Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Dr. Demento Show, RIP

So it seems The Dr. Demento Show, as we know it (that is, as a syndicated show broadcast over radio waves) no longer exists. It continues as some kind of web-based podcast do-hickey, and nobody really listens to the radio anymore anyway, so I guess this isn't much of a big deal, but it at least seems like a good chance to talk about how fucking awesome Dr. Demento is.

If you're a fan of "weird" music, chances are there was some point in your life when you made it a point to tune into The Dr. Demento Show with some regularity on whatever station was running it in your area. You probably had some cassette tapes filled with episodes of the show. In the event that you're not familiar at all with it, Dr. Demento played novelty records. You know, "funny" songs. And it's probably worth mentioning that a lot of those records--a LOT of them--were lame. I mean, when I first heard the show I was probably around 11 or 12, and I thought it was amazing, but it could be pretty difficult to get through a show once I got into my late teens. But there were some fucking GEMS buried in there. And the thing is, they weren't just "funny" "joke" "records"--there was some seriously WEIRD music on the playlist. I remember this one song called "Duckbutter." It wasn't all that funny, but damn, was it weird. Like, it had a reggae-ish beat, but it just didn't sound like anything else. That song seems to be lost to the ether, but I'm posting a few that I have managed to find.

Ivor Cutler - I Got No Common Sense
A.C. Ducey - Beer, Beer, Bottle o' Beer
Spike Milligan - The Q5 Piano Tune

Oh yeah, so one thing I should mention is that in high school, when I started hanging out with Jason Emmett, he had kept his tapes of the show (whereas mine had all kind of dissipated into thin air by that time). He had about 10 or 20 cassettes full of Dr. Demento shows recorded at various levels of sound quality, and we went through all of them finding the weirdest stuff. The three songs above are all songs that were on those tapes. And of course, Jason and Zane are currently hosting their own podcast of weird old records, so the beat goes on.

The Ivor Cutler song is my favorite. So concise, right? On Jason's tape, this song led into a song called "Foot Foot Foot (I am Stupid)." Who knows where that song came from? It might have just been a demo that some fan sent into the show. Went along quite well. Years later, Ivor Cutler died, and I found out all about who he was.

The A.C. Ducey song, one of the great beer drinking songs of all time, appears over the closing credits of The Drunken Hero. I always picture it being sung by Bluto.

And Spike Milligan is another great British eccentric whom I only learned about years later. He's like the Iggy Pop to Monty Python's Sex Pistols. Thanks to Jason for putting this mp3 on one of his mix CD's a few years ago, and WFMU's blog for posting the A.C. Ducey song, and some random guy on Napster for leaving "I Got No Common Sense" sitting around on his hard drive.

And now, a few videos (this always makes the blog hard to load, but fuck it, it needs to be done)...

The song that I most associate with Dr. Demento:

Spike Jones was one of the most frequently played artists on the show. A true genius whose work needs to be more widely recognized:

Tom Lehrer was another great one who got a lot of play from the Doctor:

Of course, the guy most associated with the show is "Weird" Al Yankovich. In a way, that's a little sad. I mean, I like "Weird" Al, but he just isn't on the same level of amazingnessity as some of the others. But on early recordings like "Another One Rides the Bus," he performs with enough manic, punk rock energy to really sell his dumb jokes. (Note to self--do a whole post on "Weird" Al soon!)

Frank Zappa got a lot of airplay on the show as well. I had this one on a tape I had made of the show, and it always cracked me up. This was years before I realized who Frank Zappa was.

And then there's Wildman Fischer, who's pretty annoying but still a hundred times cooler than Wesley Willis.

And how about some good ol' eefin'?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good stuff about the Dr.
I have that Duckbutter song somewhere from the first time he played it on KMET. weird is so right about it.

6/30/2010 9:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was thinking about "I Am Stupid" the other day. Actually I sing the refrain all the time, driving my wife nuts. I have no idea who it is either.

Was also thinking about some recording I once heard, possibly on Dr Demento that seemed to be a mock "Hee-Haw"-type radio show hosted by "Ray's Radio Repair -- If it ain't broken, don't bring it to Ray." Now who the heck is that?

Another Demento favorite of mine is "Kinko The Clown" by Ogden Edsl. "Kinko loves you...really, really..." CREEPY!

7/05/2010 3:38 PM  
Blogger Chris Oliver said...

To this day, I think of that song everytime I see a Kinko's.

7/05/2010 10:33 PM  

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