December 3, 2003

I Beg Your What?

Have you ever heard of Kon Kan? Neither have I. Not, at least, until yesterday, when this obscure 80’s pop group turned out to be the last stop in a quest that has consumed 14 years of my life.

Come with me as we board the Wayback Machine and go back, back, back. The hands of time are spinning. The year is 1989. Weekend At Bernie’s is packing ‘em in at the theaters. Paula Abdul is rocketing to superstardom on the success of her album Forever Your Girl. America is learning to laugh and love with the cast of Doogie Howser M.D. And a geeky little kid in Nevada is spending most of his time playing Legend of Zelda and programming his Commodore 64. I had just turned 13 and was starting high school when a catchy little electro-pop ditty caught my ear drifting over the speakers on the school bus. The DJ never announced what the song was, but I thought it was one of those tunes that would stick around forever. It didn’t, and it soon fell off the charts and out of radio playlists. I had managed to get a copy of it on cassette tape, but that was soon accidentally erased. That erasure turned out to be the precipitating event. I never heard the song on the radio again, and that’s when my obsession began.

I was at that age when I started listening to radio a lot and collecting my favorite songs. Back then that meant sitting in my room with the tape recorder ready and relying on cat-like reflexes to hit “record” when the first strains of a tune would come on the air. I amassed quite a collection that way, and once I got a job I started buying CDs so I could also have the first few seconds of the songs. As my collection grew, I gathered around me all those 80’s songs I had heard growing up. But there was always a gap in the collection. Yes, that one song from 1989 always haunted me. I figured that I would eventually stumble across it as I did so many of the other songs. The radio would play it again, or it would be a track on some album I bought. Soon I started to actively seek it out, but the memory started slipping away from me. I couldn’t remember exactly when I had first heard it. I didn’t know what year it first came out. I couldn’t remember who the artist was, so I bought albums by bands that seemed like they would have made it. I bought Depeche Mode CDs—they didn’t have it. I bought New Order CDs—they didn’t have it. I bought Erasure and Information Society and Yaz and Dead or Alive and the Pet Shop Boys and I bought compilations and I tried to scour the Billboard chart archives for a title that looked familiar. This song became my white whale. And what frustrated the search even more was that I couldn’t remember anything about the song. I didn’t know the title. I didn’t know who sang it. I couldn’t remember the lyrics. I could just barely hum the melody. I had nothing to go on. There was only one part of the song I remembered, and that was some jibberish in the middle, with an Oriental-sounding guy that mumbled, “Do you want to fight, sir?” And that wasn’t getting me anywhere. Even as I looked for it in the Internet age, a Google search for “Do you want to fight, sir?” turned up nothing.

I had given up. I had written the search off as a failure. I was never going to find this song. But I still remembered it. I never forgot, I never let it drop. It was burned into my head as the one that got away, a piece of unfinished business that would haunt me forever. And that’s why yesterday I tried the Google search one more time. After 14 years, this quest had become a part of me, and with things like that you never truly give up.

And hot damn, this time the Google search came back with results. The site it led me to revealed that, all this time, the one phrase I actually remembered from the song was a misheard lyric! It wasn’t “Do you want to fight, sir?”, it was “Leo’s got a flat top”. Which sound nothing alike, but still. This whole freaking time, I had the lyrics wrong! But the dumbheadedness of that move was soon eclipsed with the excitement that my search could finally be over. The song it mentioned was “I Beg Your Pardon” by Kon Kan. Well, I had never heard of Kon Kan. Could that actually be it? An AMG search provided details about the band and the song that seemed to match up. A search for the full lyrics of the song came up with lines that sounded vaguely familiar. I felt that I was getting close, so only one thing remained. I fired up KazaaLite and went searching for it. It’s a pretty obscure song, so it took a few tries, but I finally got a full version and played it. As the music started to flow out of my speakers, the thrill of recognition coursed through my body. This was it! It was the right song! After all this time, all the blind searches and dead ends, Google finally proved to be my savior.

So where do I go from here? I have my mystery song. All the blanks have been filled in. Thanks to MP3, which I could have never conceived of in 1989, but which probably would have made sense if you told me about it, I can listen to the song whenever I want. My quest is complete, but now I feel a little empty inside. I’ve been hunting for this song for so long, I don’t know how to do anything else. This little gap in my knowledge had become a part of me; now that’s it’s been filled, it’s a little unsettling. Life will go on, but I need to come up with a new unsolved mystery. I don’t think I can live without one.

And I still swear that Oriental guy is really saying “Do you want to fight, sir?”

Filed under The Computer Vet Weblog

Comments (9)

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  1. Doug says:

    The sound is archetypal 80’s – but I suspect there was a valid reason for it not being in the charts for long… 😉 Google and Kazaalite have helped me find all my lost music in the past.

    Posted December 4, 2003 @ 12:41 am
  2. Ade says:

    I have a friend who loves “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath but has refused ever to own a copy, as he feels that being able to listen to it any time would tarnish it with familiarity.

    Posted December 4, 2003 @ 5:40 am
  3. Kalrac says:

    Now, if you want something really great:
    http://www.c64.org/HVSC/Sonic_Graffiti/Hayes_Ben/I_Beg_Your_Pardon.sid
    It doesn't have a voice sample of Leo's flat top, though…

    Posted December 6, 2003 @ 3:57 am
  4. Dave says:

    That song happens to be one of my all time favorite songs! But, like you, I always wondered what the hell that lyric was. Now I know! Thanks!

    Posted December 7, 2003 @ 9:04 pm
  5. Rob says:

    Yup, i have the single (it did better in the UK!- but then it was the home of 80s dance/pop) but It still annoys me coz the lyric line is str8 outta the New Order song book… i can hear Bernie singing it (its not ‘Every Second Counts’ from Brotherhood but u get the idea…)… so pity me the task of re-listening to my entire NO collection. The whole song is a mix of samples… Spagna – ‘Call Me’ in the middle, so why not ‘sample’ the lyric as well… Then again The Lightening Seeds did a good NO impression with ‘Pure’. Hey ho!

    oh yeah… Ade… yr m8s right about ‘Paranoid’… my ‘white whale’ song was an old country hit (huge stateside..No 1 but 17 in UK and long gone… ‘Afternoon Delight’ by Starland Vocal Band… thanks to Good Will Hunting i found it, bought it… and now the magic has gone with overplaying… some songs should be shrouded in warm memories and only heard by chance not choice 🙂

    Posted January 27, 2004 @ 8:08 pm
  6. Ed says:

    When I heard it on my friend’s car back in ’89, I was hooked on that song. It was absolutely awesome! Ok, that “Leo has a flattop” lyric is a bit weird to say the least. I thought it was “do you wanna hustle”. Go figure.

    I actually have the tape versions of their “Move to Move”
    and “Syntonic” album, but unfortunately, I can no longer find ’em. “I beg your pardon” has got to be one of my fave
    songs.

    (PS: Yes, this is pretty much a raise-from-the-dead post, as I was searching google for Kon Kan’s “A better Day” and other lyrics. I bumped into this blog. Good on ya to find the song.)

    Posted August 7, 2005 @ 10:26 am
  7. Christine says:

    This is hysterical!!! A totally similar trip, with the exact same song!! I finally sang a few bars for an old HS friend of mine a year ago or so…and Viola!

    Flat top??? Inconcievable!

    I recently found “Accidentally 4th street” by Figures on a Beach… same sort of story (including taping songs and “dubbing” friends’ tapes!!)

    You know… we were the only generation to do that. I wonder what thing the current generation will be able to similarly claim? 🙂

    Posted October 22, 2005 @ 1:02 pm
  8. Kevin says:

    Looks like the above posts are quite old, but I thought I would chime in and say hello. A friend of mine sent me this link and said I had to check it out. Reading the story above brought quite the smile to my face. My name is Kevin Wynne and I was the lead singer of Kon Kan. First of all, congratulations on ending your life-long search and discovering “I Beg Your Pardon”. Secondly, the lyric you mistakenly thought was ?Do you want to fight, sir?? and were somehow told was ?Leo?s got a flat top? (LMAO – I LOVE THAT!!!) is actually “Do You Want to Hustle” followed by “Do You Want to Salsa”

    Sincere thanks for making my day and I’m glad you enjoy my music.

    Posted May 11, 2006 @ 11:45 am
  9. Rick says:

    Kevin,
    I stumbled across this site looking for something else. Here’s a short little story for you. My mother went to the marine ball back in 1988 or 1989 with my brother way back when this song was popular, for the last 15 or so years she would hear this song and say it always reminded her of all those marines dancing to it. This past week she was over and was wishing she could hear that song, being the retired DJ, I slapped it on the Technic’s 1200 so she could hear it. Always brings back good memories for me as well. I admit I always thought it said “Do you want some hot sauce” hehe . Any tours planned?

    Rick
    Houston Texas

    Posted July 15, 2006 @ 2:59 pm

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