In my first installment on this subject, I tried to make the case that country music is tops when it comes to songs with strange titles. I still believe that to be true, but every genre has its share of goofiness although it might be of a different type. When I reflect on rock and roll oldies, it seems to me that the weirdness shows up on “puppy-dog pop” songs. You know the kind I mean — tunes like Brian Hyland’s immortal classic, “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini”.
That song came out in 1960, and although it’s one of those given credit for launching the era of bubblegum pop that flourished later in the decade with groups like the Monkees, there were plenty of goofy songs preceding it. I remember my school years in the 1950’s well enough to know that the supply of bouncy, silly songs was seemingly endless, and kids were always laughing and talking about the latest one.
Sometimes songs were made sillier than they started out. A good example is “Tutti Frutti”, which was originally pretty raunchy but was sanitized somewhat with the nonsensical lyrics of the Little Richard version. It was then taken even further down the road to respectability by Pat Boone’s tame offering. Pat also gave us “At My Front Door (Crazy Little Mama)”, another R&B song that he made acceptable to middle America (as he often did) and don’t forget “The Wang Dang Taffy-Apple Tango”. Enough said.
The Sparkletones, who are considered a one-hit wonder with “Black Slacks” (not to be confused with “Black Denim Trousers” by The Cheers) tried to continue their sartorial descriptions with “Penny Loafers And Bobby Sox”, but it was kind of a flop. And don’t forget Sheb Wooley – later to appear in TV’s Rawhide – who had a big hit with “Purple People Eater”, a song title that actually made sense within the – er – context of the song.
For a outstanding song title and artist name combination, you can’t beat “Nee Nee Na Na Na Na Nu Nu” by Dicky Doo And The Don’ts. And for a song that spoke to rebellious youth in a bubblegum way, how about The Royal Teens’ “Short Shorts”? Another well-known early rock song that could have a case made for its goofiness is “See You Later, Alligator” by Bill Haley And The Comets — you don’t get much sillier than that.
Well, you get the idea. Silly songs are everywhere — just like silly writers, they sneak up on you.