Musical oddities, novelties and just plain silly songs amuse me – in short bursts, anyway. Almost all, I'm grateful to report since most don't have staying power, are shorter than three minutes. I have dozens of these on my computer collected for all kinds of reasons. Here are a few, not necessarily the best of a dubious genre, I found on YouTube.
In the summer of 1960, you couldn’t turn on the radio without hearing Bryan Hyland’s Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini. I never liked it – and it’s all the worse because it’s damned hard to get out of your head. [2:18 minutes]
Among my favorite actors is Robert Mitchum, not because he ranks with the finest – he would be the first to say he doesn’t. I just like the persona he projected on screen which, I discovered when we interviewed him for The Barbara Walters Specials, is pretty much who he was off-screen.
He wrote, directed (it is rumored) and starred in one of best B movies ever made, Thunder Road, released in 1958, and he co-wrote and sang the theme song. Mitchum made two record albums during his career – one of standards including Thunder Road and another of – wait for it – calypso tunes which I have on vinyl stored away somewhere as one of my oddities for its wretchedness. [2:29 minutes]
When I was nine years old, this truly dumb song, The Thing, was my favorite and I was apparently not alone. It was a number 1 hit in 1950 from Phil Harris. The modern-day video that goes with it here is only mildly amusing. [2:31 minutes]
Hoagy Carmichael was on the radio a lot when I was growing up and although he is best known for writing the perennial favorite, Stardust, I was more interested in his novelty tunes when I was a kid. Hong Kong Blues, about a poor guy who gets in deep trouble for “kicking old Buddha’s gong” stands out a bit these days for the politically incorrect lyric in the first line, but hey – it was published in 1943. The accompanying video biography is a nice reminder of the many great standards Carmichael wrote – and I’ve always liked his voice; he sounds like someone I’d like to have known. [2:59 minutes]
Randy Newman took a lot of grief in 1977 for this tune – “bigoted” said people who are irony challenged. But Short People was then and remains a silly favorite of mine because it was released just about the time I met the only man in my life who didn’t give me a crick in my neck looking at him – he was 5’ 3” to my 5’ 2”. I should have married him, although not for his height. But that’s a private story. [2:12 minutes]
Ray Stevens made a career of novelty songs – tunes like The Streak, Ahab the Arab and Gitarzan among others. This game-style video that goes with Steven’s version of I’m My Own Grandpa is pretty good. The song was originally recorded decades earlier by Phil Harris (which I prefer) and you can listen to that one here. [2:42 minutes]
Mairzy Doats may be the first song I learned by heart; I have no memory of not knowing it. This is a fun version from Spike Jones released in 1943. [2:41 minutes]