“Yellow ribbons around the old oak trees”

LANE: Write me. Constantly.
RORY: Every day.
LANE: Encouraging letters full of hope and see you soons.
RORY: I’ll be tying yellow ribbons around the old oak trees.

Rory is referencing the 1973 pop song Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Ole Oak Tree by Tony Orlando and Dawn, from the album Tie a Yellow Ribbon.

The song is tells the story of a man who has “done his time”, and is returning home to find out if his sweetheart still loves him. She is supposed to leave a yellow ribbon tied around an oak tree if the answer is yes, but to his delight he finds she has put out a hundred yellow ribbons to show how very welcome home he is. This is reminiscent of the “thousand yellow daisies” that Max gave Lorelai when he proposed.

Urban legend imagined that the man was a convict getting out of prison, but the lyricist L. Russell Brown said it was about a man returning from war, inspired by the folk tales of women wearing yellow ribbons during the American Civil War to show they were waiting for a Union soldier to come home. The war is presumably the Vietnam War, since the man is riding on a bus to get home.

Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Ole Oak Tree was a massive success world-wide, and the #1 song of 1973 in the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It is estimated that it has been played more than three million times on radio.

The Damned

LANE: I’m trying to find that subtle blend between not too cliché sounding traditional tunes with out of left field, should be standard.
RORY: Well, the Sinatra medley was great. I’d maybe skip playing anything else by The Damned.

The Damned are an English punk rock band formed in 1976, and founded by Dave Vanian, Brian James, Captain Sensible (Raymond Burns), and Rat Scabies (Christopher Millar). They were the first UK punk band to release a single, New Rose (1976), release an album, Damned Damned Damned (1977), and tour the United States.

They were also the first punk band to break up and make a comeback – they briefly broke up after their second album, then reformed without Brian James to release a third album in 1979. The band moved towards a gothic rock sound in the 1980s, becoming one of the first gothic rock bands, and a huge influence on the goth subculture, and hardcore punk.

I’m not sure which song by The Damned Lane might have chosen to play for the engagement party, but it could have been their first single, New Rose, which is a love song, and went to #81 on the UK charts. Lane may also have heard the 1993 cover version by Guns N’ Roses.

“Hey Mr DJ”

[Rory walks up to the table where Lane is in charge of the party music.]
RORY: Hey Mr. DJ, put a record on.

Rory is quoting from the 2000 dance-pop song Music by Madonna. The song opens, “Hey Mr. DJ, put a record on, I want to dance with my baby”. It’s the title track to her album Music, and was a massive hit around the world, going to #1 in the US, and numerous other countries, while also receiving glowing reviews from critics.

Bette Midler and Chicken Kiev

LUKE: And then after all that planning, the [wedding] reception will still be a disaster because no matter what you do or how carefully you plan, halfway through one of those nauseating Bette Midler ballads, someone’s getting drunk, someone’s sleeping with someone else’s wife, and someone’s Chicken Kiev is landing on the cake.

Bette Midler (born 1945) is an American singer, songwriter, actress, and film producer. She began her career on the stage, and was in Broadway shows such as Fiddler on the Roof in the late 1960s. In 1970 she began singing in a gay bath house, and built up a core following as a solo artist; she has released 14 albums and many of her songs have become hits, including ballads such as The Rose, and Wind Beneath My Wings (possibly the sort of songs Luke is thinking of). She made her film debut in 1979 in The Rose, and has starred in a number of films, such as Ruthless People (1986), Beaches (1988), and The First Wives Club (1996). In her career spanning more than half a century she has won three Grammy Awards, four Golden Globes, three Emmy Awards, and two Tony Awards, as well as selling over 30 million records worldwide.

Chicken Kiev is a Russian dish of chicken fillet stuffed with butter, coated in egg and breadcrumbs, and either fried or baked. It may date to the early 19th century, and is claimed to have been the invention of French chef Marie-Antoine Carême, who spent several months at the court of Tsar Alexander I. However, it only became commonly known in the mid-twentieth century. It is popular in the US, and often included on wedding menus.

Xuxa

LORELAI: Hey, whatever happened to Xuxa?

Xuxa – pronounced SHOO-sha – is the stage name of Maria da Graça Meneghel (born 1963), a Brazilian television host, singer, dancer, model, and businesswoman. She began modelling as a teenager, and became known in the US during the 1980s as a Playboy model.

Xuxa became a highly successful children’s television entertainer in Brazil in 1986, and by 1991 she was on the Forbes Rich List – the first Brazilian to join the list. Her albums were best-sellers through Latin America, Europe, and North America, and in 1993 she hosted an English-language version of her show called Xuxa on US television. Although the show was sold around the world, the taping was gruelling, and Xuxa withdrew due to stress-related illness.

Because she disappeared from US television in the mid-1990s, Lorelai wonders what happened to her. However, Xuxa has continued her career, and is still very successful; she is the richest t female entertainer in Brazil with a fortune of over one billion, and the second-highest selling female Brazilian singer. Twice winner of the Latin Grammy Award for Best Children’s Album, she is known as “The Queen of Children”.

“Happy happy, joy joy”

LOUISE: Ooh, spending the summer at Chilton. Happy happy, joy joy.

Louise is referencing The Ren & Stimpy Show, an animated television show which aired from 1991 to 1995 on Nicktoons, Nickelodeon’s cartoon channel. The show follows the adventures of a short-tempered chihuahua named Ren, and a dim-witted cat named Stimpy, and is notable for its absurdist tone, dark humour, adult jokes, violence, and slapstick. The show received widespread critical acclaim after its run and gained a cult following, becoming highly influential on the development of animated shows.

Happy Happy, Joy Joy is a song used throughout the show, in different contexts, with music by Christopher Reccardi and lyrics by Charlie Brisette and John Kricfalusi. It is one of the best-known songs from the show, and a favourite tag line for Ren & Stimpy fans.