Back before the turn of the century, times were hard. The iron heel of repression trod heavily upon the land, in alternation with its wickedly sharpened toe. Capricious authority could turn its attention to any quarter: even to the innocent personal ingestions with whose help a beleaguered citizenry somehow found the strength to survive each new injustice. Private mail, which in times past had been honorably employed to convey materials for the inspiration of innocent personal ingesters, was ruthlessly sniffed, and probably often eaten, by dogs. But the dull-witted authorities were no match for the ingenuity of the proletariat. This song is about that.
It should be frustrating for pessimists that a bag may be half-full yet not half-empty. If it’s also half-full of something else, the optimist’s position is in fact doubly confirmed. The second verse of One-pound Bag is about a meeting between Beethoven and Mozart in Vienna. Such a meeting did in fact take place when Beethoven was a student, but the one recounted here was a follow-up that has previously escaped the attention of historians.
This is a small, angular song, tricky to play and impossible to sing. Though it’s in a major key, it draws on the VIb7 to V7 turnaround you find in some minor-key songs like the old standard Willie the Weeper.
I really need some coffee in my coffee cup:
G7 A C A D A+
I’ve been down so long I need a pick-me-up.
Sometimes I wonder what planet I’m on;
G7 A C A D
Sometimes I need refreshment when the beans are all gone.
I’ve been down so long, and it’s really a drag –
D C A D
I need a half a pound of coffee in a one-pound bag;
D C A D A+
Send me half a pound of coffee in a one-pound bag!
Beethoven’s at the piano but he just can’t write,
He hops a train to Vienna on a Saturday night;
Wolfy won’t you tell me why the notes don’t flow,
Why everything I’m writing comes out fiddle-i-o?
My sonata’s just pathetic like a worn-out rag.
Wolfy grins and reaches for the one-pound bag;
He keeps a half a pound of coffee in his one-pound bag.
You need a little java, you need a little joe,
You need a good mechanic when your motor won’t go.
You need illumination when the world turns black,
You need some inspiration in a one-pound sack.
Believe me when I tell you ’cause it ain’t no gag:
You need a half a pound of coffee in a one-pound bag;
Yes you do,
You need a half a pound of coffee in a one-pound bag!