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Small town Mayor to Ben Folds: We will bury you

Benny2Last month, I had a chat with Ben Folds about his just-released record, "Way to Normal."

During the interview, we talked a bit about his song "Effington," which Folds said was inspired while driving by the small Illinois town of Effingham ("I screwed it up," he said of the song’s mistaken title) on his way to Normal, Illinois, hence the album’s title.

That got us thinking: what do the mayors of both burgs think of Folds’ musical exploration of their fair cities? Effingham Mayor John Lange offered a response via email Monday to Folds’ final "Effington" lyric "Please bury me/in Effington."

"We do have a city cemetery, so we can bury him here," the Mayor kindly offered.

Lange, to our surprise, didn’t seem overly offended by the songs oh-so-clever riffing of the town’s first two syllables throughout the track: "Are they effing in their yards/Effing in their cars/Effing in the trailers in the back roads and the parking lots of Effington?"

"I would be honored to meet Ben Folds personally and answer his question of [what] are they doing 'effing' in their yards, cars and anywhere else he has a question," said Lange. "If you see him again tell him to stop [this time] and I will buy him lunch."

Meanwhile, the Mayor of the larger of the two Illinois cities Folds used as inspiration, Normal, told us that Folds is not the first to use the city as a metaphor. "We get a lot of artists who are interested in Normal because of our name," Mayor Chris Koos said, who governs the town of around 50,000 (with an iron fist, we've heard!), last week in a phone call. “There are two or three indie films in production right now in town,” he said.

Sorry, Ben. So you are not the first artist to wonder what it’s like to live in Normal. "We’re this generation’s Peoria," Koos added, referencing the “will it play in Peoria?” catchphrase.

In any case, Folds’ "Way to Normal" might be responsible for a small, as-of-yet-unidentified uptick in Google searches on the city during the later half of this year around the time of the release of "Way to Normal," according to this Google Trends chart (or maybe there was a high school athlete who made the all-America team? Most of us here at Pop & Hiss are not too up on high school sports).

--Charlie Amter

Photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Getty

Comments () | Archives (4)

Your blog on our town of Effingham, IL should have mentioned Karen Hughes' book "Ten Minutes from Normal" - which is also named after Normal, IL.

I personally live in Normal, IL, and I have to say, it's not all that people make it up to be. We're just a "normal" town that happens to be named Normal. When I tell people that I live in Normal, IL, they think it's a joke and say, "Haha, very funny, but seriously, where do you live?" Yeah. I don't know, I appreciate that Folds' gave us some recognition, but in the end, we're just a twin city to Bloomington.

Ben played "Effington" as an impromptu song at his show in Normal, Ill. that night after he drove by Effingham. Imagine the reaction my friends, who were also at the show, and I had when we saw the album's name and heard the track. Still makes me smile.

Oh yeah, and take it from someone who grew up in Normal: it is anything but.

I'd love to see what would happen if an artist like Ben Folds drove by my small hometown of Dix, Illinois.


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