Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Behind the Music

A few years ago, I competed in my first triathlon (okay, it was a sprint distance, but it still counts...) The running leg took us along a windy trail, and there were several volunteers helping the racers navigate the course. One was a young man who was barely twenty years old and was ringing a cowbell. I couldn't resist the temptation. "More Cowbell!" I yelled to him and much to my satisfaction, other runners joined in my juvenile antics. "I gotta have more cowbell!" The poor kid, who I suspect was a bit hungover, looked so confused and probably had no idea why everyone wanted him to keep ringing the damn cowbell.  

The legendary "More Cowbell" sketch (if you haven't ever seen it, you must click here to watch) aired on Saturday Night Live on 8 April 2000. The concept was borne from the brilliant mind of Will Ferrell, who was listening to the song 'Don't Fear the Reaper' by Blue Oyster Cult. He picked up on the innocuous cowbell interlude, and took note that the last time he checked, we don't have many songs that feature the cowbell. Ferrell realised that for this cowbell player, that small solo was really a big deal. So much so, that it could be a disservice if he didn't play the hell out of the cowbell. Ferrell conjured a factious member of Blue Oyster Cult and wrote a sketch that would capture his moment in the spotlight.

The clip went viral, as they say, and over fourteen years later, the cultural impact is still prominent. Many of the participants noted that they seem to have gained more recognition for the cowbell sketch than other work they've done, and various entertainment sources have ranked it among one of the best SNL skits of all time. Yet there is an interesting 'behind the music' story to this sketch. When Will Ferrell first presented the idea to his fellow writers, there wasn't much enthusiasm or support behind his creation. The notion was tabled for a while, until Christopher Walken was booked as the guest host. Some thought that Walken would fit the role as a famed producer named Bruce Dickinson (yes, the Bruce Dickinson) and could pull off the sketch. They were right; Walken absolutely nails it (I couldn't find the reference, but I think I read that he ad-libbed the line 'I've got a fever... and the only prescription... is more cowbell'), but ultimately it is Will Ferrell who steals the scene. Perhaps realising that his tribute to an underdog, was truly his big moment. Yet, even in their rehearsal, Jimmy Fallon though the bit didn't seem that funny.  Then Will Ferrell changed into a smaller and tighter shirt, and such a slight difference had such a significant impact that Fallon could barely contain his laughter during the live performance.

Back in the mid 70s, in a real life recording studio in London, Gordon Sumner, Andrew Summers and Stewart Copeland were laying down some tracks while Stewart's older brother Miles Copeland III was listening. Miles was doubtful about the band's potential and was very reluctant to provide funding for their first record. After drawing inspiration from watching a brothel in the red light district of Paris, Gordon composed a song about a man who falls in love with a prostitute. For various reasons, the group had mixed feelings about the song and were considering dropping it. Yet, on this particular evening, the artist now known as Sting, decided they would perform 'Roxanne'. "You've written a classic!" declared Miles Copeland and that night he signed a record deal with A&M Records for the group who would call themselves The Police.

Meanwhile, in the transfer suite at XYZ Fertility Centre, we learned that our final embryo was listed as a grade 2 and required assisted hatching. Husband lost all hope when he heard that news. "Not so fast.." I advised him. After our first two embryos appeared to have the most potential, even though one had a fatal flaw. The Chosen One couldn't deliver. "I'm so over embryo grading." If we go though another fresh cycle and have more than two embryos with normal PGD results, I'm going to ask the embryologist to make her selection using eenie-meenie-miney-moe. It all seems equally arbitrary. I know of four bloggers who scored with their clean out the freezer FETs. Is there any validity to the grading or are they just saving the best for last?

I think Husband would have preferred to start fresh with a new stimming cycle than pin our hopes on transferring this remaining embryo. He didn't see it as an either or decision, since the final embie would always be available for us (providing it survived the thaw). He was pissed that I didn't consult his availability when I scheduled my WTF appointment. I know I should have, but in my defense, I was working within a narrow window of time and I knew I needed to get in before my CD3 so we wouldn't have to wait another month. When I mentioned that Dr Somebody that I Used to Know was advising a transfer of the final embie, Husband responded "Well, of course. He wants to drain every penny he can from us!" Interesting. When my RE initially thought the final blast was of poor quality and suggested a fresh cycle in lieu of a transfer, Husband responded "Well, of course. It's more money for him." The guy can't win. I just can't believe that the guy who refused to pay our 2012 tax return with a credit card as it would cost an extra 78 cents and decided to mail a cheque to the IRS (when you factor the price of a first class stamp, the total savings was only 32 cents, but we're now spending an extra $19 per month on Lifelock after the return was stolen from our mailbox and we became victims of identity theft) would be willing to spend upward of twenty grand rather than $3,368.

Perhaps he has an intuitive sense that this transfer won't work, just as I had a strong premonition that our pregnancy after IVF#1 would result in a miscarriage. I'm trying to figure out how not to be pissed if this FET produces another BFN. These behind the music stories seem to illustrate that there is more involved than a simple game of high risk and high reward. Sometimes we're unaware of potential that is sitting on our self gathering dust. Sometimes it's a matter of waiting for the right opportunity and right conditions. Sometimes a small adjustment can have a big impact. I'm just hoping that somewhere between cleaning out the freezer or modifying my protocol with a new stimming cycle, our greatest hit is out there.


  1. I just used the "more cowbell" reference in an email blast I wrote at work this week! Such a classic, and it never gets old. And that's a lot for me to admit, because in general I am decidedly not a Will Ferrell fan.

    I hope your hubby is wrong and that the stars align just right this time. No doubt, it does seem like even the slightest variations can make a huge impact.

  2. Are you kidding me, the "I've got a fever" line was ad-libbed? It's the best part of that whole sketch, apart from Will Ferrell's too-short shirt as he gyrates around the room. You shouting at that race volunteer convinces me more than ever that we'd be besties in real life...that's totally something I'd do!

  3. I love cowbell so much. And really, Jimmy Fallon didn't think it was funny? There's only a handful of sketches in his entire tenure on SNL that he didn't laugh the whole way through.

  4. The cowbell is prominent in salsa music and salsa dancers never seem to tire of saying "more cowbell!" hahaha

    I hope your husband's intuition is wrong and this little embryo is your biggest hit :)

  5. Your wealth of knowledge and story telling ability continues to blow my mind. I am strongly of the belief that embryo grading doesn't really matter. One of my babies wouldn't be here if they went by their normal freezing standards. They only froze that embryo because the other one made the grade and they typical freeze them in pairs. Your husbands response to both scenarios is kind of funny. You are right. He can't win! lol Hoping for the best possible outcome for you here.