A Brief History
On March 7, 1994, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that song parodies are “fair use” and that the original artist or writer of the song cannot prevent the parody from being recorded and aired. This settled any disputes, and the likes of “Weird Al” Yankovic were given a green light to continue amusing the public. Earlier this year, we featured lists of great novelty songs (including parodies), and today we feature 10 more such great hits that amuse and entertain us. Thank you, Supreme Court!
10. “Pretty Woman,” 2 Live Crew, 1992.
A parody of the Roy Orbison classic hit “Oh, Pretty Woman,” this is the song that the above-mentioned Supreme Court case was initially about. Acuff-Rose Music had refused permission for the song to be made, but 2 Live Crew made it anyway and sold over 250,000 copies. The Supreme Court decision actually overturned an Appeals Court decision that had considered the parody a copyright infringement, but wisely the Supreme Court saw otherwise.
9. “Boney Fingers,” Hoyt Axton, 1974.
Sometimes it is hard to tell if a country song is serious or in good fun, but I am pretty sure this was meant as sort of a joke. Hard life and working your fingers to the bone leaves you, well, with bony fingers. Honorable mention to “Put Another Log on the Fire.”
8. “I Lost on Jeopardy,” “Weird Al” Yankovic, 1984.
A parody of Greg Kihn’s “Our Love’s in Jeopardy,” this is the theme song for all those fans of the famous like-named television trivia game show. It even features Don Pardo, the old game show announcer (Saturday Night Live among other shows). It is also my personal favorite parody by Weird Al. I cannot believe he has only won 4 Grammys.
7. “Call Me Maybe Parody,” The Key of Awesome, 2012.
A YouTube video production, the song, a parody of Carly Rae Jepson’s “Call Me Maybe,” and video are absolutely hilarious. Dealing with obsession, stalking, violence and casual sex, this is definitely not for kids, but adults should still laugh throughout. Songs such as this show that the Internet can be a wonderful source of novelty songs and parodies that do not necessarily hit the big-time airwaves on the radio.
6. “The Unicorn,” Irish Rovers, 1968.
This song about mythical creatures reached all the way to #2 on the U.S. Adult Contemporary Charts and #7 on the Hot 100. It explains that the only reason unicorns do not exist today is because they missed the boat (literally) as Noah was herding up the animals two by two to escape the impending flood. 8 million copies of the song were sold, and it has become a staple at St. Patrick’s Day festivities. Originally written and recorded by Shel Silverstein back in 1962, it had been covered by numerous artists, including Robert Goulet, before the Irish Rovers recorded their version. Due to the song’s success, the group even opened bars named The Unicorn.
5. “The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?)” Ylvis, 2013.
A strikingly catchy tune from our friends in Norway, this song took the U.S. by storm and has been featured on television shows and in numerous parodies of itself, some of which are pretty good in their own right. (See “What Does the Sock Say?” by Annoying Orange.) This song was also the top YouTube video of 2013, with 488 million views.
4. “The Witch Doctor,” David Seville, 1958.
Actually performed by Ross Bagdasarian, David Seville was both his stage named and that of the character he played in the Chipmunks cartoons. Covered numerous times by “Alvin and the Chipmunks,” this squeaky tune has appeared in numerous movies and television shows.
3. “Surfin’ Bird,” The Trashmen, 1963.
This song is so good and distinctive that the Family Guy cartoon made it the central feature of one of its episodes. When I was a lad, it seemed some adults found the song annoying. On the contrary, it is one of the all-time great iconic hits of the 1960s. Actually beginning as a mashup of 2 songs by the Rivingtons, “Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow” and “The Bird’s the Word,” it only reached #4 on the charts, but it seemed more popular than that, as you heard it pretty much everywhere you went. (Or, so it seemed.)
2. “Snoopy vs. The Red Baron,” The Royal Guardsmen, 1966.
Playing off the popularity of the Peanuts cartoons/comic strip, the song was good enough to spawn a couple of successful sequels, “The Return of the Red Baron” and “Snoopy’s Christmas,” and in 2006, even a third sequel titled “Snoopy vs. Osama.”
1. “Polkas on 45,” “Weird Al” Yankovic, 1984.
A parody of the Dutch group Stars on 45 who had had great success with playing medleys of popular hits, Yankovic took this concept and gave it his owns special polka flavor. This worked out so well that Yankovic made almost a dozen more of these treats and even once performed in a pre-Grammys show in which he sang a polka medley of the nominated songs!
Question for students (and subscribers): What is your favorite novelty song? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
VARIOUS ARTISTS. The Golden Age of American Rock ‘N’ Roll: Special Novelty Edition. Ace Records Uk, 2003. CD.