Call and response where we all know the response
June 12, 2008 6:55 AM   Subscribe

Earlier this week I spent some time filling sandbags with other volunteers. A few tried to get some singing going, with no success. One problem was that few people know all the words to any given song anymore. The other problem seemed to be a lack of suitable songs. What are your favorite examples of call and response in the popular music of the last 40 years? I'm looking for examples where both call and response are vocal.
posted by bricoleur to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Twist and Shout.
posted by gfrobe at 6:59 AM on June 12, 2008

There was a long tradition of work songs on ships, when ships had sails. The responses are all very simple, and can be learned after one or two repetitions. ("Bold Riley-o, boomalay ... Bold Riley-o's gone away", or "Hey, Haul away, we'll haul away together, Hey Haul away, we'll haul away, Joe".) They have a lot of verses, and the verses are often interchangeable between songs. You can make them up as you go, depending on the group you are around. ("We'll be alright if Jim will change his socks *3, and we'll all hang on behind".) Many of them are anti-establishment, and politically very incorrect. (By that I mean dirty.) They are great fun.

There are lots of websites which have traditional, modern and even parodic sea shanties. A short bit of research on the web would give you more than you could ever learn (unless you're my friend Lynn, who knows every song ever written.) Stan Hugill's book is really fun as well.
posted by vilcxjo_BLANKA at 7:22 AM on June 12, 2008

Best answer: The classic, from Stripes, is Doo-wah-diddy.
posted by bondcliff at 7:22 AM on June 12, 2008

Hit the Road Jack?

I still think that lots of people have old sea shanties buried in their minds somewhere, trickled down as folk songs. Rio Grande, Blow the Man Down, Drunken Sailor...
posted by peachfuzz at 7:40 AM on June 12, 2008

Not popular music, but there are many, many Girl Scout campfire songs that are call-and-response. Sure, most of them are pretty silly, but if you're looking for working songs who cares if the lyrics are goofy and make no sense.
posted by crinklebat at 8:16 AM on June 12, 2008

The one I remember from the bus to camp was really easy, because the response was all repetition of what the caller was calling. Thus you only need one person who knows the words (though everyone will quickly learn them). Plus it's mostly just rhythmic yelling, so the tone-deaf folks can still play along.

I said a boom chicka boom! (I said a boom chicka boom!)
I said a BOOM chicka boom! (I said a BOOM chicka boom!)
I said a boom chicka rocka chicka rocka chicka boom! (I said a boom chicka rocka chicka rocka chicka boom)
Uh huh! (Uh huh!)
Oh yeah! (Oh yeah!)
One more time! (One more time!)
<something funny> style!

"<something funny>" could be underwater style, texas style, valley girl style, or whatever else you can come up with. Then you do the next verse while moving your finger across your lips to sound bubbly, in your best drawled accent, in your best impression of Clueless, or whatever corresponds to the style you called. If the same leader is always calling, they can point to people a few lines ahead of time to make them call out the style for the next verse.

As another example of responders just repeating what the caller gives them, you might look into boot-camp marching songs. Have people take turns making up and calling verses for the rest of the group. "I don't know but I've been told... filling sandbags sure gets old... sound off (one, two) sound off (three four)" etc.
posted by vytae at 8:36 AM on June 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

These won't be call and response, unless you adapt them, but you could try singing TV theme show songs, especially ones from the 70s and 80s, oh and cartoon theme songs too. Almost everyone knows at least the "classics" (even most younger people know them because of reruns and syndication). They're good cheesy fun and they'll keep people feeling peppy while they work.
posted by amyms at 8:37 AM on June 12, 2008

Sea Lion Woman, by Feist
posted by mdonley at 9:21 AM on June 12, 2008

If you run out of pop songs, you could try military cadences. Only the person calling the cadence needs to know the words.

I Want to be an Airborne Ranger
C-130 Rolling Down the Strip
Hard Corps
Run Me, Run Me, Run Me

My SO's brother-in-law and his (young) kids sing these in the car. It's fun.

Note: May not be suitable for pacifists.
posted by the littlest brussels sprout at 9:56 AM on June 12, 2008

Songs with repeated refrains might work too - many people will know the words to the refrain even if they don't know the rest of the lyrics. Lots of folk songs have refrains.
posted by Quietgal at 10:27 AM on June 12, 2008

- There's a Hole in the Bucket would have been perfect.
- Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash's If I Were a Carpenter comes to mind.
- The songbook Rise Up Singing is full of 'em. There are whole sections dedicated to "hard times & blues," "work songs," "struggles," and "sacred rounds and chants."
posted by cocoagirl at 10:36 AM on June 12, 2008

Best answer: I couldn't say why, but Spice Up Your Life worked well as a call-and-response for my marathon training team. Generally inoffensive, although you could probably get an interesting conversation going if anyone brings up the "yellow man in Timbuktu" line.

And this may be groan-inducing in certain circumstances, but Christmas carols (especially in summer) might work for sheer silliness value...and because people generally know them whether they want to or not. When we first got to college--this was in August, mind--a bunch of my suite-mates from diverse backgrounds got together and bonded over off-key unseasonable hymns.
posted by kittyprecious at 10:55 AM on June 12, 2008

You needed some prison songs.
posted by Miko at 11:25 AM on June 12, 2008

Best answer: Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep

Lyrics here.
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:40 PM on June 12, 2008

Best answer: Minnie the Moocher
Build Me Up, Buttercup
Boobs a Lot
OK, maybe the last one not so much, but it worked for us in high school.

You could also try participation songs where they really don't need to know words:
The Name Game
Barbara Ann
posted by joaquim at 12:46 PM on June 12, 2008

Everyone I know knows the lyrics to the Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme song. Other classic tv theme songs may work as well and you can do them call and response line by line.
posted by amethysts at 7:11 PM on June 12, 2008

There was a time when "Oh my G!d Becky, look at her butt!" was all that was needed to trigger 5 minutes of awesomeness.
posted by Deathalicious at 12:56 AM on June 13, 2008

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