Clubbers' Decktionary: Novelty Records
Trouble's DJ Hobbes gives us a seasonal one-off guide to novelty chart-botherers
Novelty Records proper noun, myriad styles and tempos
Invariably exhibits a tendency to grate excruciatingly on your nerves, while perhaps amusing your (ahem) style-challenged family member (who naturally irritates you further by singing/playing the tune ad nauseam); often also timed to coincide with specific national festivities or big sporting events and occasionally accompanied by (groan) a novelty dance.
Origins With roots in New York’s songwriting and music publishing district, Tin Pan Alley, around the turn of the last century, it wasn’t actually until the mid-50s that novelty songs really took off. New Yorker Dickie Goodman is credited as the godfather, scoring his first major hit, ‘The Flying Saucer’, in 1956.
Key figures Bob Merrill and Ingrid Reuterskiöld’s ‘How Much Is That Doggie In The Window’ (made popular by Patti Page) managed to infuriate everyone when the song got to No 1 in 1952. The 1962 smash hit ‘Telstar’, by the tragically ill-fated and utterly legendary pioneering British producer Joe Meek (with band The Tornados), is perhaps the most notable in the UK canon from that time, the first record by a British group to reach No 1 in the US. Goodman’s ‘Flying Saucer’ had a slew of follow-ups (‘The Second Flying Saucer’, ‘Touchables In Brooklyn’ and ‘Batman and His Grandmother’), none of which quite sparked the public’s imagination until 1975’s ‘Mr Jaws’, capitalising on the success of the film and achieving gold record status. But perhaps legendary Scots The KLF deserve the ultimate genius accolade for successfully managing to fuse rave with country music, reigniting the career of Tammy Wynette in the process, on their penultimate swansong, ‘Justified & Ancient (Stand by The JAMs)’, in 1991.