Bulbous! (1974–75)

In my sophomore year of college, I wrote a musical about the fictional campus radio station KMA, based on the real-life station KEG at California State University, Sacramento.

The title can be traced to Captain Beefheart, by way of the booklet from Frank Zappa's Uncle Meat LP. In our circle, it evolved to mean approximately "Gooble gobble, gooble gobble."

The inspiration to write a musical in the first place occurred one fine day when Randy Bobo played the original cast album of Stephen Sondheim's Company while the two of us were hanging out at his parents' house (Randy's parents, not Sondheim's). The writing, however, owed more to Mad magazine and Mel Brooks, being intended for my friends to read and deliberately including everything we knew would never be seen in a real musical, making fun of our own adolescence.

The musical featured 11 songs, the worst of which is better than the dialog. As an exercise, I wrote each song in a different key signature, up to 5 sharps or flats. Only the first two songs were written while I was actually attending Sacramento State; all the others were written after I transferred to Northridge.


Bulbous!: The opening song, to be performed by "a chorus line of eleven dancing girls all made up the same, and one six-foot guy fourth from left wearing a tweed suit." (Key: A-flat)
MIDI file (1:21) plus lyrics

You've Gotta Be Crazy: The so-called main character meets the station management. (Key: G)
MIDI file (3:23) plus lyrics

My First Shift: The main character debuts as a disk jockey. (Key: D)
MIDI file (1:23) plus lyrics

They'll Love Us: The overconfident staff have been instructed by the school to conduct a listener survey, which they are sure is just a formality that will only confirm their greatness. The whole thing is reminiscent of a Marx Brothers number, complete with people climbing onto tables. (Key: F)
MIDI file (3:37) plus lyrics

Be Nice to Your Carts: The station manager instructs the main character on the use of drop-ins. (Key: B-flat)
MIDI file (2:06) plus lyrics

Everyone's Doing My Thing But Me: Another title suggested by Dale Hytholt, this duet holds up the best out of context of all the songs. (Key: E-flat)
MIDI file (3:33) plus lyrics

All We Ask: The station staff plead with the housing director not to make them change their format to Top 40 in response to the survey. (Key: G-sharp minor)
MIDI file (2:46) plus lyrics

It's the Voice: A patter song, to be sung faster than possible. (Key: A)
MIDI file (3:14) plus lyrics

Them What Ain't Got Hardly No Nothin': The frustrated station manager wallows in sour grapes and contemplates giving up and dropping out of society. (Key: E)
MIDI file (3:00) plus lyrics

I Know What You Like: The former public relations person is lured back to the station to rescue it from the jaws of defeat. (Key: B-flat minor)
MIDI file (1:34) plus lyrics

To Hold the Sky: The housing director will do anything to get the PR person to go away, so he relents and restores the earlier format, and the staff celebrates. The title is a quote from "West Side Story." The music reprises five of the earlier 10 songs, transposed from their original keys. The rousing climax culminates in the dumping on stage of a truckload of onions. (Key: C)
MIDI file (5:27) plus lyrics

 

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