don't want no back stabbing, ass grabbing. You know exactly what I mean."

'Liar,' my rear end!” And you know, almost immediately, just as Mr. Newman sang, I felt better.


This post updated here. (sigh)

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’


The comments to this entry are closed.