Last week I was listening to WTCR in Troy and they delighted me by playing a song that took me back to my very young childhood. It was “Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor On The Bedpost Overnight” by Lonnie Donegan. Sixty years may have passed since I last heard this song, but I sang word for word as it played. I guess the novelty has not yet worn off! I loved those campy songs.
One of my favorites was a Phil Harris number called “The Thing” which was released before I was born. I heard it because my older brothers sang it to me. In fact, I can vividly recall them singing it and trying to scare me when they got to the part that said “get out of here with that ‘boom de boom’ and don’t come back no more!”
My most favorite novelty song was released the year I was six. It was by the Playmates and called “Beep Beep.” If you don’t know this song, it’s worth pulling from your computer or phone. It’s just fun. I made a recording of it to play in my car and our son was subjected to it every time he rode with me. Eventually, he liked it, too. And it made us feel like we were going very fast, even though we weren’t.
Novelty songs started in the early 20th century, with songs like “K-K-K-Katy” and “Yes, We Have No Bananas.” They grew in popularity and some very Allied-prone ones were popular during WWII. In the late 1940’s the Tex Williams “Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette” topped the charts for weeks. My mom used to sing that to me, privately, since my dad smoked and she didn’t like it!
The 60’s were resplendent with these kinds of songs. They provide our guilty pleasures — we rolled up the windows, cranked the music, and sang along. Songs like “Witch Doctor,” “Purple People Eater,” “Yakety Yak,” and “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” were easy to belt out in the privacy of our autos or homes. These, and others like “Monster Mash” and “The Name Game,” were among many that actually hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts.
The trend continued into the ’70s, when Ray Stevens had a string of hits with tunes like “Guitarzan” and “the Streak.” Even the holiday season was affected with melodies from the Chipmunks’ “Christmas Don’t Be Late” and the popular “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer.” Let me digress to say that the latter is not one of my favorites, and yet I still hear it every Christmas season!
Later generations have had to settle for novelty songs such as “Mmbopp” by Hanson and “Achy Breaky Heart.” In my opinion, these aren’t the novelty songs of the old days. They just don’t have the same flare or special spark. I mean, they are nothing in comparison to mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey. Right?
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know your favorite novelty song.
Sue is a retired public servant who volunteers at the Hospice store (For All Seasons) in Troy and teaches part-time at Urbana University. She keeps busy taking care of husband, house, and pets. She and her husband have an adult son who lives in Troy.