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’.