6 Absolutely Godawful Follow-Ups To Hit Novelty Songs
Having your novelty song go big is bittersweet. On the one hand, you've secured your legacy. On the other hand, your legacy kind of sucks, and you probably won't even be able to cash in on it for very long. So it's no wonder that most bands follow up a novelty breakthrough with some weird, embarrassing, desperate stuff. Such as how ...
Remember "Snoopy vs. The Red Baron"? Next Came "Snoopy vs. Osama"
The Royal Guardsmen never intended "Snoopy vs. The Red Baron" to be their signature song, but when a music executive showed up at one of their gigs asking them to lay down an inexplicable ditty about Charlie Brown's dog battling WWI German flying ace Manfred von Richtofen, the band figured "Screw it, it's a record deal." After the song became a surprise hit, they found themselves reluctantly running a cottage industry of pop tunes about Snoopy. The devil always comes to collect.
The Royal Guardsmen's Snoopy catalog includes a Christmas ballad, a song which sends Snoopy to the moon, and a concept album about Snoopy's presidential campaign that had to be hastily edited after Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. That's not a joke. But the band hit peak weirdness 40 years after their initial success with the release of "Snoopy vs. Osama."
If the title alone doesn't tell you everything you need to know, we will elaborate. Snoopy and Charlie Brown enlist in the military and hunt down Osama bin Laden by any means necessary. We know what you're wondering: Is there a verse wherein Charlie Brown is gravely wounded by a roadside bomb, leaving Snoopy to gun down the architect of 9/11 on a solo mission? Yes, of course there is. Please don't ask stupid questions, hypothetical reader.
Even though bin Laden is reviled as one of our century's greatest monsters, it's hard not to be creeped out by lines like Snoopy smiled and aimed and he fired his gun / "Take this, bin Laden, now you won't have to run."
You're fucking next, Shermy.
The "Monster Mash" Guy Loved Monsters, Hated Climate Change
For most people, "Monster Mash" is nothing but a silly little song about a bunch of old-timey movie monsters who set aside their differences for one night in order to get fully lit. You know, like human Halloween. For the guy who wrote it, though, "Monster Mash" was a way of life. Unlike some artists, who resent being pigeonholed, Bobby "Boris" Pickett cheerfully stuck with his schtick for much of his career. He produced new "Mash" rehashes sporadically for four decades, including a full-length Monster Mash album which followed the adventures of Dracula, Igor, the Wolfman, and all of their ghoulish cronies.
And then Pickett's long run of monster ballads took a different turn with "The Climate Mash," a 2005 satire wherein Pickett's Boris Karloff impression shames George W. Bush for his ignorance of climate science. The tie-in is a stretch. Comparing all the president's men to vampires and zombies who "feast" on Big Oil and ... party with their undead brethren? The whole Mash aspect is unclear at this point.
While Pickett had revisited his monster themes many times, up to that point, his most controversial take was 1984's "The Monster Rap," which posited that Frankenstein's Monster might be good at hip-hop. Pickett's heart was undoubtedly in the right place, but zingers like We couldn't tell the mindless zombies / From the elected ones were not. They were in the wrong place. At the wrong time. And doing all the wrong things, none of them "mashing."
Sir Mix-A-Lot Penned "Baby Got Back," Then Stood Up For Small Penises
Nowadays, Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Baby Got Back" wouldn't feel out of place as supermarket background music, but it was a shock to the system back in the day of Parental Advisory hearings. We won't speculate on the man's sexual proclivities, as what he does in the backseat of his Benz is his own business, but it's fair to say that his fondness for juice does not extend to the fellas. Where "Baby Got Back" disavowed women built on the small side, the coyly titled "Big Johnson" does the opposite.
Don't take his word for it -- motherfucker came with statistics:
Only five percent of men got nine and up / but 85 percent say they can't fit a cup.
His research skills have certainly improved since "Baby Got Back," wherein he failed to mention exactly how many sport LA faces with Oakland booties. You have to give him credit, though, for admitting that he himself is rocking only "medium wood." Truly, the man earned that knighthood.
Everybody Loves E.T. (A Little Too Much)
Buckner & Garcia's "Pac-Man Fever" was the first jock jam for gamers, an energetic bar rock anthem detailing the thrilling turn by turn action of a typical game of Pac-Man. You could call it a cash grab, but at least it came from a couple of guys who knew their way around an arcade. Their full-length Pac-Man Fever album featured eight songs inspired by the hottest games of 1982, from Donkey Kong to Berzerk.
But after scoring big with video games, Buckner & Garcia shifted focus to another pop culture passion project. "E.T., I Love You" is a far cry from the generic bar band squalling of "Pac-Man Fever." It's a straightforward, weepy slow jam about Steven Spielberg's space invader, sung from the perspective of his earthling friend Elliott. It features lyrics like I shared your thoughts, your hopes and dreams / I watched you make flowers grow / You called my name, I felt your pain / E.T., I love you so.
A pseudo-romantic ballad about E.T. is bizarre enough, but things got really strange when Buckner & Garcia's label shafted them by shelving "E.T., I Love You" at the last minute ... because they decided to release a different weepy slow jam inspired by E.T. It was Neil Diamond's aggressively sappy "Heartlight." Diamond scored a hit, and Buckner & Garcia's song stayed buried until they included it on a 2002 re-release of Pac-Man Fever. On the bright side, maybe they dodged a bullet. "Heartlight" got Neil Diamond and friends successfully sued by Universal Studios for recording an unauthorized love song about E.T. Makes sense. They couldn't let someone else cash in on the booming business of E.T. love songs, which we only now learned was a thing several decades later.
Rick Dees Went All-In On Disco Animals
In 1976, Memphis disc jockey Rick Dees hit on the incredibly original notion of making fun of disco music. He wrote some lyrics about accidentally inventing a duck-like dance at the club, put together the fantastically named band "Rick Dees and His Cast of Idiots," and got a friend to do a jive-talking Donald Duck impression over a generic disco beat. The resulting song, "Disco Duck," was a huge hit, for reasons that presumably have a fair bit to do with cocaine.
You know how people bag on Hollywood sequels for falling back on the "Do it again, but bigger" philosophy? Dees and his Idiots took that idea quite literally with their "Disco Duck" follow-up, "Dis-Gorilla." Intended to piggyback on the 1976 King Kong remake, it's a song about an ape-like dancer who crowns himself King of the disco villa / Affectionately known as "Dis-Gorilla." Lest anyone think Dees was phoning it in, it should be noted that where "Disco Duck" featured a duck voice, "Dis-Gorilla" features ape noises. These are the subtle considerations that set the true visionaries apart.
Unfortunately, the public's appetite for songs about disco animals topped out at exactly one. After the sequel flopped, Dees was forced to retreat into obscurity ... or, y'know, continue hosting a nationally broadcast Top 40 radio show for three decades and counting. That's a shame -- "Dis-Gorilla" was a solid pun, and dare we suggest an even more compelling ... supervillain? Eyes up, Marvel.
The Simpsons Wanted To Follow "Do The Bartman" With A Hip-Hop Beach Boys Collaboration
Back in 1990, everybody wanted a piece of The Simpsons. Fox's flagship family was so hot that they spawned not only The Simpsons Sing The Blues, a best-selling album of terrible songs only vaguely related to the show, but also a hit single to go along with it. "Do The Bartman" consists mostly of Bart (sung by voice actor Nancy Cartwright) rattling off a list of mild misdeeds, like putting mothballs in his mom's beef stew. As cheap cash-in songs performed by cartoon characters go, it's fairly catchy, and it had some serious pop cred: Simpsons superfan Michael Jackson provided background vocals.
Although the show itself was entering its genius years, The Simpsons' pop-culture stock had dropped considerably by 1992. Still, there was talk of a sequel to "Do The Bartman": a collaboration with the post-"Kokomo" Beach Boys featuring rap breaks by Bart. But cooler heads prevailed and Bart's participation was nixed. Does that mean everybody sobered up long enough to shitcan the project? Of course not! Ever-tasteful Beach Boy Mike Love just decided he'd go it alone and take over the rapping duties. The result was "Summer Of Love," arguably the lowest point in the deepest valley of the Beach Boys' career.
"Summer Of Love" wound up on the critically reviled Summer In Paradise album, better known as "the one with Uncle Jesse." It's unknown how much the Bart version would have resembled the finished "Summer Of Love," but it's a safe bet that it would have leaned a little less on 50-year-old Mike Love busting skeevy rhymes like Doing unto others is the Golden Rule / But doing it with you would be oh so cool.
Tip: If a middle-aged man ever starts rapping about "doing it" in your vicinity, immediately leave his backyard barbecue. It's about to get weird.
Ira Brooker lives in Saint Paul and writes anything for which people will pay him, plus a lot of things for which they will not. He has a site for professional stuff, and another for dumb pop culture prattle.
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