In recent years, the novelty song has had something of a rebirth in
popular culture thanks to the insane popularity of “Weird Al”
Yankovic’s massively popular Straight Outta Lynwood LP* and the
much beloved duo, Flight of the Conchords. Heck, even Jonathan Coulton
has managed to carve out quite the career by appealing exclusively to
the highly organized and fun-loving nerd demographic. But before
talents like these brought humor back to music you could find at a
Target store, a lot of other folks toiled away trying to marry whatever
it is they were good at with the stuff you loved, like Star Trek
or a late-night horror show. Unfortunately, some of these are not only
unpleasant, but have a way of getting stuck in your head for years.
Here’s your chance to hear them all again, perhaps for the first time!
THANK YOU SO MUCH, TOPLESS ROBOT.
* — Ask your parents
8) “Star Wars Cantina” by Mark Jonathan Davis
Sometimes a novelty song eschews cleverness by employing the same
techniques used to craft a 3rd-grade book report. “Her name was Leia,
she was a princess.” You probably have an MP3 of this on your computer
somewhere. Often incorrectly attributed to “Weird Al” Yankovic (who
recorded “Yoda” and “The Saga Begins,”) this track manages to take
everything you love about the Barry Manilow song and infuse it with
what it was missing all along. That’s right, more references to a
galaxy far, far away. Odds are you know someone who likes this song or
liked this song, and for that, they should apologize. “Boba Fett was so
mean, Jabba had bad hygiene.” Really, Mark? Surely you’ve seen Star Wars
enough to see that neither Boba Fett nor Jabba the Hutt set foot into
the Cantina. Mark would go on to become the man behind Richard Cheese
and Lounge Against the Machine.
7) “Batdance” by Prince
Many people will say that Prince is an unquestionable, unfathomable,
complete and total genius. Unlike the other songs on this list, it’s
unlikely that this was meant to be a joke so much as it was something
to potentially excite 10-year-olds into calling in a radio station and
requesting it repeatedly until the person on the phone got angry.
Clearly, this was meant to agitate nerds. Watch the video and surmise
the reason why Prince is wearing Joker makeup, but it’s applied like he
were Two-Face. And remember, this was part of the new, darker
Batman-era. (Plus I have no doubt this inspired most of Wil Smith’s
tie-ins in the 1990s, so we can blame Prince for seeing Wild Wild West videos on MTV. I think.)
6) “Highly Illogical” by Leonard Nimoy
There’s arguably few people nerds love more than Leonard Nimoy. His
albums are the stuff of legends, but in this track he waxes on things
like not being able to find a parking space in a character that is, but
isn’t, essentially Mr. Spock. “My people I believe have every right to
be concerned.” So do mine. Not Spock goes on to talk about how women
will change their men and how people work for money! Oh heavens!
Novelty records are what happens when you don’t give your TV stars
points on the back end for syndication deals, folks. A ton of people
probably thought this thing was damn clever in its day too. And
speaking of Star Trek…
5) “Do the Picard” by Rusty Humphries and the Bone-Heads
“Some like Kirk/Picard is wiser/Geordi’s jammin’ with his visor.” Star
Trek’s success with its second iteration such inspired such novelty
nuggets as this one. If you liked “The Monster Mash” but felt it didn’t
have enough Trek
in it, Rusty has been looking out for you. His team beams in references
to the then hugely popular series while it was still on the top of the
syndication charts. Lyrics include such wonders as “Troi’s now on the
main bridge/Showin’ off her cleavage” and “Troi is the Betazoid/dancin’
with the android,” which shows you the limitations imposed upon those
not lucky enough to own a rhyming dictionary. Oh, and if by some
unfortunate accident you happen to hear this song more than once? It
can stick in your head for over 15 years. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
4) “Insane and the Brain” by The Great Luke Ski
The first thing to remember about The Great Luke Ski is that he isn’t.
If you’re no good at doing impressions, it’s probably a bad idea to
sample the TV show throughout the song, creating an obvious split
between a couple of talented voiceover actors with impressive careers
and a hack who has achieved no small fame hosting the odd Star Wars fan
film contest. Nerds love — or loved — Pinky and the Brain, the mouse duo from the beloved series Animaniacs.
And if you haven’t already guessed, this song is a parody of Cypress
Hill’s “Insane in the Membrane.” The song achieved some success on the
Dr. Demento radio program and even made it onto a CD release or three.
3) “It’s Alive” by Bobby ‘Boris’ Picket
Remember “Monster Mash?” Of course you do, it was on that great
Valentine’s Day episode of The Simpsons. But did you a sequel to this
song exists somewhere in the vaults of music history? It kicks off with
the same dude reminding you the original song is now 30 years old (it’s
older now), and while rock and roll was all the rage when the original
was released, this is a product of late 1980s R&B and hip hop.
That’s right, this guy is rapping in character as a Boris Karloff
knockoff, most likely to pay his bills. (Don’t feel sorry for him, he
died a few years ago.)
2) “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins” by Leonard Nimoy
The perils of existing in the post-postmodern age is that it’s hard to
tell exactly how many levels of irony were laquered on to a concept.
Here we get the story of The Hobbit
as sort of kind of sung by Mr. Spock. Behold, the internet’s favorite
Vulcan/Hobbit video! Dancing girls in crazy spiraly sweatshirts out in
the desert wearing “FRODO LIVES” buttons? ARE YOU MAKING FUN OF ME, MR.
1) “Deck The Halls with Parts of Charlie” by The Cryptkeeper on the Full-Length Album Have Yourself a Scary Little Christmas
Record executive #1: “Hey, don’t we have the guy that does the Crypt
Keeper voice? Can we give him a bottle of gin and a script to crap
something out for the holidays?”
Record executive #2: “Yes. I do believe we have a bottle of gin right here.”
Record executive #1: “Does anyone else smell holiday gold? Or is that
the residue from the blow we just did off this coffee table?”
This song is one of 15 tracks on the album, recorded especially for all the boils and ghouls who have been good all year for Santa Claws. Since you may have never heard of it, it’s no surprise they didn’t skell a ton of them. It really is the perfect Cryptmas present for your main squeeze. For you trivia fans: this was published by The Right Stuf, who took a stab at something outside the anime business. It’s hard to come by, but I suggest you dig one up for every dismember of your family.
Robert Bricken is one of the original co-founders of the site formerly known as Topless Robot, and its first editor-in-chief, serving from 2008-12. He brought the site to prominence with “nerd news, humor and self-loathing” as its motto, raising it from total internet obscurity to a readership in the millions, with help from his savage “FAQ” movie reviews and Fan Fiction Fridays. Under his tenure Topless Robot was covered by Gawker, Wired, Defamer, New York magazine, ABC News, and others, and his articles have been praised by Roger Ebert, Avengers actor Clark Gregg, comedian and The Daily Show correspondent John Hodgman, the stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Rifftrax, and others. He is currently the managing editor of io9.com. Despite decades as both an amateur and professional nerd, he continues to be completely unprepared for either the zombie apocalypse or the robot uprising.