Guest poem submitted by Aseem Kaul:
(Poem #1730) You're the Top
You're the top! You're the Coliseum. You're the top! You're the Louvre Museum. You're a melody From a symphony By Strauss You're a Bendel bonnet, A Shakespeare sonnet, You're Mickey Mouse! You're the Nile, You're the Tower of Pisa, You're the smile On the Mona Lisa I'm a worthless check, A total wreck, A flop! But if, baby, I'm the bottom You're the top! You're the top! You're Mahatma Gandhi. You're the top! You're Napoleon Brandy. You're the purple light Of a summer night In Spain, You're the National Gallery You're Garbo's salary, You're cellophane! You're sublime, You're a turkey dinner, You're the time Of a Derby winner, I'm a toy balloon That's fated soon To pop But if, baby, I'm the bottom, You're the top! You're the top! You're an arrow collar You're the top! You're a Coolidge dollar, You're the nimble tread Of the feet of Fred Astaire, You're an O'Neill drama, You're Whistler's mama, You're camembert! You're a rose, You're Inferno's Dante, You're the nose On the great Durante. I'm just in a way, As the French would say, "de trop". But if, baby, I'm the bottom, You're the top! You're the top! You're a dance in Bali. You're the top! You're a hot tamale. You're an angel, you, Simply too, too, too Divine, You're a Boticcelli, You're Keats, you're Shelley, You're Ovaltine! You're a boom, You're the dam at Boulder, You're the moon, Over Mae West's shoulder, I'm the nominee Of the G.O.P. Or GOP! But if, baby, I'm the bottom, You're the top! You're the top! You're a Waldorf salad. You're the top! You're a Berlin ballad. You're the boats that glide On the sleepy Zuid- -er Zee, You're an old Dutch master, You're Lady Astor, You're broccoli! You're romance, You're the steppes of Russia, You're the pants, On a Roxy usher, I'm a broken doll, A fol-de-rol, A blop, But if, baby, I'm the bottom, You're the top!
Was listening to my old Ella Fitzgerald recordings  of the Cole Porter songbook, and decided to see if he was represented on Minstrels. Discovered that he doesn't feature on the site at all, so figured would send in one of my favourite songs of all time. "You're the Top", is, of course, one of the many classic jazz standards that Porter has given us (other familiar tunes include: 'I Love Paris', 'Begin the Beguine' 'I've got you under my skin' 'Easy to Love' 'You do something to me' 'De-lovely' 'I get a kick out of you', etc., etc.) - but it's the one that, IMHO, best shows off his incredible skill as a songwriter. What makes the song particularly brilliant is the fact that it's at once a parody and an exquisitely crafted piece of music (I'm reminded of Mozart in Cosi fan tutte - all those stunning arias for what is essentially a false love). This is a song that is (forgive the pun) completely over the top - Porter takes the fine art of paying extravagant compliments / making exaggerated comparisons to ridiculous extremes, but it's a parody done with such good will, such conscious self-ridicule, such amazing quickness of wit, that you can't help being a little moved even as you're laughing out loud. And laughing out loud you should be - this is a truly hilarious song. What I love about it most is the way it constantly fluctuates between the sublime and the mundane ("you're a Bendel bonnet / A Shakespeare sonnet / You're Mickey Mouse" or "You're Botticelli / You're Keats, You're Shelley / You're Ovaltine!) so that the very contrast between the different things the loved one is compared to is incredibly funny. Plus, of course, the references are thrilling in themselves - forget bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens, if there was a ever a list of my favourite things (well, maybe not Bendel Bonnets, but Dante and Shakespeare and Keats and Shelley and Berlin ballads and O'Neill dramas and Strauss and Napoleon Brandy and Fred Astaire and Waldorf Salads? wow!) this is it. And added to it, there's Porter's wonderful sense of humour (this is a man who wrote a song with the lyrics "Mr. Harris, plutocrat / Wants to give my cheek a pat / If the Harris pat means a Paris hat, Hurray!") - how can you not love a man who would actually write a song that went "I'm the nominee / of the G.O.P. / Or GOP"? But behind the seemingly gay and effortless rhythm of the song (and the sense of things being a little forced, a little raw around the edges) is Porter's incredible craftsmanship. To begin with, this is an incredibly complicated rhyme pattern to pull off: ababccdeed fgfghhaia with the 'a' - the -op sound - being repeated through all the stanzas. And all of this with short punchy lines, with some of the rhymes being virtually internal. This is truly a virtuoso accomplishment, specially when you consider that these are song lyrics, and so Porter not only has to get the lines to rhyme per se, he also needs to get them to go together with the same general rhythm. The fact that he makes it so fluid, so effortless, actually managing to enhance the punchline of some of his lines with the tune (and always keeping you guessing as to the next line - an effect I've hardly ever seen this side of Urdu Ghazals) is simply breathtaking. Bottomline: I defy anyone to listen to this song and not end up grinning (if not actually laughing aloud) at its perfectly balanced mix of intelligence, wit and pure silliness. I defy anyone to get through all five stanzas and not feel his or her heart leap with the soaring notes of that final "You're the Top!". I defy anyone to listen to this song and not end up falling in love with it. Aseem.  Although to really appreciate this song, check out the Louis Armstrong version - that deep moaning voice singing "mama, you're the smile / on the Mona Lisa" so sweet you can taste it.