A parody Mötley Crüe cover song making fun of the Canadian Navy got high-ranking officers into such a tizzy that they created a team to “ascertain the identity” of the sailor who created it.
The Ottawa Citizen first reported on the Navy’s failed investigation of the crooner of the navy-tinged Crüe hit. An email chain obtained via an access to information request was posted online and it chronicles how unhappy navy brass were with the mystery man's performance, and how they threatened their sailors with punishment if they shared the video.
The video, called “Smokin’ in the Wardroom”—a direct play on Brownsville Station's original, but later Crüe-covered, “Smokin' in the Boys Room,” was posted in February 2020, and features a man from the shoulders down playing guitar and singing. (VICE World News realizes the Brownsville Station song came first but enjoys the Crüe version more so that’s what we’re going with.)
The ditty’s title is a direct reference to an 2020 incident where an executive officer on one of their ships dismantled the smoke/heat detectors in the wardroom (the living quarters for officers on a ship above a set rank) so he, and other officers he invited into the room, could hack darts in peace. The incident caused the navy some embarrassment and Lt.-Comdr. John Forbes, the officer responsible, was fired for his conduct. The song also references an incident in 2017 where a female officer was reprimanded for grabbing several of her coworkers’ genitals.
While the song has been removed from YouTube, a version of it can be found on Vimeo.
"Smoking in the wardroom. Nobody will see," he sings. "If I'm smoking in the wardroom, the rules don't apply to me."
After the video was posted, it didn’t take long for those in command to take notice and get annoyed. In the email chain, which gets rather lengthy, one officer wrote that it “looks like the RCN (Royal Canadian Navy) chief is very unpleased.”
According to the chain, officers set about to find out who this man was, putting together a team to “ascertain his identity.” They saw the video was posted by a user named Ryan McRyan and “ran a quick search to see if [they] could possibly ID the individual through his social media footprint" but didn’t turn up much.
Other efforts to deduce the true identity of McRyan (whose name shockingly seems to be a pseudonym), such as looking at his clothing to see if it was standard-issue by how many pockets it had, also failed.
"Although a team is attempting to ascertain the identity of the person, it is unlikely to gain results," says an email briefing an officer on the situation.
VICE World News reached out to a Reddit user named Ryan McRyan who purports to be the songster that so irked the navy but did not receive a reply. Shortly after the video went up in February, he posted on Reddit, “The heat is on and they may be on to me. For now, I feel it's best for me to fade back into the shadows” and disappeared off the site. He reappeared on Reddit after the Citizen posted the story on Tuesday and wrote, “Could you guys keep it down, it's merit board season.” The name of the song and the singer have become a bit of an inside joke on the CAF subreddit.
One officer said the lyrics “would require fairly in-depth knowledge of the events in order to draw the linkages” and therefore they figured it was an “inside joke": and McRyan was "someone currently serving in the military."
While other officers acknowledged the song's humorous intent, the joke didn’t leave them chuffed. They made sure to email their underlings the navy’s rules of conduct and threatened them with punishment if they shared the video.
“I want to make it clear that anyone who shares this video is also guilty and can be punished,” says one email. “If anyone has ‘accidentally’ shared the video, I would recommend they remove it.”
Not all the officers on the email chain were displeased with the video. One of the chiller officers on the chain suggested the video should be "required viewing" for officers who may let their status go to their heads and that "sometimes it's healthy for us to eat a little humble pie." His comments were seemingly ignored.
Another thought it was a great opportunity for sailors to “create their own YouTube, TikTok, or whatever videos” as this is how “20-year-olds communicate now. This is how we need to communicate with them.”
“A sailor, in front of a camera, with a guitar singing (educating, really) about the orders (the ones the higher-ups were using to threaten the low ranking sailors with) below and/or how being a sailor is awesome,” the sailor wrote. “Make it a contest and invite units to submit.”
“Smokin’ in the Boys Room” is a perfectly fine song originally released by Brownsville Station in 1973, hitting number three on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, and was then covered by Mötley Crüe in 1985. While the song was Mötley Crüe’s first major U.S. hit, this writer (who would like to go on the record as having seen the Crüe three times in the 2000s and is, therefore, somewhat of an expert) is adamant the song is just OK and sits square in the middle of the Canon of Crüe.
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