Even in the age of digital music, reaching one-hit wonder status tends to lead to a huge boost in album sales for the artist in question. Bands across the spectrum have achieved surprising success by just having one good song. It's why you still remember musical titans like Right Said Fred, Sir Mix-A-Lot, and ... actually, I think those are the only two. Of course, most people never get around to listening to the entire album. Which is a shame, because that means you missed out on some truly bizarre pieces of work. For example ...
#6. The "Cotton Eye Joe" Band Released A 52-Word-Titled, X-Rated Song About Railing Another Dude's Wife
If you don't instantly break out into a hokey cowpoke dance upon hearing the words "Where did you come from? / Where did you go?" then you were one of the lucky ones who weren't in school when this brain-softening piece of techno-country dance crap was popular.
I don't know what else I was expecting from Rednex, the band behind it, but the album which features "Cotton Eye Joe" contains a nutty-as-a-squirrel-turd track saddled with this short novel of a title:
"The Sad But True Story Of Ray Mingus, The Lumberjack Of Bulk Rock City, And His Never Slacking Strive To Exploit The So Far Undiscovered Areas Of The Intention To Bodily Intercourse From The Opposite Species Of His Kind, During Intake Of All The Mental Conditions That Could Be Derived From Fermentation."
Well, well, well. Proof that women really are another species!
This band is Swedish and can't possibly know what half those words mean. For those of you with limited space on the CD sleeve, the song is also known by the band's fan as "Harder Than Your Husband." Why? Because the song is explicitly about the singer sleeping with another man's wife, and doing butt stuff with his huge Swedangler. This is, in part, why this song was never quite as popular as "Cotton Eye Joe."
"It's been a pretty long time, baby, but now, I'm back in town / It's time to leave your husband, now you know that little clown. / Last time we were seeing, didn't you beg for more? / It's OK with me, as long you do it four on the floor."
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"I guess I do have something similar to 'Cotton Eye Joe.' Gosh, you kids look adorable in your little suits and dresses."
It sounds like a parody of a bro country song years before anyone should have been clever enough to be that meta, and maybe that's what they were going for, but the singer -- let's call him Ansgar -- belts the chorus out with such uncomfortable earnestness that it's actually hard to tell. Keep in mind that this shit went platinum in three countries.
"This is what I'm giving you, you'll get it all tonight / You will be my lover, but not my tender wife / I'll be harder than your husband, I'll be harder than your man / I'll hit you with my 20 inch until you can not stand / [Repeat until disappointed in mankind]"
Maybe this is mistranslated, or the result of someone playing a prank on Ansgar, but "20 inches" is not a human dick size that occurs in the natural world, outside of special-order hentai. Not to mention the fact that the receiving party would not be able to stand, sit, sleep, crap, or live if subjected to one.
Fun fact: Rednex was forced to change the cover of this album, Sex & Violins, after "Cotton Eye Joe" got inexplicably popular. Why? Because the original features all the band members' heads sitting in a coffee mug getting pissed on, that's why.
It was also updated to reflect that no one in this country gave a shit about the actual name of the album.
#5. Norman Greenbaum's Spirit In The Sky Has Two Songs About Grocery Shopping (Which Are Probably Drug Metaphors)
The only reason you know Norman Greenbaum is from his late 60's hit "Spirit In The Sky."
Even then, there's a good chance you didn't know the name of the guy singing it. It's a vaguely religious hippie song about dying and going to heaven and hangin' out with your buddy Jesus (OK, guess it's not that vague). When the album was re-released on CD, the label threw in a couple of bonus tracks of what was once very clearly B-side, if not K-side, material. So you end up with a rock record housing a classic song dealing with existentialism, and also contains two songs in which Norman seems to be expressing his love for two very specific grocery items.
First up is "Canned Ham":
"When you gonna buy me a canned ham / I've been waiting so long / When you gonna buy it / When you gonna satisfy me? / I like a canned ham baby (baby) / Canned ham that's for me / When I think about it, sends me into ecstasy."
Those are the mad ravings of some porkophiliac. I've never heard anyone express that much love for a packaged pork product. The CEO of Hormel probably doesn't even eat Spam, let alone write folk ballads about it.
And this was before all those crazy flavors, like bacon, garlic, and The Liberation of Guam.
There are so many unanswered questions here. What is Norman planning on doing with this ham? Why does he need a ham dealer? And why the hell doesn't he just go buy it himself?
"Put it in a skillet / Fry it nice and brown / Put it in my pocket / Gonna carry it around and around and around and around."
It's that final line that throws the monkey in the wrench. Why would anyone fill their pockets with fried ham and ... this is a drug thing, isn't it?
OK, well, let's try this song, called "Chocolate Milk," which can be found on the same CD.
Fun fact: This is what CDs looked like back then.
"Chocolate Milk / I buy you when I'm dry / I buy you when I'm dry / You only cost a dime / I buy you all the time / Chocolate Milk / I got you on my mind / I got you on my mind / You only cost a dime / I buy you all the time."
Look, folk music can and has been written about everything. This is a genre that contains sub-genres that exist just to spite the already-subversive main genre, after all. But seriously, chocolate fucking milk? No wonder the only song you've heard by this guy is the one where he says "die" 10 different times.
"At the corner variety store / They don't have anymore of you today / Lots of items for a dime / I'm sure they all taste fine / But nothing can replace the taste / Of Chocolate Milk."
Back in the day, when milk was a dime and lead was an FDA-approved ingredient.
The entire next verse goes on to talk about how Count Chocula Norm plans to wait in line for the next shipment of chocolate milk, like it's an Apple product on Black Friday or a gun on Obama's third inauguration. Even if these songs are actually about drugs (probably), why choose these specific products as metaphors? It's like writing a ransom note in Chinese on the back of a Walmart receipt. It's technically valid, but at some point, it's just too subtle. Maybe Norm should have laid off the choco-ham shakes so we could have all figured out what he was talking about.
#4. Hanson's "Man From Milwaukee" Is About A Literal Naked Martian
There may not be a song that encapsulates the '90s more perfectly than Hanson's "MmmBop."
Lyrically, it was smack dab in the middle of pop music's collective "Screw it, everybody will buy this if the melody is catchy" phase, along with other gems like Kid Rock's "Bawitdaba" and Eifel 65's "Blue Da Ba De Whateverthefuck." Image-wise, the band was a transition from the glam rock girly bands of the '80s to the clean-cut boy groups of the '00s. We didn't know or care if they were boys or girls, but knew that they made us feel good inside. But for real, a friend of mine totally thought "the middle girl from Hanson" was kind of cute for about an entire year.
Pictured: my generation's first (and most confusing) collective boner.
"Mmmbop" aside, go ahead and name one other song by Hanson. If you still have the album, listen to the whole thing, and then just accept your shame. The final track on Hanson's first album, called "Man From Milwaukee," is about meeting a creepy hairless fella at a bus stop who starts acting really suspicious, and then suddenly disappears. Today, this would require a "See Something, Say Something" 911 call, but in the whimsical '90s ...
"It started at a bus stop in the middle of nowhere / Sitting beside me was a man with no hair / From the look on his face and the size of his toes / He comes from a place that nobody knows / Maybe I'm hallucinating, hyperventilating / Letting this big-toed bald man sitting here tell me about the sky."
His toes were so incredibly big that they were of note TWICE in one verse, and this wasn't enough reason to run away immediately? While the first part is a bit dreamlike, the chorus makes it quite clear what we're dealing with:
"I've been sitting here too long by a man from Milwaukee / He's been talking too long on his yellow walkie-talkie / He's been talking to Mars but I think he's wacky / He says they'll come get him, come get him some day."
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"In fact, why don't you kids come with me ... to Mars."
"He says where he's from is called Albertane / There they use more than 10 percent of their brain / But you couldn't tell it from the way they behave / They run around in underwear and they never shave."
There's a lot to unpack, but the gist is that this guy isn't actually from the far-off planet of Wisconsin, but is in fact from "Albertane," which is apparently (according to an angelfire fan page that you definitely shouldn't click on) the fictional capital of Mars. OK, so that's fine. It's science fiction. Pink Floyd has weirder songs than that. Why Hanson felt the need to make this alien naked, humanity may never understand. And that still doesn't explain why the boys immediately noticed his oversized piggy toes and not the hulking bush hanging out of his whitey-tighties implied by that line about needing to shave. We already know he's bald, so what else could they mean? Pubes. Martian pubes is what they mean. A full-on Matt Damon topiary.
At the end of the song, the man disappears right in front of Hanson, presumably back to Mars. I feel like the mother of these brothers would not have approved of them ever going back to the city after they told her this story:
"You wouldn't believe me if I told you the rest / The man sitting by me who was barely dressed / Flew off to Milwaukee or perhaps Albertane / And left me at the bus stop just barely sane"
"And then we woke up and it was Friday! Isn't that funny, Mom? Mom? Why are you crying?"
Other, better bands have made songs about aliens (there's this David Bowie fella you may want to check out some day), but none that I can think of were naked and hanging out with a couple of preteen boys at a bus stop.