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Some songs are never sung sober. On Earth Nellie Dean is one such. On Discworld the favourite is A Wizard's Staff Has a Knob on the End.

A simple way to indicate that a person is drunk is to have them sing a drunken song. It may be bawdy or weepily sentimental, but it indicates inebriation even before you notice the slurred phrasing and lurching walk.

This was such a recurring trope in old British comedies that anyone who was drunk sang Nellie Dean and anyone singing Nellie Dean was drunk. It was useful cultural shorthand in the days before you could show a grown man pissing or puking in public.

See Ode to Intoxication for songs about getting drunk.

Examples of Drunken Song include:


Comics

  • In an old Punch cartoon, the natives of a pacific Island hear the strains of Nellie Dean echoing from the crater of the local volcano and comment, "The gods are drunk again".
  • Constantine from Hellblazer tends to sing the bawdy kind when pissed out of his mind.
  • Haddock and the Tintin start singing a Belgian song after they get drunk off wine-fumes in The Crab with the Golden Claws.

Fan Fiction

Film

  • In Jaws the sailors bond over booze and "Show Me The Way To Go Home".
  • Hellboy and Abe get drunk and sing Barry Manilow's "Can't Smile Without You" in Hellboy II: The Golden Army.
  • In Pinocchio Foulfellow sings a drunken version of "An Actor's Life For Me."
  • Dumbo's "We're Gonna Hit the Big Boss For a Raise."
  • Pirates of the Caribbean -- "A Pirate's Life For Me"
    • ...and really bad eggs!
  • Gaston's Villain Song from Beauty and The Beast has elements of this.
  • Many Ealing comedies and similar, for example in The Bargee, Harry H Corbett is able to get out of his girlfriend's bed before her large, violent father gets home from the pub because he's singing Nellie Dean loudly.
  • In Eurotrip, the American protagonists accidentally stumble into a private bar for burly, belligerent Manchester United fans. After narrowly avoiding getting their asses kicked by singing an altered version of "My Baby Takes the Morning Train" (It Makes Sense in Context), the liquor starts flowing and the thugs join them in a rendition.
  • In The Great Mouse Detective, where one mouse calls another mouse a "rat" during a song.
  • In Animal House Delta Tau Chi sings "Louie Louie" completely unintelligibly.

Literature

  • The aforementioned "A Wizard's Staff..." on Discworld, and the once heard never forgotten Hedgehog Song. (Fans have worked out full sets of lyrics for both - the Hedgehog Song has, in canon, at least seventeen verses.)
    • The full title of "the hedgehog song" is The Hedgehog Can Never Be Buggered At All. That should give you an idea why it is never sung while sober.
  • Male characters in the Belgariad never sing while sober. We're never told what exactly they're singing, but it tends to scare off any birds in the vicinity.
  • Hagrid and Professor Slughorn in Harry Potter after Aragog died. Also in the film of the same name.
  • One Doctor Who Eighth Doctor Adventures novel has Fitz waking up on a bench, trying to reconstruct what he did last night:

 The last thing he remembered was joining in a singsong with a group of drunken tourists at Il-Eruk’s Tavern. He’d sung the song about the turnip fish.

  • In Gone with the Wind, when Gerald O'Hara is drunk, he sings a song called "Peg in a Low-Backed Car".

Live Action TV

  • Happens several times in Deep Space Nine, e.g. Miles O'Brien and Julian Bashir singing "Jerusalem", or Worf singing Yet Another Klingon Battle Song with Miles or some grizzled Klingon veteran he's trying to cozy up to.
    • All the Klingon songs are either opera or this. Both types are spectacularly gory.
      • A TNG episode had Picard and his older brother get drunk and sing after they have a big fist fight.
  • "See the little goblin, see his little feet..." Also, "Merlin the Happy Pig".
  • In Lost, after Desmond drinks some bottles of (expensive) wine, he starts singing "The Celtic Song".
  • "I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen," the song Ryley sings (badly) over the intercom in Star Trek the Original Series: TOS during "The Naked Time."
  • A game is made out of this on Whose Line Is It Anyway, The Irish Drinking song, natch.
  • In Babylon 5, Garabaldi sings "Show Me The Way To Go Home" on one occasion when drunk.
  • The crew of Red Dwarf (minus Kryten), having been celebrating Rimmer's deathday, return to the ship singing "Show Me the Way to Go Home" while tracing three-dimensional esses in space. Later in the same episode, Rimmer sings "Someone to Watch Over Me" in a very plaintive manner. He then degenerates into high-pitched, tuneless humming.
  • One episode of Black Books has Bernard visit some friends and singing a very Irish drinking song to their young son. The outtakes reveal that not only did Dylan Moran improvise it, he improvised a whole bunch of them.

Music

  • Brutally, heartbreakingly subverted by Richard Thompson's "God Loves A Drunk."
  • Pretty much anything by The Pogues, but most particularly "A Pair of Brown Eyes".
    • The Wild Rover is an older song performed by the Pogues among many others. Interestingly it started as a Temperance song.
      • Their celtic-rock brethern in general fall in this trope, particularly Dropkick Murphy's "Shipping Up to Boston" and Flogging Molly's "Drunken Lullabies."
        • The Dropkick Murphys also have the aptly titled "Kiss me, I'm Shitfaced"
    • If you want more folk, The Ramblin Rover by Silly Wizard probably should never be sung sober.
    • The band Gaelic Storm is taking the drinking song tradition to a new generation.
  • Forty-Seven Ginger-Headed Sailors.
  • Tom Waits' The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me) is a tragicomic take on the drunken song. The pianist denies his own inebriation, anthropomorphizing various objects to pin the blame on. "The carpet needs a haircut..."
  • The Irish folk song "Seven Drunken Nights", most famously performed by the Dubliners. Gets very bawdy at the end...
  • Done in this Songs to Wear Pants To song where the instructions were to "[Not] sing the lyrics. Shout them out in a drunken sort of way."
  • The Dead Kennedys "Too Drunk To Fuck". Nouvelle Vague's cover took this to the next level: the lead singer actually sounded like she was hammered when they recorded it.
  • Damien Rice's "Cheers, Darlin'" is a perfect example of this trope. Rice often makes a show of drinking while performing this song live.
  • hide's solo song "Drink or Die." Also taken to the next level in that he was likely drunk most of the time he performed it, and sort of a Funny Aneurysm Moment in that alcohol would later be a part of why he did actually die.
  • "Roadhouse Blues" by The Doors. In true blues fashion, Jim Morrison was totally smashed when he recorded it.
    • "Five to One" might also count, if only because Morrison was plastered when he sang/shouted that, too.
      • When was Morrison not plastered?
  • During the intro track for Running Wild's "Port Royal", one can hear some drunk singing "Under Jolly Roger" from the band's last album.
  • "Cold Gin" by Kiss.
  • A lot of Steely Dan songs mention some kind of alcoholic beverage, or sound like they're either from the point of view of a morose drunk or about the results of a bender.
  • Bob Dylan has a few, although the most obvious is "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues": it has a kind of drunken vibe from the very beginning, but the final verse confirms it:

 I started out on burgundy

But soon hit the harder stuff

Everybody said they'd stand behind me

When the game got rough

But the joke was on me

There was nobody even there to bluff

I'm going back to New York City

I do believe I've had enough.

Stand Up Comedy

  • Robin Williams improvised one of these. "Oh... that night you said my wife was fat, I knocked ya down, and shit in yer hat..."

Theatre

  • In The Producers, Max and Leo (along with some random drunk) sing "By the Light Of the Silvery Moon."
  • As with everything else, Shakespeare got there first:
    • In Henry IV Part II, Falstaff and assorted cronies get drunk and sing a song with a nonsensical refrain.
    • And in Othello, Iago leads the singing in the Cyprus officers' mess. It's debatable whether he himself is drunk or just pretending, but both the songs are classic drunken efforts. King Stephen was a worthy peer, his breeches cost him half a crown ...
    • In Twelfth Night, Sir Toby Belch and Sir Anderew Ague-Cheek sing drunken songs in the middle of the night until interrupted by the Countess's manservant Malvolio.
  • "The Same Old Music" from Vanities.
  • "If I Were a Bell" from Guys and Dolls.
  • "Hot Lover" from the musical version of Two Gentlemen of Verona.
  • "Let's Toast" from the musical version of The Prince and the Pauper.
  • "Oom-Pah-Pah" from Oliver!: "There's a little ditty they're singing in the city, espec'lly when they've been on the gin or the beer..."

Video Games

  • In Mafia II, Joe and Eddie at one point drunkenly sing along to Dean Martin's "Return to Me" on the radio.
  • In Jak II Renegade, Daxter offers to "help" Tess behind the bar and ends up getting totally wasted within the span of about thirty seconds, leading to him singing drunkenly for a little bit while Jak and Krew discuss the next mission.

Web Original

 "All the mortals lining up 'cause they wanting to snag us,

But we throw them to the wolves unless they look like Priapus." [1]

Western Animation

  • For some odd reason, I've rarely seen "Sweet Adeline" performed sober in cartoons.
    • Slightly subverted in the "Homer's Barbershop Quartet episode of The Simpsons: the Be Sharps sing it, but then, the lead vocalist is Barney.
  • "The Near Future", best known for the line "How dry I am," Which is sung in old Warner Brothers cartoons.
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