Wednesday, November 21, 2018

"The Diarrhea Song": A playground rhyme for the ages

Not a link. Don't be fooled by the "play" icon.

Something made me think of that old favorite playground song of children everywhere, "The Diarrhea Song," which is also remembered as "Diarrhea Ch-Ch," "Diarrhea Cha Cha Cha," "Diarrhea Uh-Uh," and "Diarrhea [fart sound] [fart sound]," all of which are either permutations of the same song or variations on a theme that really resonates with young 'uns in every decade.

For many kids, the memory of the struggle to control one's physical functions is still fresh, and for others, the fight still goes on. Maybe that's why they find a song about uncontrollable diarrhea so hilarious. On the other hand, the out-of-control human body is a common trope in slapstick comedy, so maybe everyone enjoys a good diarrhea joke from time to time. 

The diarrhea song probably originated in the 1950s or 1960s (if not earlier), but it exploded onto the playgrounds of the world in the 1970s. I say that because most people seem to remember it from the 1970s, as I do. 

The seismic waves were felt internationally, with former children reporting having heard the song all across the US and in continents other than North America.

The peaks of the song's commercial success were probably when it was featured in the 1989 film Parenthood and again in the animated series Bob's Burgers (and on its soundtrack). Search YouTube for "diarrhea song" and you'll find a lot of user-uploaded content.

The baseball-themed version that I learned in Muncie, Indiana, in the late 1970s went something like this: 

Diarrhea ch-ch, diarrhea ch-ch
Going up to bat and my pants are getting fat 
Diarrhea ch-ch, diarrhea ch-ch
Going on to first and my pants are 'bout to burst 
Diarrhea ch-ch, diarrhea ch-ch
Going on to second and my pants are getting infected* 
Diarrhea ch-ch, diarrhea ch-ch
Going on to third and out pops a turd 
Diarrhea ch-ch, diarrhea ch-ch
Heading toward home and my pants are full of foam 
Diarrhea ch-ch, diarrhea ch-ch

*This is a miserable rhyme, a fact that I recognized even as a child.

Many kids tried to add their own verses, but, being mere children, failed to produce rhymes on the caliber of those that had been passed down through the oral tradition. 

Let's be honest: The verses we remember were most likely crafted by irresponsible parents and transmitted to their children in an effort to make the brats laugh hysterically instead of doing whatever awful thing they otherwise would be doing. 

In my mind, the diarrhea song is part of a cycle of children's songs that includes "Mary Had a Steamboat" (which I previously wrote about) and "Great Green Gobs of Greasy, Grimy Gopher Guts," which was later adapted into a "legit" song by Aesop Rock

You might like to believe that diarrhea isn't a topic for serious, adult-oriented music, but if you search Discogs for diarrhea songs and look through the 900+ compositions, you'll quickly come to a different understanding. My favorite song title, at a glance, is "Erotic Diarrhea Fantasy." There was, until recently, a great band called Diarrhea Planet. Reddit even has a subreddit for diarrhea music, but it appears to be inactive. 

Perhaps these adults who write and record diarrhea songs were once children like you and me who sang "The Diarrhea Song" on their elementary school playgrounds while swinging, playing hopscotch, and trying to make it to the restroom on time.