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My Name is Mohawk Mouse: Disneyland in (mostly) punk song

8 January 2010 Stories and Appreciations 27,427 views 5 CommentsPrint This Post Print This Post Email This Post Email This Post

I have made a hobby of collecting songs about Disneyland. It’s easy to do. I love Disneyland, and I like songs.

Many of the best songs about Disneyland are in the pop-punk genre, and nearly every one of them is a goofy ode to dropping acid, skateboarding and the politics of Ronald Reagan. (Like any that stuff matters to kids today. Ask any 15-year-old Orange County kid what the 1980s were all about, and he or she will point to the conception, and subsequent birth, of Robert Pattinson or Vanessa Hudgens.) Even the angriest punk bands that stormed the Magic Kingdom’s gates did so halfheartedly; they couldn’t even be bothered to really hate the place. Half of those old-timers are probably at Disneyland right now, bouncing a tiara-clad daughter on their knee and hoping they don’t run into anyone they know. Still, I collect the songs.

“Disneyland” by Frankie Goes To Hollywood

This obscure b-side from the one-and-a-half hit wonders who made “Relax” and “Two Tribes” is something of a trifecta. It’s the worst song to bear Trevor Horn’s production stamp. It’s the worst song in Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s repertoire (as far as I know, anyway; I can only compare it to “Krisco Kisses”). And it’s the worst song about Disneyland in all creation, with the band tunelessly bellowing the chorus from Jimmy Dodd’s “Mickey Mouse Club March” over a confusion of bass bleats, reverb-heavy guitars and synthesizer flatulence. No, Frankie, you relax.

“Disneyland” by Five For Fighting

This is one of very few songs about Disneyland that actually seems to like the place. Singer-songwriter John Ondrasik (if that is his real name) paints Disneyland as a lover’s utopia, a place where “everybody’s got a little house (and) a bank account managed by Mickey Mouse/and all we fight about is the Lakers.” The chorus goes, “It’s a nice day if you wake up in Disneyland.”

It’s a fine sentiment and I sorta agree with it, but I rarely make it to the chorus. I’ve tried to enjoy it, but I can’t get past the fact that Five For Fighting’s music is the purest strain of wussy crap. And there’s not even five guys in the band. Just the one guy.

“Disneyland” by Guttermouth

I’m going to tread carefully here, because once I start listing anti-Disneyland songs by Orange County’s skate punk bands I’ll be stuck here for a month. I think every O.C. punk band has a song in which Disneyland is a metaphor for The Man, and some of those tunes — like Guttermouth’s — are even halfway worthwhile. Over a skittering punk rhythm, Guttermouth uses Disneyland to wring its hands over Manifest Destiny:

We’ll chop down the rain forest
and build another Disneyland
Who gives a hoot
about the lungs of the Earth?

I give a hoot, Guttermouth. I care about the Earth’s lungs, its lower intestine, and maybe even its pancreas.

“Disneyland is Burning” by Alabama 3

A3’s best-known song, “Woke Up This Morning,” was used as the theme to “The Sopranos.” If you’re thinking that “Disneyland is Burning” drives the same stretch of the Jersey Turnpike, fuggedaboutit. This bluesy ballad is as bland as they come. If Tony Soprano ran Disneyland, somebody would get kneecapped over this.

“Tragic Kingdom” by No Doubt

I like Gwen Stefani. You’re reading the testimonial of someone who enjoyed his first No Doubt show — at Las Vegas’ Huntridge Theater in early 1995, shortly before the band broke big — and enjoyed subsequent shows as well, though not as much. (I identified with scrappy, punkish Gwen far more easily than I’m able to relate to the garment maker and towering hollaback girl she ultimately became.)

That said, when taken in the context of No Doubt’s catalog, this song is pretty awful. Considered to some to be the ne plus ultra of Disneyland-themed pop songs — hey, it even starts off with a Disneyland sound sample! — “Tragic Kingdom” illustrates perfectly what a lot of my old-school punk buddies hated in No Doubt: The cartoonish take on punk-ska, the too-busy arrangements and Stefani’s occasional dips into shrill hysteria.

The metaphors are shopworn and tired (the “frozen Walt Disney” myth is revisited, and with far less humor than “Robot Chicken” accorded the subject), and the bit about “the parade that’s electrical … (taking) up a lot of juice” would mean a lot more coming from an artist whose touring apparatus probably consumes more crude oil in a night than the Main Street Electrical Parade burns in a month.

But it is Gwen Stefani. I like Gwen Stefani, even if “Tragic Kingdom” annoys me. Truth be told, though, I actually prefer the a capella cover version by the Johns Hopkins Octopodes.

“Disneyland” by Eyes (Lyrics NFSW)

I first heard this song on Rodney Bigenheimer’s Sunday night show on pioneering Los Angeles alternative and punk station KROQ, back when they still allowed Rodney on the air before midnight. Though I’m still fond of it, I have to admit that the song has not aged well. It’s yet another punk number that ends with the Park — and Anaheim — in flames. You could pick up the basics the song in five minutes and learn play it better than the band itself in less than twenty.

That said, it is one of the better punk numbers about Disneyland. And when the Eyes wrote the song, the parts of Anaheim that surrounded the Park would indeed have looked better on fire.

“Pirate’s Life” by the Vandals

The story is a familiar one. A young man takes seven hits of LSD, goes to Disneyland and finds himself press-ganged into service with the Pirates of the Caribbean. The Vandals give the story a epic, romantic scope … naw, I’m kidding. It’s yet another scuzzy little punk number, but it’s pretty fun.

“Pirate’s Life” has an unexpectedly Gore Verbinski-esque twist at the end. The young man is imprisoned with the other bone-and-cup-bearing scalawags, trapped forever “’cause that damn dog’s got the key.” That young man was Johnny Depp, and he never escaped.

“Stukas Over Disneyland” by The Dickies

Mastermouse gonna feel no fear
Mickey’s gonna lead us to the new frontier
Everybody wants to be the perfect Mouseketeer

Yes, the Dickies saw Disneyland as an adjunct of Nazi Germany. Eventually, with the help of Jiminy Cricket, the Park’s “liebestraum (is) extended to Huntington Beach.” Pucker up and blow! It’s a sick and twisted scenario, and I’d probably find “Stukas Over Disneyland” very upsetting indeed if the song, with its giddy Beach Boys-like vocals, weren’t so much damned fun to listen to.

“Dizz Knee Land” by Dada

This song is arguably the best-known of the songs on this list, though I’m not sure it belongs here. As you can see, the song isn’t really about Disneyland but “Dizz Knee Land,” which is a place where minor criminals, drunks and other assorted malefactors find safe asylum. I can’t find it using Google Maps.

Funny thing, though. When the song was first released in 1992, the bit about “flipping off President George” seemed dated, almost quaint; after all, the first George Bush presidency was all but over. Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine that we’d receive the gift of a second President George to flip off.

“Mickey Mouse” by Sparks

Life’s most satisfying truths are often its most bizarre and unlikely. Take this one: One of the best songs ever written about Disneyland came from two guys, Ron and Russell Mael, who I am fairly certain have never been there. It was on an album called “Angst in My Pants,” the cover of which features one of the Maels — Ron, the one with the Hitler-like mustache — in a bridal gown. Its chorus is the most insidious of earworms:

And my name is Mickey Mouse
To my right is Minnie Mouse
And we have a little place
in Disneyland, California

Disney should use this in their ads to snag sweater-clad emo kids. I’d gladly pay a buck for this song on iTunes if I didn’t already own it.

Geoff Carter

PHOTO BY GC

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5 Comments »

  1. In the section about ‘Mickey mouse’ by Sparks you put that you are fairly certain that they haven’t been to Disneyland. But, there is an interview on Youtube where they are asked what Disneyland is like and, I think it is Ron who replies that it is just like how heaven should be, but that he hopes that heaven is cheaper than Disneyland.
    Here is the link if you want to listen to it, it’s quite interesting:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_0pYQw4Pv8

    I enjoyed reading this, I had no idea there are so many songs about Disneyland!

    Florence Barrett

  2. Oh my goodness, this makes me happy. Thanks for posting the link!

  3. I just want to thank you for posting all thee links.
    I have been looking everywhere for someone that knew the band and the song I’ve been looking for for so long.
    It was Disneyland by The Eyes.

    As soon as I heard the first note I knew it was the song.
    I listened to this back when i was about 15….I’m now 43 and miss the old days.

    Thanks for giving a part of that back to me.

    Patrick

  4. There’s also “Death At Disneyland” by The Smugglers off their “Rosie” album (I think 1999).

  5. […] Beach, CA. punk band; they recorded one of the few one-two-fuck-you songs about Disneyland that I like. Damage Done, Rat City Ruckus, Cyanide Destruct are also on the bill, and cover is […]

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