Novelty singles

If it were possible to go back to this very day in 1974 – if you could tolerate the striped sweaters and ponchos, that is – you would find Ray Stevens at No.1 with ‘The Streak’. (You’d have to go back to the USA, of course; go to Australia or Germany and you’d get the much worse ‘Seasons in the Sun’ by Terry Jacks. A fateful slip of the dial and you could end up in France listening to Abba’s ‘Waterloo’; proof, if it were ever needed, that time-travel could turn out to be very dangerous indeed.)

Ray Stevens had several other novelty hits around the world, making him an incredibly annoying man, and that’s without mentioning his ‘Jeremiah Peabody’s Polyunsaturated Quick-Dissolving Fast-Acting Pleasant-Tasting Green and Purple Pills’, mercifully better known as ‘Purple Pills’, although not really known at all. (Well, have you heard it?) It remains the second-longest title to chart in the Billboard Hot 100. The longest is that of an Eighties novelty pop group (of course, it would have to be an Eighties novelty pop group) from Holland called Stars on 45, with a medley of mainly Beatles songs that I won’t list, but did make No.1 in June 1981. They are credited with starting the medley craze and themselves followed up the success of their Beatles medley with similar offerings of songs by the Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder and – and I’m so sorry to mention them twice in one post – Abba. Stars on 45 can now be hired for weddings and Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, so you could get the chance to thank them yourself for creating said ‘medley craze’.

The best novelty record of them all, of course, has to be this one, which raised a lot of money for charity in 1991 and includes some incredibly well-known musicians (in fact, it was produced by Queen’s Brian May) and other familiar faces being good sports for a good cause: ‘The Stonk’.

Speaking of which, never mind Simon Cowell, where’s Brucie’s knighthood?

Comic Relief was the comedy world’s reaction to the famine in Ethiopia following the tremendous success of Band/Live Aid, which took place earlier in 1985. Launched from a refugee camp in Sudan on Christmas Day 1985, and best known now as Red Nose Day because of the assumed jollity of wearing a red nose in support of fundraising efforts, it remains one of the UK’s best-loved telethons. The concept has since been adopted around the world.

OK, come to think of it, ‘The Laughing Policeman’ pushes ‘The Stonk’ all the way.

I’m sure you all remember ‘Crazy Frog’ and ‘Witch Doctor’ in more recent years, even if you’d rather not.

These things are usually released at Christmas: Bob the Builder and Mr Blobby being two UK festive chart-toppers to annoy many a childless curmudgeon of the rigid view that a Christmas No.1 absolutely has to include sleigh bells jingling (ring-ting-tingling, too) and at least a solitary passing reference to either Santa Claus, reindeer, candy canes or snow. Jesus and goodwill to all men, even.

Some of these tunes had promising, albeit tasteless, titles – like ‘The Homecoming Queen’s Got a Gun’ by Julie Brown. Others, perhaps unjustly, now seem embarrassingly offensive when bathed in the light of modern-day political-correctness, such as ‘Ying Tong Song’ by The Goons and ‘Shaddap You Face’ by Joe Dolce. There have been parodies of worldwide smash hits (I’m thinking, of course, of Weird Al Yankovic), there’s that one about a lumberjack that won’t go away no matter how hard you often wish that it would, and another about a milkman called Ernie, the fastest in the West, mentioned only because it was written by the brilliant and not-at-all-politically-correct-these-days (was he ever?) Benny Hill – despite being yet another UK Christmas No.1 with nothing remotely Christmas-y about it.

Which did you like, which did you not, and which will you now search for on YouTube and play today to put a smile on your face, if only for three minutes or so? (A smile, quite possibly, you know it, to be replaced by the flushed cheeks and pursed lips of embarrassment should anyone catch you enjoying something that may be a bit naff.)

There’s a slight overlap with our discussion of one-hit wonders here, so cheat if you must, but do mention ‘The Monster Mash’.

Author: FEd

Features Editor of David Gilmour's official blog, The Blog ('Features' previously being its rather naff title), affectionately - or lazily - shortened to 'FEd'.

52 thoughts on “Novelty singles”

  1. ‘I’m a lumberjack and I’m OK’ springs to mind.

    Reckon DG would cover that?!!

    Happy Days,
    Simon J

  2. Pingback: Topsy.com
    1. I’m thoroughly ashamed to admit that my brain associates that song with Timmy Mallett and Bombalurina before Brian Hyland.

      Amusingly, and entirely accurately, it appears to have been considered one of TMF’s ‘Ultimate 100 Really Bad Songs’.

  3. I loved, “They are coming to take me away ha-ha!” (by Napolean the fourteenth?) That must be my favorite all time novelty song.

    I love “Je t’aime” where Jane Birkin fakes an orgasm. She does a great job.

    “You know my name, look up the number,” and Revolution Number 9 by the Beatles.

    “I’d Love Just Once To See You (In the Nude)” by the Beach Boys.

    Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah. Here I am at Camp Granada… My sister Nora and I loved that song when we were little.

    My Ding-a-ling–Chuck Berry. I remember singing that with all my buddies–yelling it out–screaming it, while we were walking home from school when we were 13.

    “The Fish Cheer”: “Give me an F, give me a U, give me a C…. What’s that spell?” I remember blasting that out the window at a party, with speakers pointed at the street, when I was 13.

    “Tip Toe Through the Tulips.” Tiny Tim.

    “Vatican Rag” by Tom Lerher. That was a favorite of mine. I was once an altar boy.

    1. The 1st song you mentioned (by Napoleon the 14th) had the same song on the “B” side of the single, only it played the whole song backwards!!

    2. “They’re Coming to Take Me Away” was about a guy losing his dog (just a little trivial trivia).

      My friend’s mom would not let us listen to this song back when we were around twelve or so.

  4. It’s really nice to hear Dave’s “Wish You Were Here” intro today on the website… The new “Blue” mix. Very, very nice.

    Thanks Mr. Gilmour.

  5. Sheb Wooley – Purple People Eater (1958)

    Oh my… may I listen to Animals now?

    Keep smiling,

    Kevin.

  6. The Stonk was really great. Never saw that before.

    How about Monty Python’s “My Brain Hurts” and The Twit of The Year Contest? 😛

  7. I’m not sure I fully understood the expression “Novelty singles” and the post, but if so, does this one count? – Steve Martin, ‘King Tut’. Anyway, it made me laugh a lot (Sorry, Toutânkhamon).

    And maybe one I already mentioned in the ‘One-hit wonders’ post: Napoleon XIV, ‘They’re coming to take me away’. Awful song, but funny name, ‘Napoleon XIV’. 😉

  8. Great topic. 🙂

    As for those videos that I still search for on YouTube… Definitely Weird Al. I’ve seen him in concert more than any other artist. Should I blush?

    Ahh, but what else? Steve Martin’s “King Tut” and any cover by The Chipmunks. Those definitely bring back memories.

    However, the one that I wish (with all of my heart) would go away: “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.” It makes my visits back to the States at Christmas painful indeed.

    Or how about Chuck Berry’s “My Ding-a-Ling”?

    shalom,
    Maegan
    @depptla

  9. I always thought this one was a ‘quality’ funny song: Purple People Eater.

    Anyway, while I was looking for that I got completely side tracked by Spike Milligan, thought this was really funny.

    ‘Seasons in the Sun’ seemed to be around forever at the time. It even got turned into a football song in Glasgow, along the lines of: “We had joy, we had fun, we beat Rangers 7-1, won the league, won the cup…” then it got a tad inflammatory.

  10. Another Brick in the Wall, Pink Floyd

    (Carlsberg don’t make singles, but if they did…)

  11. I think you can’t have a discussion about novelty songs without mentioning Dr. Demento. For those that don’t know, Dr. Demento is a DJ who specializes in novelty songs. He also released a few compilations of novelty tunes under his name. He is certainly the historian on anything you want to know about novelty songs and recordings. Anyway… here’s a list of a few songs that come to mind.

    Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah – Allan Sherman
    They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Ha – Napoleon XIV
    Shaving Cream – Benny Bell
    Disco Duck – Rick Dees & His Cast of Idiots
    Convoy – C.W. McCall
    Star Trekkin’ – The Firm (this is not the same band that featured Jimmy Page and Paul Rodgers!!)
    Beans In My Ears – The Serendipity Singers
    Debbie Gibson is Pregnant with My Two-Headed Love Child – Mojo Nixon and Skid Roper

    Of course there is also a huge list of Christmas related novelty songs.

    Thanks.

    Andrew

    I wonder how many here are familiar with all of these comical gems.

    1. Just for you. Notice that Winona Ryder is in the video and he also gets to poke fun at Rick Astley as well as Tiffany.

      Thanks.

      Andrew

  12. I loved “Sit On My Face And Tell You That You Love Me.” God, that’s a great one. Was it Elvis who knew all the lyrics to that song and sometimes sang it for fun?

    Anything by the Bonzos. I listen to all their albums every so often. “My Pink Half of The Drainpipe.” “Jollity Farm.” “Hello Mabel.” “The Strain.” There’s never been anyone even remotely like Vivian Stanshall. Christ he was good. People rave about Neil Innes, and I love him to death, and he’s even got a movie about him, but Vivian Stanshall was on a celestial plain all his own. He was so far above and ahead of everyone else, including Innes, there should be a thirty foot high marble statue of Vivian in his hometown… It makes me so mad that he completely self destructed while he was still so young.

    Rolling Stone once put the Bonzos on top of a list of “Groups that never should have broken up” right next to the Buffalo Springfield. And no one knows about the Bonzos anymore. It drives me nuts sometimes. “Mr. Slater’s Parrot.” I bet the members of Pink Floyd were big fans of the Bonzos and watched them when they used to be on, “Do Not Adjust Your Set.” I can just imagine a young David G. laughing out loud while he watched the Bonzos. If Pink Floyd liked Monte Python, which they did–financing the Holy Grail, I’m guessing the Floyd members were huge Bonzo fans. Eric Clapton loved them and had them open for one of his shows… They used to dance with mannequins and blow things up on stage.

  13. I’ve managed to cobble together another A TO Z list, albeit with some spurious links to some of the letters…

    Agadoo – Black Lace
    Birdie Song – The Tweets
    Convoy – C W McCall
    D.I.V.O.R.C.E. – Billy Connolly
    Eat It – Wierd Al Yankovic
    Funky Gibbon – The Goodies
    Gimme Dat Ding – The Pipkins
    Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh – Allan Sherman
    I Tawt I Saw a Puddy Cat – Mel Blanc
    Jive Bunny & The Mastermixers – Swing the Mood
    Kung Fu Fighting – Carl Douglas
    Lily The Pink – Scaffold
    Mouldy Old Dough – Lieutenant Pigeon
    Nelly The Elephant – Mandy Miller
    (Come) Outside – Mike Sarne & Wendy Richard 😕
    (The Laughing) Policeman – Charles Penrose 😕
    (Homecoming) Queen’s Got A Gun – Julie Brown 😕
    Right Said Fred – Bernard Cribbins
    Star Trekkin – The Firm
    Tiptoe Through The Tulips – Tiny Tim
    (I’m The) Urban Spaceman – Bonzo Dog Doo-dah Band 😕
    (Snoops) Vs.The Red Baron – The Royal Guardsmen
    Who Let The Dogs Out – Baha Men
    (A)Xel F – Crazy Frog 😕
    Ying Tong Song – The Goons
    (Drink up thy) Zider – The Wurzels 😕

    1. Ken, you’re a star.

      For some unknown reason, I’ve been humming ‘Gimme Dat Ding’ all morning (it would now have to be one of my Desert Island Discs, should I be banished to a desert island today and have time to gather ten songs and a book before I go). And, after the Mike Sarne/Wendy Richard song came up in a quiz recently, I’ve been trying to remember the title so that I can look for it, as I don’t think I’ve ever heard it before.

      Having now heard it, I never want to hear it again.

      I loved Jive Bunny, though; I had all the singles and a video.

      OK, that’s probably enough confessions for one day.

  14. “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” is enough to make me want to heave myself from the tallest building I can find. It was hilarious the very first time I heard it, in 1981 or so. But enough is enough! It doesn’t bear repeated listening, especially not hundreds of times between Halloween and Christmas every year!!

  15. What Lorraine said was very funny about making a sports song out of Seasons in the Sun.

    – Cruel to be kind by Nick Lowe
    – Hurts so Good by John Mellencamp

    If I could just get over there without them shooting down the plane… 😉 😀

  16. Supercalafrajalisticexpealadotious…

    (Something like that… you’ve heard it.)

  17. A seriously funny song this, “My Old Man’s a Dustman” by Lonny Donegan.

    Or “My boomerang Won’t Come Back” by Charlie Drake.

    I’m starting to warm to this now Fed.

  18. Wet Dream by Kip Addotta got airplay to the point of nausea on the Dr. Demento Show in the USA and I still love it!!

  19. – Shaving Cream by (can’t think of his name)
    – Pretty much anything by Weird Al Yankovich

    1. Shaving Cream by (can’t think of his name)

      Benny Bell, says Andrew. Listen to it here.

      Thanks for the laugh, both. :))

  20. *shudder* I have a weird and funny story about Shaving Cream which also was played ad nauseum on Dr. Demento: I looked it up JUST last month for the first time since my college years. That day it turned into a brainworm and later an awful headache (must have been an old drinking song), so I lay down, eyes closed while my husband watched Seinfeld: next thing I know I hear a loud “POP,” I start singing Shaving Cream like a drunken sailor, open my eyes, and there is Niles Crane, covered head to toe in… you guessed it! 😀

  21. Not really a novelty SINGLE per se, but I recently read about a novelty band!

    In an era when there were bands called The Who and The Guess Who, there was a one-off band called The Wonder Who. They were better known as Frankie Avalon and the Four Seasons. They released four singles under this name, three of which charted. It is notable for the fact that Valli uses a different voice than the one he is known for. This started as a joke in the studio when he was not satisfied with his vocals on a song, and sang it yet again in another voice just to make everyone laugh. When the record company heard it, they wanted to release it.

    The rest, as they say, mocks history.

  22. Off topic, but very much “the important stuff:”

    On TV, I’ve seen some “live” video of BP’s Gulf oil spill, so I tried to find it online. I found a government website with a message saying that the live video had been there but was moved to BP’s site. The BP site had a supposedly “live” video feed, but it appears to be edited from a number of cameras and does not look live at all — and the images are fuzzy and blurry, so that even if it is live, we’re not seeing much.

    Why was the feed moved from a government site to a BP site? Why is BP so determined to mislead us, not allowing us to view at length the same clear image that it put on TV (for only five seconds)? I have come to agree with one senator who said that through its actions (deceptive information, etc.), BP have lost all credibility. But our government, by allowing this to continue for a month and by not providing good information of its own, has also lost credibility. Who is in charge of this thing? Our government is deferring to BP which has not stopped the oil from spilling. Everyone is deflecting blame and responsibility to another party, and nobody is actually FIXING the PROBLEM!!!

    Meanwhile, all living things in the Gulf (an area teeming with life) are imperilled. Completely sickening!

    1. Further proof that the “powers” could care less… Money beats the environment every sing time… The real impact is being hidden, it’s much worse than the “media” is reporting… It’s an absolute tragedy.

    2. The Great Song of Indifference comes to mind, by Bob Geldof.

      From one who cut her teeth in the Gulf, I should keep a cool head, but let me say this: I have a growing sense of panic that the spill’s consequences will engulf ALL of us.

      The pictures of my now black barrier islands, clotted shores, marshes and silent skies where raucous birds used to be and no live fish in sight is just more than I can bear. The smelly byproducts benzene and xylene found in crude oil are toxic to inhale or come in skin contact with.

      When a hurricane comes, (not if but when), all that toxic goo will get pushed inland into freshwater areas: the storm paths could poison ponds, lakes and rivers from the whole Gulf of Mexico, possibly even into the Midwestern states.

      I just researched the currents: longterm, the oil could spread into international waters: when the plume gets into the currents (not if but when), it will loop over to Eastern Florida and Midatlantic shores, over to NW Africa, or down into the Antilles islands… whether floating on or below the surface, it will spread regardless of weather through diffusion, and I’ve seen the effects of as much as a teaspoon of oil on a pond.

      This is bigger than us all. The reservoir below is the size of Mt. Everest. If the oil isn’t stopped, and I’m having my doubts as to whether it can be, the gusher may just have to run its course, surface earthquakes could occur as the crust above subsides.

  23. ‘Lo All.

    I was going to remind “you all” of two Great British Talents: Hilda Baker and Arthur Mullard – “You’re the One That I Want!”

    I decided not to and settled for this pair… Cringe.

  24. Thank you, NY Dan. The Gulf of Mexico was my home. I know those marshes and islands all too well. I cried all night over this. I had many friends displaced from hurricanes from this region. And you’re right: government is just as much to blame as BP.

    I think we need to bring criminal sentencing with jailtime into the proceedings: monetary class action suits just are not enough to stop the cavalier attitude toward the natural resources that we ALL as a species depend upon.

    1. criminal sentencing with jailtime

      I second that motion!

      They have so much money that the fines involved are hardly going to affect the lives of those responsible. But if the Directors are threatened with jailtime away from their huge mansions then perhaps things may be a little different.

  25. FE’d and all:

    Thank you all so very much for all the wonderful laughs provided here. These should last me for a week of checking back to run the sites given.

    Things have not been going well with my 93 year old dad so I have just not been able to get to the blog for ages. His driving license expired in 2007! and yet he kept driving!! We had no idea until his doctor found this out. My sister and I took his keys away and suffice to say we are not the flavor of the month. He lives in another state and we are his only family, but he has told us he never wants to see us again.

    So the laughter has been most welcome and needed. Again, thank you.

    Hope everyone is well, sorry I have been so long out of the loop.

    All my best to you,
    Jan

  26. Hi,

    Last Spring I heard a song on the car radio about the price of Crude Oil. Unfortunately, the radio was on “seek”or “scan”, so I don’t know what station played. And that’s the only time I’ve heard it.

    It was by a guy, a novelty song, and it mentioned a camel and a camel jockey. The camel jockey was described as “not too short and not to stocky”. Does anyone know the name of it, please?

    Thank You,
    Kris

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