Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Listen for my store on wheels, ding-a-ling down the street,"

for the sheet music or franchise

Mr. Softee Driving People Nuts?

In an article that will surely win The New York Times a Pulitzer, Dan Barry undergoes an experiment with the Mr. Softee jingle. Gothamist and our readers are very familiar with the jingle, but Barry sums it up nicely as, "Duh-DUH-duh-duh duh-duh-duhduh-duh-duh-duh-duh-DUH-duuuh-duh. . . ." Wait- isn't that one 'duh' too many? Anyway, Barry explores the hypnotic effects of the jingle and reveals that the jingle actually has words!

My milkshakes and my sundaes and my cones are such a treat / Listen for my store on wheels ding-a-ling down the street / The creamiest, dreamiest soft ice cream you get from Mister Softee. . . .

Recently, City Hall has proposed outlawing the Mr. Softee jingle. James Conway Jr., an ice cream executive (some might say he has the best job ever), reveals that Mister Softee has a lobbyist that is working with the City Council and the mayor to reach a compromise on the jingle. Conway also reveals that there is a technology that stops the song when the ice cream truck stops. Well, hot damn! Where has this been all our lives? And who ever thought you could make a living as an ice cream lobbyist? Where do we sign up to be the local voice of the BBQ industry?

No matter how much we dislike the Mr. Softee song, we know that summer will not be the same without it. Now we not only have a craving for ice cream, but we also have the song stuck in our heads. Damn Pavlovian effects. Gothamist isn't quite at the point of the Mister Softee drivers are at, who after repeated listening to the song have "become desensitized". [Mr. Softee has a website and some of the most disturbing merchandise we have every seen. No word yet on whether Mr. Softee has a posse.]
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Revenge will be mine, softee!

Posted by: Kustard King at June 23, 2004 01:07 PM

and for non-new yorkers/those unfamiliar with mr softee's offending tune, there was this all things considered story last week.

Posted by: matt at June 23, 2004 01:43 PM

There is Mr. Softee sheet music at the website. But I have to add, it's very strange for Gothamist NOT to crave ice cream.

Posted by: Jen at June 23, 2004 01:51 PM

So this pirate walks up to a Mr. Softee truck with a little steering wheel, like that used to steer a pirate ship, sticking out of his fly. The driver asks "What can I get 'cha?" and the pirate motions (using his hook, of course) towards the picture and says "Yaaarrrrr gimme a swirled cone!!!! And one for me parrot!". "No problem, Mr. Pirate" responds the Mr. Softee truck driver "but I think you should know that you have a little steering wheel sticking out of your fly." The pirate, with a look of extreme discomfort on his face, replies "Aye..... and it's drivin' me nuts, yaaaaaaarrrrrggghhhh!!!!".

Posted by: Kevin at June 23, 2004 02:08 PM

In order to warrant a barbecue lobbyist, New York is first going to have to get some decent barbecue, don't you think?

Posted by: Chris at June 23, 2004 02:10 PM

new york has decent bbq for those willing to cross 125th st. flex yo' metrocard son!

ps, mr. softee must die!

Posted by: Kustard King at June 23, 2004 02:12 PM

Mister Softee hackey sack? Mister Softee pinwheel? Who buys pinwheels?!

Posted by: Josh at June 23, 2004 03:06 PM

You know, I've been here for years. Seen many a Mr. Softee truck. I can't recall ever once hearing any music coming from it.

The real noise problems in this city are early morning garbage trucks and early morning construction. These should be prohibited before 10am at least. Some of us are not morning people after all...

Posted by: saltydog at June 23, 2004 03:22 PM

if any of you were lucky enough to watch "In the Papers" on NY1 this morning, Pat Kiernan was nice enough to translate the "duh-DUHs" into singing. He had a decent voice.

Posted by: jenny at June 23, 2004 03:36 PM

I don't know, it's totally irrational, but it's just no NYC in the summertime without the Mr. S trucks and the jingle. Kinda like Times Square's not Times Square without the hookers.

Posted by: Tim N. at June 23, 2004 04:14 PM

Who could dislike the Mister Softee jingle?

The kind of person who kicks dogs and steps on bugs, that's who.


Posted by: Kevin Walsh at June 23, 2004 11:11 PM

Actually, that appears to be 1 "duh" too *few*, if you are counting notes exactly...

Posted by: Sam T at June 24, 2004 09:03 AM

We didn't have Mister Softee in my town on Long Island. So I didn't hear him until I went to college in Buffalo.

I don't know why, but for some reason, I always hummed along with the song, and then for the last few notes, sang "it's fuckin' Mister Softee." I still do that on the street, usually under my breath so I don't corrupt young minds.

Try it! It's fun.

Posted by: Jason at June 24, 2004 10:12 AM

Those who find the Mr.Softee song harmless have never had one of those demon trucks park on the corner and broadcast for the better part of an afternoon.

Imagine the world's most annoying 7 year-old redhead belting out barney songs for 4 hours in your bedroom. NOT fun.

Posted by: Aaron at June 24, 2004 12:33 PM

how about all of the diesel fumes that young developing kids are being exposed to as Mr. Softee parks his gas guzzling trucks on corners for hours. no wonder kids have the asthma!

Posted by: Kustard King at June 24, 2004 02:17 PM

mr. softee is my dad. SO BACK OFF!

Posted by: bob at July 30, 2004 08:41 PM

We know about you, those who hate Mr Softee... and all the good memories we remember! Your mothers never let you have any Mr Softee because you were all to busy practicing your piano lessons. How pitiful, get a life!! Oh and stuff your cell phone while your at it.

Posted by: The Chief at August 28, 2004 12:00 AM

The same type of people who complain about Mister Softee music are the one who tore down the Hawks nest in NYC.

Posted by: Ray at January 7, 2005 12:00 AM

The government could surely find something more important to do than to consider legislation about the music from Mr. Softee Trucks.

I've heard of the city wasting money and time before, but this is surely one of the toppers. Our streets, pay phones, bus stops and subway stations are filthy. Parts of the city are overrun with rats and Mayor Bloomberg was actually on TV talking about the jingle and the complaints he got about it - from a bunch of jerks that forgot what it was like to be a kid in NYC.

This guy is the most out-of-touch politician I've seen in my 51 years. I wish Mr. Softee would run against Mike Bloomberg in the next election - he'd get my vote.

Rich T.

Posted by: Rich T. at January 29, 2005 02:02 PM

Hey, Mr. Softee (Don't Play Your Song For Me)
"Mr. Tamborine man" Based on the performance by Bob Dylan
"Hey, Mr. Softee (Don't Play Your Song For Me)" Parody by Too Rich Olson

Ethno-Bluegrass-Collegists Alert!Seems to me that the gawdoffalest public tragedies, catasstropheys, and garden variety massacrees have often inspired Great Folk Songs, some of which find their way into the Bluegrass Music. Older folks might probly can recall some of them 60's tunes by Rob Dolan, The ChungKing Trio, Phyllis, Phallus & Fred and a hole raft more. All them Playlists on Bgrass-L could come in real handy, like, you could look 'em up! And lots of them songs ended up with tunes borried from somewheres else. To my mind, a real important new Folksong has recently come to the light in the Htfd., CT area where the TV and newspapers has been full of stories about a Mr. Softee driver who attacked a senior citizen with a baseball bat! Now I'm guessin' that there might could be some sort of connection between the alleged attack and the following song (which seems real likely to become a Bluegrass standard someday). I could be wrong, I ain't no real Ethno-Bluegrass-Collegist. Opposing opinions are solicited.

(tune: goes something like that old Rob Dolan "Mr. Gangrene Man" thing)

Hey! Mr. Softee, don't play your song for me,
It's way too loud for neighbors as you're drivin' through.
Hey, Mr. Softee, man don't play your song for me
Them high-pitched jingles jangle my old brains to glue.

I know that evening's Dreamcicle is melting in my hand,
Dripping on the sand, left me sticky here to stand - but not complaining.
Your aggressiveness amazes me, got bruses on my arm
I'm sounding the alarm and the summer city's no good place for dying.

Hey, Mr. Softee, don't swing that bat at me
Cause I complained your jingle was too loud for me.
Hey, Mr. Softee, man don't swing that bat at me
In the jingle jangle evening I'm hollerin' at you.

Play it softly and put down that big stick of yours
With neighbors lockin' doors, I'm nursing all my sores.
My arms are too numb to reach.
I'm thinking of maybe I'll be moving soon
I'm ready to go anywhere, I'm fixin' to move away.
I'm leavin here today � goin' to where those Softee trucks don't bother me.

Hey! Mr. Softee, don't play your song for me.
It hurts my ears � and for a week they're a ringing bad.
Hey, Mr. Softee, man don't play your song for me.
Why not get a little bell and we'll come a follerin' you.

Hey, Mr. Softee, man put away your bat.
Ain't no need for that � put on your paper hat.
Hey! Mr. Softee, man ring a little bell
Or you can go to hell, Good Humor Man!, we'll yell
In the jingle jangled evening I ain't a follerin' you.

Vincent Laforet/The New York Times
James Conway Jr. of Mister Softee joined witnesses speaking out against a proposed new noise code.

It Can Be an Annoying Jingle, Mister Softee Concedes at Hearing

Published: January 27, 2005

He was the star witness, and had come before the City Council to speak on one of the Bloomberg administration's more controversial proposals. With the news media closely watching, James Conway Jr., the scion of the family that founded Mister Softee, had an admission to make: the Mister Softee ditty, a staple of urban summer, could be so annoying that even he would not want it playing outside his house all day.

"Does it get stuck in your head occasionally?" he said. "We hope so. But the Mister Softee song as a threat to the health and welfare of New Yorkers? I don't think so."

The jingle, with its lyrics, "Listen for my store on wheels, ding-a-ling down the street," has become a flashpoint in the debate over revising the city's noise code. From dogs that bark too long to nightclubs that draw neighbors' complaints, the administration wants new restrictions, but it found wide-ranging opposition at yesterday's City Council hearing.

Also speaking out against the administration's plan was the New York Nightlife Association, which contended that some of the city's hottest nightclubs would become sitting ducks for a newly empowered noise police. And a coalition of labor unions protested that picket lines and demonstrations could also become easy targets.

These critics say that while they are not opposed to updating the code, the current plan is too vague and could impose an unnecessary expense and burden on many businesses while doing little to combat problems like early morning construction and noisy smokers gathered on the street.

"In the real world, the current code is a joke, and this is worse," said David Rabin, the co-owner of the nighclub Lotus and president of the nightlife association.

In a city with no shortage of complainers, excessive noise in any form - the ricochet of jackhammers, the thumping of club music, the drone of air-conditioners - has long fostered complaints. The Department of Environmental Protection, which oversees the noise code, receives an average of 3,500 complaints a month.

David B. Tweedy, the agency's acting commissioner, said the city wants to reduce sound levels by adopting more enforceable regulations on construction, air-conditioners, and bars and clubs that play music, among other things. To encourage cooperation, he said, no penalties would be levied for a first offense if the person or business agreed to make changes to comply with the code.

In addition, enforcement officers would be allowed to issue violations for "plainly audible" sounds coming from commercial music establishments, personal audio devices and exhausts on cars and motorcycles. Currently, they are required to register potential offenses on handheld decibel meters, which they say require frequent adjustments and are prone to error.

"This proposal provides a flexible approach to address the No. 1 quality-of-life complaint," Mr. Tweedy said. "And balances the need for construction, development and nightlife with the need for peace and quiet enjoyment for the city's residents."

But several council members expressed skepticism about the plan and pledged to vote against it. Councilwoman Margarita López, who represents the Lower East Side and the East Village, said the new regulations could be used to harass businesses and called the plan "a threat to the economic development of my community."

While the four-hour hearing was packed with critics of the city's plan, there were also many supporters, including frustrated residents and members of a group known as Noise, which is short for Neighbors Against Noxious Odors, Incessant Sounds and Emissions.

But it was Mister Softee that drew the most interest. Councilman Charles Barron of Brooklyn told Mr. Tweedy: "You and the mayor are very bold taking on Mister Softee. You're going to traumatize a lot of children in this city."

Mr. Conway said that the current plan would not only silence the 347 Mister Softee trucks that operate in the city but also disappoint more than 120,000 customers. Instead, Mr. Conway proposed a compromise: stop the music only when trucks are parked for a certain length of time.

Anything more, he said, would cause sales to plummet.

"To get a sense of what this would do to us, remember when you were a kid," he said. "You heard the jingle, you grabbed your money and you ran to the truck. The way you knew Mister Softee was in the neighborhood was the song."

Conspiracy Theories...

Springtime rolls around as it always will until nuclear winter, and that familiar, tinny music-box song of the Mr. Softee ice cream truck begins echoing through the neighborhood once again. Children will become excited as the tune rings in their ears, and they will uncontrollably need to run out to the truck to get their treats before it drives off to another block.

Pavlovian, you say.

It may be more than that.

Have you ever noticed that Mr. Softee has no phone numbers? No address? Or that the operators of Mr. Softee trucks are mysteriously oblique? Did you notice Mr. Softee doesn't collect sales tax? Have you ever wondered why?

Mr. Softee is really a covert government-run operation studying mind control and preparing to take control of America's young population. At a moment's notice, thousands of Mr. Softee ice cream trucks could come rolling down America's streets playing its innocent song. Children will run to the pied piper of ice cream and follow it with blind loyalty into the hands of government automatons, who will enslave America's children into mindless robots working toward the government's cause of pointless self-perpetuation and civil obedience.

Worse still, the profits from the Mr. Softee operation go toward the continued funding and growth of the government mind control research.

Stay tuned, or not...