Time to catch up to the many Stacks and Stacks of Laffin' Wax that have come our way since the last Demento Society News.
We'll start with a spectacular new compilation of British comedy, on the Rhino label, Dead Parrot Society (R2 71049). In addition to wondrous live versions of several Monty Python favorites (including "Dead Parrot" and "Argument Clinic") there's terrific stuff by Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Neil Innes, and John Bird, and four tracks by "the world's worst orchestra," the Portsmouth Sinfonia, which absolutely must be heard to be believed. We were proud to have the album's compiler, Martin Lewis (no relation to Dean and Jerry, but a very funny man himself) as a guest on the Dr. Demento Show.
I can also take a little pride in another Rhino release, Comedy Minus One by Albert Brooks (R2 71189). I wrote the liner notes to the CD reissue of this long-out-of-print LP, recorded in 1973 before Albert became a popular actor/director in films. It features Albert's most famous recorded bit, "Rewriting the National Anthem," and a unique track on which you, the listener, get to join Albert and the venerable George Jessel in a comedy sketch (the script is provided). The packaging even includes an actual mirror (a miniature version of the one on the original LP) so you can watch yourself while you perform with Albert and George.
You can now find at least some Rhino products in practically any music store. However, you can still order them all by mail, as always. For a catalog, write to the Mail Order Dept., Rhino Records, 10635 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025, or call l-800-432-0020 (24 hours, 7 days a week). (Dr. Demento Rhino albums can, of course, be ordered through the Demento Society).
We don't normally cover video in this column, but we have to tip our tophat to longtime favorite Ray Stevens, whose Comedy Video Classics (Curb Home Video) has been a phenomenal hit, topping the Billboard Music Video Sales charts for weeks ahead of such competition as Garth Brooks, Eric Clapton and Van Halen. Most of the songs should be very familiar to Dementites and Dementoids, and the video versions are generally delightful. Note: "The Streak" is a re-recorded version, with some minor lyric updates.
Oh, yes, there is a "Weird Al" Yankovic album out there too, a compilation of songs about food from his previous albums, with no new material. It wasn't Al's idea. The cover's kinda cute, and the songs are still great of course, but DO NOT mistake this for the new Weird Al album which should be out this fall.
A lot of the real gems this time are from labels that don't really have any retail distribution to speak of, outside of a few stores in their hometowns. However, thanks to the U.S. Postal Service, UPS, etc., you can enjoy them anywhere.
Trout Fishing In America has three CD's out, but the one you probably want is Big Trouble (Trout TRT-7CD). That's the one with "When I Was a Dinosaur," (a Funny Five fave), "Day Care Blues" and ten other entertaining originals and standards evidently recorded with "children of all ages" in mind. The other two releases, Truth Is Stranger Than Fishin' (Trout TRT-6CD) and Over the Limit (TRT-8CD) are mostly originals, written and sung with an appealing blend of poignance and whimsy. Singer-guitarist Ezra Idlet and singer-bassist Keith Grimwood make up T. F. I. A., whose releases may be ordered through PO Box 914, Prairie Grove, AR 72753-0914. The "Troutline" is 501-761-3630.
Speaking of dinosaurs, Barnes & Barnes' new Dinosaur Album should be out on Kid Rhino (cassettes only) by the time you read this.
For the last year or two we've been very much enjoying a couple of jolly troupes from the Upper Midwest woodlands. Da Yoopers from Upper Michigan and Bananas at Large from Wisconsin sing about hunting, fishing, beer drinking and other time-honored rustic pastimes. Their music has a dash of country, a pinch of polka, and a taste of old time rock 'n roll, with a little Spike Jones and Yogi Yorgesson for good measure. The prevailing attitude seems to be "We're hicks from the sticks and durn proud of it!" The genre doesn't seem to have a name yet, but it has a fine new participant in The Happy Schnapps Combo, whose "No, I Don't Wanna Do Dat" has joined Bananas' "De Turdy Point Buck" and Da Yoopers' "Second Week of Deer Camp" near the top of our request roster. If the thought of beer (in copious quantities) and its byproducts brings a smile to your face, the Combo's CD Raise It (Happy Schnapps HSC01) should be a kegful of fun for you. The Happy Schnapps Combo may be reached c/o Van's Liquor, 3920 Calumet Ave., Manitowoc, WI 54220. While we're at it, here once again is our MOST REQUESTED ADDRESS OF ALL these days, the one for "De Turdy Point Buck": BANANAS AT LARGE, 3509 Dixon, Stevens Point, WI 54481. And, while we're in the neighborhood: DA YOOPERS, 795 Steel Rd., Ishpeming, MI 49849.
In the Land of Dementia there's also plenty of room for bands that take pride in their musical expertise and sophistication. In the last twenty years quite a number of bands here and there have made exciting music using a loose formula most associated with Frank Zappa: satiric, absurd, nonsensical or otherwise humorous lyrics set to intricate, angular themes, often leading to elaborate, virtuosic instrumental variations and improvisations.
A favorite recent example is Don't Get Charred...Get Puffy! by The Rudy Schwartz Project (Musical Tragedies MT-143, c/o Joe Newman, 5404 Avenue F, Austin, TX 78751). You might have heard "Strip Naked, You Sweet Maggot" on the show; another highlight has to be "Cha Cha Cha With Me, Doodles," dedicated to the late Doodles Weaver of Spike Jones and Hollywood fame. Also in this general area is Wider than the Beatles - Taller Than Jesus by Mr. Ectomy (c/o PO Box 21556, Los Angeles. CA 90021) featuring the song "Fish."
Ian Whitcomb specializes in reviving the popular songs of those pre-WWII times when sophistication was no stranger to the Hit Parade. It is a source of eternal bemusement to Ian that after more than 25 years of recording and performing those songs, and writing some excellent new ones in similar style, he's still best known for a three-chord rock 'n roll ditty he wrote and sang as a lark while he was still in college ("You Turn Me On," a #8 single in 1965). Ian now has his own label, with an extensive catalog of CDs, tapes, LP's and videos from throughout his career; write to ITW Industries, PO Box 451, Altadena, CA 91003. A logical place for readers of this column to start would be Comedy Songs (ITW-009-CD), featuring "The Farmyard Cabaret," "My Dead Dog Rover," "Masculine Women! Feminine Men!," "My Girl's Pussy" and 20 more loony tunes in a rich variety of musical settings. The CD comes with a warning: "Some Songs Are Not Politically Correct!" (Los Angeles listeners can hear Ian's radio show Mondays through Thursdays on KPCC-FM; he explores a different genre of music every night.)
The city of Toronto has probably produced more laffs per capita in the past twenty years than anyplace else on the continent. Corky and the Juice Pigs uphold that tradition with a fast-paced CD of 26 hilarious songs, sketches and spoofs including "The Only Gay Eskimo," "The Pandas Must Die," and a song simply called "Trucker" which turns out to be the wildest 18-wheeler trip since "Wolf Creek Pass." (Corky's Home Shopping Club, 61 Elm Grove Avenue, #201, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M6K 2J2).
VINYL FILE: Yes, there still is a little dementia on vinyl: Arizona's D CUPS, once described by a reviewer as "Dr. Demento rejects," are rejects no more; their "Lifeboat" was heard on the show recently. It's one of 38 (!) tracks on their LP New and Obsolete (Flaming Canine FCLP 1001). There's plenty of bent attitudes and musical innovation even on the tracks that aren't what we normally (?) call "demented." (Flaming Canine Records, Tapes and Lawn Care - 603 N. Orange St., Mesa, AZ 85201). ACE T. AND THE HINDENBURG GROUND CREW have two 7" EPs on the Action Box label, Ouch featuring "Pistol to Me" and Horsin' Around including "Crazy" (PO Box 10423, Burbank, CA 91510). The Singles Only Label (PO Box 966, New York, NY 10009) and Sympathy for the Record Industry (4901 Virginia Ave., Long Beach, CA 90805) both have a few demented discs among their eclectic offerings; write for catalogs. Also...bear in mind that quite a few novelty hits of the 1950s, 60s and 70s are among the numerous oldies 45s still kept in print for the jukebox industry, club DJs and anyone else who still enjoys the intercourse of stylus and groove...and yes, we still have a few copies of my six-record Rhino box set of The Greatest Novelty Records of All Time, complete with a BIG 12x12 booklet full of photos and artist bios.
Will is also our very own Grammy winner. In 1975, at age 10, he played the title role in an LP of the children's classic The Little Prince, which won the Best Recording for Children award that year. That album, recently re-released on CD, also featured Richard Burton, Jonathan Winters, John Carradine, Jim Backus, Claudine Longet and Mark Conrad. He also played the role of Christopher Robin on a series of Winnie the Pooh recordings for Disney.
For those recordings he was known as Billy Simpson. Nowadays, he signs the name William Simpson to his frequent letters to the editors of Billboard, The Los Angeles Times and other publications.
No relation to Bart or Homer, we're quick to add. Actually Will has more talent and energy than any cartoon character we know. He works full time at Disneyland, where he is an "attractions foreman," supervising the operation of such major attractions as Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion. On top of that he's a 4.0 student at Cypress College. He's also a record collector, specializing in Billboard Hot 100 hits on 45 RPM (yes, many of them are still made that way) which he plays on his very own 1960 Rockola jukebox. And he's a serious video game player, an intense student of the strategies of Sega. Somehow, along with everything else he does, Will finds the energy to put together the Demented News each and every week in his home studio, using his extensive collection of taped TV sound bites along with a huge variety of pop, rock and comedy records. We suspect he's found a magic potion that makes sleep unnecessary!
Will studied voice acting with the late Daws Butler, the cartoon voice of Yogi Bear, Quick Draw McGraw, etc. etc. and a longtime TV and recording colleague of Stan Freberg. (It was at a party for Daws that I met Will for the first time). Meanwhile he perfected his writing in a unique way -- for several years he and a friend put out a weekly newsletter, four entertaining pages of showbiz trends and trivia, jokes and cartoons mailed each week to a large list of eager subscribers. Before joining the Magic Kingdom, Will worked for the Los Angeles Zoo. He lives in one of the oldest and most picturesque parts of Los Angeles, right next door to 90-year-old Mimi, who often appears on the Demented News. (Many other voices you hear on the News are Will himself, putting his voice-acting training to good use).
We will soon be offering a NEW membership package. The new package will feature DR. DEMENTO' S BASEMENT TAPES No. 2 -- an all-new CD/cassette collection of hits from the show, available to Society members only -- plus a new and different photo of the Doctor which he will once again personally autograph to you, and lots more demented goodies. Listen for the announcement on Dr. Demento's weekly radio show.
You may renew at any time after the new package is announced, and get the new CD and photo and all the other goodies right away. You will get a full year's membership added on to your original full year, and receive all newsletters published during that time, regardless of when you renew.
GET YOUR FRIENDS to write letters too. Get a bunch of them to sign a petition.
WRITE OR CALL OTHER STATIONS and tell them how much you'd like to hear the show.