Hard Times

Dec 15, 2017
Originally published on May 11, 2018 10:22 am

Did you know that Neil Diamond is a ten on the Mohs Scale of Hardness? In honor of our venue, Orlando's Hard Rock Live, we rewrote famous rock 'n roll songs to be about things that are hard.

Heard on Roxane Gay: The Facts And The Furious: Orlando Drift.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

JONATHAN COULTON: This is NPR's ASK ME ANOTHER coming to you from a Hard Rock Live in Orlando, Fla. I'm Jonathan Coulton here with puzzle guru Art Chung. And now here's your host, Ophira Eisenberg.



Thank you, Jonathan.

Before the break, we met our contestants Jamaal and Marc. Soon they'll play a game where Jonathan Coulton rocks so hard he could scratch a diamond. But first, let's check in with our contestants. Jamaal, every Sunday, you make your Facebook status, easy like Sunday morning.


JAMAAL SOLOMON: Every Sunday for the last 10 or 11 years, yes.

EISENBERG: Are you kidding me?



SOLOMON: I love the Commodores. I love the song. But more so now, I do it for other people because they expect to see it.

EISENBERG: They count on it.

SOLOMON: They count on it.

EISENBERG: Have you ever forgotten or missed it?

SOLOMON: Yes. And then they freak out.



SOLOMON: I get phone calls. I get text messages. Where's the status? Where's the status? I'm like, I woke up late. I'm sorry.


EISENBERG: That's fantastic.

So Marc, you're a urban planner - work in transportation. I asked you about, like, your project for Orlando. But Marc, what is your dream project?

MARC ISPASS: High-speed rail to connect the entire continent - country, continent.


ISPASS: If you guys could have just hopped on a 120 mile per hour train, you could write your show on the way.


ISPASS: It'd be fantastic.

EISENBERG: Like the Chunnel.

ISPASS: The Chunnel, the Tramerica (ph).

EISENBERG: (Laughter) The Tramerica.

So how possible do you think this is?

ISPASS: It could happen.


ISPASS: It's, you know, the early stages right now. But I think there's some inklings throughout the country where that - it's a possibility.

EISENBERG: To upgrade Amtrak or what have you.

ISPASS: Yeah, Amtrak's got nothing on high-speed.


EISENBERG: That's right.

ISPASS: Well, there goes any job opportunity that I had with Amtrak.



EISENBERG: Your next game is a music parody game called Hard Times. Jamaal, you won the last game. So you win this and you're in the final round. Marc, you need to win this, or we'll replace your hard rock collection with soft rock - and we hope you like gypsum.


EISENBERG: Jonathan Coulton, take it away.

COULTON: Since we are at Hard Rock Live, it seemed only fitting to change the lyrics of famous rock 'n' roll songs to make them about things that are hard.


COULTON: And by hard, I mean literally or figuratively. So ring in to tell me the hard thing I'm singing about. And if you're correct, you can earn a bonus point by telling me the name of the song or even just the artist that I am parodying. You ready?



COULTON: (Singing) Cranium protects my brain. Mandible lets me chew romaine. With some cross crossbones, poison means you'll die. Poor Yorick - Hamlet knew that guy.


COULTON: Jamaal.

SOLOMON: The skull.

COULTON: A skull is correct.


COULTON: For a bonus point, can you name the original song or artist?

SOLOMON: I am drawing a complete blank right now.


SOLOMON: And everyone - and there's, like, a collective sigh from the crowd.


COULTON: Everyone is very disappointed in you, Jamaal. It was "Purple Haze" by Jimi Hendrix.


COULTON: (Singing) I'm going to bake tonight - going to make some brownies and banana bread.


COULTON: (Singing) These things that crunch, all right. And they got shells like a Klingon's head.



ISPASS: Walnuts.

COULTON: Walnuts is the answer.


COULTON: I just want to say there's a note in the script that says - do not accept pecans. They have smooth shells.


EISENBERG: I do not think pecans look like Klingons' heads.

COULTON: No, they don't.

SOLOMON: They don't look like Klingons' heads.

COULTON: For the bonus point, can you name the artist...

ISPASS: White Stripes.

COULTON: ...Or the song? The White Stripes, "Seven Nation Army." That's right.


COULTON: (Laughter) We all came out to Vegas, then to Mount Midoriyama. Athletic competition, reality TV drama. These obstacles are scary, dressed in black I may not be. But if I can nail this rope climb, that's total victory.


COULTON: Jamaal.

SOLOMON: "American Ninja Warrior."

COULTON: Yeah, you got it.


COULTON: For a bonus point, can you name the song or the artist?


COULTON: Uh-huh.


EISENBERG: (Laughter).

COULTON: It's a tricky one 'cause I didn't get to the riff. It's "Smoke On The Water" by Deep Purple.


EISENBERG: I know. The next part of that song is what everyone's been haunted by when someone they know starts playing guitar.

COULTON: Yeah, anytime you're in a guitar shop...

(Playing "Smoke On The Water" guitar riff clumsily).






SOLOMON: So now you play the part we all know.

COULTON: Yeah, I know.



COULTON: Well, it doesn't have any lyrics. I can't, you know.

EISENBERG: That's not the part that goes (singing to the tune of "Smoke On The Water" riff) smoke on the water, smoke on...

COULTON: (singing to the tune of "Smoke On The Water" riff) Wa-ah-water (ph), smoke on the, wah-ah-ter, yeah.


SOLOMON: Thank you.

COULTON: (Singing) Computations using integrations, differential equations, put delta Y over delta X. It's going to give you the slope. I'm going to give you my slope.


COULTON: Jamaal?


ART CHUNG: We need you to be a little more specific.

COULTON: Be a little more specific.

CHUNG: What kind of...

EISENBERG: Yeah. Think of the metal of math.

SOLOMON: Geometry.

COULTON: Sorry, that is incorrect. Marc, do you know what we're looking for?

ISPASS: Calculus

COULTON: Calculus is the answer.


COULTON: And can you name the song or the artist?

ISPASS: Zeppelin.

COULTON: Yeah, it's "Whole Lotta Love." Here we go. (Singing) Black and blue, a precious two. At the Smithsonian, I'm on view. Gem great, carbon made, optimistically named.



ISPASS: The Hope Diamond.

COULTON: The Hope Diamond is correct.


COULTON: For a bonus point, can you name the song or artist?

ISPASS: That is AC/DC.

COULTON: That's right, "Back In Black." This is your last clue. (Singing) Take me down to the family lawyer because I signed the papers left in the foyer. You get the kids. I guess you won, yeah, yeah. Take me down to the family lawyer because I signed the papers left in the foyer. I guess this marriage is done.



ISPASS: Divorce.

COULTON: Divorce, yeah. That's pretty hard.

EISENBERG: Not a lot of hope in that diamond.

COULTON: No. That's...


COULTON: For a bonus point, can you name the original song or artist?

ISPASS: That's Guns N' Roses.

COULTON: Yeah, "Paradise City."


COULTON: Art Chung, how did our contestants do?

CHUNG: Well done, Marc. You won that game.


CHUNG: So you each won a game, so it's time for a quick game 3. I'm going to give you a category, and you go back and forth naming things in that category. The first contestant to mess up will be eliminated. Buzz in to answer first. Here's your category. It's the Epcot challenge. Name the 11 countries featured in the Epcot World Showcase at Disney World.


CHUNG: Marc, you're first.

ISPASS: Mexico.

CHUNG: That is correct. Jamaal?

SOLOMON: Norway.

CHUNG: Correct. Marc?

ISPASS: Germany.

CHUNG: Germany, correct. Jamaal?


CHUNG: Correct. Marc?

ISPASS: Italy.

CHUNG: Correct. Jamaal?

SOLOMON: Switzerland.

CHUNG: No. I'm sorry, Jamaal. The answers we're - Canada, France, Japan, Morocco, the United Kingdom and the USA. Jamaal, we're sorry to see you go. Marc, you're headed to the final round.

(SOUNDBITE OF NAT ADDERLEY'S "STONY ISLAND") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.