All songs written by Stephin Merritt.

Theme from The Orphan of Zhao

At Madam Plum's

Just outside this window, blood might get on your shoes.  Please don't track it in, though.  Thank you.  We've all read the news.  Outside it's drums and trumpets, but here it's tea and crumpets!  Here at Madam Plum's, where everybody comes, we watch the world decay and dance the night away.  Here at Madam Plum's, their trumpets and their drums are hardly ever heard, and war is just a word.  It may be raining fire, but here we don't enquire.  We find it necessary to take a spot of sherry, and so we find a very secluded sanctuary.  Way down in the slums, we step over the bums behind the liquor store to find the hidden door.  Down at Madam Plum's, we spend fantastic sums, and all our idle hours, admiring the flowers.  Here at Madam Plum's we grow chrysanthemums of every size and kind, however you're inclined...

The Top and the Ball

I was made, so they say, in the burgomaster's shop by whom else but the mayor.  I'm one important top.  "Do I know you?" she said, "for I do not speak with all.  I've got cork in my head.  I am one beautiful ball!"  "Can't we be sweethearts?" "No, I don't think so."  "Shan't we be sweethearts?" "No.  There are reasons why we will not tootle together: you were made from some tree, me of African leather.  And, besides, there's a swallow who always says, 'I will!'  That's a promise, or almost, and your chances are nil.  We can't be sweethearts."  "About that swallow..." "We shan't be sweethearts." "Oh."  Soon the ball disappears.  She just bounces off somewhere.  Then the top, after years, spins away into thin air.  When they meet in the gutter, she's droopy, old, and wet.  Though her heart's all aflutter, he's sure they haven't met.  "Were we old sweethearts?"  "No, I don't think so."  "Sure we weren't sweethearts?" "No!"  In the garbage, old friends look even older.  In the garbage, even old friends get the cold shoulder.  "Can't we be sweethearts?"

What a Fucking Lovely Day!

What a fucking lovely day!  Everything has gone my way.  All my flags are unfurled, I'm the king of the world, and, to think!  It's only May.  It's my favorite time of year for a spree of crime and fear.  It's a joy just to breathe, and to scheme, and to seethe.  What a fucking lovely day!  Ah, the smell of despair!  Is that blood in my hair?  I don't care, I don't care.  What a fucking lovely day!

Auntie Toothache

"Isn't it strange?" said the inkwell, "all that comes out of me?!  The famous lines!  The valentines!  And sometimes poetry.  Just think!  Without an inkwell, where would the poet be?"  "I'll make you change your mind," said the pen, plucked from the tail of a bird.  "Those famous lines, those valentines, I wrote them, every word.  Without a pen, never again would poetry be heard."  Forget the inkwell and the pen: when Auntie Toothache comes again, the poet, saddest of all men, can sing no more.  When Auntie Toothache starts her torture with her pliers and her lance and her fires, she desires him to dance.  And so they dance...  And Auntie Toothache wields her tongs and makes her poet sing her songs in screams and whimpers till he longs to die right now.  Then Auntie Toothache makes him vow (with one more cup of fire ants) that he'll give up poetry and take up dance.  And so they dance...  He never writes another line.  His life becomes a valentine to Auntie Toothache and her fine degrees of pain.  From lack of sleep he goes insane and fancies he's the King of France, beset by bees.  Auntie Toothache whispers, "Dance!"  And so they dance... And they dance...

It's Hard To Be the Emperor

It's hard to be the Emperor, and when it's hard, it's hard.  I'm scarred by being Emperor: no ball, no friends, no yard.  My predecessor hanged himself, and I might do that, too.  The entertainment's awful here, and, oh! the plays they do!  It's dull to be the Emperor.  It's deadly dull, in fact.  Of all the actors in the court, not one of them can act!  An early death seems probable.  Perhaps it's just as well.  With drama in this dreadful state, my life's a living hell!  My life's a living hell.

Sounds Expensive

I would like for you to have this emerald ring.  It was crafted many years before the Ming.  Since the story's far too sad to tell, I'll sing.  It was made for the blind concubine, Lola Li, who was famous for being a little choosy.  Her rejections were something no man could survive, so the ring-maker had himself buried alive.  It's a terrible tale, full of passion and gore.  That's sure sounds expensive!  We can't wait to hear more.  In a few generations, it came to a monk who said, "Things of this world are all baubles and junk."  So he gave it to Lola Lo, some general's wife, which was quickly discovered.  He paid with his life.  It's a tale full of violence, a thing we deplore.  But it sounds expensive!  What are you stopping for?  A bad playwright gave it to his new ingénue, the impossibly bad actress Sweet Lola Lu.  But the playwright said something he shouldn't have said, and now both the playwright and the actress are dead.  It's the kind of thing no one can make anymore!  And it sounds expensive when it falls to the floor.

The Red Shoes

A bad young girl with hair as white as milk got witches' shoes, which shone bright red and had been finely woven from the oldest silk, with drops of blood to dye each thread.  She put them on.  When she began to dance, she heard the witches play their strings, which have been finely tuned to dying elephants and to the shrieks of toppled kings.  She pirouetted and she grand-jetéed, et cetera, till she was out of breath.  And when the last note had been finally played, the bad young girl had danced herself to death.

Fan Dance Cha-Cha

When it's time to do the cha-cha-cha, ain't no crime to do the cha-cha-cha; and if I'm to do the cha-cha-cha, I may cha-cha-cha without warning.  Close your lips and do the cha-cha-cha.  Shake your hips and do the cha-cha-cha.  Do some flips and do the cha-cha-cha.  We can cha-cha-cha till the morning... If you ever do the cha-cha-cha, you'll forever do the cha-cha-cha; if you never do the cha-cha-cha, you'll have lived without really dancing.  It may be you do the cha-cha-cha.  Like to see you do the cha-cha-cha.  Stick with me and do the cha-cha-cha: it's the only thing for romancing...

The Little Maiden of the Sea

The little maiden of the sea was not at all like you and me: where we have legs, she was a fish, and she could only say, "I wish... I wish I were not incomplete.  I wish I had some dainty feet."  You see, one day she'd met a prince, and she'd been pining ever since (the little maiden of the sea).  She'd gain her own immortal soul if she became the prince's wife.  She autovivisected.  Whole, she walked!  Each step was like a knife--a knife into her dainty feet--and she could neither speak nor sing; but, surely, now she was complete.  Her prince would think of marrying the little maiden of the sea.  He married someone else, of course; and, saying nothing, she went home.  Then something turned, by mystic force, the little maiden into foam.

Ukulele Me!

Ukulele, mekulele, how happy we could bekulele!  Onekulele twokulele threekulele, ukulele me!  When I hear the sound of that little brown thing humming, I don't know if I'm going or coming.  Down, up down, up down, down.  Keep strumming.  Ukulele me!  Ukulele, mekulele, how happy we could bekulele!  Akulele Bkulele Ckulele, ukulele me!  Play a little tune.  Sing about the moon, who cares?  Something that won't give me nightmares.  Sing it sweetly or say your prayers.  Ukulele me!  Xkulele Ykulele Zkulele, ukulele me!  Xkulele Wkulele Vkulele, ukulele me!

Train Song

The Little Hebrew Girl

The little Hebrew girl heard her mother's dying wish: "Don't become a Christian.  Just be Jewish.  Honor our tradition of denying God above; heed the pigeon of religion and ignore the dove of love."  The little Hebrew girl was a maid for Calvinists.  She read in the gospel: Jesus exists!  Yet she persisted in her tribal sacrilege.  She would nix the crucifixion, always dredging up her pledge.  "Mama... I love you."  The little Hebrew girl, having lived her fleeting time, rested near the churchyard where the bells chime, promising we'll climb that final day to Peter's gate.  Maybe she can hear them ringing.  Maybe death is not too late.  "Mama... I love you."

Shall We Sing a Duet?

I can't wait to make you my wife.  I've been waiting for love all of my life.  Shall we sing a duet?  But we've only just met... You've got beautiful eyes.  Shall we sing a duet?  One we'll never forget, full of clichés and lies.  I've got nothing to gain by pretending, and I will love you till the ending.

The Song of the Humble Serf

Oh, the humble serf of Ling Zhe, whose lord sent him away, was starving, so he lay, his mouth open, all day beneath a mulberry tree, just in case a berry fell.  For how long, who can tell?  He was not looking well, and the tree had crummy aim.  The man in purple came and asked Ling Zhe his name and gave him grog and game and little cakes and some tea.  The end.

The Collar and the Garter

He speaks as sweetly as he can, but words do not enthrall her.  They dance around the washing-pan, the collar and the garter.  He tartly starts up repartee, but her retorts are smarter.  She will not name a wedding day, the garter and the collar.  His forces rally and advance, but forward men appall her.  So to and fro, and so they dance, the collar and the garter.  He swears, if he should lose his love, then love will gain a martyr.  They part, and that's the story of the garter and the collar.  He keeps his braggadocio through years of fall and squalor, and toasts the maid who loved him so.  The collar and the garter.

Shall We Sing a Duet? Reprise

Shall we sing a duet?  Say it's not over yet.  Say it's not just the wine.  Say you'll always be mine.  Say that's not just a line... Take my sorrow away.  Bring me tomorrow today.  Teach me to borrow today.  Teach me to borrow this clay from time, to take all my sorrow away... I've been waiting.  Shall we sing a duet and intertwine, like ivy, twisting and tangled?  I've been waiting all my life... I can't wait to make you my wife... Any attempt at harmony hopelessly mangled... I'll take your sorrow away... I'll bring you tomorrow today and teach you to borrow this clay from time...

Sorry, Wrong Show

I thought this was the world for me.  Wrong world, sorry.  I'd sing love songs before I go.  Sorry, wrong show.  I thought I'd do a little dance.  I never even got the chance.  Ah, but how was I to know?  Sorry, wrong show.  They must have taken me for some piece of pond scum.  They thought I wouldn't choose to die?  Sorry, wrong guy.

The Storks

(Come, chum, from glum humdrum!  Drum Mum from some numb slum, some dumb slum scum bum gum, some bum plum rum.  Yum!  Um, hum some, thrum some, bum some bum rum.  Some come from Mum; some come from cum.  Strum, thumb!  Thrum, thumb!  Gum some plum, Mum.  Thumb some bum cum, dumb slum cum chum.)  A naughty boy led others in a jest about the tiny storklings in their nest who were afraid and told the storkess so.  She said, "Be patient now, but when you grow, bring all good children sisters and brothers from yonder swamp, where unborn babies hide.  But that loud boy who jeers above others, bring him the babe who dreamt too much and died.  We'll show that nasty, vicious little fool the stork is not the bird to ridicule."

In the Spring, When I Was Young

In the spring, when I was young, blossoms frail from all trees hung.  They are faded now.  They have all faded now.

The Ugly Little Duck

It was glorious in the country.  There were plants.  They were yellow and green!  And the stork was speaking Egyptian, for Egyptian his mummy had been.  'Neath a burdock tree sat a mother: sat and sat, that her children would hatch, which they did, mostly, but one other--the big round one that just didn't match--it seemed to take forever.  One unhappy day came the duckling.  Though his egg had been faithfully warmed, he was so much larger than average.  He could best be described as deformed.  He was much too gray and too fluffy, as the other ducks loudly opined.  When he cried, they said, "Don't get huffy.  You can keep on living.  We don't mind.  It's just that you're so ugly."  So he left early in the morning, but he found wherever he would roam that, despite some change in the scenery, everyone was as vile as at home.  As he settled in for the winter, overhead flew a flock of such birds that this vision stuck like splinter.  They were all too beautiful for words.  That winter it was freezing.  I can't tell you how much he suffered!  This description will have to suffice: he was paddling round the lake, when his poor feet were frozen in ice.  When it snowed again, he was buried.  Then it snowed some more over his head.  There he sat, too cold to be worried.  Truth to tell, he just thought he was dead.  He didn't mind that one bit.  But the spring was here, and a thaw came.  Our half-dead little hero survived!  And the daffodil and the crocus sang aloud, "One more spring has arrived!"  And the lovely birds gathered round him.  He was nuzzled and doted upon.  They he knew his family had found him.  He'd become the most beautiful swan.  "I never dreamed of such amazing luck when I was just an ugly little duck!"

And He Would Say...

I'm not afraid, because I know you'll come again through wind and rain or falling snow when they invade.  And he would say: "Don't leave without me!  Don't run away.  Then where would I be?"  And I/he would say: "I'll wait for you till my last day."  My love is pure and will abide for time untold.  You're young and bold, but we must hide.  Where, I'm not sure.  And he would say: "Here, we have no chance.  Let's steal away.  No time for romance!"  And I/he would say: "I'll run with you till our last day."

The World Is Not Made of Flowers

Though I will be your judge and jury, crushing your skull won't quell my fury.  The world is not made of flowers, is it?  Neither am I.  If you smell a bullet passing through your nose, red as a rose, let it be mine.  The world is not made of music, is it?  Neither am I.  If you hear an arrow passing through your ear and out your rear, let it be mine.  The world is not made of sunlight, is it?  Neither am I.  If you see a dagger passing through your eye, and then you die, let it be mine.  And while my anger still increases, I'll piss on all your little pieces.

Behold the Lowly Centipede

Behold the lowly centipede.  He undulates and wiggles.  To form and poise he pays no heed.  He oscillates and wriggles.  He wriggles high, he wriggles low, he wriggles far and wide.  He wriggles in the eye sockets of ladies who have died.  He wriggles in the highest trees.  He wriggles in the deep.  He wriggles in the dainty ears of ladies fast asleep.  Behold the lowly centipede.  He crawls hither and thither.  Of gold and guns he has no heed.  He only needs to slither.  He slithers here, he slithers there, through country, field, and town.  He slithers in the underwear of ladies sitting down.  He slithers anywhere he likes, wherever passion leads.  He slithers into ladies and makes baby centipedes.

In China, Said the Moon...

"In China," said the Moon, who brings me nightly news, "I chanced to gaze upon a girl with tiny shoes.  With pain in her sole, she stirs her fishbowl.  Her four fish, far from free, are far more free than she."  "In Fez-land," said the Moon, "I guided a young man astride his great white steed beside his caravan.  Through long nights he sighed and longed for his bride he loved, as he had vowed.  But then... but then a cloud..."  "In Lisbon," said the Moon, "I kissed a blackamoor, the slave of Camöens, the Lusiad's auteur.  The faithful slave's palms were held out for alms to pay for food and rent.  There's now a monument."

Hail! Son of Heaven

Hail, son of heaven, glorious!  Long life!  A thousand more!  Always to be victorious--every battle, every war!  Hail, hail the all-beneficent!  Play drums and trumpets loud!  Sing, sing, you are an instrument.  Raise your voice among the crowd.  Play, play the never-ending song, loud, loud for all to hear!  Bow lower as we march along.  Throw hats aloft and cheer!

Copyright (c) Mar 2006 by The Distant Plastic Treehouse