S02E13: Savage Songs

07 Apr

I love this band…

To celebrate his employers’ decision to remain purely awesome, Rattus throws the ultimate disco dance part-ay. Featuring — with help from the animated intro characters — some suspiciously familiar (and, cleverly enough, chronologically sorted) videos…

In this episode:

Spartan School Musical (from S02E03)

“Everyone’s a jock here, there are no Spartan nerds –
The weedy kids were left to die, as breakfast for the birds!”

Where I’d rank it: 6th

I said I liked this one enormously,  and that’s absolutely true. However I must admit that this is increasingly less about the actual production and more about my dark-hearted delight at any means of exposing Disney’s relentless kiddy media machine as the soulless, sanitized, wholly vapid abomination it is…

…what? Yes, I’m a bit obsessive about this. Were your pop-culture engine insistently shoving the daughter of Billy Ray ‘Achy Breaky Heart’ Cyrus in your face daily for years, you too would cackle with especially fervent glee at the squeaky little American accents in HH… which, right, is what we were actually talking about. Sorry.

So this clearly isn’t a healthy state of mind to maintain for any length of time, and otherwise, this video — which, let’s face it, was never particularly nuanced to begin with — tends to slip the memory a bit. In fact, despite the heartwarmingly all-out efforts of everyone involved, it’s not difficult at all to get along without it for quite long stretches. Sic transit gloria Mouse, guys…

Boudicca (from S02E10)

“Gonna cause a stink
Won’t be the first to blink
I’m not who you think
Don’t mess with me, I’m Boudicca!

Where I’d rank it: 4th.

I spent some time second-guessing my thoughts as to the classic-ness of this one, as defined in the initial review. While I still have nothing but unqualified praise for Martha as the lead… in my affectionate fervour to find subtle nuance I may have, for instance, totally discounted the police siren.

Still an’all, the affection remains, and  not just because of the fantastic beat and floofy dancing (although I do cherish the latter deeply.) While most stories of this type — up to and including Pixar’s recent Brave — approach this story from the self-conscious POV of a girl rebelling against her ‘female’ role, this one is about a woman who was motivated to take a stand for herself because she was frankly mad as hell, for reasons easily understood whether you also have girl parts or not.

Boudicca’s gender cheerleading thus is earned as human, not obliged as a construct. And it is so incredibly badass that you can’t help but cheer it along. Regardless of viewer perspective, what’s not to love?

The Viking Song (Literally) (from S02E01)

“Let me in now, won’t you please
We’re here to raid your monasteries…”

Where I’d rank it: 2nd.

“So were these guys, like, rock stars or whatever before?… Is that how they got to do this?”
my Mum, after listening to this song.

…which pretty much sums up everything important you need to know, yes?

Going by their respective solo careers, I’d guess the (fully brilliant) central concept belongs to Larry, who then brought Mat on to ensure it worked as an actual song — the idea perhaps being for Rickard to have more time to perfect his smouldering-yet-icy blue gaze. At any rate, he clearly left our resident Angsty Artiste a free hand. The net result resonates with an unironic musical sophistication unique among HH tunes.

Really in terms of my pure enjoyment this one and ‘King of Bling’ are more-or-less a tie; only that one is about the sublimely clever parody, and the other about perfect (albeit mildly embarrassing) familiarity with the parody subject. Mat is always gonna be more convincing as royalty than he is in armour, but otherwise, y’know… in the one Ben juggles, in the other he plays an axe. Details.

Do the Pachacuti (from S02E12)

“’The rocks they are my warriors,’ I then used to boast,
And that little lie helped us win wars – but violence helped the most!”

Where I’d rank it: 8th

Let’s be honest: this is not a great song. Oh sure, it’s a great concept — if anything too successful; as I may have mentioned previously, there are perils inherent in mimicking stupid too closely. I wouldn’t call this a definitive example… only that it doesn’t help anything either that as a solo lyricist, our Larry is a wonderful writer of prose sketches that aren’t required to scan.

(Although the characteristically non-sequitur lyric above still ranks with the best. You can never keep a good British comedy writer down for long.)

On other plus sides: little bouncy lyric-following skulls. All the points. They go very well with bouncy Mat, who is working this video as though he’s been convinced it’s his ticket to Clown Heaven — and looks pretty good in war paint besides. As the show’s treatment of Mesoamerica goes, this is a sterling example of tact, taste and (what especially sneaks it past No.9) accuracy.

Charles II: King of Bling (from S02E02)

“I love the people, and the people love me
So much that they restored the English monarchy!
I’m part Scottish, French, Italian, a little bit Dane – but one hundred per cent party animal (Champagne?)”

Where I’d rank it: 1st.


No, really. If you can’t find something to be charmed by somehow in this sweetly sophisticated, souffle-light hip-hop romp, you might want to check your medical history for cybernetic replacements, esp. in the chest cavity. Either that, or you’re the sort of hopelessly cross-grained grump who enjoys hating on rap as an occasional diversion from ordering those derned kids off your lawn.

…In either case, why are you watching Horrible Histories to begin with? (You can keep reading my blog, though. I’m not that picky.)

Blackbeard’s Song (from S02E06)

“And I loved to escape detection, and to win my crew’s affection…
(Which was nothing to do with the twelve guns he wore, on his belt, that were for protection!)”

Where I’d rank it: 7th.

Basically because I find the antics of the background chorus here much more entertaining than the ones in the Pachacuti song, and because I’m just a wee bit more impressed with Jim doing a complete 180 from useless to badass in the span of two episodes than with Mat shaking his nonexistent booty.

It does lose a few points for the redundant “captive’s lovely ring that shone like a jewel in the night”, tho. Because yes, I am just that frustratingly pedantic. Look, I’m writing a review blog about a children’s comedy series; any sense of literary proportion I had went out the window a long time ago.

George IV: Couldn’t Stand My Wife (from S02E05)

“Great palaces I did design —
Buckingham was one of mine.
Art and fashion, I so rated!
(And wives?)
That’s more complicated…”

Where I’d rank it: 3rd.

As frequently discussed in these pages, one of Jim’s great creative gifts is his ability to convey the ultimate in what TVTropes calls a Jerkass Woobie. Essentially, he’s what would happen did that one unpleasantly spoilt brat in every grade-school class grow up resolved to use his sniveling powers for good – oh, and had a really extraordinary singing voice besides.

…so yeah, when it came time to record a lite-FM attempt to make Georgian self-pity simoultaneously hilarious and touching, nobody was really startled when he turned it into a classic on all the demographic levels. Again, not a rampantly fabulous song per se, but it’s tight enough to get the point across, and damn is it funny. (Especially in the Prom version, wherein Simon’s George III retakes his rightful place.)

Real Live Cowboys (from S02E09)

Where I’d rank it: 10th… or, if I had my druthers, not at all.

We’ve never held up banks at all
We’re poorly paid
And kinda small
If you still wanna be a cowboy
Stick with me!”

I was looking back over my review of E09, and how I was having real trouble telling how far this song was in earnest, and the logical rational part of my brain — always something of a swot — piped up “Y’know, the extended fart solo might be a clue that it`s not actually meant as a thoughtful consideration of Old West mythmaking.”

Whereupon my primal reactionary brain went “What extended…?” and bustled over to YouTube.

And lo, memory returned. The universe had somehow been ensuring that I’d been distracted nearly every time that sequence threatened. Clearly, it agreed with me that it isn’t worth having my eyeballs re-seared with stupid over cliches already routinely mocked in in salsa commercials. Sorry again, Larry — you’ve been outvoted.*

*More soberly: Sure, this was a fun novelty for UK kidlets, who are of course the target audience here. But from a creative standpoint either of the two missing tunes — Learn Your Hieroglyphics (from S02E08) or The Monks’ Song (from S02E11) would’ve been much the more deserving choices.

Victorian Inventions (from S02E07)

“There’s just one little oversight…
…we invented *koff!* dynamite.”

Where I’d rank it: 9th.

The production values are undoubtedly amazing. And the song itself is cute ‘n’ catchy, giving Alice a well-deserved showcase spotlight and Ben a chance to show off his talk-singy flair… yeah, OK, ‘flair’ might be pushing it a bit. ‘Smug with style’, though, absolutely.

Unfortunately, all this is expended in the service merely of remaking S1’s hugely forgettable We Are Greek: shoehorning a random list of accomplishments into an artificial, misleading, and frequently-disputed set of parameters. In effect, this is a song with the YouTube arguments consciously built in. Not the most point-ful creative decision ever made.

We’re the WWII Girls (Original Girl Power)

“When the war is over though
We’ll be proud cos we will know
Thanks to us is due, girls
Came to the rescue, girls
We’re the World War Two girls
Original Girl Power!”

Where I’d rank it: 5th

This is where I pull feminist privilege… also, my privilege as a human being to just, y’know, really like something a whole lot. These ladies aren’t just strong role models, they’re appealing personalities. This seems to be a standard by-product awesomeness of the HH format: focussing on the flaws of their subjects means they most often default to their well-rounded humanity.

Is their song a bit unnecessarily heavy on the “geez, this man-work is hard!” stuff? Yeah. But hey, that’s part of being human too. The really important thing, as the song points out, is that they did it. And when that’s allied to a catchy, sassy, triumphant tune, as performed to the hilt by modern women obviously fully invested in the spirit of the thing…

…um, something kind of… gets in my eyes, right around that last stanza. Every damn time.

Encore: Born 2 Rule (from S01E01)

“I vas the sad vun!
And I was the bad one…
I was the mad one!
And I was the fat one…”

Where I’d rank it: 1st…

…among the Series One songs, and as the one that started this whole journey. Kind of a Year Zero thing, really. It’d have been even cooler had they thrown the Plague Song and Burke & Hare in there, to show the progression.

Still, what a lovely chance to revisit the moment when it all began — and realise that they pretty much had it exactly right, from the first. Give the 4 Georges production values to match George IV’s solo, and I’m not sure they wouldn’t give Charles II a serious run for his charming.


Posted by on April 7, 2013 in Series Two


Tags: , , ,

3 responses to “S02E13: Savage Songs

  1. Traxy

    April 8, 2013 at 5:29 am

    Just like to say hello, love reading your HH episodes analyses. The songs in particular are my favourites on the show, and I’ve put them all on my computer so I can listen to them whenever. Can’t wait for you to get to s3 and my personal favourite, the English Kings & Queens song. 😀

    • Shoebox

      April 8, 2013 at 12:35 pm

      Thank you very much! That’s really appreciated.

      I also have an mp3 playlist – really helps the data entry go by faster @ work. Re: the “Kings & Queens song particularly… Spoiler: yes, I know all the lyrics by heart. 🙂

      • Traxy

        April 9, 2013 at 5:05 am

        August last year, I met up with some friends, and one night, there was two of us on a sofa sitting there singing HH songs at the top of our lungs. Good times. 🙂


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