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.