The Secret Life of a Parody Song



I don’t know nearly as much about hockey as some of the rabid fans in Central New York’s Mohawk Valley, where folks played the sport growing up and/or in adult leagues, or they’ve spent most of their parenthood and gasoline budget shuttling kids to and from practices and games.

So, the best way for me to aid the Utica Comets and their legion of fans, and show support for the franchise’s magical minor league hockey season was to come up with a song.

Thus was hatched my knock-off of Van Halen’s classic “Panama” in honor of the Comets. Precisely, in the middle of the night. Unable to sleep and driven by this singular mission, songs drifted through my brain and were eliminated one by one, just like Comets’ opponents this year.

Song titles rhyming with “Comets” didn’t cut it. For instance, great options like The Who’s “You Better You Bet” and “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” by Bachman Turner Overdrive were dismissed because the parody lyrics would come out as Kah-METS instead of KAH-mets. As Mike Myers says in View From the Top, you’d be putting “the wrong em-PHA-sis on the wrong syl-OBBLE.”

Ditching the rhyming route, I considered up-tempo hits that would sound great on the radio or in a packed barn of hockey fans. “Gimme Some Lovin'” by the Spencer Davis Group and Eric Clapton’s rowdy remake of J.J. Cale’s “After Midnight” came to mind. But the key parody lyrics matching these songs were wide of the goal.

Then I decided to go with a blockbuster artist. About the same moment I thought of Van Halen and their repetitive but catchy “Panama” hook, the rhythmic “U-ti-ca” chant from “The Office” that Comets fans use at games was pounding in my head…and there it was.

YouTube had a great karaoke version of the song, along with a clip of the horn the Comets use to signal goals, and some noise from a game at The Aud with fans jingling cow bells.

David Lee Roth himself, injured recently in a baton-twirling stunt on The Jimmy Kimmel Show, was not available. But, on short notice, I was able to get a buddy whose David Lee Roth impression I’ve utilized previously on the radio, and the rest is history.

Within hours of completion, “Utica” was ON the air at 92.7 The Drive (WXUR) and IN the air at The Aud as the Comets clinched the AHL Western Conference title. (Note to TV stations: let’s get going with a video version!)

Here’s hoping the song reaches #1 in the Mohawk Valley and the Comets (who, as I wrote in an earlier post, deserve all the credit in the world) finish #1 in the Calder Cup championship series.

Dave Coombs is now the morning host on 100.7 FM WUTQ and still has an incurable parody song addiction.

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