Dr. Demento in 2004.

Dr. Demento in 2004.

A whole lot of music geeks love Dr. Demento…

The other day, I was sort of halfway watching The Amazing Race and noticed that the episode featured contestants dealing with disgusting fish heads. As the episode ended, a revamped version of Barnes and Barnes’ 1979 novelty hit “Fish Heads” played. My lips curved into a grin as I remembered a song that was a hit on The Dr. Demento radio show, which was very popular in the 70s and 80s.

“Fish Heads”

I posted the above link on Facebook and suddenly got a bunch of likes from people my age who are music geeks… and love Dr. Demento’s brand of wackiness. Dr. Demento’s real name is Barret Eugene “Barry” Hansen and he created the Dr. Demento persona in 1970 while working at KPPC-FM, a Los Angeles radio station. Dr. Demento is well known for playing weird, funny, novel, or silly songs. “Fish Heads” is just one of many weird novelty and parody songs Dr. Demento helped popularize among the masses. Besides being a brilliant broadcaster, Dr. Demento is formally educated, holding a degree in ethnomusicology. I don’t know what ethnomusicology is, but I’m definitely intrigued. I’m sort of a twisted soul myself, so I really like Dr. Demento’s picks.

Allen Sherman’s classic hit “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah” was a staple on Dr. Demento’s show.

Dr. Demento helped a lot of comic musicians make a living when he played obscure hits on his show. His programming put formerly little known musicians on the map, introducing Americans to silly songs like “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah” and “Shaving Cream”, a witty 1946 classic from comedian Benny Bell.

Benny Bell’s “Shaving Cream”…

One of my favorite novelty songs made famous on Dr. Demento’s show is the hilarious hit, “They’re Coming To Take Me Away” by Napoleon XIV. I remember hearing that song as a little girl and thinking it was so weird and different… and funny! Granted, this number is not really a “song” per se, since no one actually sings and there’s percussion and sirens instead of a melody.

“They’re Coming To Take Me Away” Ha Ha!!!

Who hasn’t quoted this hit’s title at some point in their life when things get a little too intense for comfort? It’s one of those recordings that is unforgettable and indelible on the brain, yet very hard to duplicate. I don’t know that Napolean XIV ever had a follow up to this novelty piece. How can you top it?

In the 1980s, Dr. Demento introduced Julie Brown’s quirky song “The Homecoming Queen’s Got A Gun”.

I remember hearing that song on morning radio back in 1984 and laughing hysterically. I was probably in the 7th grade and actress, comedian, and singer Julie Brown was showing up on MTV, on TV shows, and in movies. She was famous for her quirky Valley Girl antics and songs like “Cause I’m a Blonde” and “I Like ’em Big and Stupid”. Of course, given the current violent climate in schools these days, I’m not so sure “The Homecoming Queen’s Got A Gun” would be as funny today as it was in the comparatively idyllic 1980s. This song was supposed to be a parody of 50s era tragic teen songs, but in the aftermath of the many school shootings that have plagued America since the late 1990s, even Brown admits that the song would probably be considered to be in poor taste these days.

I have fond memories of the fishy novelty song, “Wet Dream” by Kip Addotta…

If you aren’t careful, you might miss some of the puns and double entendres in this classic track.

Comedian Steve Martin had his time in the sun on Dr. Demento’s show, too.

Steve Martin performs “King Tut” live.

And then there’s the ever popular “Dead Puppies” by Ogden Edsl…

That song always gave me the willies. I’m a dog lover and don’t like thinking about dead puppies. This song is the epitome of black humor, though, and it resonated with lots of twisted souls who enjoy satire.

There is no denying that Dr. Demento and his brand of silliness helped a lot of people smile a little more, especially as they prepared for yet another day at the grindstone. It’s been a long time since I was a big radio fan, but these songs will always have a special place in my heart.

Dr. Demento and Weird Al Yankovic appear on Real People in 1982. This is a pretty classic clip!