From the recording The Wizard of Menlo Park

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The Wizard of Menlo Park

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THE RECORDING

Dean Johanesen - Vocals, guitar, Keyboard
Dan DeGregory - Drums
Rob Pastore - Upright Bass
Jay Leaman - Trombone
Tom DaMato - Trumpet

* Chris Sgammato plays Clarinet on the piece as the song fades out.
* Snippets of the instrumental theme "Good King Rex" are utilized with different instruments representing the characters form the stories on the record. This was a nod to Sergei Prokofiev's "Peter and The Wolf."

Recorded, mixed and mastered at Zen Recording by Steve Connelly.

Single and album artwork by Beatrice Coron - https://www.beatricecoron.com/
Graphic design work by Max Kelly

Thomas Edison speech used under public domain. The line in the speech about "control over the forces of nature" struck me in how it pertained to this incident with Topsy.

THE WIZARD OF MENLO PARK - THE STORY BEHIND THE SONG

The Wizard of Menlo Park is about Topsy The Elephant and Thomas Edison as well as the history of the War of Currents. Sara Gruen's book “Water For Elephants” inspired my research into the history of Topsy, Edison, Tesla and Westinghouse.

Gruen's historical fiction approach to telling a story encouraged my songwriting approach to using real history as inspiration for songs.

Topsy was an Asian elephant brought to the US after birth and touted as the first elephant born in America. It was believed that she was abused by her trainers which lead to her "bad" elephant reputation. She did kill a spectator at a circus event and was sold off to Coney Island's Sea Lion Park. Topsy was utilized in remaking Sea Lion Park into Luna Park on Coney Island.

As a thank you, her "drunken" handler and the "park's new publicity-hungry owners" Frederic Thompson and Elmer "Skip" Dundy planned to to advertise the opening of their new park, by euthanizing Topsy in a public hanging and charging admission to see the spectacle.

Eventually (and insanely) the event went from public execution to a limited invited guests and press only. Thompson and Dundy toyed with the idea of using a more sure method of strangling the elephant with large ropes tied to a steam-powered winch with both poison and electrocution planned as backup. A measure supported by the ASPCA by the way.

Eventually the electrocution and poison method won over.

Edison's company filmed the electrocution of Topsy the Elephant. It has been reported that Edison was also using AC current to electrocute stray animals to prove that DC current was safer to use than AC current from his rivals Tesla and Westinghouse. From my understanding Edison also financed one of the first electric chairs.

All of these stories are behind this song, although not fully communicated to save from being too graphic about Topsy’s unfortunate end.

FOR LINKS TO LEARN MORE VISIT THE FOLLOWING
Topsy - visit - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Topsy_(elephant)
The War Of Currents - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_of_the_currents
Edison Financing the Electric Chair - https://www.businessinsider.com/edison-financed-the-electric-chair-2014-7

Lyrics

THE WIZARD OF MENLO PARK

The Bigger they are the harder you’ll fall
And fall you will under their spell
Those giant eyes see more than I
They’ll remember it too Watch what you do

Bulls on parade What a mess you’ve made
No one is safe from what you’ve cre - a – a - ted

And the wizard of Menlo park sleeps tonight with death on his mind
And the beast whose guilt is least is resting blind to his own crime


Those African Grays Asian or Indian made
They long for the days of their homeland grazing
They’ll carry that weight and lift that bail
They stand tail to tail this burdened beast never fails

Bulls on parade What a mess you’ve made
No one is safe from what you’ve cre - a – a - ted

And the wizard of Menlo park sleeps tonight with death on his mind
And the beast whose guilt is least is resting blind to his own crime

That pachyderm will never learn
He’s not the only one who’ll burn...