A wonderful school-specific parody of We Didn't Start the Fire sung by the Cornell University Cayuga's Waiters. They're an all-male a cappella group whose name is a pun on a phrase from Cornell lore--Cayuga's Waters. I didn't go to Cornell, so I don't know if Cayuga is a lake, a river, or an incontinent professor... but the song is funny.

{{addendum: thanks to the many users who simultaneously /msg'ed me--Cayuga is a lake.}}

More accurately, it's a parody of going to school at Cornell, set to Billy Joel's great tune. It is sung a cappella, with no vocal percussion, but the recording I found of their performance (the one I'm getting the lyrics from) sounds like there's--gasp!--an acoustic guitar playing in the background... but we'll cut them some slack because, well, the song is really funny, even if you don't get the inside jokes.


Harry Truman, Doris Day, Red China, Johnny Ray,
South Pacific, Walter Winchell, Joe DiMaggio.
Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Studebaker, Television,
North Korea, South Korea, Marilyn Monroe.

Dragon Days, Superman, Tiegel Hall, Big Red Band,
Hunter Rawlings, Ivy Room, too much beer, there goes my kyoom...
Dijon Burger, blue light, come home hammered every night,
Manos' Diner, Theory Center, pukin in your dorm room.

We didn't go to Harvard!
Well, it's not our style, plus we don't wear argyle.
We didn't go to Harvard!
But upon reflection, it's 'cause we have no connections.
We didn't go to Harvard!
No, we're not that cocky, and they can't play hockey.

Magic Johnson comes to town, workers took the pumpkin down,
Rockefeller, auto-teller, fun in the sun,
Day Hall, VBR, what the hell's a Whiskey Bar?
Dunbar's, Rulloff's, Cornell Daily Sun.
Penn sucks, so does Brown, CT Jammers comes to town,
Baker Tower, Uris Hall, take a bus to Pyramid Mall,
Co-op, stealing fruit, grossed out by the fork chute.
Freshman chicks, party mix, look at all those bouncing tits!

We didn't go to Harvard!
No, we don't like crimson, 'cause we didn't get in.

Randy Stevens, Riley Robb, drive around in daddy's Saab,
State Street Diner, Huey Lewis, thirty feet of snow.
Poco Loco, stacks at Olin, Taco Bell, Ides for bowling,
North campus, west campus, aggies learn to hoe.

College town, Friday night? Read a book by E.B. White
Drink all night, sleep all day, don't let classes in the way,
Louie's Lunch kinda sucks, wait in line at Hot Truck,
Cornell night, slope days. No, the waiters aren't gay!
Course exchange, add/drop form, there's no drinking in the dorm
Mommy says, "Wear your fleece! Sign a real expensive lease!"
Six o'clock, Bell Tower, get into an after-hours,
Fake ID, take it away, what else do I have to say?

We didn't go to Harvard!
No we're not complaining, but it's always raining.
So we go to Cornell,
it's in the middle of nowhere, but we really don't care.
Here we are at Cornell!
We don't go to classes, we just sit on our asses.
Here we are at Cornell:
{spoken} - Such Diversity in One University!
Here we are at Cornell,
and when we are gone, it will still go on and on and on and on and on....

If any of you are Waiters or Waiter alums, or even Cornell people who recognize a bit of your school in the gibberish I've transcribed above, I'd love a /msg letting me know about any inaccuracies in these lyrics. Better yet, node what you know! I've hard linked stuff that I'll never be able to explain... help me!

If any of you are in Goucher Red Hot Blue, your off-campus performance of We Didn't Go To Hopkins at last semester's Mental Notes post-show party knocked me off my feet, even though I'd heard the Cornell version. JHU isn't the only school in Baltimore with an a cappella group, and you showed it! Please, please, please, post your excellent lyrics--I made you a nodeshell, just add content!

The Annotated We Didn't Go to Harvard

Foremost among Cornell University's many a cappella groups is Cayuga's Waiters (the name a pun on the opening line "Far above Cayuga's Waters" in Cornell's alma mater), and foremost among their songs is We Didn't Go to Harvard, a filk of Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire", maintaining the original concept of a string of notable events, names, and references absent of any context. Of course, this means that if you didn't actually go to Cornell, the song makes very little sense. So, below I will attempt to explicate the lyrics for the benefit of "outside" readers. The Waiters have been performing the song for many years now, though (understandably, given the short institutional memory of an undergraduate body) the lyrics change every few years. This version is the most recent one I can find, dating to 1998. It's worth mentioning before we start that a lot of Cornell students did not consider the school their first choice, and attended after being rejected by more "prestigious" schools - Harvard and Stanford most common.

Harry Truman, Doris Day, Red China, Johnny Ray,
South Pacific, Walter Winchell, Joe DiMaggio.

Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Studebaker, Television,
North Korea, South Korea, Marilyn Monroe.

    This section is lifted directly from the original song.

Dragon Day(1), Superman(2), Teagle Hall(3), Big Red Band(4),
Hunter Rawlings(5), Ivy Room(6), too much beer, there goes my 'cume(7).
Dijon Burger(8), blue light(9), come home hammered every night,
Manos Diner(10), Theory Center(11), pukin' in your dorm room.

    1. An annual celebration of Cornell's Architecture school, dating to 1901. In its modern incarnation, it centers around a large dragon built by the college's first-year students, which is paraded on a circuit around campus and then set aflame on the Arts Quad.
    2. Christopher Reeve, who played the title role in the Superman series of films, graduated from Cornell in 1974.
    3. One of the college's gymnasiums, also incorporating a fitness center and training facility - the gymnastics, crew, and swimming teams, among others, train here, and the Olympic-size swimming pool is used for the mandatory swimming tests of incoming freshmen.
    4. While the school's mascot is a bear, the actual names of its sports teams, as well as some other groups like the band, are "The Big Red". Technically speaking, Cornell is the only member of the Ivy League with a marching band, the other schools have "scatter" (or "scramble") bands.
    5. Formerly president of the University of Iowa, Hunter Rawlings was the president of Cornell from 1995 to 2003, after which he stepped down to a professorship in the Classics department, through which he had regularly taught classes during his presidency. Ridiculously tall, at 6 feet 7 inches.
    6. A dining hall in the Willard Straight student union, named for the crests of the 8 members of the Ivy League which decorate its walls.
    7. Cumulative Grade Point Average.
    8. The signature dish of the Ivy Room, consisting of two slices of bread, one hamburger patty, and dijon sauce.
    9. Blue light phones, a public safety initiative common to many colleges, consisting of a direct line to campus police marked by an easily distinguishible bright blue light. Ideally, from any point on campus, at least one and usually more such phones should be visible. At Cornell, the "blue light" name has also been attached to free late night bus service and an on-request escort program (no, not that kind of escort).
    10. A diner in Ithaca, New York (home of Cornell), popular among students.
    11. The Cornell Theory Center, a computing and computer modeling research center. Operated by a partnership between the university and a variety of big-name technology corporations, most of its work is conducted in a large brick and glass building on the edge of campus.

We didn't go to Harvard!
Well, it's not our style, plus we don't wear argyle.
We didn't go to Harvard!
But upon reflection, it's 'cause we have no connections.
We didn't go to Harvard!
No, we're not that cocky, and they can't play hockey. (1)

    1. Somewhat unusual in the world of college sports, hockey is the unquestionably dominant sport at Cornell, and the Harvard-Cornell match is the school's "big game" of the year, playing host to scores of Lynah Rink traditions.

Magic Johnson comes to town(1), workers took the pumpkin down(2),
Rockefeller(3), auto-teller(4), fun in the sun(5),
Day Hall(6), VBR(7), what the hell's a whiskey bar(8)?
Dunbar's(9), Rulloff's(10), Cornell Daily Sun(11).
Penn sucks, so does Brown(12), CT Jammers comes to town(13),
Baker Tower(14), Uris Hall(15), take a bus to Pyramid Mall(16),
Co-op(17), stealing fruit(18), grossed out by the fork chute(19).
Freshman chicks, party mix, look at all those bouncing tits!

    1. Earvin "Magic" Johnson gave a well-attended lecture at Cornell in the spring of 1998, the year this version of the song was written.
    2. In October of 1997, a large pumpkin was placed on the spire of the McGraw belltower, in a very clever prank which was not explained until years later. The initial placement was performed by an experienced rock climber, and Cornell, not wanting to risk sending workers onto the steep, gusty, 173-foot tall spire, initially left it to rot. Fears of the pumpkin eventually falling and striking a passing pedestrian (the tower abuts a heavily-trafficked walkway) eventually led the administration to use a construction crane to remove it the next March.
    3. Rockefeller Hall, an academic building housing most of the physics department of the Arts & Sciences college, as well as the departments of Asian and Near Eastern Studies.
    4. Wells Fargo's name for their ATMs, ubiquitous in Ithaca.
    5. An annual program held during the early school year and run by the Intrafraternity Council and Panhellenic Association in which the greek houses hold a "fair" of sorts on the Arts Quad, with free food, simple games, events, and music. In addition to the obvious and stated aims of having fun and creating a sense of unity, it also helps houses to contact and begin to woo freshmen prior to the official "rush" in January.
    6. Cornell's administration building, and one of the few structures at the school actually covered in ivy.
    7. WVBR, "Voice of the Big Red", a local independent radio station, 93.5 FM. Technically, the station is not even affiliated with Cornell, and maintains its own studios and transmission equipment in Ithaca.
    8. When Stella's, Collegetown's beloved self-awarely pretentious cafe expanded and opened a bar and club in 1997, it was called a "Whiskey Bar", though whiskey wasn't really represented any better than any other form of alcohol. The term has now fallen out of use.
    9, 10. Collegetown bars.
    11. Cornell's independent, student-run newspaper. Former staffers include Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
    12. Sporting chant employed in matches against either of the two schools, or for that matter, any opponent in general.
    13. The Connecticut Jammers, a quad rugby team. I'm not sure exactly what event or match this was referring to.
    14. Old dormitory complex on Cornell's West Campus, built of stone in a heavily gothic architectural style. DMan once lived here.
    15. Very ugly building housing the psychology, sociology, and Economics departments. Constructed in 1972, its steel exterior was supposed to turn blue with time and exposure to the elements. Unfortunately, the climate and makeup of Ithaca's atmosphere weren't right for this, and instead, it just rusted.
    16. The closest mall to Cornell. Unfortunately, very unimpressive. As a frame of reference, one of the anchor stores is an Ames. Contains the only indoor car dealership I've ever seen. Serious shoppers travel to the Syracuse Mall, an hour away, which pending upcoming expansion is slated to be larger than the Mall of America.
    17. May refer to one or more of three things. First - cooperative housing, of which there are a few examples at Cornell, some university-run, with around 20 students sharing a large house and the duties of cleaning, cooking, and the like. Second - Greenstar Cooperative Market, home of yummy organic food and good old fashioned university town hippie values. Third - programs, common in the engineering college and other career-focused departments, in which students are placed, through university connections and support, with companies in related fields for a semester or summer. Essentially, compensated internships.
    18. Technically speaking, students are only allowed to take one piece of fruit from a dining hall at any given meal, but crafty (and poor) students often stock up on more. Of course, this appropriation isn't always limited to fruit - Metacognizant, for example, has taken entire boxes of cereal on occasion.
    19. Metal chutes in dining halls, accompanying the dish return, for the deposit of used silverware. As these utensils are not first cleaned, as a day progresses the chutes begin to look more and more nasty - because of the popularity of the fork (almost everyone will use a fork at any given meal) and the design of its tines, the fork chute is typically the worst in this respect.

We didn't go to Harvard!
No, we don't like crimson(1), 'cause we didn't get in.

    1. Harvard's school color, as well as the name of its sports teams and some related institutions.

Randy Stevens(1), Riley-Robb(2), drive around in daddy's Saab,
State Street Diner(3), Huey Lewis(4), thirty feet of snow(5).
Poco Loco(6), stacks at Olin(7), Taco Bell, Ides for bowling(8),
North Campus, West Campus(9), aggies learn to hoe (Hotelies make the dough) (10).

    1. Associate Dean of Students at Cornell from 1987 to 1998, best known for his role as Director of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs.
    2. An obscure academic building mostly occupied by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
    3. Another cheap, popular local diner.
    4. The frontman of the News and erstwhile actor attended Cornell's Engineering school in the late '60s, but dropped out before graduating.
    5. Ithaca is known for both its harsh winters and its heavy year-round precipitation. Average yearly snowfall is actually 6.5 feet.
    6. A Mexican restaurant in Ithaca.
    7. Olin Library, one of the two major undergraduate libraries. The shelved collections are known as "the stacks", and there are a lot of them.
    8. Ides Bowling Center, another Ithaca location.
    9. The two residential areas of campus, home to dorms and fraternities. Since the 2001-2002 school year, all freshmen have lived on North Campus.
    10. Refers to stereotypes of two of Cornell's colleges, Agriculture and Life Sciences, in which the majority of students do not actually study farming, and Hotel Administration, widely considered a ridiculously easy college that does not fit in with the rest of the university, whose graduates nonetheless tend to have very high entry-level salaries.

Collegetown(1), Friday night, Read a book by E.B. White(2)
Drink all night, sleep all day, don't let classes in the way,
Louie's Lunch(3) kinda sucks, wait in line at Hot Truck(4),
Cornell Night(5), Slope Day(6), no the Waiters aren't gay!
Course exchange(7), add/drop form(8), there's no drinking in the dorm(9)
Mommy says wear your fleece(10), sign a real expensive lease(11)
Six o'clock, Bell Tower(12), get into an after-hours(13),
Fake ID, taken away, what else do I have to say?

    1. The name of the area of Ithaca bordering Cornell to the south. Mostly apartments and rental houses, with a small commercial and bar district. Most upperclassmen who are not members of a fraternity or sorority live here, and it is considered the social center of the University.
    2. Writer for The New Yorker and Harper's, author of Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little, and co-writer of The Elements of Style, White graduated from Cornell in 1921, having edited the student newspaper during his undergraduate years.
    3, 4. Two short order kitchen trucks with roots going back to the early 20th century , parked (for most of the academic year) on North and West Campus, respectively.
    5. A yearly event taking place during orientation in which several student performing groups (Cayuga's Waiters among them) put on brief performances for the incoming freshman class. The frosh are entertained, the groups plug for their auditions or membership drives, and just about every other group on campus stands outside and gives out flyers.
    6. Slope Day is an annual celebration of the last day of classes, in which several thousand people converge on the side of a hill and get spectacularly drunk. Even this couldn't get DMan laid.
    7. A brief event preceding each semester in which representatives for all the colleges' academic departments convened in the largest gymnasium on campus for the nominal convenience of undergraduates seeking to add, drop, or transfer courses before classes start. Always crowded, with huge lines and long waits, in practice the whole thing was a giant clusterfuck, and was eventually replaced by an online add/drop service.
    8. A form to add or drop courses, which must be filled out by the student, approval-stamped by all departments involved, and then filed at a central office.
    9. Official policy, as might be expected. This line usually gets a good laugh.
    10. Like I said, it's cold. Average January temperature is 21 degrees Farenheit.
    11. The quality of the Collegetown housing stock could charitably be described as "mixed", but by virtue of that supreme real estate quality, location, leases are fairly expensive.
    12. The same tower mentioned earlier. Students trained in the obscure mechanism for playing the chimes (of varying competence) give "concerts" three times a day, the music for which they select themselves, which can make for a pretty unique backdrop walking between classes. Cruel Angel's Thesis, anyone?
    13. Fraternities are typically bound by insurance contracts and university regulations to hire caterers when holding parties. These caterers usually take the job of checking IDs and distributing alcohol only to the over-21 crowd at least half-seriously, which is half more than anyone wants; in addition, catered parties usually have a cover charge. Blue laws dictate that services and bars both halt operations at 1 AM, however, and many fraternities continue with "after-hours" parties, which are noticeably freer, both in a monetary and libertine sense.

We didn't go to Harvard!
No we're not complaining, but it's always raining.
So we go to Cornell,
it's in the middle of nowhere, but we really don't care.
Here we are at Cornell!
We don't go to classes, we just sit on our asses.
Here we are at Cornell:
{spoken} - Such Diversity in One University!(1)
Here we are at Cornell,
and when we are gone, it will still go on and on and on and on and on....

    1. Widely ridiculed catchphrase/unofficial motto formerly used in official publications and recruitment efforts. Became a punchline of just about every musical, performing, or comedic organization at Cornell at one time or another.
And now you know.

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