Text © Robert Barry Francos
Images and videos from Internet
There were lots of reasons to make mixed tapes – when it was still tape. When one hears about this phenomenon, it is usually something made as a gift for someone they are trying to impress, like a potential girlfriend. It was infamously one sided in that way, though I do admit that my then-girlfriend made me some powerful collections.
Most cars played cassettes (though some did 8-Tracks, but they were only pre-recorded), and I used to create my own to play in the car, especially since I haven’t found much reason to listen to a music channel (and the good ones, like WFMU, were hard to pick up then), especially since I was dating someone at a distance and needed to take long, long drives pretty often.
Just recently, I came across a tape I made in 1985, which I had labeled Weeeeeeeeird Music. It was only one side of the cassette, thereby coming in at 45 minutes, and I would like to share.
I have linked the songs at the end of each piece, if available online. Though I own all the music (in vinyl, of course), occasionally I have not been able to find the particular song because I can’t remember the artist’s name, so I have listed them as TBD. If anyone knows, inform me and I will update the blog. These are in the order they appear on the tape.
1. “Deteriorata” – National Lampoon’s Radio Dinner
Sometimes the spoof of a song can be better than the original. In this case it is true about this send-up of the meaningful and spiritual “Desiderata” by Max Ehrmann. The first starts off with “You are a child of the universe / You have a right to be here,” and continues on giving soulful advice to a hippie mind-expanded culture. The theme of “Deteriorata” is similar, but manipulates it (see end of this review) The advice sounds more like the mind of Comedian Steven Wright, with short, sloganesque bon mots like, “Go placidly amid the noise and waste / And remember what comfort there may be / In owning a piece thereof,” “Let not the sands of time get in your lunch,” and “Speak glowingly of those greater than yourself / And heed their advice / Even though they be turkeys.” The male, sonorous voice sounds fatherly or priestly, giving the off-kilter “Say what?” aspect even more power. Sample lyrics:
You are a fluke of the universe
You have no right to be here
And whether you can hear it or not
Is laughing behind your back
2. “Magical Misery Tour” – National Lampoon’s Radio Dinner
Obviously recorded before the mellowing and then assassination of John Lennon, this is a scathing imitation of him spouting out his anger at the world for ripping him off (e.g., “I was the walrus! Paul wasn’t the walrus! I was just saying that to be nice, but I was actually the walrus!”). The song, sung by Tony Hendra in full Lennon mode, is full of vindictive comments about the Stones, Paul, George and Hare Krishna’s, his aunt, and Linda (or Lee?) Eastman. Only Yoko comes out looking well (“I’ll tell you why nobody likes her music / Because she’s a woman and she’s Oriental, that’s why!”). It’s painfully funny from beginning to end, though I know a lot of people who were angry with this. But as the song clearly states, “Genius is pain!” And the last line is an impersonation of Yoko presciently saying, “The dream is over…”
Look, I’m not your fuckin’ parents
And I’m sick of upside hippies coming a-knockin’ at me door
With a fuckin peace symbol
Get this, fuck that
I don’t owe you fuckers anything
And all I got to say is fuck you
The sky is blue!
3. “Wop Muzik” – Eddy Gorodetsky and Tom Couch
A spoof of M’s “Pop Muzik,” this is accurate to the original, but the lyrics take a funny look at Italian stereotypes, which made it all the more amusing to me since I grew up in heavily Sicilian Bensonhurst. While making fun of this stereotype (though close enough to be offensive to some, especially those I knew from my youth, e.g., the ones throwing watermelons at Al Sharpton during his many marches through my neighborhood back then), it seems to be it is done in a jovial manner, rather than a mocking one: “Wanna be the next pope / Won’t be no-no / Domni Domni / Holy moley!” Sometimes satire can be so close it truly is hard to see the joke forest for the real trees.
Sacco and Vanzetti
Have some spaghetti
Play some bocce
Cosa Nostra, pizza parlor
Everyone’s talkin’ ‘bout…”
4. “Gaslight at The Ice House” – Pat Paulsen
Paulsen was a cast member of The Smothers Brothers show, but there is some funny solo material on his album, Live at the Ice House. He was known for his complete deadpan delivery (and yet, he often cracked himself up, and rightfully so). This is true with this off-the-cuff lovingly kidding of folk songs that really don’t say anything. He is pretty obviously making it up as he goes along in a sort of melodic sing-song monotone (yes, a true oxymoron), as he pauses to think about the next line and laughs about not only what he just said, but one gets the feeling, about where he’s going.
We ordered a cider and there was a cockroach in my glass
So I switched glasses
And you switched glasses
And the cockroach switched glasses
5. “Disco Jesus” – The Clap
I am certain there are people out there who are going to find this offensive. Probably the point. This is certainly one of the few disco songs I can tolerate, because I simply cannot listen to it without laughing. It’s just a standard, by-the-numbers disco tune with the whistles and all – what a friend of mine would call washing machine music (because it has the same woosh-woosh rhythm) – but the lyrics are something else. The singer wants to do the bump with Jesus and states, “so if you love to party / yeah, Jesus loves you.” It’s the mentions of his “golden coke-spoon and skin-tight bulging slacks” that will probably freak out some. Hopefully, if you believe in that kind of thing, Jesus had (has?) some kind of sense of humor. Please note that this is not the one on YouTube where someone dresses as Jesus dances to the Bee Gees.
Jesus he gets down
Comes to boogie He’s the boss
You oughta see him do the hustle
Upon that funky cross
6. “Walk With an Erection” – Swinging Erudites
Led by Johnny Angel of (City) Thrills and the underrated Blackjacks up in Boston, he put out two albums of comedy with this group. I once saw him at the Rat doing an amazingly funny lounge act of punk songs (somewhat later realized by Paul Anka’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”). But here, his troupe takes on the Bangles hit, obviously changing the lyrics to fit the sophomoric notions they present. They aren’t mimics, per se, but they come pretty close to the original, making this all the more funny, especially with making light of Vicki’s whistling part.
Those college boys are true to form
They try to lure chicks into their dorm
They’re oozing sweat from every pore
They drop their drawers and ask for more
All the girls from BU they say “Hard on, hard on
Beg my pardon”
Walk with an e-rec-tion
MP3s for the Swinging Erudites can be found at www.myspace.com/theswingingerudites
7. “Jon Anchovi Sings: You Give Rock a Bad Name/Livin' On My Hair” – Swinging Erudites
Johnny Angel takes on the demigod-like (at least at the time he was) Jon Bon Jovi. He starts right off with “Shot through the ears / this tune’s so lame / We give rock / A bad name.” While matching the music quite accurately, Angel almost goes beyond the necessary to strike deep in the heart of Jovi lore. I don’t have a problem with it actually, as while I believe Jovi is a probably nice guy, but his music has always been…whatever. Angel leaves no stone unturned, blending the original song’s guitar solo into the key phrase of “Layla,” not just hinting of a “borrowing” (Boston-based musical comedian Blowfish did this also with Robin Trower and Jimi Hendrix). Whenever I hear “Living on the Air” now, I automatically “hear” this version in my head, and smile.
All the kids in the country know all our songs by heart
Like it or not
Oh, I’m a millionaire
Oh-oh, living on my hair
Take my advice and have it feathered and layered
Oh-oh, living’ on my hair
8. “Dead Skunk” – Loudon Wainwright III
This is one of the few songs in the collection that isn’t a take-off of another song. This was actually a semi-radio hit. Loudon was known for his quirky songs, like “Love to the Nth Degree,” and presented many of them on the first season of M*A*S*H and early Saturday Night Lives. This song is a non-sentimental, and yet respectful, look at what is left over when a skunk “didn’t look left and he didn’t look right.” Still, it is less nasty as, say, Tina Peel’s “Fifi Went Pop” (another great song, but not in this collection). Solid country and with Loudon’s unique voice, this is totally hummable. PETA must hate this.
Take a whiff on me, that ain’t no rose
Roll up your window and hold your nose
You don’t have to look and you don’t have to see
‘Cause you can feel it in your olfactory
9. “Kennedy Girls” – Little Roger and the Goosebumps
LR&tG (led by Roger Clark and Dick Bright) are better known for their “Stairway to Gilligan’s Island” (which can be found on YouTube), but I find this one to be more fun. Their dead-on interpretation of Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl” is hysterical. Sacrilege to some, but I see it as a funny and loving tribute, considering how musically adept they cover the song (same with “Stairway,” which totally offended a classic rocker I used to work with). One doesn’t go through the trouble to be this accurate with some appreciation of the original.
Sister or cousin don’t matter to me
On every branch of that family tree
There are Kennedy girls
Don’t care if she’s ugly her credit’s enough
They always carry plenty of green stuff
Those Kennedy girls
10. “Eleanor Rigby” Jimi Lalumia & The Psychotic Frogs
Led by Long Island musician Jimi Lalumia, the Frogs did a total disrespectful makeover of the Beatles classic. More in a punk vein, they take a sort of Lou Reed-ish “Walk on the Wild Side” slice-and-dice, mixed with a Wayne (as he was then) County outrageousness, and tells the sick and twisted tale of Eleanor and Father MacKenzie. The listener knows they are in for something different with the opening line of “Ah, look at all you fuckin’ people.” But I want to add that with its entire shockability factor, which really is the main point here, it is so sick and twisted, that it is also humorous. Also, if you check out the video, read the comments underneath. Some people just take this stuff too seriously.
Eleanor Rigby scratches her crotch in a church where a wedding has been
She’s rather obscene
Down with her panties
She’s never been fucked but she knows some day that she will
So she’s on the pill
A live version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3cipi4ezTrQ
11. “I Got Fucked By the Devil Last Night” Jimi Lalumia & The Psychotic Frogs
For those who don’t know, the name of this band comes from a line by Wayne County in his song, “Max’s Kansas City.” Jimi Lalumia is a huge County fan, and this is the perfect example of his dedication. This song is different than any other in this list in that rather than shifting the lyrics to pervert the meaning, Jimi actually changes the lyrics back to their original. When County recorded this, he was forced to soften the title words to “Paranoia Paradise”; Jimi changes it back.
Late last night after I went to bed
I got a demonic feeling in my head
Something pulled my legs apart
And I felt it right up to my heart
I got fucked by the devil last night
He sure fucked the hell out of me
A live version, including Jayne County: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a6qGCde6d48
12. “Loco-Motion” – Christopher Milk
Christopher Milk was a band led by rock writer John Mendolsohn, and this was on their album, Some People Will Drink Anything. Basically the lyrics stay the same as on this classic ‘60s tune, but a total reinterpretation with a new bridge in the middle (such as Willie Alexander’s “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling”). When I’ve played this for people, they seem to want to scratch their heads in confusion. Definitely a cult thing from the ‘70s, the two main vocals toss between muddled and slurred with a nasal quality, and a sluggish bass, and bolstered by a pounding beat (especially on said bridge)
I want to see all my brothers and all my sisters out here
Doing the Locomotion with me
Where are you brothers and sisters?
13. “Satisfaction” – The Residents
One way to look at it is that the Residents are to rock’n’roll what Miles Davis was to jazz. Lots of dissonance, distortion, noise, and sheer “What the hell?” I have emptied more than one party by playing this cut. One has to hear this a number of times to truly appreciate its sheer mania. Pre-industrial, but they left their mark as an influence. And it is long, though not as much as fellow travelers, impLOG. The video on YouTube sounds completely different, by the way. Oh, and my single is on yellow vinyl!
Not a clue…
14. “Fluffy” – Gloria Balsam
This is done kind of straightforward, but under the…er…capable hands of comedian Gloria Balsam, it has its own aura. Out of San Francisco, this is pure experimental pop. Gloria sings a treaclely song about finding, losing, and then re-finding her dog. I really can’t tell if this is some kind of tribute to her dog, or just a comedy bit, but I gotta say I love this song, from the first time I heard it. Glorida does not exactly have a great voice, but that’s all part of the appeal, especially on the parts that are too high for her voice and comes out kind of as a shriek. Wish she had done more. While I proudly own the original single, Dr. Demento also (and wrongfully) has this on collection, The Worst Records Ever Made. Sacrilege!
Here Fluffy, where are you, where ARE you?
Oh, how much you mean to MEEEEEE
A live version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJ2ndH84JOs
15. “A Blind Man’s Penis” – John Trubee
The story behind this is as interesting as the song itself. John Trubee found an ad in the back of a magazine stating that if you send in a poem, for a fee they’ll send it back as a C&W song. He came up with the most bizarre, psychotic, collection of sentences he could thing of and sent it off. This is what came back. The only line they edited was changing “Stevie Wonder’s Penis” to its present title. With straight deadpan, the able country singer twangs over a standard pre-recorded tinny keyboard. What makes this especially fun is that voice and the contradiction of the lyrics he is singing. This record is brilliant.
The zebra spilled his plastic seed on Venus
And the gelatin fingers oozed electric marbles
Ramona’s titties died in hell
And the Nazis want to kill, to kill everyone