Happy Friday, kids! What say we get the weekend started with a fresh Weirdify playlist? This week’s theme: novelty songs.
Now in a way, nearly everything we’ve ever posted on TWBITW is a novelty song. But more precisely, a novelty song is any tune that’s more about making the folks laugh than it is about making any lasting artistic impression. Whether it’s a one-off by an otherwise serious (or at least semi-serious) band, or one of many from a master of the form (Barnes & Barnes, we bow down), a good novelty song should exist in its own little universe, totally apart from any considerations of what’s hip or trendy or even in good taste.
Also—and this may be a totally arbitrary distinction, but it feels important to me—novelty songs and comedy songs are not quite the same thing. This goes back to the “own little universe” thing: Comedy songs are usually created in response to or in parody of something, but novelty songs stand on their own. Also, novelty is weirder than comedy, I think. So no Lonely Island, no “Weird Al,” no Flight of the Conchords, not even any Tom Lehrer, excellent though all those artists are. They just don’t quite fit with the rest of this playlist.
OK, Jake says I should shut up now and get on with the music. So fire up the ol’ Spotify and let’s get novel:
1. Lonzo and Oscar, “I’m My Own Grandpa.” I decided to class things up around here a little and start with one of the classics. Lonzo and Oscar were a jokey country duo who scored big in 1947 with this, their one and only hit. Side note: This song was performed on the first season of The Muppet Show in 1976. Even after the Civil Rights era, incest jokes and making fun of hillbillies were still considered good family entertainment.
2. Ween, “Piss Up a Rope.” Gene and Dean Ween mostly played it straight on their Nashville album, 12 Golden Country Greats, but fortunately they decided to have a little fun with this boot-scootin’ kiss-off to a woman who “takes all my money and leaves me no smokes.” Who needs that kind of ag?
3. The Tiger Lillies, “Piss on Your Grave.” While we’re on the subject of pissing…
4. Evelyn Evelyn, “Elephant Elephant.” Amanda Palmer, one half of this fake-Siamese-twin duo, just raised a million bucks on Kickstarter. That’ll buy a lot of elephant feed. Is there such a thing as elephant feed? Anyway, Palmer definitely ain’t singin’ the…
5. The Legendary Stardust Cowboy, “Credit Card Blues.” It’s an anthem for our times, really.
6. Red Shadow, the Economics Rock n Roll Band, “Gone, Gone, Gone.” As is this. Actually, this song is from the 1970s, when ripping off the Beach Boys was probably seen as “edgy.” Speaking truth to power was so much more adorable back then.
7. Wild Man Fischer, “Flaming Carrot Theme Song.” Did you know Frank Zappa’s semi-homeless protege once wrote a theme song for the Flaming Carrot comic book? Us neither, till we started researching this playlist. But we’re glad he did.
8. Klaus Nomi, “Rubber Band Laser.” Even by the bizarre standards of New Wave’s greatest counter-tenor, this track from his unfinished opera, Za Bakdaz, is pretty out there.
9. The Zambonis, “Zamboni Race in Outer Space.” It’s about drag racing ice-resurfacing machines—in space. Any questions? Too bad, we’re moving on anyway…
10. The Emotron, “Drink a Beer for Me.” A heartwarming song about one man’s love affair with beer.
11. Fred Schneider, “Monster.” Every time B-52′s frontman Schneider opens his mouth, it’s a novelty song. This one is especially silly though. Spoiler alert: It’s not actually about his penis.
12. Barnes & Barnes, “Boogie Woogie Amputee.” This duo is deservedly famous for their classic novelty tune, “Fish Heads.” But did you know they also recorded this totally awesome and slightly offensive ode to a girl who likes to go out dancing and “shake her stump”? Well, now you do. You’re welcome.
13. Twink, “Tiny Footsteps.” Toy pianos and squeeze toys gettin’ down with their bad selves. Fact: If you play this for dogs and/or babies, they will totally lose their shit.
14. Tiny Tim, “I Got You Babe.” If you hear the words “novelty song” and don’t immediately think of Tiny Tim, there might be something wrong with you.
15. Crispin Glover, “Clowny Clown Clown.” Yes, this creepiest actor this side of Gary Busey released an album in 1989—produced by Barnes & Barnes, no less. It’s called—let me make sure I’ve got this right—The Big Problem ≠ The Solution. The Solution = Let It Be. There was even once a phone number you could call if you thought you had figured out The Solution, but sadly, it’s been disconnected, along with Glover’s career. These things happen.
16. Jim’s Big Ego, “Bite Me (Hard).” Back when I lived in Boston, Jim Infantino and his band Jim’s Big Ego were one of the city’s most entertaining local acts. Most of his stuff is more clever than this, but for some reason that “Should I change my whole way of being?” line gets me every time.
17. The Upper Crust, “Little Lord Fauntleroy.” An AC/DC-style tribute to that really stupid children’s book your grandmother gave you for your eighth birthday. No? Just me? OK, moving on…
18. Schwarzenator, “Conan: The Destroyer.” An Iron Maiden-style tribute to the least necessary sequel of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career. More unnecessary than Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, you ask? I say yes and I stand by that opinion. Bring it, film nerds.
19. Rasputina, “My Captivity by Savages.” A dramatic reading of a 19th century bodice ripper about a poor blonde settler girl enslaved by Injuns. See, kids? Your local library can be fun.
20. Slim Galliard, “Fuck Off (The Dirty Rooster).” A classic novelty platter from the man best-known for “Flat Foot Floogie (With the Floy-Floy)” and for making up a fake language called “vout” that mostly seems to have been a way to get dirty words past the radio censors. Another version of this song called “Chicken Rhythm” actually turned up on a compilation called Jazz for Kids. So yes, parents who play Jazz for Kids, you are subliminally telling your children to fuck off. Just thought you should know.
21. Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, “Constipation Blues.” Screamin’ Jay is, of course, the man behind “I Put a Spell on You.” But his other crowning gift to popular culture has to be this epic 1970 ode to taking a long, slow, painful dump. Stay with it till about the three-minute mark…that’s when he really start squeezing out greatness. (Shout-out to Bobo Golem Soylent-Greenberg for reminding us about this track and about the existence of Slim Galliard. You, Bobo, are a gentleman and a scholar!)
Hope you enjoyed this week’s playlist.
It’s been too long since we posted a new Weirdify playlist, don’t you think? Let’s make up for lost time with an extra long mix for your first of what will hopefully be many backyard summer shindigs. Fire up the grill and dig in, kids. Memorial Day is just around the corner.
1. Signmark feat. Osmo Ikonen, “Speakerbox.” We’ll kick things off with our favorite feel-good jam from the world’s only (as far as we know) deaf Finnish rapper, Signmark. No, this song isn’t actually the least bit weird, but you don’t want to start your guests off with Caroliner, for Christ’s sake. Let the poor people ease into it.
2. Here Come the Mummies, “Freak Flag.” OK, now we’re getting at least slightly weird, courtesy of Tennessee’s most decomposed funk band. We’ll have a Mothership connection in 3, 2, 1…
3. Parliament, “Rumpofsteelskin.” If all you really know about George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic is “Give Up the Funk,” you’re probably wondering why we included them on the Weird List in the first place. This song should help clear that up.
4. That 1 Guy, “Funk Bean.” Nearly as funky as a fully operational Mothership, Mike Silverman’s Magic Pipe can summon Primus fans from miles around like a giant dog whistle. Even to non-Primus fans, it’s pretty groovy. (Also, apologies to That 1 Guy for jacking the cover art to his album Packs a Wallop! for this playlist. Don’t wallop us with your Magic Pipe, K?)
5. Fol Chen, “Cable TV.” Because nothing says summer like a song about watching Pay-Per-View in a fleabag motel. Or does that say “meth deal”? Either way, it’s got a beat and you can bop to it without spilling your margarita.
6. Hank3, “Six Pack of Beer.” After much deliberation, we decided to spare you and your BBQ guests the mighty racket that is Hank3′s cattlecore (that’s cattle auctioneers set to speed metal, y’all) in favor of this pickin’ and grinnin’ ode to the beverage of choice at BBQs everywhere.
7. Bob Log III, “Shake a Little, Wiggle It and Jiggle It Too.” The other great “III” on our Weird List, Bob Log III dresses up like a down-on-his-luck Evel Knievel and plays gutbucket slide-guitar blues, preferably while a willing young lass perches on his knee. And yes, he’s our hero.
8. tUnE-yArDs, “My Country.” This song from Merrill Garbus and her oddball, lo-fi jam band is perfect for Fourth of July parties. Sort of.
9. Dolchnakov Brigade, “Dating in Space.” It’s about time in the party for a little jam for the ladies, don’t you think? This DEVO-esque electro-pop freakout from our favorite pseudo-Russian Brooklyn band is just the ticket for getting the girls moving, at least in a confused, slightly epileptic way. (Can you be only “slightly” epileptic? You can when Dolchnakov Brigade is playing.)
10. DEVO, “Beautiful World.” Name-checking DEVO reminds us—every good party mix needs a little DEVO, don’t you think? Also, is it DEVO or Devo? Discuss.
11. Yip-Yip, “Slime Shuns Sun Shine.” Quick, say that song title ten times really fast. Now quick, try dancing to it. Which is harder? Discuss.
12. Waylander, “Re-Born to the Fight.” We’ve neglected the headbangers at your little backyard shindig for far too long. A little Celtic metal should satiate their desire for something more rockin’, while giving your other guests a chance to do a little jig and/or whiskey shots. Everybody wins.
13. The Misfits, “Teenagers From Mars.” You might think the punk band most closely associated with Halloween is not a very appropriate choice for a summer-themed party mix. And you’d be right. But fuck it, we’re throwing them in there anyway. Have another beer and roll with it.
14. The Flaming Lips, “Fryin’ Up.” Not the weirdest song the Lips ever did by a long shot, but it’s got a good party-rock vibe and that lyric about “blowin’ everything off on Monday,” which seems appropriate. Plus, the title is a reference to fryin’ burgers, right? Right?
15. The Upper Crust, “Eureka – I’ve Found Love.” We continue the rock portion of this mix with a tender love song from our current Weird Band of the Week, the Boston-based AC/DC-meets-Marie-Antoinette awesomeness that is The Upper Crust. Bibo ergo sum! Look it up, motherfuckers.
16. Bang Camaro, “Pleasure (Pleasure).” Boston’s other great novelty rock act (seriously, it’s like no one there can just headbang without irony), Bang Camaro achieve that multi-tracked ’80s hair-metal vocal sound with a ten-plus member “dude choir.” They have also clearly studied Pyromania to an unhealthy degree. OK, that’s enough rock for one party, don’t you think? Moving on…
17. Fool’s Gold, “Surprise Hotel.” This Afro-Hebrew-jam-pop band was one of the first acts we ever blogged about. In hindsight, they actually don’t seem all that weird compared to most of the bands on the Weird List, but damn if songs like this one don’t shout “summer!” like a happy parent shouting “mazel tov!” at their daughter’s wedding.
18. MaxNormal.TV, “HipnWidIt.” We’ve never featured our current No. 1 Weirdest Band on a Weirdify playlist before, and I wasn’t sure we’d be able to, considering Waddy Jones and co. pretty much scrapped this whole band when they reinvented themselves as Die Antwoord. But amazingly enough, Spotify does have some Max Normal tracks, including this shameless “Blue Monday” rip. But hey, even a secondhand version of the familiar New Order synth riff should get your more well-lubricated guests shaking a leg or two.
19. Dirty Sanchez, “Really Rich Italian Satanists.” Let’s keep the dance party vibe going with a little high-camp electroclash. Nothing says “party” like a bunch of drag queens channeling an Italian Satanic murder cult, am I right? Now pass the Campari, bitch.
20. Sir Ivan, “Hare Krishna.” We interrupt this party for a hands-in-the-air hippie moment from our favorite Raver Billionaire. Everyone loving one another? Good, let’s move on…
21. Sparks, “Now That I Own the BBC.” We really don’t mention often enough how freakin’ awesome Sparks are. This is from their Pet Shop Boys on Acid phase, as I like to call it. Enjoy.
22. The Superions, “Who Threw That Ham at Me.” We introduced this band from Fred Schneider of the B-52′s as a strictly Christmas-themed group, but they do summer-themed songs, too. And then they do this song about canned-meat tossing. You might want to make sure all the meat at your BBQ is in a secure place before this comes on.
23. The Wet Spots, “Do You Take It…?” (Dr. Feelin’s O.R. Dance Remix). By this point in the party, you’re probably wondering which of your guests like to get freaky. Here’s a hint: The ones who won’t look you in the eye while this track is playing? Not freaky.
24. Mojo Nixon, “I Ain’t Gonna Piss in No Jar.” OK, so by now, if you’re a party host worth your margarita salt, most of your guests are too drunk to dance. But too drunk to sing along to a Mojo Nixon song? We’re pretty sure that’s not physiologically possible.
25. Naked & Shameless, “And Then the Drugs Ran Out.” At all of Jake’s parties, this song is basically last call.
Hope you enjoyed this week’s mix. And remember: Always recycle your empties. Unless someone peed in them.
Finally, a rock band for the one percent! The Upper Crust are an AC/DC-loving band from Boston who perform their swaggering cock-rock (or “rocque and roll,” as they like to call it) dressed in the powdered wigs, buckled shoes and ruffled finery of 18th century French aristocrats. They stay rigorously in character throughout, sneering at the “foul congregation” of their plebeian fans and raising their pinkie fingers between songs in a foppish variation of the classic devil horns gesture. It’s the Ancien Régime by way of Aerosmith, Bon Scott in breeches. And like a lot of our favorite super-gimmicky bands, it’s a great example of a silly, one-note idea run so far into the ground it’s struck a gusher of some sticky black substance resembling genius.
The main madman behind The Upper Crust is Nat Freedberg, aka Lord Bendover, who’s been toiling away in various semi-obscure (and completely obscure) Boston bands since the ’80s. (This article gives some good background.) He started The Upper Crust in 1995 with a lineup that’s undergone surprisingly few changes since: A third guitarist, Lord Rockingham, dropped out fairly early, and they swapped out bassists at some point, but second singer/guitarist the Duc D’Istortion (“a student of the manly art of fisticuffs,” according to his official bio) and drummer Jackie Kickassis (an “effervescent personage” with a fondness for “the verses of the ancient homosexual poets”) have been with the group since day one. Most non-joke bands would kill for that kind of continuity.
The Upper Crust have released three original studio LPs, a live album, and a “greatest hits” collection, Cream of the Crust. The track titles alone are worth the price of admission: “Once More Into the Breeches,” “We’re Finished With Finishing School,” “Come Hither Fair Youth,” a live DVD called Horse & Buggery. As far as we can tell, they haven’t done much since releasing their last album, Revenge for Imagined Slights, in 2009. The only event listed on their official website (by their faithful manservant, Bumbles) is a benefit concert that happened back in April. “It is not sheer greed that drives them as usual,” Bumbles writes, in a commoner’s fumbling attempt to mimic the arch wit of his lordships. Oh, I bet you tasted the lash for that impertinent remark, Bumbles!
We would be remiss not to include a huzzah here for Rico Gagliano, co-host of public radio show/podcast The Dinner Party, who introduced us to The Upper Crust when I was a guest on his show back in February. (What do you mean you missed it? For shame. Lucky for you there’s an Internet now for archiving such things.)
Here’s the fuzzy but still pretty awesome video for one of The Upper Crust’s signature tunes, “Let the Eat Rock,” originally released circa 1995. Keep an eye out for the coal-fired guitar amp. These dudes were steam punks before steam punk even existed.