Monday, May 5, 2014

Blast from the Past: Novelty Songs that were Hits

As a big fan of The Doctor Demento Show--like any good nerd--back in the 1980s, I've always been a fan of novelty songs. But some of them actually cracked through sheer novelty, and became hit songs in their own right. Some become so popular, we don't even think of them as novelties. Others were so goofy, they're later kind of embarrassing. How many do you remember?

1. Pac-Man Fever by Buckner & Garcia (1982) - Video games made such a splash in the late 70s and early 80s, they spawned new businesses: stand alone arcades, and pizza places like Chuck E. Cheese and Showbiz whose main attractions had little to do with pizza. Pac-Man was a big part of the craze, and is joined by several other big ones on this album, all of which is in this clip.
2. Dead Skunk by Louden Wainwright III (1972) - This is a song that is undoubtedly quirky, but is also of such high quality as to be a mainstream song. It's also really funny ("Come on, stink!").

3. Disco Duck by Rick Dees (1976) - I was ten years old when this song came out, and I loved it. Almost forty years later, it's more than silly, it's kind of embarrassing. But at the time, Los Angeles DJ Rick Dees was riding high, and so was disco.
4. The Streak by Ray Stevens (1974) - Again, I would've been eight for this one, so the idea of naked people running around (and they were during the streaking fad) was hilarious.

5. My Ding-a-Ling by Chuck Berry (1972) - I probably didn't get the double-entendre in this song when I was 6, and just enjoyed it for it's joyful sound. But it is, and remains funny, even to this nearly 50-year-old adult!

6. Eat It by "Weird Al" Yankovic (1984) - Part of Al's appeal was his faithfulness to the source material (in this case, Michael Jackson's Beat It), the humor, and the quality of his productions. For instance, in this video, Yankovic used the same locations Jackson used in his video, to great effect.

7.  Mister Jaws by Dickie Goodman (1975) - Another one from youth, this one is a real oddity, less a song, than a spoken-word performance using bits of songs that were popular at the time.  Again, I dug it as a nine-year-old!

8. Tennessee Bird Walk by Jack Blanchard and Misty Morgan (1970) - While this song made me laugh endlessly when I was four, it still tickles me today. It's a beautifully crafted song, silly as it is.

And that's just scratching the surface! Maybe this post deserves a sequel in the coming weeks. In the meantime, happy Monday! Have a great week.


  1. I would also include: Larry Groce - Junk Food Junkie, and Rolf Harris - Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport.

  2. Good suggestions for the sequel!

  3. Oh, also Steve Martin's King Tut.

  4. And that Wild Wood Flower song too.

  5. Thanks, you've given me next week's installment! Oh, and "Spiders & Snakes" too.

  6. Oh, this one too, I remember that it went to #1 in Canada: Spiders & Snakes by Jim Stafford.


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