Musicians are often quite an earnest bunch. From the heart-felt love songs of Adele to the politically-minded anthems of Rage Against the Machine, songwriters love to get deep and meaningful, and to reveal their inner selves through their songs.
That is not to say, however, that the music industry can’t let its proverbial hair down and get silly sometimes. Indeed, there have been some perfectly daft tunes released over the years, some of which have bordered on the utterly bizarre.
Many of these singles became huge hits in the Top 40 music charts and, although the majority of the artists behind these novelty songs inevitably ended up as one-hit-wonders, a couple actually went on to become internationally famous artists with long lasting careers.
Be warned — as well as being madder than a box of (crazy)frogs, novelty songs are insanely catchy, hence their chart-appeal. You are bound to be hearing these earworm-inducing tracks echoing in your head long after their closing strains have ended.
I apologise in advance!
1. “The Laughing Gnome” by David Bowie
Yes, given Bowie’s subsequent status as a bona fide rock god, you might be surprised to learn that one of the Thin White Duke’s first singles was this silly self-penned track about a demented gnome who follows the singer home one day and not only begins stalking him, but moves into his house.
Enjoy, too, the punny asides between David and the Gnome; “Here, where do you come from?” “Gnome-man’s land”/ “Haven’t you got a home to go to?” “No, we are gnome-ads, hehe!”. LOL.
2. “Star Wars Theme” by MECO
In 1977, the world was riding high on two big pop culture trends. The first was disco music, and the second was the just-released blockbuster film “Star Wars: A New Hope”. It was, then, inevitable that someone would find a way to incorporate the two. Enter American record producer MECO (real name Domenico Monardo), whose disco interpretation of the cantina band’s jaunty track, as well as the album from which it was lifted, “Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk” were both certified platinum in the USA.
In this YouTube clip, enjoy the funky disco moves of “Legs & Co.” the resident dance troupe of the UK’s Top of the Pops. (For those of you in USA and of a certain age, think The Solid Gold Dancers!) What the lasso-wielding cowboy, flappers, and dudes on motorbikes are supposed to be is anyone’s guess.
3. “Disco Duck” by Rick Dees and His Cast of Idiots
Disco strikes again in this completely bizarre track by the now popular US radio personality Rick Dees. The song is all about turning up at a party, making your way to the dance floor and, I kid you not, turning into a duck. There seems nothing much else to say about this one, other than “What The Duck, Rick?”
4. “Check Out the Chicken” by Grandmaster Chicken and DJ Duck
Continuing with the avian theme, here’s Dutch “band” Grandmaster Chicken and DJ Duck with their 1990 single “Check Out the Chicken”. There doesn’t seem to be much of a storyline to this one nor, as far as I can tell, any justifiable reason for its existence, other than perhaps as the results of a couple of studio producers taking a shed-load of pharmaceuticals and then trying out their brand new sampler.
As confusing and, well, truly hideous as this track is, it actually reached #16 in Australia’s Top 40 chart. I can only assume those who bought it had been in that scorching Antipodean sun for a bit too long….
5. “Star Trekkin’” by The Firm
In 1987, Grahame Lister and his British novelty band, The Firm, released “Star Trekkin’”, an irritating but quite catchy comedy single all about Captain James T. Kirk and the crew of the Starship Enterprise. For a such a silly track, it performed remarkably well in the charts, reaching Number 1 in the UK, and becoming the year’s ninth best-selling single overall.
It’s music, Jim, but not as we know it….
6. “Doctorin’ The Tardis” by The Timelords
I’ve mentioned this track, “Doctorin’ the Tardis”, before in a previous article. Released in 1988, it was the brainchild of producers Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty, who later produced a number of 1990’s dancefloor classics under the name The KLF (“3AM Eternal”, “Last Train to Trancentral”, “What Time is Love?”)
The track is a mash-up of Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll” and the theme music to the BBC cult classic Doctor Who (at this time on hiatus from British television), and it reached Number 1 in the UK and New Zealand, going Top 10 in Ireland, Australia, Belgium, Finland, and Norway. So you could say it- ahem- exterminated its chart competition. (Sorry. I’ll get me coat.)
7. Shaddap You Face- Joe Dolce Music Theatre
This novelty track by American- Australian singer Joe Dolce was a big hit in 1980–81. Inspired by Dolce’s Italian grandparents’ and their use of phrases like “Eh, shaddup” and “What’s the matter, you?”. The track was originally released in Australia in 1980, and went on to sell over 450,000 copies, making the first ever single to go triple platimum in the country. It was later released internationally, peaking at #53 in the USA, #2 in Canada, and reaching #1 in many countries across the world, including the UK, where it famously (unforgivably) kept the Ultravox classic “Vienna” from the top spot.
8. “Agadoo”- Black Lace
Released in 1984, the calypso-inspired song “Agadoo” was one of the biggest songs of the year, and was only prevented from reaching Number 1 in the UK by George Michael’s “Careless Whisper”. It was recorded by Black Lace (Colin Gibb and Alan Barton) and features musical accompaniment by a banana, a pear, a coconut, and — is that a mango on guitar?
C’mon now everyone — push that pineapple!
(Preferably right off a f##king ledge.)
9. “Axel F” by Crazy Frog
The original “Axel F” by Harold Faltermeyer had been a half-decent instrumental when it was released back in 1985, having featured on the soundtrack of “Beverly Hills Cop”. But in 2005, “Crazy Frog” (originally known as “The Annoying Thing”- a highly apt title!), a CGI character created by Sweden’s Erik Wernquist to market a ringtone sound-effect, released a cover version that made people all around the world and surrounding universes grate their teeth in horror.
Despite the mind-melting awfulness of the track, Crazy Frog’s version of “Axel F” managed to debut at #1 on the UK chart, also topping the charts in New Zealand and Canada. “Crazy Frog” later spawned (see what I did there?) a whole lot of merchandise, including PlayStation 2/ PC video games,“Crazy Frog Racer” and “Crazy Frog Racer 2”.
10. “Eat It” by Weird Al Yankovic
In truth not so much a novelty song as a clever parody (of the Michael Jackson hit “Beat It”), “Eat It” by Alfred Matthew “Weird Al” Yankovic is a piece of sublime genius. Though Weird Al had already enjoyed some chart success in the US with his 1982 parody of “I Love Rock’n’Roll” (“I Love Rocky Road”), it was this 1984 track, along with his other Michael Jackson parody “Fat” (a 1988 parody of “Bad”) that really launched Weird Al to international stardom.
Weird Al is still making clever musical parodies, and in 2014 he released this parody of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”, which I include here in closing as a “bonus track” for all my fellow writers and grammar nerds. “Word Crimes” is a brilliant piece of musical humour, (and is far less rapey than the original).
Enjoy- and sorry again for all those earworms!
Inquiries and comments are always welcome. You can also find me on Twitter @GrantJupiter
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