Doctor Appears in New Home Video
The Doctor actually makes two separate appearances in the 40-minute tape. He is seen playing a "street person" in the prologue to the famous Fish Heads video, which is reproduced here in its entirety along with all the other Barnes & Barnes song videos--"Love Tap," "Soak It Up," "Party In My Pants," "Pizza Face," "Ah A" and "When You Die." And, like each of the celebrities listed above, he tells a "tall tale" about Barnes & Barnes. Each of the guests was invited to make up his or her own story, and the results are variously hilarious, poignant, and revealing.
"It was an honor and a pleasure to be involved in the this project," says the Doctor. "Fish Heads is one of our all-time most requested Demented Discs, and this tape shows so many more dimensions to Barnes & Barnes' dementia. I also heartily recommend the Zabagabee album, especially the compact disc version which has some extra songs."
1. Abbott a. Swann 2. Barnes b. Grdnic 3. Bowser c. Jethro 4. Buckner d. Goodman 5. Buchanan e. Oscar 6. Cheech f. Patsy 7. Elmo g. Garcia 8. Flanders h. Blue 9. Gallagher i. Chong 10. Homer j. Shean 11. Laurel k. Ree 12. Lonzo l. Bowden 13. Pinkard m. Hardy 14. Stevens n. Costello 15. Williams o. Barnes
Answers on page 4
The Demento Society
P.O. Box 884
Culver City, CA 90230
Hello again, wherever you are! Once again this past fall, my busy production schedule [see "Life With Doc" last issue] kept me from traveling, and greeting Dementites and Dementoids in person, as much as I would have liked to...but we had plenty of exciting times, and exciting visitors, in beautiful downtown Culver City.
Our first visitor since last issue was the Petite Flower, Giver-Goddess, and Fashion Plate, Judy Tenuta. We'd met her before in the company of her fellow Chicagoan Emo Philips, but this time Judy was promoting her own adorable album Buy This, Pigs! We found great truth and beauty dwelling within her outwardly daffy personality. She plays hot accordion too.
In September we celebrated a notable anniversary--the tenth birthday of the most requested song in the history of the Dr. Demento Show, "Dead Puppies (Aren't Much Fun)" by Ogden Edsl. Bill Frenzer, cowriter of the song and lead singer on the recording, stopped by to talk about how the song was written (in 15 minutes) and recorded by the Omaha group formerly known as the Ogden Edsl Wahalia Blues Ensemble Mondo Bizarrio Band.
Cheech Marin, now on his own after fifteen years with Tommy Chong [see Profiles in Dementia in this issue], gave us some'hilarious and revealing insights about his hit movie, Born in East L.A., one of the funniest films of 1987. We also heard about what promises to be one the most interesting movies of 1988, Earth Girls are Easy--as its star, Julie Brown, came by to talk about that film and her album Trapped In the Body Of a White Girl.
We've enjoyed the music of Jonathan Richman for years; he sings rock 'n' roll with a spirit of joyful abandon that's far too rare these days. He's recorded plenty of pure dementia as well, and it was a real treat to speak with him. If Jonathan is a fine musician with a great sense of humor, George Smilovici turned out to be a comedian with a gift for music. "I'm Tuff" with its tongue-in-cheek macho swagger made him one of Australia's most popular standup comedians; little did we know he also played classical guitar.
At Halloween time we did get to make a little trip, to Dallas where the show is now carried on station KZEW. Program director David Grossman made us feel very much at home, and Halloween in Dallas was a truly demented experience.
Our next visitors were two demented duos: Barnes & Barnes with their new album & video [see separate story], and then Mojo Nixon and Skid Roper. The irrepressible Mojo, whose song "Elvis Is Everywhere" was one of the top novelty songs of 1987, had so many great stories to tell that our half hour seemed like it was over before it started. His partner Skip was taciturn, as always--but does that man know his music! He was a rare record dealer before becoming an entertainer, and in fact had sold me several prize items including Frank Zappa's very first record at a swap meet more than ten years ago! Together Mojo and Skid made up a song on the spot, right in our studio, called "Oh Oh Ofrah."
Speaking of Frank Zappa, he was a guest on the show for the fifth time in 17 years. Actually, we took a traveling microphone to his home studio, the Utility Muffin Research Kitchen. Frank is as precise with his spoken words as with his music, and almost as prolific: he had a lot of interesting and provocative things to say about his music, his new home video company, politics, drugs and (especially) censorship. We wound up broadcasting the interview in two parts; it should go down (like our earlier encounters with F. Z.) as quite a landmark in the history of Dementia
We're always happy to listen to tapes from anybody for possible airing on the Dr. Demento Show.
While good, clear sound quality is important you do not have to go into a big studio. The main thing we're listening for is what we like to call dementia--songs or skits that are really funny and/or far out.
The Doctor listens to all tapes himself, and picks the best ones for his show. (Sometimes he gets a little backlogged, so please be patient.)
The Dr. Demento Show is not responsible for any submitted tapes. (We have to say that for legal reasons, but the Doctor takes real good care of 'em.) No tapes will be broadcast without your written permission. If you want your tape returned, please enclose return postage.
We can use cassettes, or reel-to-reel tapes of any kind. (We can also
use records, of course.)
P.O. Box 884
Culver City, CA 90230
Cheech & Chong may not exactly be the height of fashion these days, but since when did that make a difference in the Land of Dementia?
They were (with Steve Martin) the best selling comedy act on records in the 1970s, and the best of their work is still as funny today as it ever was. Now that Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong have (at least for now) gone their separate ways, it seems appropriate to take another look at their recorded legacy, and how it came to be.
It was records, not television or movies, that first made them famous, and in 1971-1972 it took them less than a year to go from near-total obscurity to near the top of the charts (their second and third albums each peaked at #2 in Billboard).
That, in itself, was remarkable but not unprecedented; many comedy albums were big sellers in those days. What was different about Cheech & Chong was that their records (and their live performances, and later their movies) were specifically designed for the rock music audience, rather than the traditional (older, straighter) comedy audience of that time. "Hard Rock Comedy" was the tag given them by their producer, Lou Adler, then one of the most successful pop/rock record producers in the industry (Johnny Rivers, The Mamas & The Papas, Carole King's Tapestry, etc.).
Recorded in the studio without live audiences, and with clever and subtle use of sound effects, the records draw the listener into their make-believe environment. In these ways they resembled the recordings begun two years earlier by Firesign Theatre, but Cheech & Chong's humor was more direct and accessible, less cerebral, and as time went on they used music more.
The music came naturally to them, because both Cheech and Chong had worked as professional musicians, separately, before they got together to do comedy.
Tommy Chong was born in 1938 in Edmonton, Alberta, of Chinese-Canadian parents. In the mid-1960s he joined a band called Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers, an interracial group based in Vancouver, Canada. Signed to Motown Records' Gordy label this group had a fair-sized American hit single with "Does Your Mama Know About Me" in the spring of 1968. Tommy co-wrote the song; you can hear him playing guitar, and see him on the cover of the group's subsequent album.
While touring with this group Tommy developed a taste for such comedians as Lenny Bruce and The Committee, and after leaving the group he decided to try his own talents as a comedian. His first gig was at a Vancouver topless nightclub called the Shanghai Junk owned by members of his family. Eventually he organized a troupe there called City Lights--"three freaks, four topless dancers, a mime artiste and a roaring audience."
One of the "freaks" was Richard "Cheech" Marin, born in 1946, son of a Los Angeles policeman. After playing in local L.A. bands (including one called Captain Shagnasty and his Loch Ness Pickles), he had come to Canada to study the art of pottery but wound up selling carpets. On a whim he auditioned as a comedian--at the Shanghai Junk.
Cheech (whose name came from cheecharones, Mexican fried pork skins) and Chong soon found that they played off each other like a stoned-hippie version of Abbott & Costello. In 1970 they decided to go out on their own as a duo, and eventually wound up in Los Angeles, where Lou Adler discovered them at a club called the Troubadour.
Their first album, titled simply Cheech & Chong (1971) had one 1 1/2 minute dialogue that alone would have made it a masterpiece: "Dave," the cleverest bit of comic misinterpretation since Abbott & Costello's 'Who's On First." But there was also "Blind Melon Chitlin'," in which an uptight record producer loses his marbles trying to record an inebriated blues singer, and "Cruisin' With Pedro de Pacas" with its two potheads in a car fumbling with their dope and reacting bemusedly to the world around them--a theme Cheech & Chong would play variations upon for many years thereafter.
For better or worse, Cheech & Chong will undoubtedly go down in history as the kings of dope humor. "We use dope," Cheech Marin once said, "the way Jackie Gleason and Dean Martin use booze. It's the basis for many comedy situations that can be developed on different levels. We're essentially dealing in characters."
Album two, Big Bambu (1972) had a cover based on the pack design of a popular brand of cigaret rolling papers, and dope humor indeed fills most of its grooves, but not all. There's also "Sister Mary Elephant," the great bit about the screaming nun and her English class that became Cheech & Chong's second hit single a year later.
Their first hit single? It was "Basketball Jones Featuring Tyrone Shoelaces," a musical parody of a now-forgotten soul hit called "Love Jones." This was a highlight of album three, Los Cochinos (1973) which also featured "Sergeant Stadanko" and the twelve-minute adventures of "Pedro and Man at the Drive-In." It won a Grammy for Cheech & Chong.
Their biggest hit single--and their all-time most requested cut on the Dr. Demento show--came with "Earache My Eye Featuring Alice Bowie" from Cheech & Chong's Wedding Album (1974). Lavishly packaged with numerous color snapshots of our heroes acting the fool at a sumptuous party (often with their two white formal jackets buttoned together) this album also included "Black Lassie (A Great American Dog)" featuring country singer "Johnny Stash."
Sleeping Beauty (1976) was less successful commercially but carried on a high standard of humor with the title cut plus "Framed" (an update of a 1950s R & B hit) and "The Big Sniff (Featuring Ralph and Herbie)." The latter featured the dog characters first heard on Big Bambu; I've always felt those mutts deserved a whole album of their own!
After that Cheech & Chong turned their attention to the movies, and were rewarded with one of the surprise cinematic hits of the decade, Up In Smoke. It features those same two potheads, Pedro (Cheech) and Man (Chong) in a series of international shenanigans which culminate with them racing from Tijuana to L.A. in a van built entirely of compressed marijuana It was so successful that Cheech & Chong were able to "write their own ticket" for five more films: Cheech & Chong's Next Movie; Cheech & Chong's Nice Dreams; Things Are Tough All Over; Cheech & Chong Still Smokin' and Cheech & Chong's The Corsican Brothers. They almost forgot about the record business, and vice versa, but in addition to an Up in Smoke soundtrack there was a 1980 album called Let's Make a New Dope Deal, notable for another soul song parody ("Bloat On") and the deliciously excruciating "Acupuncture. "
After their string of movies had played itself out, Cheech & Chong returned to to recording studio for what was to be (for now, anyway) their final collaboration, Get Out of My Room (1985). They put the dope humor behind them this time for a well-rounded 1980s look at such things as sushi bars, answering machines and the music business. It wasn't their best album, but did have their best song parody ever: "Born in East L.A." based on Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A." A very funny song with a substantial serious undertone, it became the foundation for Cheech Marin's' first solo feature film, also called Born is East L.A. He wrote and directed it as well as starring in it--and, like Up In Smoke, the movie surprised the whole industry by be coming very popular.
We'll undoubtedly be seeing more from Cheech in the coming years, and we're certain Tommy Chong has more laffs up his sleeve as well. (Meanwhile you can always enjoy watching his daughter, film star Rae Dawn Chong.)
Singles containing material not found on albums:
"Bloat On"/"The Bloater's Creed" (Ode 8-50471) Released in 1977; the song on the A side made it to the New Dope Deal album three years later, but the amusing sketch on the B side was relegated to oblivion.
"I'm Not Home Right Now"/"Hot Saki" (MCA 52732) A side is on Get Out Of My Room; B side, otherwise unreleased, is an instrumental
Two other collectible singles:
"Up In Smoke"/"Rock Fight" (Ode Sounds & Visuals 0S-6968) These excerpts from the Up In Smoke soundtrack were released on this label before the soundtrack was picked up by Warner Bros. Records, which rereleased this single in addition to putting out the album.
Other recent major label Demented Discs (which should be available at most bigger and better record stores) include Buy This, Pigs! by JUDY TENUTA (Elektra)--daffy songs like "I Like Boys" and "The Pope Song" together with standup comedy bits by "The Petite Flower" which often have quite a bit of bite to them...Trapped In the Body of a White Girl by JULIE BROWN (Sire) which includes the original "Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun," a re-make of "I Like 'Em Big and Stupid" and "Girl Fight Tonight," which Julie told me was written with the Dr. Demento Show very much in mind...and Top Gum (MCA) by veteran Southern funnyman JERRY CLOWER.
The recent Funny Five Favorite "I Wanna Be a Flintstone" may be found an THE SCREAMING BLUE MESSIAHS' album Bikini Red (Elektra), while BUSTER POINDEXTER's self-titled album (RCA) has a campy but lively revival of a 1936 Big Band tune that could be my theme song: "(I'm Nuts About) Screwy Music."
There are a bunch of nice new albums on labels that aren't quite "major" but big enough to be available nationwide in at least the very best record stores. We take a special pride in the LP/cassette/CD/video release of Zabagabee: The Best of BARNES & BARNES since the lads from Lumania made their radio debut on the Dr. Demento show back in 1978 with "Fish Heads" which is of course included, along with "Boogie Woogie Amputee," "Party In My Pants," "Pizza Face," "Cemetery Girls" and a nice selection of their highly inventive non-humorous material. Among the five CD-only bonus cuts are "Cats" and "Something's In the Bag."
Another big favorite is Bo-Day-Shus!! by MOJO NIXON & SKID ROPER (Enigma). We've featured four cuts on the show: "Lincoln Logs," " Wash No Dishes No More," "I'm Gonna Dig Up My Howlin' Wolf" and of course "Elvis Is Everywhere." Now available at last is Modern Lovers '88 (Rounder) by JONATHAN RICHMAN AND THE MODERN LOVERS, containing "When Harpo Played His Harp," "California Desert Party" and more of the very special music we heard when Jonathan and his band were our guests last fall.
More very special music may be found on My, I'm Large by the BOBS (Great American Music Hall Records 859 O'Farrell St., San Francisco, CA, 941O9). There's a warning on the back cover: "All the sounds on this record came out of the mouths of Bobs or other parts of Bobs' bodies." Like their earlier work, this album has great a cappella (unaccompanied) harmony singing, and brilliant, brainy songs with a consistent sense of humor.
There's nothing at all intellectual about Freddy's Greatest Hits by THE ELM STREET GROUP (Ric Records, c/o The Moss Music Group, 200 Varick St., New York, NY 10014) and the album has an awful lot of filler, but it does have Robert Englund, the original voice of Freddy from the Nightmare On Elm Street movies, doing his thing, and "Do the Freddy" is undeniably Demented.
We've been hearing a lot lately from fans of a relatively new sort of entertainment called Filk Music. Filk musicians are generally found at science-fiction fan conventions, where they sing original songs and parodies inspired by science-fiction themes and related subjects. The performers are mostly amateurs but their lyrics are often quite humorous, and/or stimulating in other ways. It's a long way from big-time show biz, but Filk music is getting more popular all the time, and there are now quite a few recordings available (on cassette only) at sci-fi "cons" or by mail. The major distributor of Filk tapes is a company with the delightful name of Off Centaur Publications, PO Box 424, El Cerrito, CA 94530. Among their offerings is a tape called Don't Ask by FRANK HAYES with the song "Cosmos" which we've played on the show. Do send an SASE for their free catalog.
I can also recommend an independently released tape called Escape From Mundania by SALLY & BARRY CHILDS-HELTON featuring another song we've aired "Going Down the Cosmic Drain." (5141 Norwaldo, Indianapolis, IN 46205).
While we're on the subject of independently released tapes, here's a great one: Wooters and Hoohahs by THE AMAZING PINK THINGS (3713 192nd. SW, Lynnwood WA 98036). It features the amazing a cappella "Hal and Lulu Chorus" which we've often featured on the show, plus "Nuclear Surfin'," "Male Model" "Hurt Someone's Feelings Today" and the most incredible version of "You Light Up My Life" since the one "Weird Al" Yankovic used to do when he was in college. (They also do a neat cover of Al's "One More Minute.") No amateurs, these Pink Things; their harmonies are fantastic and the production is major-label quality all the way.
More tapes: Singin' in the Shower by Colorado ski-lodge entertainer WAYNE FAUST has his fine song "Blind Date" (Zzyzx Records, P.O. Box 23, Sun Valley, CA 91353-0023).
We must mention that Star Trek Comedy: The Unofficial Album is now available on LP as well as cassette. A Trekkie (sorry...Star Trek fan) delight from start to finish, this compilation has the original "Star Trip" by Congress of Wonders, "All The Star Trek Shows Ever Made Rolled Into One" by Jim Samuels, "Star Trek V: In Search of Cash" by Kevin Pollack, and a version of "Stardrek" by Bobby Pickett and Peter Ferrara that's somewhat different from the one on Dr. Demento's Dementia Royale ($10.98, LP or cassette, from Vince Emery Productions, 2261 Market St., #454, San Francisco, CA 94114).
Our final New Demented Disc this time is one you can find most anywhere...but not in record stores. You have to go to a book store to find "I'm A Boinger"/"You Stink But I Love You" by BILLY & THE BOINGERS, which is included on a high-quality flexidisc with every copy of the paperback bestseller The Billy & the Boingers Bootleg--which is, of course, the latest collection of Bloom County comic strips.
2-o. Art Barnes and Artie Barnes are famed throughout the Land of Dementia for "Fish Heads" and much more (see the story on their new video).
3-h. Canadian funnymen George Bowser and Ricky Blue hit the top of the Funny five with "Polka Dot Undies."
4-g. In 1982 when the whole world was playing video games, Atlanta's Jerry Buckner and Gary Garcia scored high on the pop singles charts as well as the Funny Five with "Pac-Man Fever."
5-d. In 1956 Bill Buchanan and Dickie Goodman made a comedy record, "The Flying Saucer," highlighted by bits of current rock 'n' roll hits. The team split up shortly thereafter, but Goodman made may more records in the same style including "Mr. Jaws."
6-i. Richard "Cheech" Marin and Tommy Chong are the subjects of this issue's Profile in Dementia.
7-f. Elmo and Patsy Shropshire, married at the time, recorded in 1979 the biggest Christmas novelty hit of the past decade, "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer." Elmo Shropshire and Patsy Trigg have continued their careers separately.
8-a. Michael Flanders and Donald Swann, British entertainers, became worldfamous with their musical revue At the Drop of a Hat (1957) featuring such smart songs as "The Reluctant Cannibal," "I'm a Gnu," and "Have Some Madeira, M'dear."
9-j. Ed Gallagher and Al Shean were one of vaudeville's most popular comedy teams in the 1920's, and had one monster hit record, "Mr. Gallagher & Mr. Shean" (1922). Shean was an uncle of the Marx Brothers.
10-c. Homer Haynes and Jethro Burns delighted millions with their country-style parodies of pop tunes including "How Much Is That Hound Dog In the Window" and "The Battle of Kookamunga." After Homer died in 1971, Jethro found a brilliant new career as a country-jazz mandolinist.
11-m. Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, the greatest two-man comedy team in film history, made one exremely rare 78 rpm record in London in 1932. Numerous excerpts from their soundtracks have been released on LPs.
12-e. Lonzo & Oscar were longtime rivals of Homer & Jethro on the country comedy scene, famous for "I'm My Own Grandpa" and many others. Rollin Sullivan is Oscar; there have been at least three different Lonzos.
13-l. Sandy Pinkard and Richard Bowden have updated the Homer & Jethro/Lonzo & Oscar tradition for the 1980s with such delights as "Three Mile Island," "Imelda's Shoes" and the current "Satellite Dish."
14-b. Ron Stevens and Joy Grdnic, husband and wife, have delighted Dementites with "Fast Food," "Dogball," "Mr. Wizard and Timmy" and other bright comedy dialogues.
15-k. Bruce Williams and Terry Ree, who bill themselves as "The Indian and the White Guy," had a demented hit recently with "The Ding Dong Song."
Most stations pay close attention to feedback from their listeners, so your telling them that you'd like to hear the Dr. Demento Show on their station is the best thing you can do, short of sending rubber chickens.