By Patrick Mondout
With such classics as "Kung Fu Fighting," "Dead
Skunk in the Middle of the Road," and "Disco Duck,"
listeners of the Super70s were subjected to more musical abuse from
so-called novelty songs than any decade before or since. What follows is a
mercifully short list of the best (?) of these goofy grooves.
Convoy by CW McCall
"Breaker-1-9 this is the Rubber Duck." Capitalizing on
the CB craze of the mid-Super70s, "Convoy" featured
androgynous voices singing a chorus of "Cause we got a little 'o
convoy/rockin' through the night. We got a little 'o convoy/ain't she a
beautiful sight? Come on and join our convoy/ain't nothin' gonna get in
our way/we gonna roll this truckin' convoy/across the USA. Convoy!"
Though the subjects of the song were truckers who decided to ride together
in a convoy and not let anything -- least of all the smokeys (police) --
get in their way or slow them down, it was most memorable for its use of
It should be noted, however, that while this song capitalized on the CB
craze, the CB craze also capitalized on this song. The CB fad was never
bigger than while this song was on the top of both the pop and country
charts (though Sam Peckinpah made a movie
called Convoy in 1978). "Convoy" has
alternately been described as the "greatest trucker song of the
modern age" and "that awful trucker song with the CB
gibberish." The latter gets a "big 10-4, good buddy" from
Five hundred bonus points for anyone who recalls that MGM at first refused
to release the song as a single because of its anti-hero qualities. 1000
bonus points and a radar detector if you remember that CW McCall (a.k.a.
Bill Fries) also recorded a song called "Old Home Filler-Up an'
Keep On A Truckin' Cafe."
Dead Skunk by Loudon Wainwright III
Once thought to be the next Bob Dylan, Wainwright had been dropped by
Atlantic records and was about to be dropped by CBS records when his label
decided they had nothing to lose by releasing this morbid song.
Apparently, someone at CBS smelled a hit. Featuring the repetitive chorus
"Ya got yer dead skunk in the middle of the road," this
stinker was released in the spring of 1973 to a listening public head over
heels in love with the Carpenters and sweet songs from sensitive males.
Wainwright encourages his entourage near the end of this disaster with
"Come on... stink!"
I'LL NEVER FORGET:
A courageous program director of a local radio station ran a Worst 100
Songs off the Rock Era promotion over one dreadful weekend. This song
Disco Duck by Rick Dees and his Cast of Idiots
Memphis deejay Rick Dees blessed us with this fowl, top-selling hit of
1976. It was probably the biggest selling novelty hit of the Super70s.
This mega-hit homage to the disco craze features a Donald Duck-like voice
exclaiming "Ah get down mama, I've got to have me a woman!"
His follow-up single "Dis-Gorilla," which attempted to
cash in on the success of the King Kong movie, was a Godzilla-sized flop.
However, unlike many of the unfortunate acts on this page, Rick Dees
managed to cash in on his 15
minutes of fame by landing TV and radio jobs.
Every new genre of music deserves this kind of parody. Some more than
Take 250 bonus points for remembering that Disco Duck was inspired by the
60's dance hit "The Duck" by Jackie Lee.
Kung Fu Fighting by Carl Douglas
Actually, the music to this song is quite good as songs in this genre go.
However, the fact that the song was attempting to capitalize on the
martial arts craze of the mid-Super70s coupled with lyrics such as "They
were funky China men from funky Chinatown," require its
inclusion here. Complete with sound effects of funky-fu-fighters doing
their funky thing, this song fought its was to the top of the charts in
late '74. Here is the chorus for those of you who just can't get enough of
"Everybody was kung-fu fighting
Those cats were fast as lightning
In fact it was a little bit frightning
But they fought with expert timing"
Four hundred bonus points and an honorary black belt for knowing that
Carl's funky-followup-flop was entitled "Dance the Kung Fu."
Muskrat Love by Captain & Tennille
In case you missed this delightful delicacy, "Muskrat Love"
is indeed a song about rodents getting it on. Featuring the timeless
line "Now he's tickling her fancy/rubbing her toes. Muzzle to
muzzle/anything goes," this song treats the listener who does
not immediately change the radio station to what can best be described as
electronic rodent-mating sounds (why doesn't my MIDI keyboard have these
samples?). This song has made numerous top ten lists over the past twenty
or so years. In fact, when our local pop-till-you-drop radio station
treated us to the 100 worst songs of all time (as judged by their
discerning listeners), this pest finished second only to a dead skunk (see
You can reward yourself 250 points if you remember that Sammy and Suzie
are the rodents in heat. Give yourself 500 bonus points if you remember
the Captain &
Tennille's '76/'77 TV show (but deduct 1000 if you enjoyed this show).
An additional 1000 bonus points are yours if you remember that this song
was actually recorded first by the band America
("Ventura Highway," "A Horse with No Name").
My Ding-a-Ling by Chuck Berry
A seminal member of the generation of artists that gave us rock and roll,
Chuck Berry is remembered for such 50's classics as "Johnny
B. Goode" and "Maybellene," and - thankfully - not
for this naughty, if adolescent song. The lyrics have been the subject of
more Ivy-League dissertations than Vietnam (well, not really). A chorus of
"My ding-a-ling/my ding-a-ling/I want you to play with my
ding-a-ling" had pedophiles excited the entire autumn of 1972.
Showing the musical tastes of the disco-dominated late seventies were no
match for the early seventies, this song rose to number one for two full
weeks before limping off the charts.
The pairing of beloved rock and roll legend Chuck Berry with "My
Ding-a-Ling" might at first seem odd, unless you are aware of
his run-ins with the law. In 1959 Berry was convicted of immorality
regarding a teenage girl under his employ. In 1990, his house was raided
and over 80 pornography videotapes - some featuring children - were
confiscated. He also was sued by a former cook in his restaurant who was
videotaped as she changed clothes in the bathroom. He had apparently taped
over 250 women and schoolgirls with a camera behind a false wall. None of
this phased Bill Clinton, who had him perform at his initial inaugural.
750 bonus points are yours if you remember that this live song was backed
by the Average White Band ("Pick up the Pieces").
Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye by Steam
Pop-quiz, hotshot! What song ultimately replaced the Beatles' "Come
Together" at the top of the pop charts? You guessed it. Sadder
still, the song was by a group that didn't even exist! The song was
the brainchild of a producer named Paul Leka. He had just signed a friend
of his (Gary de Carlo) to a record contract and needed a b-side song for
the first single. He desired a song that would be so bad, no deejay would
confuse it with the radio-friendly a-side. They came up with "Na
Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye." Much to Mr. Leka's chagrin, the
brain-trust at the record company (Mercury) wanted to release Na Na
as the a-side! Leka refused but Mercury still wanted the
record. They agreed to release the song under an alias so Leka's new act
would not have to be associated with it. The name Steam was chosen for the
fake band and since the "real" band was busy recording their
first album, auditions were held to put together a real band called Steam
(all this while the song was already on the charts). Predictably, the new
band ran out of steam and did not have any other hits. Ironically enough,
however, Steam did have one more hit than Gary de Carlo!
Still chanted at sports venues whenever a visiting team or player goes
down to defeat or gets thrown out of the game, this song has endured far
longer than anyone could have expected.
Short People by Randy Newman
Those who get nostalgic for this tune probably don't think much of the political
correctness movement. Needless to say, a novelty song with a
chorus consisting of "Short people got no reason to live" would
have a hard time finding airplay today. Randy Newman, far from trying to
offend anyone, wrote the song as a commentary on how some people treated
others who did not live up to society's rigid standards. Despite the lack
of a clear PC movement at the time, the vertically-challenged called for a
ban of this song which, as usual, meant the rest of us were going to have
to hear even more of it. Newman was bemused by the attention and made
light of it during the subsequent tour. His jokes were seen by some as
further proof that his intentions really were mean-spirited and he started
receiving death threats. This first taste of fame was more than enough for
Newman and his work over the succeeding decade was mostly behind the
scenes on film scores. Of course, it was probably the best thing to ever
happen to him as he has had far more success in this venue than he ever
did as a stage-act or with his pop recordings. To make a long story short,
"Short People" made it all the way to number two on the
charts and was easily his biggest hit.
A free night's stay at the Hotel
California if you knew that Glen Frey, J.D. Souther, and Tim Schmidt
were the backing vocals on this track.
The Streak by Ray Stevens
Ray Stevens, who began his 1971 hit "Everything is Beautiful"
with little girls singing "Jesus loves the little children of the
world," had more hit novelty songs than any other artist of the
rock era. His biggest hit, which streaked to the top of the charts for
three weeks in the spring of 1974, was called "The Streak" and
celebrated the then-current fad of
streaking. For those too young to remember, streakers took off all
their clothes and ran through stores, graduation ceremonies -- wherever
there was a crowd (even at the Academy
Stripped to its bare essentials, The Streak was the perfect
novelty song; it had cool sound effects, it captured a fad at its peak,
and did not take itself seriously.
Don't miss our look at songs about pets.