Dr. Demento; King of Novelty Songs

 

 

I just found out that comedian Kip Addotta passed away several days ago on August 13, 2019 at the age of 75. Addotta performed one of the all time great novelty songs – Wet Dream in 1984. The thing is it’s likely I’d never have heard the tune if not for Dr. Demento. Demento, whose real name is Barry Hansen, is a life-long music fan with an advanced degree in folklore and ethnomusicology from UCLA and a taste for the absurd and the different. In the 1970’s he got on the radio in Los Angeles as disc jockey focusing on novelty songs. This eventually lead to a nationally syndicated radio show which aired on Sunday nights for several decades and which is where I discovered Dr. Demento and first heard Wet Dream and many other demented tunes. In honor of Mr. Addotta, I thought I’d post a few of my favorite novelty songs, starting with Wet Dream (it’s about 5 minutes long).

That was fun. Let’s see…what next? How about Spike Jones? This is one of his earliest hits, Der Fuehrer’s Face from 1942 (2:42).

Dr. Demento used an instrumental version of Pico and Sepulveda by Freddy Martin & his Orchestra as his opening theme music. Here’s the original Pico and Sepulveda from 1947 (it’s two and a half minutes in length).

I think this next song would make just about any all time top 10 list of Dr. Demento favorites. It’s another oldie (from 1946) called Shaving Cream written by Benny Bell and sung by Paul Wynn (two minutes and forty-three seconds of verging on bawdiness).

Maybe I should include some more recent tunes. How about You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd by Roger Miller. I remember hearing this song occasionally on the AM radio when I was a kid.

I think this will be my last one. Weird Al Yankovic got his first national exposure on Dr. Demento’s program. One of Weird Al’s first tunes was My Bologna, a parody of My Sharona by The Knack, which he recorded while still a student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

That’s more than enough from me. Feel free to post your favorite novelty song(s).

 

 

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There are 38 comments.

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  1. Vance Richards Member

    In fourth grade our music teacher had us sing the Shaving Cream song. It is hard to find songs young boys are excited about singing, but that worked. Eventually some parent complained and we had to stop.

    My friends and I discovered Dr. Demento in 8th grade. I believe it was on Sunday nights and that is what we would be talking about Monday at school. So many funny/silly songs that I still remember: Dead Puppies, Idi Amin, Fish Heads, and Classy Freddie Blassie singing about pea brained scum sucking pencil neck geeks.

    • #1
    • August 19, 2019, at 10:34 AM PDT
    • 15 likes
  2. tigerlily Member
    tigerlily Post author

    Vance Richards (View Comment):

    In fourth grade or music teacher had us sing the Shaving Cream song. It is hard to find songs young boys are excited about singing, but that worked. Eventually some parent complained and we had to stop.

    My friends and I discovered Dr. Demento in 8th grade. I believe it was on Sunday nights and that is what we would be talking about Monday at school. So many funny/silly songs that I still remember: Dead Puppies, Idi Amin, Fish Heads, and Classy Freddie Blassie singing about pea brained scum sucking pencil neck geeks.

    I was gonna include the Fish Heads song in my post but six songs is probably enough. And, yes, Dr. Demento’s nationally syndicated radio show was on Sunday nights.

    • #2
    • August 19, 2019, at 10:38 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  3. Susan Quinn Contributor

    Forgive me, tigerlilly, but this is the one that sticks in my brain . . .

     

     

    • #3
    • August 19, 2019, at 10:48 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  4. tigerlily Member
    tigerlily Post author

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Forgive me, tigerlilly, but this is the one that sticks in my brain . . .

     

     

    I thought somebody might post this song. I just didn’t think it would be you though, Susan.

    • #4
    • August 19, 2019, at 10:53 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  5. Susan Quinn Contributor

    tigerlily (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Forgive me, tigerlilly, but this is the one that sticks in my brain . . .

     

     

    I thought somebody might post this song. I just didn’t think it would be you though, Susan.

    I seem to be defying people’s perceptions this afternoon! I’ll consider it a compliment!

    • #5
    • August 19, 2019, at 11:02 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  6. Vance Richards Member

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Forgive me, tigerlilly, but this is the one that sticks in my brain . . .

    A classic . . . for that particular genre. 

    Not sure why, but the “you laughed and laughed and then you left, but you know now I’m utterly mad” made me think of a different song (that would probably not have been on Dr Demento) with a little different sort of going crazy over a woman laughing.

    • #6
    • August 19, 2019, at 11:13 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  7. James Lileks Contributor

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Forgive me, tigerlilly, but this is the one that sticks in my brain . . .

    Don’t forget the B-side, “!aaaH-aH ,yawA eM ekaT oT gnimoC er’yehT,” or “”I’m Happy They Took You Away, Ha-Haaa!” by Josephine XV.

     

     

     

    • #7
    • August 19, 2019, at 11:57 AM PDT
    • 13 likes
  8. Fritz Member

    Ah, memories!

    Two highlights of my years in grad and law school were listening to Dr Demento’s show Sunday nights, and receiving in response to our fan letter a signed photo from the good Dr himself. I believe it resides in one of the many photo albums still shelved among our dementos momentos of those days.

     

    • #8
    • August 19, 2019, at 12:00 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  9. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    tigerlily (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Forgive me, tigerlilly, but this is the one that sticks in my brain . . .

     

     

    I thought somebody might post this song. I just didn’t think it would be you though, Susan.

    I seem to be defying people’s perceptions this afternoon! I’ll consider it a compliment!

    I’ll let you take that as a compliment, as otherwise you might “laugh and then left!”

    • #9
    • August 19, 2019, at 12:07 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  10. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    Nice to have a happy and fun start to the work week.

    So thanks a lot, tigerlily.

    • #10
    • August 19, 2019, at 12:08 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  11. tigerlily Member
    tigerlily Post author

    Vance Richards (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Forgive me, tigerlilly, but this is the one that sticks in my brain . . .

    A classic . . . for that particular genre.

    Not sure why, but the “you laughed and laughed and then you left, but you know now I’m utterly mad” made me think of a different song (that would probably not have been on Dr Demento) with a little different sort of going crazy over a woman laughing.

    Not exactly the sort of song I was expecting to see….but…um…ok, then.

    • #11
    • August 19, 2019, at 12:14 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  12. Shawn Buell (Majestyk) Contributor

    tigerlily: One of Weird Al’s first tunes was My Bologna, a parody of My Sharona by The Knack, which he recorded while still a student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

    Recorded initially in a bathroom, with percussion courtesy of an accordion case.

    • #12
    • August 19, 2019, at 1:51 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  13. Amy Schley Moderator

    This is my favorite that he featured:

    But let me plug two of my favorite bands: Johnathon Coulton and “Paul and Storm”

    Coulton has insanely catchy tunes and releases the rights for derivative works, so you can enjoy amazing kinetic typography videos:

    Or video animated in the World of Warcraft engine:

    Paul and Storm are a similar duo:

    • #13
    • August 19, 2019, at 3:54 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  14. Annefy Member

    My dear departed Mother In law had the most annoying habit of constantly humming to herself.

    But if you listened closely, quite often it was “Boobs Alot

    • #14
    • August 19, 2019, at 4:07 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  15. Jim Beck Member

    Evening Annefy and Demetacs,

    Although I gotta wear my jock a lot, and although I only have a learner’s permit from a community college, I am going to drive straight to my inevitable conclusion. As a Demeto fan, I am a nose-picking, scum-sucking, beer belly, Trump supporting steaming pile of rubbish.

    Here is a 15 -20 minute playlist from yikes the 90’s; 1. Ain’t got no home—Frogman Henry 2. Vampire Frogs—Sneaky Pete. 3. Chopping Broccoli—Dana Carver 4. Generic Blues—Weird Al (good song) 5. I Don’t have the hair I used to—Lazlo and Gary 6. You were speeding—The Frantics (good song) 7. Flush an M 80–Colon Sphincter Band

    Here are the Frantics https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=mx9nyNspFzc

    As a useless geezer I still don’t know how to clip the song image, so there.

    • #15
    • August 19, 2019, at 5:20 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  16. TBA Coolidge
    TBA

    Vance Richards (View Comment):

    In fourth grade or music teacher had us sing the Shaving Cream song. It is hard to find songs young boys are excited about singing, but that worked. Eventually some parent complained and we had to stop.

    My friends and I discovered Dr. Demento in 8th grade. I believe it was on Sunday nights and that is what we would be talking about Monday at school. So many funny/silly songs that I still remember: Dead Puppies, Idi Amin, Fish Heads, and Classy Freddie Blassie singing about pea brained scum sucking pencil neck geeks.

    I remember alla them ones! 

    • #16
    • August 19, 2019, at 10:23 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  17. Annefy Member

    If I remember correctly (and it’s been a long, long time) Dr Demento was followed by Dr Ruth on local LA radio. There was an epidemic of young teenage boys going to bed on time on Sunday nights with their transistor radios.

    • #17
    • August 19, 2019, at 11:16 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  18. Douglas Pratt Member

    Paul and Storm were originally part of DaVinci’s Notebook, a wonderful a capella group that we used to go to see in the northern Virginia coffee houses. We bought their CDs and wore them out. My daughter reminded me of one time they invited her on stage and sat her on a stool, whereupon she sang along with “Saggy Diaper Blues” without missing a beat. She was eight.

    Between this sort of thing and a thorough indoctrination in Stan Freberg for history and PDQ Bach for serious music, I am probably guilty of some form of child abuse. They don’t seem to have turned out all that badly, however.

    • #18
    • August 20, 2019, at 9:32 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  19. Amy Schley Moderator

    Douglas Pratt (View Comment):

    Paul and Storm were originally part of DaVinci’s Notebook, a wonderful a capella group that we used to go to see in the northern Virginia coffee houses. We bought their CDs and wore them out. My daughter reminded me of one time they invited her on stage and sat her on a stool, whereupon she sang along with “Saggy Diaper Blues” without missing a beat. She was eight.

    Between this sort of thing and a thorough indoctrination in Stan Freberg for history and PDQ Bach for serious music, I am probably guilty of some form of child abuse. They don’t seem to have turned out all that badly, however.

    Whenever life gets you down, keeps you wearing a frown, and the gravy train has left you behind …

    • #19
    • August 20, 2019, at 9:36 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  20. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher

    Baby, Would you eat that there snack cracker
    In your special outfit for me, please?

    • #20
    • August 20, 2019, at 10:10 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  21. Repmodad Coolidge

    @amyschley My family adores Jonathan Coulton. The guy is a genius at musical hooks, his ideas are creative, his lyrics are always clever, and he is even capable of great insight. Shop Vac, which you shared, is about marriage, middle age, suburbia, and getting in a rut. It’s a great warning to young couples: this is your future life if you don’t work at your marriage. But it has that upbeat, happy melody that gives it another layer of meaning about faking it.

    My personal favorite (at least at last check) is I’m Your Moon. It’s a ‘love song,’ but listen to it below first without knowing what it’s about.

    (When you’re done, click here for the explanation. So stinking clever.)

    • #21
    • August 20, 2019, at 12:00 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  22. Percival Thatcher

    He was short and fat, and rode out of the West
    With a Mogen David on his silver vest.
    He was mean and nasty right clear through,
    Which was kinda weird, ’cause he was yellow too.

    They called him Irving.
    Big Irving.
    Big, short Irving.
    Big, short, fat Irving.
    The hundred and forty-second fastest gun in the West.

    — The Ballad of Irving, Frank Gallop

    I loved Dr. Demento.

    • #22
    • August 20, 2019, at 12:02 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  23. She Thatcher
    She

    Vance Richards (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Forgive me, tigerlilly, but this is the one that sticks in my brain . . .

    A classic . . . for that particular genre.

    Not sure why, but the “you laughed and laughed and then you left, but you know now I’m utterly mad” made me think of a different song (that would probably not have been on Dr Demento) with a little different sort of going crazy over a woman laughing

    So very . . . errrr . . . something, when the highlight of the Queen’s 2012 Diamond Jubilee Concert, which was populated by a bunch of geriatric has-beens, some of whom could barely remember the words to their hit songs, or make it through to the end without resuscitation, was then 72-year old Sir Tom singing that very same song:

    • #23
    • August 20, 2019, at 12:05 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  24. Susan Quinn Contributor

    She (View Comment):

    Vance Richards (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Forgive me, tigerlilly, but this is the one that sticks in my brain . . .

    A classic . . . for that particular genre.

    Not sure why, but the “you laughed and laughed and then you left, but you know now I’m utterly mad” made me think of a different song (that would probably not have been on Dr Demento) with a little different sort of going crazy over a woman laughing

    So very . . . errrr . . . something, when the highlight of the Queen’s 2012 Diamond Jubilee Concert, which was populated by a bunch of geriatric has-beens, some of whom could barely remember the words to their hit songs, or make it through to the end without resuscitation, was then 72-year old Sir Tom singing that very same song:

    Hey, watch it. I mean, I wasn’t a big fan, but I’m almost in that geriatric group, and he looked great and sounded pretty good, too! And still had the twinkle in his eye.

    • #24
    • August 20, 2019, at 12:17 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  25. She Thatcher
    She

    Brits have always had rather odd tastes in novelty songs. One of my favorites, as a four or five-year old (I thought it was hilarious) was You Need Feet by Bernard Bresslaw. It was a spoof of a rather saccharine song by Max Bygraves (very popular singer in the UK who never really made it in the States) called You Need Hands, a verse of which follows:

    You need hands
    To hold someone you care for
    You need hands
    To show that you’re sincere
    When you feel
    nobody wants to know you
    You need hands
    to brush away your tear

    I think the spoof, ultimately, was far more popular than the original. Herewith, Bernard Bresslaw and You Need Feet:

    • #25
    • August 20, 2019, at 12:19 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  26. tigerlily Member
    tigerlily Post author

    She (View Comment):

    Brits have always had rather odd tastes in novelty songs. One of my favorites, as a four or five-year old (I thought it was hilarious) was You Need Feet by Bernard Bresslaw. It was a spoof of a rather saccharine song by Max Bygraves (very popular singer in the UK who never really made it in the States) called You Need Hands, a verse of which follows:

    You need hands
    To hold someone you care for
    You need hands
    To show that you’re sincere
    When you feel
    nobody wants to know you
    You need hands
    to brush away your tear

    I think the spoof, ultimately, was far more popular than the original. Herewith, Bernard Bresslaw and You Need Feet:

    Sheesh, and here I thought that I had the world’s worst singing voice!

    • #26
    • August 20, 2019, at 12:27 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  27. Amy Schley Moderator

    She (View Comment):
    Brits have always had rather odd tastes in novelty songs.

    Home ownership in a nutshell: 

    And I love the rhymes they came up for this one: 

    “A regular army/ of hippopatami”

    • #27
    • August 20, 2019, at 12:47 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  28. tigerlily Member
    tigerlily Post author

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Forgive me, tigerlilly, but this is the one that sticks in my brain . . .

    Don’t forget the B-side, “!aaaH-aH ,yawA eM ekaT oT gnimoC er’yehT,” or “”I’m Happy They Took You Away, Ha-Haaa!” by Josephine XV.

    Might as well post it. If I had to guess what language it was, I’d probably guess some off-shoot of Russian.

    • #28
    • August 20, 2019, at 1:38 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  29. She Thatcher
    She

    Speaking of the Brits, two songs of proud patriotic prejudice:

    Flanders and Swann again (perhaps their finest ever):

    And Paddy Roberts:

    • #29
    • August 20, 2019, at 1:56 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  30. Percival Thatcher

    I haven’t heard it in years. It still makes me laugh.

    • #30
    • August 20, 2019, at 2:03 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
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