With a lemon in one hand and a jug of batter in the other, Getintothis’ Rick Leach sets you up for Pancake Day with 10 tunes guaranteed to get you flipping.
Simple things, pancakes.
Eggs, flour, milk. Whisk it all up, slap the batter in a hot frying pan, nice and thin. Swirl it around, flip it over and there you are. It’s done.
Stick it on a plate, squeeze a bit of lemon on it, maybe a sprinkle of sugar and you’re away.
It’s so easy even this ham-fisted writer can do them quite easily.
That’s how we do them in the UK.
Apparently, there’s stacks of variations around the world. Baking powder in North America, buttermilk in Scotland and the US, buckwheat flour for blinis, rice in the Philippines, yeast in China, cabbage in Japan; there’s a whole range of ways to make pancakes. Stacks of different ways.
But they’re all pancakes and we love them.
We love them that much that archeological evidence shows that they were probably the earliest and most widespread cereal food eaten in prehistoric times. Not Rice Krispies, but pancakes. The humble pancake therefore has a long and honourable history.
And as for us, well, we have the glory that is Pancake Day.
Usually sometime in during February- it’s something to do when Easter falls, Lent or something-and therefore is a bit of a moveable feast- Pancake Day is the day before Ash Wednesday. Traditionally Shrove Tuesday was the day when perishable items had to be eaten before Lent kicked in.
Time to get rid of all those eggs and milk. Yummy.
But it’s a bit shit, Pancake Day really.
It’s always in the middle of a winter that’s gone on for ages, it’s usually raining and miserable.When you were kids you used to eat so many and get them down so quickly you were invariably sick.
Very glum and British. And that’s before we get into Jif Squeezy lemons which add that bit of strangely 1970’s glamour. That’s as good as it gets.
Over in America, in New Orleans specifically, well, they don’t mess around with a few old eggs and some industrial strength lemon extract in a yellow plastic bottle.
They don’t have Pancake Day. They have Mardi Gras.
Even that sounds better than Pancake Day.
They have carnival. Everyone lets their hair down, the streets are packed, music everywhere, drink is taken and there’s lots and lots of food. Incredible food. New Orleans food.
But we’re sure they may squeeze in the odd pancake as well.
So, however we celebrate Mardi Gras, whether with the ecstatic sounds of brass bands and jazz echoing in our ears or shuffling along rain-sodden and grim British streets, here’s Getintothis’ Top 10 songs about pancakes.
Dig in and enjoy.
10. The Beastie Boys: Say It
It’s a personal choice really.
Do you go for the simple choice of a few drops of lemon or something more exotic? A touch of sauce?
Maybe the Beasties had it nailed down with this cut from their (quite appropriately titled) 2011 album, Hot Sauce Committee (Part 2).
That’s the way to do your pancakes. With a bit of variety.
‘We be flipping styles like pancake batter.’
9. The Banana Splits: The Tra La La Song
From possibly one of the most surreal kids TV shows ever, the theme tune from The Banana Splits Show includes the classic line, ‘Flipping like a pancake, popping like a cork.’
When you listen to a lot of pancake-related songs ( as your writer has had to do), you realise it’s all a bit coy. Like the Beasties, The Banana Splits refer to ‘flipping’ rather than ‘tossing’ pancakes. Hmm.
Anyway, as a side note, it’s long been rumoured that The Banana Splits– Fleegle, Bingo, Drooper and Snorky- who all always appeared in very pysch-like costumes (a bit like Sweden’s GOAT but with better tunes), were really arch-art pranksters The Residents.
Wouldn’t it have been good if The Residents had written a song about pancakes?
8. Half Man Half Biscuit: If I Had Possession Over Pancake Day
One of the only songs in this Top Ten, at least this ditty by Nigel and the lads has at least got the word pancake in the title.
There’s not much about pancakes in the song but that doesn’t matter. Their punning of the Robert Johnson song If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day is worthy of inclusion in any list.
7. Robert Johnson: Travelling Riverside Blues
And speaking of Robert Johnson (see what we did there?)- here we have the King of The Delta Blues singing about ‘squeezing his lemon until the juice runs down his leg.’
Now we can’t be entirely sure of this but we think that the ill-fated Robert, may not have been wailing about Jif lemons and pancakes. There may have been a different meaning altogether in this song.
Having said that, if Robert had stuck to pancake batter and hot frying pans then he may well have avoided his death at 27 by poisoning at the hands of a jealous husband of a woman with whom he had flirted.
No-one ever gets killed over pancakes.
6. Prince: Starfish and Coffee
In respect of Prince, and if we’re looking for some pancake-related ditties, we could have gone for Lemon Crush or, indeed Under the Cherry Moon.
We’re pretty sure that there are some others in his vast output. And no doubt, we are guaranteed that there must be a song in his massive vault of unreleased recordings which has the word ‘pancake’ in the title. It’ll be some sort of mathematical certainty; with a hundred years’ worth of music, then pancake will make an appearance.
But the closest Prince gets to pancakes with his released music, is the mention of maple syrup in what is possibly one of his loveliest songs, Starfish and Coffee.
And we do love a bit of maple syrup on our pancakes.
While Prince never released a song about pancakes we do have this clip. Although “Charles” made the pancake, we’re absolutely sure that Prince, being the multi-skilled chap he was (he played every single instrument on Sign of the Times album, including Starfish and Coffee) would have had no trouble at all in conjuring up a mean jug of pancake batter with one hand and playing a guitar solo with the other.
If he told us to eat our pancakes, then we’d have dug right in. Just like Zooey Deschanel.
5. Roy Orbison: Sugar and Honey
A bit more up-tempo, a bit more rock and roll, a bit lighter than the usual velvety ballads you associate with The Big O.
Would you have honey on your pancakes?
We reckon Roy did all the time. What a voice. The honeyed tones of a legend.
4. Aphex Twin: Pancake Lizard
So we don’t really know what a Pancake Lizard looks like (or even if it’s a real thing to be honest), but thanks to Aphex Twin, we know what one sounds like.
And for once, with Aphex Twin, we have a bit of a tune. Maybe not something that you could whistle while cleaning your windows – or indeed, while you’re tossing your pancakes on Shrove Tuesday- but a tune nevertheless.
It’s quite a pleasant and soothing number and as you can hear, even breaks out with a bit of string arrangement towards the end.
But what it’s got to do with either lizards or pancakes is anyone’s guess.
Still, it’s good to have a song with pancake in the title. We should be grateful for that – particularly when you consider Richard James’ propensity to give his tunes titles consisting of a random selection of letters resembling a bad Scrabble hand.
Let’s hear it for the Pancake Lizard
3. Big Joe Turner: Flip, Flop and Fly
Maybe it’s because we only really make pancakes once a year- well, for your writer, it’s once a year- that we tend to be a bit rusty every time Pancake Day comes around.
The first one is always a disaster. Either too thick or thin. Too small or too big. Too raw. The oil isn’t hot enough or too hot and we burn it. We’re simply out of practice.
You have to treat the first one as a test run. It’s not even worth flipping, the first one in the pan. It’s a bit of a flop.
The first pancake of the year is a rite of passage before you get into the swing of it all. It’s not fit for human consumption. The dog however, always seems to enjoy it. He loves the first pancake.
But once you’ve got that first crap one out of the way, then you’re alright. Flip, (not flop) and fry.
2. Half Japanese: Sugarcane/ Sonic Youth: Sugar Kane
Kind of squeezing an extra pancake-related song in here. Half Japanese and Sonic Youth. Two for the price of one. But they’ve got the same title so I might get away with it.
Over-indulging in the Top 10 list. Sneaking an extra one in; just one more. Just one.
And that’s what we do with pancakes- just one more.with a little bit of sugar on it. One more won’t make any difference. It’s that “go on, I can manage one more” mindset, irrespective if you’re feeling a touch queasy anyway.
But neither of them could be classed as the final queasy pancake. They’re so good they deserve to have an extra spoonfull of sugar sprinkled over them and savoured. Maybe even a squeeze of lemon.
1. Professor Longhair: Mardi Gras in New Orleans
Now this sums up why Mardi Gras is so good and our equivalent, our really, really crap equivalent is so utterly dismal.
We alluded to it in the introduction but really you don’t need to explain why there are dozens of fantastic songs-and this is one of the very best of them- about Mardi Gras and so very few about Pancake Day.
Ths incredible tune by the great New Orleans legend, Professor Longhair, makes you want to throw your eggs, flour and Jif lemon in the bin, book the very next flight to Lousiana, go wild at Carnival and forget all about dreary winter days and pancake batter.
At the very least, listen to it once and you’ll be whistling along all day.
Don’t just take our word for it- here’s John Goodman in the unmissable HBO series, Treme, explaning exactly why Mardi Gras is so good. And by inference, Pancake Day is so rubbish Enjoy your pancakes, wherever you are.