Weirdify Playlist 10: Novel Steez

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

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.

Advertisements

Red Shadow, the Economics Rock n Roll Band

Long-haired musicians singing about their radical left-wing agendas is nothing new–everyone from Bob Dylan and Arlo Guthrie right up to Rage Against the Machine and Rise Against has been trying to Stick It to the Man through music. But it’s probably fair to say that no other band in the history of rock and roll ever got quite so pedantic about their politics as Red Shadow, a self-described “Economics Rock & Roll Band” who released two albums back in the Seventies called Live at the Panacea Hilton and Better Red before fading into obscurity.

Started by three dudes with PhDs in Economics, Red Shadow kind of sounds like what would happen to Schoolhouse Rock if the commies ever got ahold of it. There are catchy little ditties about stagflation and Karl Marx. They change the lyrics to Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B Goode” into a satirecal attack on the conservative economists at the University of Chicago and MIT…and that’s one of the least pin-headed songs they ever recorded. They also wrote a song called “Commodity Fetishism.” I haven’t actually bothered to listen to it, but I’m assuming it’s about how commodities are bad.

Tragically (and if you detect a note of sarcasm here…congratulations!) Red Shadow broke up after their second album, but their legacy lives on. As of 2005, a new album compiling all of their collected works is available on CD Baby, and one of the alumns, Ev Ehrlich, has built a very succcessful carere for himself as a blogger, NPR commentater (wow, didn’t see that one coming) and an economic advisor to everyone from the Pew Center for Global Climate Change to the Major League Baseball Players Association (okay, actually, all kidding aside…I did not see that last one coming).

Fun side note: Red Shadow also used to be the name of a pre-pubescent, all girl rock band from Los Angeles. Apparently realizing at some point the vaguely Maoist associations that name conjured, they changed their name to the altogether far more appropriate Cherri Bomb. Here is a video of Cherri Bomb performing a cover of Nirvana’s “Heart Shaped Box.” They’re actually pretty good, but watching a bunch of 11-year-old girls called Cherri Bomb might, and indeed probably should, make you feel slightly icky inside.

Meanwhile, here’s a lecture…sorry, song…from the original Red Shadow, called “Understanding Marx.” Prepare to be indoctrinated!

Links:

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine