I think we need more silly songs on the radio.
Recently, I found myself humming, “Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavour (On the Bedpost Overnight?)” and it struck me that I haven’t heard any new, deliciously silly songs become really popular for some time. They just don’t make the charts these days. I fear it is a sign that the nation has lost its sense of humor, or at least misplaced it.
I found some relief when I heard an interview with Weird Al Yankovic, plugging his latest album. I adore that man. He is the 21st-century master. Gone are the days of Tom Lehrer and Allan Sherman or even Ray Stevens. Their songs ranged from razor-sharp wit to just plain goofy, and I loved them all.
My family has long been the biggest fans of funny songs. I remember listening to comedy song albums played during my parents’ cocktail parties when I was a sprout. I remember the song with all the goofy sounds by Spike Jones (not to be confused with Spike Lee, who doesn’t write lyrics and reportedly has no sense of humor at all). Another one that made me giggle was “Cigarettes, Whisky, and Wild, Wild Women.” I can’t recall many of the words, but the title is enough.
I remember waiting with wonderful anticipation for the next song by Ray Stevens, from “The Streak” to “Ahab the Arab.” And we all memorized Allan Sherman’s lament from summer camp, “Hello, Muddah, Hello, Faddah.” More classics of my generation were “Purple People Eater,” “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini” and “The Little Blue Man.” And how about the Chipmunks’ Christmas song?
As much as we all love Weird Al, even his stuff rarely makes the disc jockey play lists. All of my old favorites made the top 10 and got a ton of airplay. I suspect today’s kids and DJs fear they will be far too uncool if they show too much appreciation for the silly side of music. Pity, really.
Raffi and Sharon, Lois & Bram and other toddler-centered songsters kept me going when my kids were little. I knew all the words but I’m pretty sure you never heard them on the radio.
Other than Weird Al, we do have the likes of Jack Black’s Tenacious D, Jimmy Fallon and Flight of the Conchords. I suspect our sensibilities have changed, though. Much of their stuff is not for family consumption. The closest thing to a silly song I have heard on pop radio was “Baby Got Back” and Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Base.” OK, so they made me laugh, but today’s songwriters will need to get a lot sharper to run with the big dogs of yesteryear or even to jam with my buddy Weird Al.
I love using silly songs whenever possible. As my children glared at their broccoli, I would burst into “Eat it! Eat it! Don’t you make me repeat it!” I might share a chorus of Justin Timberlake’s “Sexy Back” at exercise class or when accused, use just the refrain of Shaggy’s “It Wasn’t Me.” But I need new G-rated ammunition. Silly people, it’s up to you.
Jean Gillette is a freelance writer who gets silly on a regular basis. Contact her at [email protected].