Lost Or Forgotten Hit Records – Novelty Records part 1

Far too many hit records get buried in the sands of time, but the sands seem to storm more solidly on novelty records.  Here are a dozen novelty records that seem to have been misplaced by radio stations:

My Daddy Is President by Little JoAnn. Once upon a time we loved our president; I’m thinking, of course, of the days of Camelot when JFK was in the White House. This song from 1962 wasn’t really sung by Caroline, but she does show up in the pictures in the video.

The Princess and the Punk by Barry Mann. I’m only slightly embarrassed to admit I bought a K-Tel album simply to get a copy of this forgotten oldie. Barry wasn’t a stranger to novelty records since his first solo hit record was Who Put the Bomp in 1961. This hit followed a long time later (in 1976), but along the way he also wrote any number of hit records for other artists. Perhaps his biggest success was You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’, perhaps the most played record of the century.

Little Blue Man by Betty Johnson. This record was one of four top forty records for Betty in 1957-58, although this video was created as a school project by Tyler Holtman. Betty’s career didn’t end with those four records, but it rapidly faded with her last two charted records: the novelty records Hulla Hoopa (about the hula hoop craze) and You Can’t Get To Heaven On Roller Skates.

Everybody’s Free To Wear Sunscreen by Baz Luhrmann. Long before there was rap we had spoken word songs. This 1999 single was based on a speech that dispensed advice to a graduating class of 1997. This one has aged better than most of the novelty spoken words of the past (I can only cringe when An Open Letter To My Teenage Son by Victor Lundberg flies through the airwaves).

Astronaut (Parts 1 and 2) by Jose Jimenez. Jose was a character created and played by Bill Dana. This record pretended to be an interview with the person chosen to be the first US astronaut to be sent into outer space. Listen at your own risk: the record is probably too politically incorrect to be played anywhere anymore.

I Knew the Bride When She Used To Rock and Roll by Nick Lowe. The song may only be mildly a novelty, but the video makes up for it. The song was produced by Huey Lewis (and some of the News are probably playing on it as well) and Huey plays the harmonica parts.

The Bird On My Head by David Seville. Before he invented the music of the Chipmunks, David came up with the idea of speeding up his voice. The result was his first big hit, the number one smash The Witch Doctor. His follow-up record again used a funny voice but didn’t quite have the impact as his previous hit.

The Purple People Eater Meets the Witch Doctor by Joe South. Yes, that Joe South (who later wrote dozens of successful songs for other artists and won a Grammy award for the best song of 1968 he wrote and recorded). He started his career in 1958 with a novelty crossover record. The title of the song references the 1958 novelty records by Sheb Wooley and David Seville. While Joe would later write most of his own records, this one was written by J. P. Richardson, a disc jockey who recorded his own novelty records as the Big Bopper.

Little Space Girl by Jesse Lee Turner. We continue down the road of speeded-up voices with this entry, a novelty record from 1959. Fortunately, David Seville’s success with the Chipmunks mostly put an end to these annoying outer space voices.

Macarena Christmas Remix by Los Del Rio. Just in case you weren’t already tired of hearing the Macarena, this present arrived just in time for the holidays nearly two years later. Somebody had the bright idea of interspersing parts of the original record with various other Christmas songs, and the resulting train wreck somehow made it up to #57 in the Hot 100. At least we got new outfits in the new video.

Your Nose Is Gonna Grow by Johnny Crawford. Johnny’s career is known primarily as a star on the Rifleman television show from 1958 to 1963. As he got older, he also managed a recording career as well. This was the second most successful of his four top forty singles, but he somehow managed to stretch his recordings into two greatest hits albums.

Got a Girl by the Four Preps. The Four Preps had a string of over a dozen chart records from 1956 to 1964. Near the end, they recorded this ode to the misery of competing with teen idols. While most of the group went on to obscurity, Ed Cobb wrote several successful songs and Glen Larson wrote countless television scripts and created a string of successful television series.

I Got A Wife by The Mark IV. I guess once you’ve got a girl, if you’re lucky you eventually get a wife. Well, if you’re lucky she doesn’t turn into this wife!

A Treatment For Alzheimer’s?

From the time we’re really young (and already hate it) our parents probably take us to the dentist on a regular basis. There are lots of reasons for this, but the most important one didn’t even exist until 2018.

Healthy teeth are clearly an asset. If you brush and floss regularly you end up with nice white pearly teeth, and a nice smile is the second (or third) thing most people notice about you. Failure to properly take care of your teeth can lead to expensive treatments for cavities or even more expensive and painful treatment for gum disease.

It’s also nice to be able to eat things like corn on the cob and meat and that takes working teeth.

But it turns out that good oral care has an even more important benefit: it may help fight Alzheimer’s!

A study in Chicago that was released in 2018 introduced Porphyromonas gingivalis (commonly referred to as gingivitis in scary toothpaste commercials) into test subjects (aka mice). Follow-up examinations revealed that the bacteria caused the creation of clumps of amyloid beta, a protein that is present in Alzheimer’s patients. Based on studies at Havard, that protein appears to be created in the brain as a defense against microbial infections. The onset of “neurodegeneration” in the infected mice was also found, indicating some deterioration of mental abilities.

Additional studies by Cortexyme reported in January 2019 in Science Advances Magazine supplied additional support for a link between gum disease and Alzheimer’s. These studies examined the brains of fifty people who died with Alzheimer’s symptoms and fifty people who had not yet shown symptoms and found significantly higher levels of gum disease-related toxins in those who were ill. The company has also begun testing a medicine that targets the removal of the toxins on humans and has found that the drug appears to improve cognitive abilities.

While this doesn’t yet prove a cause-and-effect relationship between gum disease and Alzheimer’s or verify a long term treatment it gives us hope in that direction. And makes it clearly important that the elderly especially should pay more attention to their teeth and gums! Many Medicare Advantage plans now include coverage for regular teeth cleanings, and those who are covered have a real incentive to see a dentist regularly. Even if you don’t have coverage, you owe it to future you to take care of yourself.

Declan Patrick MacManus was a British musician who started writing and performing as D. P. Costello. When he signed a contract with a record company his manager (Jake Riviera) convinced him to change his name to Elvis Costello. Using Presley’s first name seems to have helped his career along, and he produced a series of successful albums in the seventies and eighties. His most successful single in the US was  Veronica, a song he co-wrote with Paul McCartney. Be sure to check out the lyrics; the song is one of the most powerful statements about dementia ever recorded.

Here’s Proof That We Can Accomplish Changes and Save the Planet

The Green New Deal has brought Climate Change back into the news with lots of debate over whether or not we will make significant changes to combat the challenge we face. There’s a simple reason to believe we can:

We already did it before.

When I was in high school in the sixties we were required to take gym several times a week, and at the end of the class, we were also required to take showers. Since a shower would (we hope) wash off any deodorant or antiperspirant we had used that morning, a lot of kids would then pull out a spray can of Right Guard and spray a level of protection back on. The locker room would normally smell more like Right Guard than a locker room, and that was probably a good thing.

Aerosol seemed like the perfect modern delivery system. A can was loaded up with both a propellant and something that the propellant would deliver, and when the spray nozzle on the top was pressed a combination of the two would come out as a mist. The earliest successful use appears to have been bug spray used to fight mosquitos during World War II. Right Guard was developed in the early 1960s and rapidly replaced Ban roll-ons and similar deodorants and antiperspirants. Other companies released similar aerosol products to compete, and by the early seventies over 80% of the market was dominated by aerosol sprays.

Then came the bad news.

The most-frequently used propellant were Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), chemicals made from carbon, chlorine, and fluorine that didn’t interact with much of anything and therefore seemed totally safe to use. The aerosol spray would deliver its active content, and the CFCs would simply drift away into the atmosphere. And float up and up and up until it came to rest in the ozone layer. Ozone is a naturally occurring version of oxygen that groups together three oxygen molecules instead of two and does an excellent job of blocking solar radiation/ultraviolet light that would otherwise cause harm to all living creatures (humans would suffer a lot more skin cancer if that radiation were to start reaching ground level). In 1974, American scientists claimed that while the ozone layer was stable, chlorine gas could act as a catalyst and one molecule of chlorine could destroy nearly 100,000 molecules of ozone.

I was convinced enough by the initial studies that I switched from using spray cans to roll-ons (and, later on, stick antiperspirants). I even got a phone call survey about the situation and surprised the survey host when I volunteered my change in buying habits even before they got to that question. I’m pretty sure that call was from one of the companies that were investigating public knowledge and opinions on the ozone layer problem.

By 1976 there was overwhelming evidence that CFCs would break down into component parts once they reached the ozone layer of the atmosphere, and the ozone layer was being destroyed.  It turns out that Right Guard literally threatened our lives!

The evidence was strong enough that in 1978 the US, Canada, and Norway banned the use of CFCs in aerosols even though other European nations refused to follow suit. CFCs continued to be used for air conditioners since it was assumed that freon (a brand name for a CFC compound) was not normally released into the atmosphere.

The polar regions normally had the thickest areas of ozone, but in 1985 an actual hole in the ozone layer was discovered over Antarctica. This was enough evidence to prompt more severe action, and in 1987 the Montreal Protocol was passed and signed by every single country. Replacement chemical compounds were used that would not deplete the ozone layer, and in another 30 years or so the ozone layer will have recovered to pre-aerosol levels.

So why are we facing such strong resistance to the Kyoto Protocol that was drafted to fight a similar problem with greenhouse gases and climate change?  Several reasons show the differences:

  • Global Warming wasn’t a good name for the challenge we face. Climate Change may be more accurate, especially since many people just shrug if you threaten them with temperature changes of only a few degrees.
  • Correlation is not the same as cause and effect. With CFCs, we had a clear definition of the chemical reaction and measurement that proved it was happening. Climate change is a lot more difficult to define and prove, especially since the weather is affected by a lot more than just greenhouse gases.
  • Early predictions of impending doom turned out to be incorrect. While slight increases in temperatures have occurred, no coastal cities were flooded out of existence by the year 2000.
  • CFCs were replaced with other compounds without a major difference in cost. No such easy replacement of carbon-based energy sources exist (yet).
  • The economic impact of trying to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions is especially brutal for developing countries.

Perhaps we need a program as massive as the Space Program to solve the problem we face now, but the Green New Deal doesn’t appear to provide a blueprint for getting there. Instead of looking to a focus on a scientific approach to finding affordable alternatives to the use of carbon-based fuels, it proposes:

  • We turn back the clock and undo President Eisenhower’s choice and replace our interstates with trains. And we start riding bikes and walking to work.
  • Cows are the major source of methane gas, so beef and maybe even milk have to go.
  • ALL buildings and houses need to be rebuilt to be more energy efficient.
  • We need to replace gasoline-powered cars with electric cars (just ignore that the electricity is often created by burning coal).
  • We need to generate all our electricity using renewable sources in spite of physical limitations that make that impossible unless we radically reduce our energy usage.

While the goals of the Green New Deal may be admirable, they don’t appear to be either practical or affordable. What would help is significantly cheaper solar power or working seawater fusion (a much better name for it than nuclear fusion). We have a limited amount of fossil fuels, and it would be best to find a way past them before they are gone.

In the meantime, it wouldn’t hurt if we all planted a lot more trees and ate more turkey and chicken and fish. And walked more.

Nuclear power has always been controversial. Nuclear fission turned out to not be as safe or cheap as we were promised, and the problems of disposal of nuclear waste and the use of nuclear by-products to produce dangerous weapons still pose threats. In 1979 the No Nukes concert was held to focus protest against it. The keystone song from the concert was probably Power. The large amount of power currently produced by nuclear fission makes it even more difficult to switch to renewable energy sources.