From rockin’ ghouls to rollin’ truckers, here are 11 unforgettable novelty songs.
1. “Poisoning Pigeons In The Park” (1959)
Written and Performed by Tom Lehrer
Dr. Demento once called Lehrer “the greatest satirist of the 20th Century.” On this bouncy number, the math professor turned songwriter paints an idyllic portrait of spring, then goes pitch black on couplets like: “When they see us coming the birdies all try and hide / But they still go for peanuts when coated with cyanide.”
2. “Monster Mash” (1962)
Written by Bobby Pickett and Leonard Capizzi
Performed by Bobby Boris Pickett & The Crypt Kickers
Wannabe actor Bobby Pickett had a knack for impersonations, among them Boris Karloff. On weekends, he played in a cover band. One stormy night, Pickett mixed Karloff with “Little Darlin’” by The Diamonds, and “The Monster Mash” was created.
3. “They’re Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-ha” (1966)
Written by Jerry Samuels
Performed by Napoleon XIV
Recording engineer Jerry Samuels once spent eight months in a psychiatric hospital. Apparently the experience left an impression. This monologue of a man driven insane by his badly behaved dog was demented when played forward. And even more so on the B-side, where it’s recorded backwards!
4. “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” (1968)
Written by Al Dubin and Joe Burke
Performed by Tiny Tim
With his wobbly falsetto, dippy looks and beat-up ukulele, Tiny Tim (née Herbert Khaury) was like some time-traveling Vaudeville star. This update of a 1929 tune was his biggest hit. Tim later died of cardiac arrest while singing it on stage at a benefit in 1996.
5. “Convoy” (1975)
Written by William Fries and Louis Davis
Performed by C.W. McCall
As the CB Radio fad swept the country, one C.W. McCall (William Fries’ stage name) lent his drawl to a trucker’s drama loaded full of jargon. “10-4, good buddy” became a national catchphrase.
6. “King Tut” (1978)
Written by Steve Martin
Performed by Steve Martin & the Toot Uncommons
Boy King meets Wild and Crazy Guy. Spoofing the Tutankhamen exhibit that was touring museums in 1978, Martin wrapped every mummy cliché in the book around this hit. Best line: “He had a condo made a stone-ah.”
7. “The Curly Shuffle” (1983)
Written by Peter Quinn
Performed by Jump ‘N’ The Saddle Band
A jumpin’ jive tribute to everyone’s favorite Stooge. After it hit, the Chicago-based bar band was briefly courted by Atlantic Records, who apparently wanted them to come up with a Marx Brothers novelty song. “The Groucho Stoop”?
8. “Eat It” (1984)
Written and Performed by Weird Al Yankovic
Michael Jackson reportedly thought it was amusing enough to grant permission. The first in a long string of charting parody hits for the accordion-playing Yankovic. “Get yourself an egg and beat it.”
9. “The Chanukah Song” (1994)
Written by Adam Sandler, Lewis Morton and Ian Maxtone-Graham
Performed by Adam Sandler
After Sandler debuted his holiday song on SNL in December 1994, he went on to record three separate versions over the next decade, including one for the soundtrack of his film Eight Crazy Nights. And his list of Jewish celebrity shout-outs grew, taking in everyone from David Lee Roth to Debra Messing.
10. “Who Let The Dogs Out” (2000)
Written by Anslem Douglas
Performed by Baha Men
Who let the dogs out? You might want to blame Alex Rodriguez.
The director of promotions for the Seattle Mariners first played the Baha Men song at a Major League game as a joke on backup catcher Joe Oliver. A-Rod was there, and unfortunately, he liked the tune. Rodriguez requested that stadium officials play the song as his batter introduction music, and soon, ballparks around the nation were blaring “Who Let the Dogs Out?” over their loudspeakers.
11. “Bowie’s In Space” (2006)
Written by Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement
Performed by Flight of the Conchords
After New Zealand’s fourth most popular folk duo receive some counseling from an apparition of David Bowie, they sing this parody tribute. Best line: “I’m jamming out with the Mick Jagger-nauts / Ooh, and they think it’s pretty cool.”