clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

PEPIDEMIOLOGY: CHAPTER ONE REDUX

New, 33 comments

In Orson's absence I decided to recycle some of my favorite old stuff of his since we bearly had any readers at the time. This one is from May of last year and I hope the links still work. Like the old NBC summer slogan used to say, even if it isn't new, it's new to you!

We begin chapter one of our lessons and investigations of Pepidemiology, the science of Pep and fandom in college football, with a brief overview of the most basic element of Pepidemiology, the fight song.

First of all, the fight song is not to be confused with other music played by the band or the PA (hello, Canes) during the course of a game. Georgia may play "Go Georgia Bulldogs," and Texas may play "Yellow Rose of Texas," "Deep in the Heart of Texas," and even "Pussy Got Me Dizzay" by Houston's UGK, they are all not the official fight song of Texas, "Texas Fight." In this chapter we will only be discussing the officially sanctioned fight songs of each school-supplemental music will be covered in subsequent chapters, along with cheers, pregame and ingame traditions, and quality of fan participation, including alcohol tolerance and propensity to fill up the jails on game day.

Clemson fans are experts in the art and science of Pepidemiology. They can also drink quite a bit, too, which helps.
What makes a fight song? A good title helps. The title should be something invoking the name of the school or the team: hence, the Colorado Buffaloes' "Fight CU," or the Wisconsin Badgers' "On Wisconsin." Having an exhortation in there helps, too, like "fight," "fight on," or a noun like "victory" or something irresistable like "march." Any of those will do. Note: a few choice fight songs avoid all of these, instead going for something more evocative, such as Tennessee's "Rocky Top," or even have two fight songs, as in Ohio State's case. As with all rules, exceptions are allowed, as long as they're not too divergent with tradition. The best example of an intolerable choice of fight song came in the early 1990s, when Miami abandoned their traditional "Miami U Fight Song" for "Pop that Thang" by 2 Live Crew. The move was short-lived, but it stands as how NOT to do a fight song at the college level.

The 'Canes were, for a while, as nasty as they wanted to be.
The next important ingredient is sound. Since most theme music for colleges orginated in the 1920s and 30s, the sound is a traditional one with modernist tweaks: military band arrangements with ragtimey accent, typically played very quickly, often ripped through at lightspeed following big plays in games. The songs should not be pleasing to the ear; leave that to the snoozy alma maters. The fight song should sound like one is waltzing with a hippo on methamphetamine, or driving an overloaded truck down a steep mountain road with no brakes, a flat tire, and a head full of schnapps. It should sound like an arrangement three feet from disaster, ideally. Southern bands are allowed slightly funkier arrangements, heavier on the ragtime and jazz; military schools or teams with more martial team names (Trojans, etc.) are allowed more emphasis on precision and pomp. Above all, it should sound like two hundred slightly tipsy college students playing music in wool/poly uniforms with less than perfect musicianship. Unless you're FAMU's band, the best college unit in the land, complete with the best trumpet line and funkadelic dance routines.

All of the rules above are null and void when talking about the amazing FAMU Rattlers' Band.
So you know the basics now. Let's explore the essential tunes, broken down into several different categories:
1. The Musty Classics: USC's "Fight On" is a near-perfect example of what we tab as a classic fight song: pleasantly martial, with a thumping bass drum and a cheeky woodwind interlude in the middle, it could be a fight song or the theme to a WWII caper movie starring David Niven and Lee Marvin as paratroopers leading an impossible mission behind enemy lines. Their arch-nemesis, Notre Dame, also scores high marks for the "Notre Dame Victory March," heavy on the brass and crazy, trilling woodwinds. Meeeechigan's "The Victors" is heavy on the pomp and drama, and just sounds like a team pounding their way down the field. "On Wisconsin" is another classic of great dignity and grandeur, even if we always sing the following lyrics to it:
On Wisconsin,
On Wisconsin,
Give us all your cheese...

Finally, the last two essentials are the best of the academy themes, Navy's "Anchors Aweigh" and Air Force's "Wild Blue Yonder." Both are stirring, fun, and almost make you want to put on a uniform.
2. The Regional Specialties. Down south, the fight songs tend to involve a little more swing to them, consistent with the regional inability to be on time or read directions properly. This has produced classic like LSU's "Fight for LSU" , which even sounds like a New Orleans piano rag, the swingy "Yea Alabama," or even Texas' "Texas Fight", with its smeary trombone parts and mock reveille in the middle.
Some songs go a different way with the regional specialty. The most notable is Tennessee, who took a song describing the murder of snooping outsiders and turned into a hoedowny fight song that soothes the ears of Vols fans and causes most others' to bleed in annoyance, "Rocky Top.". The Civil War still lives in Athens, with UGA adopting "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" as its fight song.
3. The Dullards Much as it pains us to say this, some fight songs are so devoid of character they make Kelly Clarkson sound like Billy Holiday in comparison. The University of Florida, our own alma mater, suffers from a painfully bland fight song, "Orange and Blue." Colorado's "Fight CU" comes dangerously close to a dirge, and Ohio State gets relegated to the "Dullards" category for having not one, but two tepid fight songs. What makes them all so bad? They're practically indistinguishable from the next, a description that could apply to the majority of college fight songs. (Especially the MAC and the Sun Belt conferences: they're posted, but don't bother listening to them. We went through the tedium so you didn't have to, dear reader.) In a final note, we put the otherwise peppy Florida State fight song in this category, not for lack of quality, but for bad planning. The song features a spell-out in the middle that opponents have taken advantage of for years to turn the song against them:
F-L-0-R-I-D-A...S-T-A-T-E!
(Hostile crowd, in unison: SUCKS!)
Florida State! Florida State! Florida State!
(Hostile crowd, again in thunderous unison: SUCKS!)

4. The Hidden Gems. Some fight songs, however, surprise. Maryland's is extremely elegant and classy, with an exceptional sing-along bit. "Mighty Oregon" is another pleasant surprise, very traditional and grand with plenty of trumpet-led choruses and a puffy, critical-sounding bridge. Finally, we have to give the Sunshine State's best fight song to UM,
whose "Miami U Fight Song" has a great chattering drum line part and a tamper-free spellout complete with "Fight fight fight!" in the middle of it. If only you could hear it over the Trick Daddy tunes at the games.
Next week's installment of Pepidemiology will be Supplemental Music and Cheers.. Please review all materials, as there will be a quiz over the material we covered today. We're off to the Pink Pony-good day.
NOTE: All links to fight songs came lovingly from: http://www.netheaduniversity.com and http://fightmusic.com/. Please give 'em some love.