Showing posts with label napoleon xiv. Show all posts
Showing posts with label napoleon xiv. Show all posts

Friday, September 29, 2017

Weird Songs

 There's something to be said for weird songs. First of all, if done right, weird songs are memorable. It's a fine line between done right and done wrong. If an artist tries too hard to be strange, they just come across as lame and obvious. For example, Ray Stevens is primarily known for his novelty songs, which I rarely found humor in. It's a shame, because Ray Stevens is a highly underrated artist (when he does serious songs), but I guess he'd found his niche in kitsch.

The majority of weird songs were recorded by one-hit wonders -- because once you've done crazy, it's hard to recreate. Little kids love weird songs. The weirder the better. One has to have the mindset of a kid to understand that. Kids, once they become cognizant of music, either become ingrained in music by listening to the radio or by someone older's influence. In my case, the "someone older" was my big brother. My brother schooled me in music and essentially led me where he wanted me to go. He had superb taste in music. I discovered the Beatles from their radio hits, but it was my brother who bought "Rubber Soul" and "Help!" and showed me that albums could be magical things. He introduced me to Bob Dylan. I knew of the Beach Boys, but not the entirety of the Beach Boys. The first time I heard, "Oh, Pretty Woman" I was Roy Orbison's forever, but my brother had Roy's greatest hits and damn! The first LP I ever owned was a birthday present from my brother -- "If You Can Believe Your Eyes And Ears" by the Mamas and the Papas. So by around age nine, I knew what good music should sound like.

Then I heard a strange song on the radio. I thought it was hilarious -- well, I was eleven. The song was supremely weird -- not the way songs should go. This intrigued me. My best friend Cathy also thought it was awesome. That was an extra-added bonus, because we could sing (or talk) along to it when it came on the radio and giggle about it.

Since it was 1966, apparently we have no YouTube live performance videos of the song (and really, could it be performed live?)

The lines that cracked me up (at age eleven) were:

I cooked your food
I cleaned your house
And this is how
You pay me back
For all my kind
Unselfish loving deeds

Napoleon XIV:

At my tender, impressionable age of thirteen, this next song became a hit. This one wasn't humorous. I was deeply ensconced in my Catholic religion at that time -- a reawakening of my faith or a love of ritual -- either way, my religious fervor was short-lasting. Nevertheless, I felt this song was how the devil would sound if he was to talk to me (he never actually did, that I know of).

The Crazy World of Arthur Brown:

By the seventies, I was more cynical -- probably too cynical for my age -- but there it was. I'd heard so much music by then, good and bad; sometimes awful, sometimes awesome; but mostly awful. I'd learned that there was nothing left to learn about music. Bear in mind, I'd probably been exposed to roughly 10,000 songs by that time, which was a pretty good record, since I was only in my twenties. 

I was minimally aware of Glenn Miller's music; as much as I'd caught on some TV variety show or perhaps as background music -- Muzak -- or perhaps on a commercial. I've since learned a lot about Glenn Miller, but at that time of my life, it was just "old people's music", and I was disinterested.

A song began appearing on the radio. The melody was familiar, but this particular rendition was sung by chickens. Naturally, that caught my attention. It was goofy, sort of like "They're Coming To Take Me Away" was goofy and odd and chin-scratching. One had to ask oneself, "Why would chickens be singing this song?"

The Henhouse Five Plus Two (alias Ray Stevens):

If I travel wa-a-a-y back in time, to my barely conscious musical awakening at age five, I would include this next song in the realm of weirdness. Little did I know that it was an iconic Bill Monroe bluegrass song. But this version is much more fun:

The Fendermen:

After the seventies and Ray Stevens, nobody really released weird records anymore. Everything became super-serious and important. The sixties were the nadir of weirdness. Too bad. We could use much more fun and more idiosyncrasy. 

It's almost impossible to find fun anymore. It's like fun is a bad word. "The world is too dangerous to have fun."

No. It's not. 

Perhaps what's wrong with the world today is that nobody has any fun. Maybe that's why everyone is so surly. I don't know about you, but my world is surly. Surly at work -- everybody fighting for supremacy. Surly at home. Somebody didn't do something they were expected to do. We can't breathe. 

"Fun" is frowned upon. Don't be silly! Damn you! What are you, some kind of moron? 

Our muscles are taut. The stress hormones course and skip across our sinews. 

God damn, people! Lighten up! The world is shorter than you think. Human existence won't end because you used a semi-colon instead of a comma in a sentence in an email!

I miss fun. I would have more of it if it was permissible. 

And this is how you pay me back
For all my kind, unselfish loving deeds?

Saturday, June 2, 2012

One-Hit Wonders

(That's pronounced, "OH-NEED-ers")

Yes, I was watching, "That Thing You Do" tonight, and it led me to think about real-life one-hit wonders.

I found a nice, comprehensive site that lists all the one-hit wonders throughout the decades, and little did I know that some of these artists had only one hit!  Perhaps, like the fictional oh-needers, creative tensions led these groups to disband after their one solitary hit record.  Or maybe they only had one good song in them!  

You know how it is; you work and strive all those years just to get a record contract, and then, if you're lucky enough for your song to hit, you need to follow it up with something, and you got nothin'.  Maybe, like the Kingsmen, they were just a garage band who happened to catch on with an incomprehensible song, like "Louie Louie", and they said, hey man!  We were just goofin' around!

Or maybe they were just unlucky.

Lucky or not, this first group's hit will live on forever, thanks to Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey.  Here are the Contours:

I always really liked this next song, and I couldn't have been the only one, because it was a hit for the Honeycombs.  Plus, one has to love this cheesy video, in which none of the guys bother to plug in their electric instruments, and the girl drummer apparently just got home from a long day at the secretarial pool, and didn't have time to change.

Have I The Right:

J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers probably disbanded because all the marquee owners revolted over trying to fit their unnecessarily long name on the banner.  I include this song from 1964, because I rather hate it, and thus, naturally, I remember it well.  For the nine-year-old listener, this song creates much too vivid imagery of blood and car crashes and death (all the things that little kids love to hear!)

Last Kiss:

There was a movie titled, "Baby The Rain Must Fall".  The song is way better than the movie, even though it did star Steve McQueen (overrated).  The recording is by Glenn Yarbrough, who was obviously a folk singer, because they all sang like that.  Just watch the movie, "A Mighty Wind". I happen to like this song, however, but I do object to the dancer in the video who, again, like they all did back then, is trying to do the jerk to a song that just does not lend itself to it.  When will they learn?  Apparently never, since the 60's were 50 years ago, and it's a bit late to go back and school them on this.

Did Buffalo Springfield really only have one hit record?  That doesn't seem right to me.  The one-hit wonders site says it's true, though.  If that is the case, at least their one hit song will live on forever in 60's counter-culture documentaries shown on the History Channel or one of those upper-tier channels that are all interchangeable, and in Viet Nam war movies.  So, all I can say is, you better watch, children.  What's that sound?

Ever hear of the Lemon Pipers?  Only if you remember the song, Green Tambourine.  The song isn't necessarily bad, for its time, but the reason I'm including it is, I was driving somewhere on a weekend to do errands, and this song happened to come on the radio, and I actually listened to the lyrics.  Let me just say that this guy is awfully proud of the fact that he can play a tambourine.  Frankly, any blithering idiot can play a tambourine.  All you have to do is smack it against something.  I mean, really.  A little known fact:  they give the lamest guy in the band the tambourine to play.  Just so he has something to do.  "Any song you want, I'll gladly play"?  Well, they all sound the same!  Like this:  clink, rattle, crash.  But we do love that jingle jangle mornin'!  

"Money feeds my music machine"?  Well, that's a nice scam you've got goin'!  Music machine!  Here, let me tap on a couple of these Campbell's soup cans.  How do you like that?  Now give me money. 

Regardless, here is the song:

John Fred & His Playboy Band were, it seems, rather delusional.  I mean, look at them.  Do they look like playboys to you?  They wish!  Frankly, the guys in the background look uncomfortably self-conscious about the whole spectacle.  "Hey, can we go back to the science lab and dissect something now?  That was more fun."  Perhaps the name, "Playboy Band" was bestowed ironically.

Nevertheless, here is Judy In Disguise:

Everybody makes fun of McArthur Park, although the late Donna Summer actually took this monstrosity and made something of it.  You know, the whole, "someone left the cake out in the rain" bit.  Who would do that?  And what a crappy birthday party that would be.  The puzzling thing to me is, Jimmy Webb is such a good songwriter.  He even wrote a book on songwriting, called, "Tunesmith".  I haven't read it (yet), but I would like to know if he has a chapter on McArthur Park, and if he discloses that he wrote that song as a joke.

I understand that the actor, Richard Harris, was quite the drinker, so, as things tend to go, in the wee small hours, crazy things start to make perfect sense, and thus, Richard recorded:

Now we come to the Crazy World of Arthur Brown.  I like that an artist is upfront with the fact that he's crazy.  Unlike delusional tambourine players who think they are musical virtuosos, or science geeks who fancy themselves as playboys, Crazy Arthur just lays it all out there for us.  "I'm crazy.  Take it or leave it."  The world today really needs more of that full disclosure.  And this is actually a good song.


Which, naturally, leads me to Napoleon XIV.  Oddly, the one-hit wonder site does not list this song, but obviously, it was a one-of-a-kind.   

For whatever reason, there seemed to be a lot of crazy, or deluded, or schizophrenic songs in the 1960's.  I think it was a natural reaction to the times.  (Full disclosure:  I realize this song was written and recorded as a joke.  But the fact remains that it simply reflected the tenor of the culture.)

And the thing about it was, we all (all us kids) memorized this song and sang along with it.  We, in fact, at our young age (eleven for me), found it hilarious.  

They're Coming To Take Me Away (Ha-Haaa!):

Bob Lind is not a name that rings many bells, but Bob Lind had a 1960's hit that approached life from another perspective.  Yes, Bob chose to embrace the hippy hippiness of butterflies and rainbows.  Personally, give me crazy.  Because I just feel (and maybe it's a personal bias) that guys should never sing about butterflies.   

However, Bob, in this video, fancies himself as not just a butterfly, but an elusive butterfly.  And really, if you've ever observed them, butterflies really are elusive.  That's no big revelation.  Ever try to catch one?

Flittingly, here is "Elusive Butterfly":

In conclusion, as is my wont, I may (or may not) turn this into a series.  After all, I have really only scratched the surface of one-hit wonders, and I didn't even feature the entire one-hit wonder experience of the 1960's in their entirety.  And there are other decades as well!

I will leave you tonight, however, with a nice, fictional, one-hit wonder song, by none other than the Oh-NEED-ers, because I like it, and it was the impetus for this whole post.  So, it at least deserves to be featured here: