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Off Beat Empire: Scratching Nails on a Chalkboard

When you just want to make it stop

Oregon v USC
Learn more than three chords!
Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

A weekly round-up of B1G Marching Bands and related topics.

Do you want to hear the most annoying sound in the world?

This is a terrible week for film on B1G halftime performances, so instead I’m going to highlight some of the things that certain marching bands do that are loved by their own fan bases, but will lead others to want to drive a spike into their head. You know what I’m talking about... that one song that that one school plays every single time they get a first down that might have had its charm at one point, but after listening to it for 15 years straight (or through a thorough shellacking in a bowl game), you just want to make it stop.

Fortunately, I don’t think that anybody in the B1G is quite this bad... I do want the “Go Green” folks to “Go Home” and “Go Big Red” sounds like a personal problem that you should see a doctor about. Whoever possesses the Michigan Cowbell should be shoved inside of it and spelling your four-letter state (both of you) is probably the most juvenile thing that I will see otherwise mature and well-adjusted adults engage in. However, all of these things are just cheers and we can’t blame the marching band for their perpetuation.

Alas, not everybody can be quite as enlightened as our fine conference, which brings me to my personal list of the most annoying things that marching bands play and do:

University of Spoiled Children Condoms

There is so much to hate here, I almost don’t know where to start. Is it the sunglasses? Maybe... that’s a pretty solid spoiled brat accessory to wear as a band (particularly at night). Was it the busloads of mooning that the Northwestern Band received at the 1996 Rose Bowl? That did not make me want to like them, that’s for sure. Is it the “Beat U-C-L-A” cheer in their fight song? Yeah, that’s some pretty serious little brother-ing going on, especially when USC is the bigger brother. Is it the conducting with a sword? Actually, that’s a little bad-ass and something that more bands should probably replicate. No... my issue is the “Tribute to Troy”, which is played incessantly over-and-over again and features a grand total of three f@#king chords. That’s it... three, with one minor baritone counter-melody. That is fine for a 10-15 second pop, but this crappy band will go on... and on... and on... for three or more minutes playing those same, stupid three chords. To top it off, their fans accompany said stupid music with their equally stupid two-finger salute. I’ve despised this song since the early ‘80’s, yet it keeps going... and going... and going...


OK (no pun intended), I will acknowledge that I don’t quite get this one as much as others. The ‘Cats haven’t played Oklahoma since 1997 and that was a game at Soldier Field that didn’t involve the OU band (and the ‘Cats won), so I haven’t been personally subjected to a live Boomer Sooner-ing. However, I know that if I don’t include it I will have at least 100 outraged Nebraska fans on my case. Musically, this isn’t a bad little fight song, but I can see that when it is played for everything from a TD to somebody successfully buying a hot dog at the concession stand where it can get a bit annoying. I don’t know how much the Boomer Sooner cheer (independent of music) plays into the hatred as well, but clearly this gets a fair share of you worked up, so it had to go somewhere on this list.

The “Why the Hell do they Get to Do this when the Chief is Banned?” FSU War Chant

Whenever I am visiting with my parents, this is the one song that my mom literally cannot stay in the room for (which is why, being the mature person that I am, I will egg her on in another room by continuing the performance). There is so much to hate about this particular cheer. First, it is musically terrible - it’s only about eight bars long and incredibly repetitive. There is zero musical development, zero counter-melody, and very little harmonics. Second, it has the dumb hand motion. Third, it’s easy for the crowd to sing-along, so they just never stop even after the band stops playing. Finally, it was apparently developed by white, drunk frat boys in the early 1980’s and has nothing to do with actual Seminole culture, but is excused when so many other schools are forced to give up aspects of their (probably less offensive) traditions based upon Native American culture.

Rocky Top

Unlike Boomer Sooner, I have twice been Rocky Topped live and barely lived to tell the tale. Let’s start out by giving the song a bit of kudos... It is original - as far as I know, it is one of the only fight songs that is based upon a true country / bluegrass composition as opposed to a more traditional March. It’s also the only fight song that I know of that dedicates an entire verse (second verse) to moonshine and murdered revenuer agents. Finally, it’s musically interesting and very well arranged - there is a lot going on in Tennessee’s rendition from woodwind frills to key changes.

Now for the downside... if Boomer Sooner is played for successful retrieval of a hot dog, Tennessee’s marching band already serenaded you with Rocky Top three times while you were waiting in the concession line. It loses its charm on about the eighty-third time you hear it played. By the one hundred-and-fourth time, it is starting to generate homicidal impulses. More importantly, if you’re hearing Rocky Top, then you are unfortunately around the dumbest fans in all of college football and are dealing with the likes of Big Daddy Vol. This song is sheer torture, and only to be tolerated when enjoying a good pummeling of the Vols.

Tree All Right Now

Is there anything dumber than Stanford’s Marching Band? They’re achievers... we know they are achievers because they were accepted to Stanford. Nobody, and I mean nobody was a true f@#k up in high school and yet found their way into Palo Alto. Yet, once they found their way to campus, some ?80?+ individuals have decided to actually work at making utter fools of themselves on a weekly or bi-weekly basis because “we’re so cool man, we don’t even care!” No... of course you care. If you didn’t care, you would have gone to the local community college and smoked weed instead of paying $45K per annum to smoke your weed. Who do you think you are fooling? That schtick was maybe funny for the first two or three seasons. Now, you’re basically the modern incarnation of the Simpsons - going through the motions without any real creativity or humor, knowing that you can never live up to the original standard.

Anyway, nothing demonstrates the no-talent, unfunny attitude of Stanford better than their rendition of “All Right Now”, which I’m sure was very groovy when it originated in the ‘70’s, but is now just another 50-year-old song that you are playing badly and was last considered cool by your hippie grandparents. Out of all the bands to get run over by a football team, I’m glad it was you.


Who is the worst?

This poll is closed

  • 27%
    Three Chords and Sunglasses
    (50 votes)
  • 8%
    Boomer Sooner! Boomer Sooner! Boomer Sooner!
    (15 votes)
  • 21%
    Did Seminoles even use Tomahawks?
    (38 votes)
  • 8%
    Folks on Rocky Top get their Corn from the Jar
    (16 votes)
  • 31%
    (57 votes)
  • 2%
    Other: Explain in Comments
    (4 votes)
180 votes total Vote Now


Like I said, it was an awful week for obtaining film on anything that was going on. Of the home teams in action, Maryland and Nebraska don’t like to post, and nothing is up yet for Wisconsin, Illinois, or Indiana. We didn’t even get a stray show from prior weeks to show up. The only school to post anything was Minnesota, and their performance was forced to be 100% park n’ bark due to inclement weather. They did have a pretty good rendition of Auch Sprach Zarathustra, followed by a portion one of my personal Copland favorites, Appalachian Spring (which was unfortunately a little more musically disjointed at times than I would have hoped). The Gophers finished with a really nice-sounding rendition of Rhapsody in Blue that included live piano solo work (and all of the soloists in this piece did an excellent job). Sorry that I don’t have more for this week.

For those of you who can’t see the embedded Minnesota video above, you can click here for a link.