Calling Octopus In Interflammatary Pants!
- Created: Wednesday, 28 October 2015 11:55
- Written by Tim Bairstow
I heard it again recently. It was on a TV advert, for what I can't actually remember, and I alarmed my partner by suddenly singing out loud "Calling Octopus In Interflammatary Pants!" The Song in question is actually: "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft" which was first released by the band Klaatu in 1976 but made more famous by the cover version by The Carpenters in 1977. If you are of a certain age, you'll find it nostalgic I dare say to be reminded of it.
Well, I was only little back then. My parents ran a pub and this song was endlessly on the juke box when it came out. I loved it and the images that it conjured up in my mind were amazing. I mean, what exactly would an octopus in interflammatary pants actually be like???? Wow!!!! I'd never come across interflammatary pants but they sounded amazing. Everywhere I went, I would be singing it. I even taught my friends!
My big sister, as big sisters can be, was scornful and angrily pointed out that I'd got it wrong! Those weren't the lyrics, she insisted. I should be singing "Calling Occupants ..." etc I was, apparently, making myself look stupid and being embarrassing in to the bargain! With my customary mulishness, I was having none of it. She was wrong and I was right. The words of the song were, without doubt, "Calling Octopus in Interflammatary Pants!" and that was that! I sang it more, and more loudly, just to wind her up a bit more!
Well now ... it's an interesting song! Did you know that the original idea for the song actually came from an event that was described in a book published in 1967 by Jay David called "The Flying Saucer Reader." Bet you've got a copy on your shelf, haven't you? In it he describes an event in 1953 organised by the International Flying Saucer Bureau called 'World Contact Day'. In March of that year, all of the members of the Bureau attempted to collectively send a telepathic message to any passing extra-terrestrials and the opening words of the message were ... "calling occupants of inter-planetary craft!" How wonderfully bonkers is that? I just love the image of all these people earnestly projecting their thoughts in to outer space. Part of me hopes that all those thoughts are still winging their way through the vastness of the universe until they do encounter something that can actually hear and understand them. Who's to say not? In fact, March 15th is still 'World Contact Day' so you can join in next Spring, if you like!
There, you think I'm mad now don't you? But, I'm the guy who still thinks that "Calling Octopus In Interflammatary Pants" ranks high on the list of the best lyrics never written! The point is that, as children, we have an inbuilt capacity for seeing the world as limitless in its possibility. We are hard-wired to think outside of the box, to be who we are and to think what we think no matter what anyone else thinks. It's true, because it's true for me! This box is a space ship! My bed is a time capsule! Pink is for boys! Teddy Bears can talk! Somewhere, floating around out there, is an octopus in the best pants ever! Whatever it might be, we imagine and re-imagine the world as it might be and then, and this is the brilliant part, we invite everyone around us to come and join us in that world simply because its great!
What a shame then that, as we get older. and it seems to be happening with greater and greater momentum, others queue up to pummel that out of us. We seem to be living in a 'one-way-world' i.e. there's one way of looking at things, one way of thinking, one way of behaving and it's the only way! Radicals, fundamentalists, politicians, religious leaders and even a PC elite aided and abetted by the media compete to tell us who we must be and how we must be. The competition between these 'one-way' philosophies is at the root of most of the hatred and conflict in the world. We seem to have forgotten what it is to be able to say, in all innocence: "this is my world and you're all very welcome in it! Come and take a look!" Joy, sharing and acceptance in love seems to be being squeezed out by the 'one-way' attitude.
Literature is a way in which we can all participate in this imagining and re-imagining of the world. Shine a light on our world and challenge the often brutal 'one-way-ism' In our writing and in our reading we can, as the great Mama Cass put it: "make your own kind of music, sing your own special song ... even if nobody else sings along!" But, in point of fact, they often do: witness groups of six year olds back in the 70's running around the playground singing happily: "Calling Octopus In Interflammatary Pants!"