I’ll admit it. I stopped listening to most popular music before the beginning of this century. There may be a lot of great songs out there, but I’m more interested in the songs I know. And many of the songs I know are novelty songs.
A novelty song is a song that isn’t necessarily interesting because of its music or message. It’s just supposed to be funny. From the pioneering work of Spike Jones to the satire of Weird Al Yankovic and Tom “T-Bone” Stankus, novelty songs have made up a lot of my listening hours.
No anchovies, please
Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the J. Geils Band had mainstream hits like I Do, Centerfold, and Freeze Frame. One of their stranger album cuts comes from the Love Stinks album and is called No Anchovies, Please. It tells an odd, horror-story tale of a man whose life is turned upside down because of his wife’s choice of sandwich meat. It’s worth a listen if you have time:
It’s pure silliness, nothing that will change the world. But it did satisfy an urge for novelty music that I was feeling. In the almost forty years since I first heard the song, though, I’ve finally been able to solve one of its enduring mysteries.
About 1 minute in there is a section which claims to be in a foreign language. It’s clear it’s just English, possibly sped up and reversed. Back when this album came out in 1980, many people would have bought it on vinyl and could have potentially run the record backwards by hand. Me, I bought it on tape. No such luck.
Using tools that would have cost millions of dollars back then, I cut out that section and reversed it digitally. The whole thing took me about a minute and a half. As best I can tell, it says,
It doesn’t take a genius to know the difference between chicken s… and chicken salad.
Listen for yourself, but do be aware that the profanity is real. Might be best to use headphones while at work or with kids nearby.
I’d heard that saying before and I have to guess that it was just something someone said, that a sound engineer put into the recording. Like the rest of the song, I ascribe it no particular significance. Still it’s nice to know after all these years.
What’s your favorite novelty song?
The 1970s and 1980s were the heyday of novelty songs, from Religion and Politics to Fish Heads. Their popularity was due to the Dr. Demento syndicated radio show, created and hosted by Barry Hansen. The show ran throughout the 70s and 80s, all the way out through the 2000s. Nerds of all stripes listened and recorded and indulged their senses of humor. Do you have a favorite? There are too many to count, although this one almost certainly rises to the top 10 for me:
If you have a favorite, list it below in the comments!