Playlist: Fads That Spawned Novelty Songs

The novelty song is a strange, unexpected, and oftentimes, horrible thing. They seem to come out of nowhere, become popular for a spell, and die out quicker than they came. It’s the type of music that makes you wonder if anyone listens to those songs once the joke is over. But what’s weirder than the typical novelty song is one about a fad. These artists took a popular trend and wrote songs about them. Some of them are an homage to the thing, others are poking fun at the trends. All of them are freaking weird. Trends come and go, but these novelty songs will always be with us, for better or worst.

“Teletubbies say Eh Oh!” – The Teletubbies

Remember when weird alien baby creatures took over children’s television in the late 90s? Teletubbies is a show we’ve all seen at least once and none of us can explain why it was so popular. Frankly, it looks downright creepy. Believe it or not, the show spawned a hit single. You read that right. “Teletubbies Say Eh Oh” is a remixed version of the theme song where they say their name. To shake things up they randomly throw in “Ba Ba Black Sheep” and “Mary Mary Quite Contrary.” The song actually took the top spot on the charts in the UK. I shit you not, this actually happened. After it fell from number one, it still remained on the charts for 79 weeks. Why? What in God’s name is so good about this song that it stayed in rotation for so long? Who was listening to this? What’s really freaky is there were probably more adults listening to this than kids.

“Tamagotchi” – Squeezer

People loved virtual pets and Euro dance music in the 90s, so of course, there would be an official Tamagotchi club song. If it wasn’t for the constant repetition of “Tamagotchi,” it could easily be about a lover instead of a freaking toy. The video shows the singer looking sad that she can’t find her Tamagotchi, which is represented by the toy’s weird, but cute, mascot. The song is kind of upbeat and catchy and it’s cute how they incorporate the blipping sounds from the toy. Otherwise, it’s a pretty standard European club song, just a really weird one. Wanting to get in on the trend, Eurodance group Daze released the song “Together Forever,” which has several references to the popular toy. This one is downright creepy with lyrics like “I’m your Tamagotchi/so happy that you love me” and “I see you as my new mom and daddy.” To make things worse, the clip features a bunch of little kids. Yeah… let’s move on.

“Where’s the Beef?” – Coyote McCloud and Clara Peller

We’ve all seen the iconic ad where a flustered woman lifts up her hamburger bun, scoffs at the pitiful size and says…well, you know the rest. Similar to “Yo Quiero Taco Bell” in the 90s, the phrase took on a life of its own spawning merchandise and more ads. It also gave life to this song. Peller’s infamous phrase is used as the chorus, while McCloud tells the story of this woman, just in case the commercial wasn’t clear enough. With the cheesy lyrics and disco-inspired music, it sounds like something Gene from Bob’s Burgers would write. Here’s just a sampling of the on point lyrics:

“WHERE’S THE BEEF?
(Young man, can’t you hear her call
She don’t see no beef at all)
WHERE’S THE BEEF?
(Call a cop and catch the thief
the one who stole this lady’s beef)
WHERE’S THE BEEF?
(Eeny meeny miney mo
tell us where did our beef go?)
WHERE’S THE BEEF?
(Won’t somebody end her grief
And tell her where’s the beef?)”

“We Know Who Done It (Who Shot JR)” – The Barron Knights

“Who shot JR?” It was the mystery everyone wanted to solve in 1980. The tagline comes from the insanely popular drama Dallas wherein the third season finale the character JR Ewing is shot by a shadowy figure. Similar to “Where’s the beef?” this phrase also spawned its own line of merchandise. Comedy pop group The Barron Knights, think of them as British Weird Al, took the opportunity to poke fun at the event. Sung to the tune of Gary Newman’s “Cars,” the group sings about the events teasing listeners that they actually have the answer. Just when you think the mystery is going to be solved, the record skips (intentionally). By the way, it was JR’s sister-in-law Kristen Shepard.

“Pac-Man Fever” – Buckner & Garcia

Videos games are common place now. Hell, your mom probably plays some mobile games throughout the day. But back in the 80s, the medium was still new, fresh, and exciting. The arcades were packed with kids looking to spend a lot of quarters and waste the day away. One of the hottest games of the time was Pac-Man. So of course, people wanted to capitalize on the trend any way they could. In comes novelty duo Bucker & Garcia with what is perhaps the most famous novelty song of all time. The upbeat rock/pop infused track highlights the 80s video game craze and points out the player’s obsession with the game, even noting he has to get away from Speedy. Unlike many of the songs on the list, this one is surprisingly fun. It’s silly, but it’s something you can actually stand to listen to once the joke has worn off. Others thought so too as the song peaked at number 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1982. Bucker & Garcia tried to make magic again with “Do Donkey Kong,” but failed to be a hit.

“#Selfie” – The Chainsmokers

On the internet, it’s easy for anything to get insanely popular without any rhyme or reason. That’s the only explanation why people started talking about selfies as if they haven’t been around for hundreds of years. It got to the point where everyone cracked jokes at those stupid enough to take selfies daily or at inappropriate moments. Electronic duo The Chainsmokers wanted to poke fun at the trend too and released the annoying song “#Selfie” in 2014. The song is nothing but a club girl blabbing about the most asinine “problems” in between taking more selfies. Surprisingly, the song actually charted around the world and reach the top spot on Billboard’s Hot Dance/Electronic Songs. What helped it get so popular were celebrity cameos by David Hasselhoff, Snoop Dogg, and Steve Aoki. Some may not agree with it being classified as a novelty song, but it’s about fucking selfies with a generic beat. Can’t really imagine anyone listening to this track now, which why it’s hard to believe The Chainsmokers now having other chart-topping songs that aren’t one tiresome joke.

“Hula Hoop” – Maureen Evans

Though you’re more likely going to see someone hula hooping at Coachella, back in the 50s these simple toys spawned a craze. Popularized by toy company Whammo, the hula hoop sold two million units in just two years. It was so popular Carlton Products Corporation had to make 50,000 hoops a day just to keep up with demand. At the height of the craze, pop singer Maureen Evans released “Hula Hoop Song” in 1958. Making the act sound like a dance fad, the song talks about not getting enough of the toy and hooping at all hours of the day. It’s pretty catchy and actually sounds like something that would’ve been popular in dance halls at the time. It’s simple and gets the point across: hula hoops are awesome. Now, they’re the mark of someone trying way too hard at a festival usually wearing a flower crown.

“The Streak” – Ray Stevens

Aside from disco, flared pants, and The Brady Bunch, the 70s gave birth to a streaking craze. Streakers started running through residence halls and even outdoor games for a cheap thrill. People still do it now, with major consequences, but it’s nowhere near as popular as it was in the 70s. Ray Stevens highlights the craze in his 1974 track “The Streak.” The song pokes fun at the trend by reporting fake streaking incidents spotted around town. You can tell it’s supposed to be wacky with the prominent slide whistle and laugh track. Though the song is silly, it was a hit earning Stevens his second number one single on the Billboard Hot 100. It remains one of his most notable songs. I guess the current equivalent would be a song about the mannequin challenge.

“Doctorin’ the Tardis” – The Timelords

It seems Doctor Who only recently gained a huge following in the States, but it’s been a hit overseas for years, which is the only way to explain this song. Made by Bill Drummord and Jimmy Caughty (aka KLF), the song is nothing but the hook of “Doctor Who” sung to the tune of Gary Glitter’s “Rock n Roll Part 2.” You’ll occasionally hear a Dalek screech “EXTERMINATE!” but there’s nothing else to the song. This is another strange case of a novelty song scoring the top spot on the charts. While it only reached number 66 in the states, it peaked at number one in both the UK and New Zealand. In 2005, Party Ben and Team9 re-released the song set to Green Day’s “Holiday” as part of their American Edit project. It’s pretty bad; better stick to the original.

“A Nightmare on My Street” – Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff

Technically, this isn’t a novelty song, but it’s corny enough to be considered one. In case you forgot, Will Smith was a rapper at one point and Jazz was his DJ before he became a running joke on the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. The two cash in on the slasher move trend of the 80s with this song. The duo’s third single talks about Freddy Kruger and how he’s all too real for Smith. It starts with Smith claiming he’s not real and not even that scary. Of course, Freddy comes after him to prove him wrong. The rap is kind of lame and silly, but there’s still something charming about it. Smith makes references to Kruger’s iconic outfit, there’s music that sounds awfully a lot like the film’s score, and “Freddy” even drops a verse. It was originally considered for the Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master soundtrack, but the producers decided against it. Instead, New Line Cinema sued the duo’s record label for copyright infringement. The two later settled out of court.

“The Curly Shuffle” – Peter Quinn

The Three Stooges are proof that slapstick comedy never gets old. Everyone’s seen at least one Stooges short and probably laughed way too much. They’re bonafide comedy legends and in 1983 they received a star on the Hollywood walk of fame. At the same time, Peter Quinn released this novelty song as an homage to the comedy troupe. The song is simple; just Quinn expressing his love for the group, especially Curly and his trademark shuffle. Classic Stooges sounds like “Nyuk nyuk” can be heard throughout. Oddly enough, it’s an infectious song that’ll put you in the mood for some Stooges shorts. It’s surprising how hard they still make me laugh.

“Space Invaders” – Player One

While “Pac-Man Fever” was a hit in the States, another video game related song was taking over Australia. Written by Russell Dunlop and Bruce Brown, the song is about the popular arcade game of the same name. It attempts to give the game a story talking about how it’s up to the hero to save the world from ruthless aliens. The song is cheesy complete with generic disco music and some sweet falsetto crooning during the delivery of “space invaderrrs!” It’s actually the best part of the song. It ended up being a hit in Australia and reached number three on the Kent Charts. The duo released the single internationally, but it wasn’t received as well. It seems people wouldn’t be ready for video game inspired songs until 1982, the year “Pac-Man Fever” released.

“Mr. Rubik” – The Barron Knights

The Barron Knights return again poking fun at another 80s fad: the Rubik’s cube. This song tells the story of a guy who goes crazy trying to solve the damn thing. He even resorts to cheating by taking it apart and coloring in the squares to try to get some peace. He seemingly dies from the insanity only to learn the afterlife is full of the maddening puzzle. Similar to their other entry on the list, this one is silly, yet takes the piss out of the odd trend. Still, the song is better than the dreaded Rubik’s cube cartoon. *shudders*

Which novelty song did I miss? Are any of these your favorites? Let me know in the comments!

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