The new FM 101.9 made its debut July 1. Known as "Southern California's Album Alternative," it plays a wide variety of new music by such artists as John Hiatt, Counting Crows, Crash Test Dummies, Seal, Indigo Girls, Sheryl Crow, Tori Amos, Toad the Wet Sprocket (named after a Monty Python line, I might add) and Blind Melon (named for a Cheech & Chong character) along with tastefully chosen album-rock oldies (Van Morrison, The Byrds and Peter Gabriel came on as I was having lunch just before writing this). The station plays a variety of tracks from most albums, rather than the same one over and over. Live performances by visiting singers and musicians are featured several times each week.
Owned by legendary singing cowboy Gene Autry, the station was formerly "easy listening" K-Lite (the new call letters were yet to be determined at presstime). We encourage our L.A. area readers to support FM 101.9 in every way.
You can renew your membership at any time, and be among the very first to receive the new package when it is ready. You will get a full year's membership added on to your onginal year(s), and receive all newsletters published during that time, regardless of when you renew.
Due to the upcoming postage rate increase, the 1995 membership will be $15.95 for USA residents, and $21.00 for those outside the U.S. (That's still less than what you'd pay for an ordinary CD in most record stores these days).
If the record store you go to is one that (like so many of them) can't be bothered with anything that isn't distributed by a major label, you could easily conclude that spoken comedy and funny music has all but ceased to exist as a viable category. Though the current CD's by Adam Sandler and Jeff Foxworthy continue to sell, there's hardly been a single newly recorded release worth mentioning on a major label since out last newsletter.
If you look beyond the majors, though, to the independent labels that turn up in more adventurous stores, and beyond that to the growing numbers of CD's being released these days by the artists themselves (and available mainly by mail order), 1994 is starting to look like a vintage year for Dementia on CD.
There's some sort of funny-music renaissance these days in my native Upper Midwest. I don't want to pigeonhole them, but Da Yoopers, Bananas At Large and The Happy Schnapps Combo do have quite a bit in common. They sing with small-town Midwest accents about manly pastimes like beer drinking, deer hunting, and the Green Bay Packers. Their music comes in various blends of polka, rock and traditional country. All of them release their own CD's and sell them by mail order -- what the music business calls the D.I.Y. or "do it yourself" method.
Da Yoopers, from "yooper" (upper) Michigan, created the genre's first "hit" in 1987 when "The Second Week of Deer Camp" began popping up on jukeboxes at backwoods taverns all across the Frost Belt. Now they have their second full-length CD on their own You Guys label, One Can Short Of a Six-Pack (#81170). In addition to another hunting hit, "Mighty Manly Hunting Men," this includes the delightfully risque "Ring Dang Doo," a couple of fishing items, and four Chnstmas tracks including "Grandpa Got Run Over By a Beer Truck." Da Yoopers sell their CDs and tapes by mail, along with T-shirts and bawdy bric-a-brac from their store called "Da Yoopers Tourist Trap." Da Yoopers, 795 Steel Rd., Ishpeming, MI 48949.
Bananas At Large also made their mark with a deer huntin' song, that infectious, hilarious 1990 rural rap tune "Da Turdy Point Buck." I still get more requests for their address than for any other, and now they have a new address: PO Box 36, Amherst Junction, Wl 54407. Their six-song tape with "Buck" and "Spring Fishin'" is now available on CD.
Most musically proficient of the three bands is The Happy Schnapps Combo, whose "No I Don't Wanna Do Dat" was #2 on 1993's year-end Funny 25 countdown. Sadly, their founder and leader, singer-guitarist Jim "Otto" Krueger died recently, but the Combo carries on with its third album Behind Bars. The new CD's "Harley-Davidson Polka" could well do for bikers what "Turdy Point Buck" did for deer hunters. Other nuggets include "PMS Polka," "I Saw Elvis," "Oktoberfest Rap" and a fine version of the oldie "Who Stole the Keeshka." It's available from the Combo c/o Van's Liquor, 3920 Calumet Ave., Manitowoc, WI 54220.
More D. I. Y. delights: If you or someone you love is facing the scourge of male pattern baldness, DON'T spend hard-earned money on toupees or hair replacement surgery! That new song "Bald Guys" by Faust & Lewis will have you wearing that chrome dome with pride! Their CD We Must Be Crazy has plenty more merry melodies including "Third World Flying," "My First Drink," "The Mounty and the Moose," "I'm Schizophrenic" and "White Meat" (which is about sunburns). Like many D. I. Y. types, Faust & Lewis haven't gotten around to thinking up a name for their "label," but the performance and production quality on this CD is first class all around, and so is the humor. PO Box 2211, Evergreen, CO 80439.
The same goes for the second CD by Heywood Banks, Treated and Released. Yes, those are real strings, brass and woodwinds you hear behind Heywood's neatly skewed musings on the animal kingdom ("Red Ants," "Dust Mites," "Fishin' Worms," "The Dinosaur Song" and the funniest dead cat song I've ever heard) and life in the 90s ("You Never Know [Who's Got a Gun.]") This and Heywood's previous CD on his nameless label are available from him at PO Box 484, Howell, MI 48844.
Mondo Fax is the pseudonym of a Los Angeles-area attorney who's been writing novelty songs as a hobby for two decades; his song "Eat My Shorts" was covered by Rick "Disco Duck" Dees a few years ago. You can hear Mr. Fax's original along with "Bring Back the Sixties," "Iraqi Mountain High," "There Ain't No Sanity Clause" and songs about Rodney King, the Bobbitts and the Menendez brothers on his CD Temporary Profanity, available from Alan R. Glasser, A Professional Corporation, 700 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale, CA 91203.
Steven Brust is a fantasy/science fiction writer who also sings and writes some very fine songs. Only a couple of songs on his CD A Rose For Iconoclastes qualify as "funny music" but "I Was Born About Ten Million Songs Ago" (a marvelous revision of rock 'n roll history) and "Backward Message" are well worth the price of the disc. (Beer & Pizza, Inc. c/o SteelDragon Press, Box 7253, Minneapolis, MN 55407). Jim Infantino's CD Strawman is also more or less serious for the most part, but the song "Stress" is starting what might be a long run on our Funny Five as this is written (Melville Park Recordings, 115 Central Ave., Boston, MA 02136). The Housewives, three talented women all married to musicians (one is the wife of bluesman John Mayall) sing clever, mostly humorous original songs about various aspects of housewifery in the 90s on Get the Dirt! (12190 1/2 Ventura Blvd., Box 363, Studio City, CA 91604).
Though D. I. Y. activity is more widespread now than ever before, the concept is not new. Our Archives have scattered examples going back to the 1920s, and a great many from the 1950s onward. Tom Lehrer's first album, a D.I.Y. project released in 1953, sold well into six figures. Another notable D. I. Y. of that era was Playhouse Records, launched in 1958 by Jim Copp and Ed Brown to release their LPs for children, treasured by many for their rich imagination and respectful, non-exploitive nature. Though new releases ceased in the late 1960s after nine albums, Copp has kept the entire series available on cassette to this day, and still sells onginal vinyl pressings of some of the albums (whose covers, with their movable "peek-a-boo" pictures, are wonderful toys themselves). Now there's a swell CD "best-of" package, with a rare sample of Copp's earlier career as a nightclub singer-comedian as a neat bonus flack. Agnes Mouthwash and Friends is available from Playhouse Records at PO Box 36061, Los Angeles, CA 90036.
INDIE FILE: The following are CD's on independent labels of various sizes. They're far more likely to turn up in at least your better record stores than the D.I.Y. projects are, but most of these labels also offer mail order service.
Singer-songwriter-guitarist-fiddler Mike Cross has been a mainstay of the traditional acoustic music scene since the early 1980s. He's always been known for his humor. We sometimes wish he'd record a whole CD of funny music, but his record label has now done the next best thing, putting all the funniest songs from his past albums on one CD, Creme de la Cross: Best Of the Funny Stuff. Included of course is the original recording of his best-known composition, "The Scotsman." Other standouts include "The Great Strip Poker Massacre," "Whiskey 'Fore Breakfast," "The App. Rap" (with a hilarious description of what makes a fiddle different from a violin), and "Dear Boss" (the classic tale about the bricklayer clobbered by his own barrel of bricks, succinctly set to music). (Sugar Hill Records, PO Box 55300, Durham, NC 27717-5300).
The prolific Reverend Billy C. Wirtz fires off another salvo of ebulliently irreverent Southern-style songs and comedy on his latest, Pianist Envy. Highlights include "The King Gets a Day Job" (Elvis as a stand-in for Barney the Dinosaur), "Mama Was a Deadhead" and "Freeway to Stairbird" (which should be dear to anyone who's ever been in a bar band). (Hightone Records, 220 - 4th St. #101, Oakland, CA 94607).
The dark humor of Brian Dewan's lyrics on songs like "99 Cops," "The Letter" (about chain letters you get in the mail), "Cut Your Hair" and "Feel the Brain" is as unique as the sound he gets from his humungously amplified zither and autoharp. Brian has been touring with They Might Be Giants, and his CD Brian Dewan Tells the Story is on the same label that first brought us T. M. B. G., Bar None Records (PO Box 1704, Hoboken, NJ 07030).
Beck is now a major-label artist, thanks to his hit single "Loser," but he continues to record for independent labels as well. Counting a couple of compilations of pre-"Loser" demos and home recordings, there are now four Beck albums on the market. One of his funniest songs isn't on any of them. "Steve Threw Up," with its colorful catalog of exactly what Steve ate before his fateful ride on the ferris wheel, is on a 7" 45 released by Bongload Records (the label that originally recorded and released "Loser.") Order it from Bongload at PO Box 931538, Hollywood, CA 90093. Another zinger, "Satan Gave Me a Taco," is on the CD Stereopathetic Soul Manure released by Flipside Records, PO Box 60790, Pasadena, CA 91116.
Oglio Records is a new label devoted to CD reissues of early "new wave" rock music. One of Oglio's compilations, The Obscurity File, has a lot of funny music -- "Kinko the Clown" by Ogden Edsl, "The Rodeo Song" by Bird & McDonald, "Teenage Enema Nurses In Bondage" by Killer Pussy, "The Earthquake Song" by the Little Girls and "Dwarf Tossin'" by Bouquet of Veal -- along with some more straightforward stuff. Oglio Records, PO Box 404, Redondo Beach, CA 90277.
O CANADA: Two items from north of the border bear mention. Pumping Irony is the latest from Canadian song satirist Nancy White. Many of the songs are about Canadian politics, but "Baby On the Potty All Day" is a sly take on the issue of washable vs. disposable diapers, while "Saving Francis' Bacon" is an endearing true story about an escaped pig. Mouton Records, Box 128, Stn. E, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M6H 4F2. The Royal Canadian Air Farce celebrates its twentieth anniversary with Twenty-Twenty, a collection of CBC Radio comedy sketches ranging from 1973 to 1993. Write to the Farce at 144 Front St. W. Suite 204, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5J 2L7.
MORE FROM ROCKY: Rhino Records, home of the Dr. Demento albums, has major label distribution now but still acts much like an independent. For instance, Rhino still has a very active mail order department. In addition to Rhino's recent Spike Jones compilation (see separate story in this issue) and future Dr. Demento projects (see another separate story) Rhino's recent output includes Buster's Happy Hour by VH1's Buster Poindexter, a collection of classic R&B songs mostly about drinking and carrying on (plus a rollicking onginal on the same subject, "The Worst Beer I Ever Had."). The Flintstones: Modern Stone Age Melodies has songs from soundtracks of original Flintstones TV episodes. There's also a CD of songs (often quite Demented) from the current Animaniacs senes. And finally, fans of another Rocky can rejoice in Rhino's CD release of the long-unavailable soundtrack from the Rocky Horror spin-off film, Shock Treatment. Rhino Records, 10635 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025-4900.
Flying Fish Records
1304 W. Schubert
Chicago, IL 60614
(Their large catalog of mostly acoustic music features lots of humorous items. Look for the new release by Those Darn Accordions)
PO Box 334
Pacific Palisades, CA 90272
("Lazin' In The Shade of the Information Superhighway" is their latest Demented hit)
"Weird Al" Yankovic c/o
Close Personal Friends of Al
8833 Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90046
(This is Al's official fan club. Send an SASE for info).
Within the next year or so you can expect four new Dr. Demento compilations. The first one, Spooky Tunes and Scary Melodies, should be out in time for Halloween. This budget-priced disc includes Weird Al's "Nature Trail to Hell" along with "Nightmare On My Street" by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, "Werewolves of London" by Warren Zevon and a very rare Allan Sherman song, "My Son the Vampire," never before released on an album.
In early 1995 we'll celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Dr. Demento Show with The Dr. Demento 25th Anniversary Collection. Also on the docket (with release dates still to be determined) are Holidays in Dementia and a compilation of funny country songs.
Dr. Demento also has a hand in two other fall 1994 Rhino releases. He selected the tracks for Scary Stories, a budget-priced collection of tales of the macabre told by Boris Karloff, James Mason, Jackie Torrence and others. He selected the tracks and wrote extensive liner notes for Return of the Repressed: The John Fahey Anthology.
Fahey, who was a UCLA graduate school classmate of Dr. Demento's in the 1960s, has written and recorded hundreds of highly original compositions for acoustic guitar, creating a unique blend of folk, blues, classical and popular strains. His music greatly influenced such well-known players as Leo Kottke and Will Ackerman.
A longtime dream came true for me this year -- I got to put a new Spike Jones album together for Rhino Records.
And what an album it is -- Spike's 40 very best tracks (in my opinion, anyway) splendidly reproduced from the original masters, with extensive liner notes (by myself and Cub Koda, who also made some valued suggestions regarding the track selection).
Rhino and I had our first discussions about this project almost a decade ago. It took a lot of time and effort to move all the necessary corporate machinery, but the final results made it all seem worthwhile.
I think you'll find the sound quality much superior to that of earlier CD and LP reissues of these records. Those earlier CD's and LP's generally used a lot of electronic reprocessing (echo, equalization, etc.) in an attempt to bring the 1940s recordings "up to date." After hearing the remarkably lifelike clarity of the original master recordings in the RCA vaults, engineer Bill Inglot and I decided that, in this case at least, the best reprocessing was -- none at all, not even the computerized sound enhancement methods that have become popular in the past few years. (They do have a tendency to blur or deaden the sound at times).
The Demento Society is proud to make Musical Depreciation Revue: The Spike Jones Anthology available by mail. The 2-CD set is $27.98, the 2-cassette set $17.98, plus our normal shipping charge of $2.50. (California residents please add 8% tax).
Here is a list of the tracks:
ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS MY TWO FRONT TEETH / APRIL SHOWERS / BARNEY GOOGLE / BLACK BOTTOM / BY THE BEAUTIFUL SEA / CHLOE / CLINK CLINK, ANOTHER DRINK / COCKTAILS FOR TWO / DANCE OF THE HOURS / DER FUEHRER'S FACE / THE GLOW-WORM / HAWAIIAN WAR CHANT / HOTCHA CORNIA / I'M IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE / I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU / I WENT TO YOUR WEDDING / JONES POLKA / THE LATE LATE LATE MOVIES, PART II / LEAVE THE DISHES IN THE SINK, MA / LIEBESTRAUM / LOVE IN BLOOM / THE MAN ON THE FLYING TRAPEZE / MY OLD FLAME / NONE BUT THE LONELY HEART / PAL-YAT-CHEE / RHAPSODY FROM HUNGER(Y) / THE SHIEK OF ARABY / THAT OLD BLACK MAGIC / WILD BILL HICCUP / WILLIAM TELL OVERTURE / YA WANNA BUY A BUNNY / YOU ALWAYS HURT THE ONE YOU LOVE / Following on CD only: BLACK & BLUE DANUBE WALTZ / HAPPY NEW YEAR / HOLIDAY FOR STRINGS / ILL BARKIO / LAURA / MORPHEUS / SECRET LOVE / YES! WE HAVE NO BANANAS
THE DEMENTO HOTLINE
is open 24 hours a day. (Regular toll charges apply -- this is not a 900 or 800 number).
Where did you get the idea for the Demented News? I've always been a big fan of the late Dickie Goodman and his "break-in" interviews ("Flying Saucer," "Mr. Jaws," "Hey E.T." etc.) and have attempted to emulate his style since 1980, when I joined the cast of the Dr. Demento Show. The first few episodes of the Demented News (heard in the Los Angeles area since March, 1987) were faithful to Goodman's format, but the News rapidly evolved (or devolved!) into more of a montage barrage of music and sound bites (snippets of sound effects and spoken word culled from various media).
Another important influence was the late Jim Healy, a legendary sportscaster who was heard daily on Los Angeles radio for more than twenty years. His half-hour show was a wild and crazy auditory assault of sports stories told live, enhanced by his huge library of sound effects and sound bites of sports celebrities and comedians.
How do you put together the Demented News, and how long does
I'm always keeping an eye out for potential demented stories, scanning many newspapers and magazines. The News of the Weird paperback series by John J. Kohut and Roland Sweet is also an indispensable source. Once I've collected a fistful of clippings, I break down the stories by compiling, from memory, a list of relevant songs and sound bites.
A script is then concocted around the most suitable stories, and the recording process begins. This is the time-consuming part, taking anywhere from two to six hours. Locating the few seconds of material I need for a sound bite on a full-length audio or video tape can be a frustrating ordeal. As I recall, one bite took me nearly two hours to locate as I scanned through three video tapes of cartoons, commercials and sitcoms. Talk about an obsessive-compulsive disorder!
The actual recording of the Demented News is a two-part process. First, the "edit master" is completed. This includes all the music and sound bites -- that is, everything except my voiced narration, but leaving sufficient time between edits to add my spoken part later. I then add my narration "live" to the edit master, ever mindful of timing and delivery. Although I've lucked out with a few first takes, the average Demented News takes five or six tries before it's close to the mark.
What's the most demented story you've ever covered? I like to think all the stories are appropriately skewed. There is one that comes to mind, from November 1989, dealing with those then-mysterious crop field rings in the English farmlands. One explanation for the "phenomenon" held that the odd patterns were formed by "herds of demented hedgehogs rotating in unison." I honestly could not make it through that story without cracking up (in fact, I'm laughing as I write this) so I left enough space on the edit master to let myself break up and eventually stumble through the story.
I'd love to hear from you. Write me c/o The Demento Society. Oh, and let me know if you're interested in a series of Demented News compilation tapes -- I'm contemplating putting some together. See ya next time!
Whimsical Will's "Demented News" is a weekly feature of the Dr. Demento Show. No stranger to show biz, Will played the title role in a Grammy-winning recording of The Little Prince at age 10. For more about Will, see Demento Society News #102.
2 HOT FOR YOU - PART II - Barry & the Bookbinders / I MARRIED MAMA - Barnes & Barnes / SURFIN' AT 43 - The Hodads with "The Poorman" / TEENAGE ROMANCE - Stuart Paul / I WISH I WAS A COMIC BOOK - Wild Man Fischer / HAND MUSIC - The Utensils / ASTROLOGY RAP - Dr. Demento / BUTTKICKERS FROM OUTER SPACE - The Utensils / ALIEN NATION - David Childress & Carcass / ANCHOVY PIZZA - The Downloaders / NORMAN - Wild Man Fischer and Barnes & Barnes / DON'T WANNA BE NO DINOSAUR! - Hot Food To Go / I GET WEIRD - John W. Christensen / VOWELS - Dangling Participles / WORSE THAN SLIME - Barnes & Barnes / DR. D - The Utensils / HOW WAS I TO KNOW - Barry & the Bookbinders / GRIDLOCK The Utensils / MASTICATE - Hot Food To Go / TOUCH YOURSELF - Barnes & Barnes
A Demento Society Exclusive.
Only $9.98, while supplies last.
We also still have a handful of copies of the CD edition of our Basement Tapes No. 1, available to Society members only at $9.98.
Our supply of 1994 membership packages is going fast. When our current stock of Basement Tapes No. 2 CD's and cassettes is gone, that's it! Renew now and get your Basement Tapes No. 2, and the 1994 button, bumper sticker and all this year's other goodies, while they're still available. Only $14.95 postpaid ($20 outside the USA).
Here's what's on Basement Tapes No. 2:
WHEN I WAS A DINOSAUR - Trout Fishing In America
HAPPY BIRTHDAY - "Weird Al" Yankovic (the rare original demo)
HIGH SCHOOL GYM - Barnes & Barnes with SuLu
ESKIMO - Corky & the Juice Pigs
I WANNA FRIED PIE - Dick Price
DOG WITH PLASTIC STOMACH - The Yuh-uh-uh-uhs
GIANT SPIDERS - Joe & Sharon Keefe
WE EAT KITTY CATS - The Defectives
STRIP NAKED YOU SWEET MAGGOT - The Rudy Schwartz Project
B.A.R.F. CONSTRUCTION - Doodoo Wah
DISCO TOILET - Hersh & Chipkin
BAD HAIRCUT - Wally Pleasant
A TRIP TO JURASSIC PARK - Whimsical Will
I GOT A CODE IN MY DOSE - Rosetta Duncan
DWARF TOSSIN' - Bouquet of Veal
18 WHEELS LATER - Barry & the Bookbinders
P.C. (Politically Correct) - John Kunich
CRAZY - Ace T. & the Hindenburg Ground Crew
THE RAG RAG - Boogerman
BEER GUT - Da Yoopers
GET DRUNK WITH DIGNITY - Tim Cavanagh
THORAZINE SHUFFLE - Modern Entertainment
AN AXL CHRISTMAS - Sponge Awareness Foundation
LET'S ALL GET DEMENTED - Ivor Biggun
AIN'T WE CRAZY - Haywire Mac
Vol. 2 #2 (Monty Python, "Life with Dr. Demento" by "Mrs.
Vol. 3 #1 ("Collecting Cassettes," 1989 new releases)
Vol. 3 #2 (Moving Day in Dementia, 1990 new releases)
Vol. 4 #1 (Dr D's 20th Anniversary Tour)
#101 (1991-92 new releases)
#102 (Who's Whimsical Will, 1993 new releases)
#103 (Frank Zappa 1940-1993, late 1993 releases)
The price is just $1.00 per issue, plus $1.00 PER ORDER for postage and handling.
GET YOUR FRIENDS TO WRITE LETTERS TOO. Get a bunch of them to sign a petition! Many radio executives are simply not aware how many people enjoy Mad Music and Crazy Comedy. Let 'em know!
The Doctor thanks you!