Hit Novelty Songs
Hit Novelty Songs From the 60s and 70s
Novelty songs are seldom serious music, but what they have going for them is fun or perhaps a bit of a shock factor. This type of music isn't unique to any time period. Novelty songs have existed since the time that we first began recording music and they continue to this day.
In the 70's, Monty Python, Dr. Demento, Weird Al Yankovikc, Ray Stevens, and Jim Stafford provided many novelty tunes, but there were others that hit it big with this genre as well. While we may not think of these tunes as the best music of the 70's, 60's or any other time period, they have hit and stayed on the charts in many instances.
On this page, I've highlighted some of the most memorable hit novelty songs from the 1960s and 1970s, when I was a kid. It should be a lot of fun to listen in, so there are videos that include the original recorded tunes. Enjoy!
They're Coming To Take Me Away
This novelty song isn't actually set to music but does use some instruments for rhythm. It was released in 1966 by Napoean XIV. I can remember hearing this song as a kid and thinking that although it was crazy funny, it was really pretty scary particularly as the piece progresses. The "song" is about a breakup and the resulting mental instability the singer experiences.
You can listen to a portion of this song below.
Snoopy Vs the Red Baron
This was a favorite when I was a kid. This piece was released in 1966 and was recorded by the Royal Guardsmen. They actually recorded some follow ups to this novelty song, but beyond these recordings, I don't recall hearing much about the group before or since.
The lyrics tell of the fictitious rivalry between Snoopy, the dog in the Peanuts comics, and the Red Baron, a German flying ace in World War I. One of the more popular follow ups was the Christmas version.
You can hear both of these novelty songs below.
Not to be confused with an older song entitled Chicaboom, this novelty song hit the charts in 1971 by "Daddy Dewdrop". I later learned this was the name used by a song writer named Dick Monda. I've never heard of another song performed under this same name, making it a kind of one hit wonder although I believe Monda was in the music business for quite some time.
You can listen to Chic-A-Boom below.
Although I would consider "Alice's Restaurant" a novelty song, it's one that has enjoyed some ongoing success as a folk tune. The piece, by Arlo Guthrie, was released in 1967. It's has a long, and somewhat wandering monolog that tells a true story about a Thanskgiving Day event in Guthrie's life. It is generally considered to have an anti-war theme. There are many radio stations that still play the song on Thanksgiving Day.
You can hear Alice's Restaurant in it's entirety below.
Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road
In1972, folk singer, actor Louden Wainwright released "Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road" where it found poplarity some months later, in 1973. The song is simple, to the point, and something we can all relate to whether you interpret it literally or as a political statement.
Hear it below.
Dutch group Focus, released the song "Hocus Pocus" on an album in 1971. While the song may not fit everyone's description of a novelty song, it suits mine. The genre may be hard rock, but it was very unusual at the time. I suppose it's an instrumental, as long as you consider the use of the human voice in yodeling, random vocalizations, and whistling to be an instrument. It's highly energetic.
You can listen to it performed live below.
Another novelty hit song was Chuck Berry's "My Ding-A-Ling". which made the charts in 1972. The song was banned by some stations for it's sexual innuendo, but managed to make it's mark in history as a #1 hit in the US.
You can hear it below.
Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini
In 1960 Brian Hyland hit the top of the US charts with his song "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini". I suppose I got to know this hit novelty song as an "oldie" since it was recorded when I was an infant but I'm sure it still gets airplay today as an oldie from the 60's. I believe Hyland was just a teenager when he recorded the song.
You can hear it below.
Hello Muddah, Hellow Fadduh (Letters from Camp Genada)
In 1963 Allan Sherman took a classical music composition (Dance of the Hours) and added words that described the letters of a young boy writing home to his parents about the dreadful conditions at his summer camp. He later penned follow up songs that continued the saga, but it is this first one that gained most prominence.
The first and second of the two Camp Grenada tunes are below; the video is not original but the audio is.
The Name Game and the Clapping Song
Shirley Ellis made "The Name Game" popular in 1963. It was the perfect song for young kids, letting them morph names into silly rhymes. Ellis followed this tune up with "The Clapping Song" in 1965, another great one for younger grade school girls who loved to chant the rhyming tune along with clapping games or jump rope.
You can hear them both below.
The Cover of the Rolling Stone
A quintessential rock n' roll magazine, Rolling Stone would be a cover any prospective rocker would covet, right? In 1973, Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show had one of their biggest successes with the hit "The Cover of the Rolling Stone" which poked a bit of fun at rockers. Of course in response to the song's popularity and perhaps the free advertising, the group was later featured there.
You can hear this hit novelty song below.
In the 70's streaking was a bit of a craze. People would shed their clothes in crowded places and run as fast as possible to avoid being caught. Not a dare I would have ever taken, but it livened things up and was sometimes highlighted on the evening news. In 1974 Ray Stevens released his song, "The Streak" which was an instant success. It was not his first or last novelty song and certainly he recorded more traditional music as well.
You can hear "The Streak" below
The Lumberjack Song
Comedy troupe Monty Python first performed "The Lumberjack Song" in 1969. It's been performed numerous times since of course with minor changes, but it's always popular as a campy, novelty song. It starts as a simple anthem glorifying the rugged lumberjack but soon it's revealed that this tough guy has another side.
You can hear this hit novelty song below.