Amy was familiar with this traditional kids’ song, previously popularized by Raffi, while co-teaching at a nursery school. She had taught me how the song went. In pulling the band together, “Down by the Bay” struck me as a number that would be a lot of fun when performed at a punk tempo with overdriven guitars. I made a demo at home and taught the band this song, which became a popular set closer for us at the end of a concert.
We had some great times in the family when I performed “Down by the Bay” for my daughter and nieces at my brother’s place and we gave all the grown-ups a turn to make up their own rhymes at the end of each verse, such as “Did you ever see an owl drying on a towel?” Amy and I proceeded to make up our own rhymes for our arrangement of the song, which made it onto the record.
In the Studio
Ross came up with a very clever vocal harmony where he imitates a trombone sliding down from one note to another as he sings the words “Down by the bay…” I also enjoy how the bandmembers’ vocal rhymes are artfully combined with special effects in spots. For me a highlight of the song is the moment when Judy asks “Have you ever seen a whale / shopping for a sale,” which our producer Dave transforms into a PA announcement in a department store, complete with chime bell and the slightly distorted sound that comes through a store sound system.