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Song Of The Shrimp

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Guitar Tab:

I saw three shrimps in the water
And two were old and grey
So I swam a little closer
And I heard the third one say

Goodbye mammy shrimp
And Papa shake my hand
Here comes the shrimp boat for
To take me to Louisiane

He showed his mama and his papa papa papa papa papa papa papa
The shrimp newspaper he read
And there the advertisement
To all the young shrimps said

Free ride New Orleans
To stay in Grand Hotel
Meet Creole gals
That help you out of your shell

Goodbye mammy shrimp
And Papa shake my hand
Here comes the shrimp boat for
To take me to Louisiane

His poor mama and his poor papa papa papa papa papa papa papa
They haven't heard from him yet
Last time they've seen his smiling face
Is when he jumped into the net

Goodbye mammy shrimp
And Papa shake my hand
Here comes the shrimp boat for
To take me to Louisiane
Here comes the shrimp boat for
To take me to Louisiane
Here comes the shrimp boat for
To take me ah take me

In August 2001, at the rock festival La Route du Rock in Saint-Malo, France, Frank sang an acoustic version of "Song of the Shrimp" during the press conference, while a French photographer named Richard Bellia translated the words into French.
Bellia recalls in an issue of French magazine "Rock & Folk" (Febrary 2006): "I have several jobs, photographer is not my only one. Often, in festivals, I stage press conferences. That's how I met Frank Black, and we became pals. He told me once: 'I want to sing a Presley song... my band hates it, nobody wants to do it, would you do it with me?' So we found ourselves facing tens of thousands of people, doing 'The Shrimp Song'. Frank sings, I translate to the crowd, verse by verse... If you know your way around the Net, you can find a trace of our performance here or there..."

On June 27, 2003, during a solo acoustic set at the Batofar, in Paris, Frank read out the French translation before playing the song, puncutating the verses with "C'est triste, c'est triste" ("It's sad, it's sad"). A recording of this show has been distributed through

Sources for the press conference story (in French) can be found here and here.

"I first heard this song on Abnormal, a live record that Townes Van Zandt recorded in clubs around Europe. He did this song so beautifully that I wound up playing it a lot on my own and with a couple of bands. I wanted desperately to find my own voice on it, but that didn't happen until I did this acoustic gig in Boston a couple of years ago, and I switched two of the chords from major to minor and one to a seventh. That's when it became my song."
- Frank on recording Honeycomb - Night Times. 12/06/2005

Well, I still haven't heard the Elvis version of that song. I heard it from a Townes Van Zandt recording. It's just a live nightclub performance, with all these pregnant pauses and stumbles and little side-banter. It's very funny. Any time I did a radio spot [with the Catholics], like I'd be in Switzerland talking to some DJ about, [compressed DJ voice] "So Frank, tell us about the Pixies" or something. And I'd be like, [party guy voice] "Hey man, whoooo!" Radio people just want you to make noise. They don't care what you do. So I'd always have my guitar with me, and I would always somehow work in the shrimp song. I used to even have them translate the lyrics for me in their native language. I would play a line and kind of whisper it in their ear, then they would do the line. I was always just goofin' around with the song in some way.

I did this acoustic version at a gig in Boston a couple of years ago, and I made it into a sadder, darker song. When I did that, it definitely became my own, as far as I was concerned. Anyway, I thought some of the guys that played on the record have played with Elvis, actually, and certainly understand the music of that era. So when I ended up playing with them, there was no talk about how we were gonna do it. They just played it at this rockin' tempo. The way that they played it, coincidentally, sounds very "Elvis backing band." There's just something about it that has this kind of fast, shuffley kind of thing. I don't know what the Elvis version sounds like, but it's much closer now to the original, I would imagine, in some strange way. I gotta go rent that.

- Frank Black - CMJ

SKRATCH: You did a cover of "Song of the Shrimp" from the movie GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS, which was an Elvis movie. Are you a big Elvis fan?
FRANK: Yes, but I don't know his version of that song. I know that song from a guy called Townes Van Zandt, a folk singer.

SKRATCH: So you covered it because it was the folk singer's, not because it was Elvis's?
FRANK: Well, I covered it because it's a good song.

SKRATCH: Why is it a good song?
FRANK: Because it is an interesting song, it's a strange song, it's funny, it's dark, it has a lot of sorta double meanings, I suppose.... It's a strange, strange little song.
- Interview in Skratch

"That was prompted by Townes Van Zandtís version on his last record. He just barely plays the song, he just hits a chord and sings a line and cracks up, hits another chord, makes a jokeÖ itís a really deconstructed but very entertaining version, and that was my reference point. Iíve still never even heard the Elvis version. It didnít click until I hit a minor chord once instead of a major, and I was able to free myself to do an interpretation of the song instead of being so literal with it."
- Frank Black on recording Honeycomb in Uncut

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