Bring Sally up
And bring Sally down
Lift and squat
Gotta tear the ground

Ol' Miss Lucy's dead and gone
Lef' me here to weep and moan...

But is that it, really?

Green Sally up
And Green Sally down
Last done squat
Gotta till the ground

Ol' Miss Lucy's dead and gone
Lef' me here to weep an' mourn...

...and the variants multiply.

If you're a modern music listener, you're probably familiar with this mondegreen-fodder via the hard mix action of Moby, who slammed this short catchy rhyming chant onto the very beginning of the soundtrack to Gone in Sixty Seconds, a paean to fast cars, L.A. car culture, and the 1967 Shelby Mustang GT500.

Lyrics sites on the internet disagree wildly about what the lyrics actually are. Moby isn't saying in any really obvious way, although (fair warning) I did little research on this other than to look at his website and paw through some CD booklets.

I have a serious problem with this song. When I come across it on shuffle play on my iPod when in my car, I find myself reaching over to click the 'back' button repeatedly. I have completed three-hour car trips with just this song playing, on repeat, over and over. Providing rhythm to the night drive, it'll reverberate through my forebrain; I'll swear that the slight pulsing of my foot on the accelerator will in fact mesh with some secret desire of my car, deep in its Teutonic heart, to conform to a clockwork beat. The car will not rev, no matter how faintly, unless I move my foot the exact same amount but at a different beat. If the music is playing when I'm driving, Darth and I are synced up in SMPTE, the other version: Synchronic Motion Per Total Echo.

Ninety-five MPH.

Green Sally Up
And Green Sally Down
Lift and squat
Gotta tear the ground

((beat//beat//five seconds * 2kRPM * 8 cylinders / 4 strokes = 416.7 injector cycles//beat//beat//stoichiometry in gasoline perfection//green//green//go//go//...))

Green Sally Up
And Green Sally Down
Last one start
Gotta till the ground

What the hell is it? One website, cocojams.com, tells us1 that the song is likely based on a Southern Negro Work Song (read: slave chant) which is called 'Green Sally Up' and can be found on a disc by Alan Lomax2. I can't locate that disc on Amazon.Com, but then again, that only makes it seem more authentic. Conjecture offered there is that the song is a work song to time the husking of corn (Green Sally for an unhusked ear). Ol' Miss Lucy would have been the slaveowner's wife, allowing those who liked her to express that fact as well as vice versa.

Where did Moby get his sample? I'm not sure, but a playlist from U.S. Radio station WRVU makes reference to the song "Green Sally Up" sung by Jesse Pratcher, Mattie and Maey Gardner, off "Sounds of the South-4" which I'll take to mean disc 4 of 4 of the Lomax set.

Google Books offers a brief reference. In "A Dictionary and Catalog of African-American Folklife of the South" by Sherman Pyatt and Alan Johns, on page 21 of the Dictionary, there is a reference to it. It is called a 'clapping game' which had lyrics beginning with "Green Sally Up, Green Sally Down, Green Sally bake her possum brown."

I admit, though, that if that's the case, whoever selected the song for Gone in Sixty Seconds has performed some actual alchemy. The song makes perfect sense to me as a slave work song. It also synchromeshes perfectly with my internal image of the inside of a powerful internal combustion engine, surrounded by the other bits of PFM that make up the modern automobile. Add tarmacadam. Add gasoline. Add a bit of oil. Add some water, and bam.

Press the pedal.

Watch the lights swing past the dark slab of windshield, orange/brown sodium swaying in the night under the engine's control, one...two...three...four...five...green sally up...green sally down...lift and squat gonna tear the ground...

1 - http://www.cocojams.com/green_color_up.htm
2 - Alan Lomax, "Sounds of the South" (Atlantic Records, 1993). Disk 4.