Recently, while going through old files, I came across a 40-year-old column from a Chicago newspaper listing the dumbest songs of all time. Number one on the list was “Transfusion,” by Nervous Norvous. The song, released in 1956, was about someone who had been in a car accident and needed medical assistance. The song includes such memorable lyrics as, “Shoot the juice to me, Bruce,” “Pour the crimson in me, Jimson,” and “Hey daddy-o, make that Type O.”
Back in the 1950s and ’60s, most of the songs on the radio were about young love or teen angst, but mixed in were numbers known as “novelty” songs. These songs were mostly designed to make listeners laugh, although occasionally they served a more serious purpose.
One singer, Johnny Horton, made a career singing songs about moments in history including “The Battle of New Orleans,” “Sink the Bismarck” and “North to Alaska.” I don’t know if they still create novelty songs today. For example, it seems like it would be nearly impossible to be able to dance to a song entitled, “Critical Race Theory.” I grew up in a happier time when people weren’t afraid to laugh at life or themselves.
Regardless, I had time growing up to listen to the radio and even learn the lyrics to many songs. Once I hit the workaday world, my free time was greatly reduced. I essentially stopped listening to music on the radio once I stopped chauffeuring my children around.
Below is my list of the 10 dumbest songs ever, but they are all from the 1950s and ’60s. I’d like to put together a list of the dumbest songs of all time, so that leaves plenty of opportunity for those of you who grew up in the past 50 years. if you can think of a song that qualifies, send me the title and the performer at the email address below. Hopefully, I’ll get enough responses for another column.
But as to the dumbest songs of all time, my Top Ten are as follows:
• “They’re Coming to Take Me Away” Side B, by Napoleon XIV. Side A of this song is easily in the Top 10; it’s a song about a person who goes mad after a break-up — perhaps with his dog. It may treat mental illness in a politically incorrect way by today’s standards, but it was pretty dumb even for the 1950s. Side B wins the top nod, however, because it is Side A played completely in reverse. No one could understand a single word.
• “They’re Coming to Take Me Away” Side A. Enough said.
• “Transfusion.” See above.
• “Louie, Louie” by the Kingsmen. This song was very popular and easy to dance to. It was also said to include dirty lyrics, adding to its popularity, but it overcame FCC concerns because nobody could understand any of the words.
• “Wooly Bully” by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs. This was another song in which the lyrics were mostly incomprehensible, and once written down, still made little sense. The second stanza includes:
Hatty told Matty
Let’s don’t take no chance
Let’s not be L-seven
Come and learn to dance.
“L-seven” may mean “square.”
• “The Leader of the Laundromat” by the Detergents. This song was a parody of a fairly dumb song in its own right. “The Leader of the Pack” by the Shangri-Las is about a guy whose girl dumps him, and he then proceeds to kill himself in a motorcycle crash. The Detergents not only have stupid lyrics, their music is terrible, too:
My folks were always putting her down (down, down)
Because her laundry came back brown (brown, brown)
I don’t care if they think she’s bad
I fell in love ‘cause she looked so sad
I got a date tonight with the Leader of the Laundromat
• “Snoopy vs. the Red Baron” by the Royal Guardsmen. This song is about how Snoopy, the beagle from the “Peanuts” comic strip, outmaneuvers Baron von Richthofen of Germany in a World War I air battle. Most American baby boomers would never have heard of Richtofen, if not for this song, which may be its only redeeming quality.
• “The Purple People Eater” by Sheb Wooley. This nonsensical song was extremely popular, to the point that when the Minnesota Vikings became Super Bowl contenders 10 years later, fans gave their defense the same name. Vikes’ defense changed; the song didn’t.
• “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” by Brian Hyland. It’s not clear if this is a song about a girl who leaves nothing to the imagination or one attempting to inspire boys’ imaginations.
• “Who Put the Bomp?” by Barry Mann. While musically, this is a good song, the lyrics are about a girl who falls in love with a guy because of doo-wop song lyrics. Really. The closing lines include:
Darling, bomp bah bah bomp, bah bomp bah bomp bomp
And, my honey, rama lama ding dong forever
And when I say dip da dip da dip da dip
You know I mean it from the bottom of my boogity boogity boogity shoo.
I realize that the dumb bar is set quite high here, but if you can top these for stupidity, email me your nomination.
Tom West, now retired, is the former general manager of this paper. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.