15 Hit Novelty Songs From the '60s and '70s
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 '70s, Monty Python, Dr. Demento, Weird Al Yankovic, 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 '70s, '60s or any other time period, they have hit and stayed on the charts in many instances.
In this article, I've highlighted what I think are 15 of the most memorable hit novelty songs from the '60s and '70s. It should be a lot of fun to listen in!
The 15 Best Hit Novelty Songs From the '60s and '70s
- Monster Mash
- They're Coming to Take Me Away
- Snoopy Vs. the Red Baron
- Alice's Restaurant
- Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road
- Hocus Pocus
- My Ding-A-Ling
- Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini
- Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah
- The Name Game
- The Clapping Song
- The Cover of the Rolling Stone
- The Streak
- The Lumberjack Song
1. "Monster Mash"
"Monster Mash" is one of the most enduring novelty songs from the '60s era. It was originally recorded and released by Bobby "Boris" Pickett (and the Crypt Kickers) in 1962. It is his impression of Boris Karloff (the actor who portrayed, among other things, Frankenstein's Monster in a handful of movies in the 1930's) which he duplicated in other songs in later years, but none nearly as successful as the original.
Even today, the song gets quite a bit of airtime around the time of Halloween. Pickett was a one-hit wonder with the song. It's been re-released over the years and certainly, other musicians have done covers of it as well. Below is Pickett's performance a year or two later on American Bandstand.
2. "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 Napoleon XIV. As a kid, I can remember hearing this song 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 this song below.
3. "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 "Chic-A-Boom", this novelty song hit the charts in 1971 by Daddy Dewdrop. I later learned this was the name used by a songwriter 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 d"Chic-A-Boom" below.
5. "Alice's Restaurant"
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 Thanksgiving 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 its entirety below.
6. "Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road"
In 1972, folk singer, actor Louden Wainwright released "Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road" where it found popularity 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.
7. "Hocus Pocus"
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.
8. "My Ding-A-Ling"
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 its sexual innuendo but managed to make its mark in history as a #1 hit in the US.
You can hear it below.
9. "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 '60s. I believe Hyland was just a teenager when he recorded the song.
You can hear it below.
10. "Hello Muddah, Hello 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 "Letters From Camp Grenada" tune is below; the video is not original but the audio is.
11 and 12. "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.
13. "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.
14. "The Streak"
In the '70s 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
15. "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 was generally 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 much to the surprise of the other characters.
You can hear this hit novelty song below.
Which is Your Favorite Novelty Song From the '60s and '70s?
© 2010 Christine Mulberry