Like the previously covered Cat Fight, Logan Whitehurst first came to my attention via the great Greasy Kid Stuff show on WFMU. The difference is that while Cat Fight I barely remember, Logan Whitehurst instantly became a treasured member of my musical world.
Some of it was timing. My son was born in February 2003 (with the first Greasy Kid Stuff compilation CD playing in the delivery room), and by November, according to WFMU’s excellent playlist archive, the first song by Logan Whitehurst’s album Goodbye, My 4-Track showed up on Greasy Kid Stuff. Technically credited to Logan Whitehurst and the Junior Science Club (but only technically, as it was mostly Whitehurst on all instruments), the album was a crazy quilt of home-recording genius, clearly kin to They Might Be Giants with its omnivorous stylistic experiments but with even more of a focus on absurdist comedy.
The very first Logan Whitehurst song I heard — because it was the first one that Hova and Belinda played that greasy morning, out of three total they selected from Goodbye, My 4-Track — was “Happy Noodle vs. Sad Noodle,” and to say it blew my mind would be an understatement. It was the straightforward story of a happy noodle who “always smiled and tipped his hat and said, ‘Nice weather we’re having!’ regardless of the weather,” and his “antagonist, a polar opposite bent on nullifying his happy existence.” All this — and that the song was to be the story of their ultimate battle — we learned during the first verse, a spoken-word-at-breakneck-pace appetizer for the impossibly singalong chorus, which goes, to the best of my transcriptive abilities: “HAPPY! NOODLE! Vs. SAD noodle! Happy NOODLE! Vs. SAD SAD noodle!”
I will not reveal the result of their duel to the death. Suffice to say that the battle itself is narrated in rap, and afterwards there is pie. It was smart and silly at the same time, and the perfect song for bouncing a nine-month-old baby up and down to, both of us giggling hysterically.
Needless to day, I immediately bought the record. Maybe even better than “Happy Noodle vs. Sad Noodle” was “Lizard and Fish,” a jaunty piano-based tune, with a clarinet solo clearly swiped from Disney’s “Cruella de Ville,” that tells the tale of two friends trapped in a pet store and dreaming of their eventual escape. (Sample dialogue: “Lizard said, ‘Fish, how’s the water today?’ And Fish said, ‘Glubglubglubglub.’”) I also fell in love with the the hidden-track album closer “Monkeys Are Bad People,” which perhaps more than any other of the 23 tracks toes the line between music and sketch comedy, starting off-kilter then rapidly losing sight of any kilter at all, built around the irresistible refrain “Monkeys are bad people/And so are you.”
I couldn’t wait to hear what Whitehurst would do next. The next time I saw Belinda, I asked about him, and she said she had a sad story to tell. She’d called Whitehurst for some trivial music-related reason and asked, “So what’s new with you?” And he replied, “Well, I have a brain tumor.”
Logan Whitehurst died on December 3, 2006, at the age of 29. “Happy Noodle vs. Sad Noodle” posthumously appeared on the Greasy Kid Stuff 3 compilation CD. Fans of his, I just discovered while writing this post, subsequently created an entire record label just to re-release Goodbye, My 4-Track on CD, vinyl, cassette, and download.
As I write this, my son is about to turn 18; Whitehurst, if he had lived, would now be 43. It’s tempting to bemoan all his music that we will never get to hear, but that’s a cliche by now, and anyway, he outlived Otis Redding, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, D Boon, and Kurt Cobain, among others; I’d rather bemoan the fact that someone so clearly joyous about life didn’t get to experience it for longer. There’s apparently a documentary about Whitehurst in the works, or at least a Kickstarter for one. I’m not sure if making sure he’s posthumously appreciated makes it any less sad that he’s gone — though if a few more people listen to “Happy Noodle vs. Sad Noodle” as a result, that’s at least some extra joy in the world to go with the sadness. And then it’s time for pie.