Jewish World Review Jan. 2, 2003 / 28 Teves, 5763

Ian Shoales

Ian Shoales
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Farewell to novelty | I don't know how I missed it, but another international sensation has passed me by. "The Ketchup Song, Hey Hah" performed by three Spanish Sisters called "Las Ketchup" apparently burned up the dance charts all over Europe, and even tried to become the new Macarena here, with little success, I suspect. At least I don't see five and six year olds doing the ketchup on the playgrounds, a surefire novelty song hit harbinger.

Of course we have just passed Christmas season, when the airwaves are filled with novelty songs-"Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer," "All I want for Christmas are my two front teeth," "Frosty the Snowman," etc. And they tend to suck all the air out of the novelty song room, but still, I wonder, is the novelty song an endangered species?

Sure there was "Who Let the Dogs Out?" from a few years back, but was that woof woof answering chorus actually the death rattle of the novelty single? Say, that's pretty good writing. Let's repeat that. Was that woof woof answering chorus actually the death rattle of the novelty single?

Nowadays, a novelty song doesn't have a prayer unless it can be incorporated into sporting events-"Who Let the Dogs Out," "We are the Champions," "We are Family," and so forth.

But there was a time when willfully silly songs would appear on the top ten charts every other month, tunes like "Polka Dot Bikini," "Purple People Eater," "They're Coming to Take Me Away (Ha Ha)," "I'm My own Grandpa," "Monster Mash," "How Much is That Doggy in the Window," and "Who Threw the Overalls in Mrs. Murphy's Chowder."

There are no willfully silly songs any more, just inadvertently silly ones, like "The Thong Song." .

And even the neo-bubble gum silliness of the past few years has gone away-no more Back Street Boys, or N Synch. There's a Britney backlash. Believe me, Avril Lavigne will never fill those shoes. Besides, she's Canadian.

I miss the oddities radio used to offer. I miss "Ballad of the Green Berets," "Ode to Billie Joe," "Convoy," "Ringo"- anything by Alvin and the Chipmunks really. You have to listen to Disney Radio to hear any of this stuff any more, and they re-do all the lyrics so they're about Disney characters. It's creepy, rather cult-like.

I guess I'm feeling kind of wistful. You know what America needs? America needs a goofball in bib overalls and a banjo singing songs in a fake Swedish accent about teepeeing outhouses. That's what America really needs.

Oh, yeah, we gotta find Bin Laden too, I guess.

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JWR contributor Ian Shoales is the author of, among others, Not Wet Yet: An Anthology of Commentary. Comment by clicking here.


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© 2001, Ian Shoales