The Novelty Song and the One-Hit Wonder
I was doing an interview last week for a Queensland radio program and that well-worn question arose, 'Don't you hate being known for a 'novelty song,' when there is obviously so much more to your music?'
I actually enjoy this question these days - and the other one about being known as a 'one-hit wonder' - as both of them allow me the opportunity to endlessly rave on about a subject near and dear.
The question I always ask back in reply is: just exactly who are you referring to that is doing this 'knowing' anyway?
I would hazard a guess that 95% of the people who like Robert Earl Keen Jr's version of my song, 'My Home Ain't In The Hall of Fame,' do not put two and two together to 'know' that the writer is the same person who wrote 'Shaddap You Face'. (I would even bet that Robert Earl himself didn't know that when he recorded it, or maybe still doesn't know.) The two songs live in different kingdoms.
Most Italians I know don't consider 'Shaddap' a novelty song - they consider it just another song. A small percentage, from the North, of course don't like it as it reminds them of a part of being Italian they prefer to forget. But those same people also don't drool at the mention of baccala (like I do) so I can't possibly take their opinion seriously. (They look Italian and talk Italian, but on the inside, where it counts, they're really from Podunk, Missouri.)
The one thing most Australian-Italians usually ask me is, 'When are you coming out with another one?' Twenty-three years later, they're still asking the same question. Either that's loyalty or else they don't buy a lot of records. But I digress . . . .
My main point is: both of the terms, 'novelty song' and 'one-hit wonder' really refer to a radio programmer's pigeonhole: a shelf to put this kind of song, or artist, on - shelves on a very narrow bookcase. Because if you really think about it, these terms do not actually exist in the real world for real people who hear real music every day. And if you are a One-Hit Wonder when you only have one hit, then you must a No-Hit Wonder when you have no hits. So do all my fellow artists out there who have never had a hit consider themselves no-hit wonders? I think not. And what constitutes a 'hit' anyway. Is one Number One Hit, more or less significant than five Number 43 hits? And if you don't write 'novelty' songs than does that mean you write 'non-novelty' songs (i.e. doughnut songs that fit snuggly in a box with other doughnut songs?)
Ask your 7 year old child to give you an example of a novelty song. Kids don't hear music in rigid categories like this. Because every song their favourite cartoon character sings would be classified a novelty song. Every song in the Wizard of Oz, except maybe 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow,' would be considered a novelty song. (I get a headache even thinking of the stupidity of trying to dissect music in this way.) When I was a kid (and even now) I hear something and I like it or I don't like it. We are affected by music, and art, based on whether it stays with us or it doesn't stay with us.
In the world of radio programming, you have to imagine a DJ with a specific theme for his show - say, Contemporary Rock, or Easy Listening, or Classic FM, or Alternative Country, or Hip-Hop. They go to their mailbox and there is a copy of 'Alley Oop' or 'The Purple People Eater' or 'Little Red Riding Hood' or 'Shaddap You Face'. How do they determine whether they play it on their program. Well, none of these songs actually fit their regular demographic audience - BUT if the song is popular and listeners are calling in and requesting it, then the DJs have to play it otherwise what happens? . . . we change the channel until we find someone who is playing the song we want to hear! Therefore, these musical 'anomolies' get stuck in that 'what-do-we call-it?-oh-yeah-its-a-novelty-song' pigeon hole. Which more accurately ought to be called the Totally Unique Area. The Real Original Slot. (Personally, I think people who spend too much time with their heads in these pigeon holes end up being covered in pigeon you-know-what.)
Shirl, of Australian band, Skyhooks, (may he R.I.P.) once said to me after I appeared on his 'serious' kids show 'Shirl's Neighborhood': " Well, Joe, now that you've had one number one hit, let's see if you can do it again.' To which I quickly replied, 'I'd rather have one monster hit that no-one can ever forget rather than a lot of little piddly hits that people can barely remember.' He sheepishly laughed, 'I see your point.'
Percy Grainger, Australia's greatest composer once said, 'Anyone can write an oratorio - but to be able to write one of the World's Songs - now that's something!' (He eventually had a popular success with 'Country Gardens' but after that many people refused to take him seriously again as a composer.)
It must be so hard to hear accurately with ears full of pigeon ca-ca. (Of course, Percy also liked to beat himself with a whip, but we won't go into that.)
'Yellow Submarine' is technically classified as a 'novelty song.' If The Beatles had only put that one out, they would be referred to as novelty artists. But how many people, when they first heard 'Yellow Submarine' thought: 'I like that - even though its a novelty song.' No one. I like to consider 'Shaddap You Face,' the Yellow Submarine of my repertoire. Or if I was JS Bach, the Coffee Cantata of my sacred music catelogue.
Speaking of coffee, I've got this little coffee table book, from the US, that came out a few years ago called, 'The Wacky Top 40,' compiled by Bruce Nash. 'Wacky' is a good word. Songs that give you a whack! 'Shaddap You Face' clocks in at No. 13, right after 'Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini,' by Brian Hyland, and right before 'Louie Louie', by The Kingsmen. (I loved both of those songs as a kid and never thought of them as anything but mindbogglingly fun.) Some other memorable and influential songs on the list are 'Wooly Bully,' by Sam the Sam and the Pharoahs, 'The Monster Mash', by Boris and the Crypt-Kickers, 'Henry the VIII', by Herman and the Hermits, 'Yackety-Yak', by The Coasters, 'Chug-a-Lug' by Roger Miller, 'Bohemian Rapsody', by Queen, 'You Know My Name (Look Up My Number)', by The Beatles, and 'They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!', by Napoleon XIV. A bunch of kick-butt wackin' songs, every one, so mine's in pretty good company.
Here's another paradoxical example: KRS-1, the legendary black US hip-hop artist, did a rap version of 'Shaddap You Face' last year. Pure hip-hop. If that arrives in the DJs mailbox, it goes straight in the hip-hop pigeon hole. Call KRS-1 a novelty act and he'd probably garrotte you with one of those gold chains.
Which brings me to the conclusion that perhaps it's the arrangement or interpretation of the basic song that gives it its Pigeon-Holy classification. . . .
But again it's a matter of context. When I performed 'Shaddap' live at an outdoor winery in Austria, back in the '80s, Pope John Paul II had just been shot and they got me at the last minute to fill in. (True !!) My two opening acts were a big trained brown bear in a red pillbox hat (on some kind of tranquillizers) and two blonde Aryan-looking girls, dressed like Heidi, in checkered dresses and pigtails, doing harmony yodeling. I'm sure in this context, 'Shaddap You Face' sounded like serious music - maybe they even thought it was Australian classical music.
At the end of the day, I still like to call it a folk song. (Can you say that, boys and girls? Folk Song. . . ) But you can call it what ever you want. It won't be offended.
CERES Cultures of Peace Day, Melbourne
I'll be performing 'Gift (one Iraqi child)', 'Thriller', some John Lennon sing-a-longs, and more around 3 pm, on Saturday 6th September. Make your way to the CERES Community Environment Park and join cultural groups and the local community in festivities to mark the launch of the new CERES Peace Centre.
The day's main activities will include a bring-your-own picnic lunch coupled with the baking and sharing of a 'peace loaf' modelled on the familiar peace symbol. Entertainment also includes: MC Mal Webb, African drumming, "Underbelly" belly dancers, Vietnamese singing, Indonesian dancers, Chinese drawing, Iraqi cultural exhibition, "Expressive Women" choir, Wiradjeri singer Fay Ball, circus performers, local peace musicians, meditation and yoga classes, peace poetry, kids activities and more.
CERES also encourages people to bring along their own offerings and ideas for peace to share on the day. Entry is free and all are welcome, so invite your friends and don't forget to put the CERES Cultures of Peace Day in your diary!
Where: CERES Community Environment Park, 8 Lee Street, Brunswick
East, Victoria, Australia.
When: Saturday 6th September. The event begins at midday and will run into the afternoon.
For more information contact:
Elle Morrell on 9387 2609
or Jono Tapsell on 0425 732 049
Bikeshed at CERES
CERES also has a bike shed where you can use all their tools, and they have HEAPS of old bikes. You can go there and fix up an old bike and ride it away for well under $50. The idea being to get people riding who would not normally bother buying a new bike. Also, they really appreciate it if you donate old bikes too. It is a volunteer thing, and it's fantastic! If anyone has any old bikes to donate, wants to help out fixing up bikes, want to learn bike fixing skills, or just needs a cheap bike to ride around the suburds on, this place is ideal.
Located on the Merri Creek bike track. Oh,
and they often accept payment in beer and goodwill! Cheers!
Two Short Works
by Mammad Aidani
Directed by Lloyd Jones
La Mama, Carlton, VIC
Wednesday September 10 - Saturday September 21
Wednesdays and Sundays at 6.30pm
Thursdays to Saturdays at 8.00pm
Wednesday week is the opening of two short plays at La Mama by one of my newsletter friends and writers, Mammad Aidani. By co-incidence or fate, Mammad and I will also be on the same program, 'Spoken Word and Music' for the Darebin Writers Festival on Sept 21. (details: www.joedolce.net.)
Here is an excerpt from Mammad's writing and a link to the complete article:
The City in Me
How can I explain that Khorramshar and those I knew are still alive in my memories?
By Mammad Aidani
September 1, 2003
" The older I get the more I feel the larger my memory tunnel is becoming. But, of course, there are some deep-rooted things in that tunnel which I wish not to remember. Sometimes I find myself screaming at them to go away. You see, I'm the kind of individual that has this great desire to stand up and speak. No, don't get me wrong, I have this desire not because I want to. That's not the case at all; it is the reflection I have on language that encourages this feeling in me, and I don't know what to do with it. As far as I remember I have never had any capacity to speak eloquently in a group or at home when I was kid. As a matter of fact in my home we only spoke occasionally. Now that I have this feeling in me to speak I have to admit that I'm too tired to ignite any fire in me at this stage of my life.
As you can imagine I'm not an orator, however, I wish to say something when I feel the urge to do so. Strangely enough, today, I mean this morning, I got up and had this huge pang of feeling on my chest telling me to go out and speak my heart out. I was so emotional that I am unable explain it to you, it does not matter how much I try.
As I was experiencing this pang of emotion
this morning, I was very frightened. I went for a short walk,
hoping it would go away, but it didn't so I tried to not to take
any notice of it, but it insisted. So, later on I said to myself,
'You have to speak now'. I have never considered myself as someone
who has the ability to actually say anything important. But the
sudden pang I had this morning had a deep voice, telling me its
intention so clearly. It told me, 'Look, who knows, you might
die soon, so you better speak'. I know it sounds silly, but this
simple pang and the voice have changed my whole life since this
morning, as simple as that. I don't know what to do. The only
thing I wish to do is retire into myself and do what I have been
doing for years. Keep thinking to understand. " (more)
C-Span Televised Speeches
Arnold Swarzenegger (with Warren Buffet and George Schultz)
CAT TALES - The Meaning of Cats in Women's Lives My partner, Lin Van Hek, has the lead story in this beautiful collection of the prose and poetry of 78 women, from all walks of life, talking about their special relationships with cats. Others writers include Beryl Fletcher, Sue Hawthorn, Marge Piercy, Kerry Greenwood, Lucy Sussex, Lyn McConchie, Coral Hull and many others. Illustrated throughout with great photos. Edited by Jan Fook, Susan Hawthorn and Renate Klein, and published by Spinifex Press. spinifexpress.com.au
(Note: Cat lovers be sure to
also check out Cordwainer Smith's sci-fi stories about C-Mell
and a time in the future when cats and humans communicate by telepathy,
make use of each other's skills in fighting intergalactic battles
together, fall in love and share unforgettable emotional bonds.
Los Sin Nombre - (The Nameless) - a compelling thriller, Spanish language with English subtitles, shot with awesome cinematography - kind of like a Spanish 'SEVEN'. A mother's small daughter is murdered by some kind of ritual cult. The body is unrecognizable but the daughter's locket is still around the child's neck. The murder is unsolved and the detective in charge of the case is dismissed. Five years later, the mother receives phone calls saying, ' mummy, come and get me . . ' She contacts the ex-detective and they follow the clues to . . . . This film has one of the most perfect and logical endings I know of, but you won't see it coming.
Takedown - True
story of the most notorious computer hacker in US history and
the hunt for him by an equally determined genius Japanese computer
security expert. No gratuitous special digital effects here -
just a great chase story through the computer underground, in
the manner of 'Catch Me If You Can.' If you use a computer online
to do business, you should see this film. No one is immune from
people with these kind of skills.
LETTER TO THE BANK
Below is an actual letter sent to a bank. The bank manager thought it amusing enough to have it published in the New York Times.
I am writing to thank you for bouncing my check with which I endeavored to pay my plumber last month. By my calculations, three nanoseconds must have elapsed between his presenting the check and the arrival in my account of the funds needed to honor it. I refer, of course, to the automatic monthly deposit of my entire salary, an arrangement which, I admit, has only been in place for eight years.
You are to be commended for seizing that brief window of opportunity, and also for debiting my account $50 by way of penalty for the inconvenience caused to your bank. My thankfulness springs from the manner in which this incident has caused me to rethink my errant financial ways.
I noticed that whereas I personally attend to your telephone calls and letters, when I try to contact you, I am confronted by the impersonal, overcharging, prerecorded faceless entity which your bank has become.
From now on, I, like you, choose only to deal with a flesh-and-blood person. My mortgage and loan repayments will, therefore and hereafter, no longer be automatic, but will arrive at your bank, by check, addressed personally and confidentially to an employee at your bank whom you must nominate.
Be aware that it is an offense under the Postal Act for any other person to open such an envelope. Please find attached an Application Contact Status which I require your chosen employee to complete.
I am sorry it runs to eight pages, but in order that I know as much about him or her as your bank knows about me, there is no alternative. Please note that all copies of his or her medical history must be countersigned by a Notary Public, and the mandatory details of his/her financial situation (income, debts, assets and liabilities) must be accompanied by documented proof.
In due course, I will issue your employee with a PIN number which he/she must quote in dealings with me. I regret that it cannot be shorter than 28 digits but, again, I have modeled it on the number of button presses required to access my account balance on your phone bank service. As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Let me level the playing field even further. Press buttons as follows:
1.- To make an appointment to see me.
2.- To query a missing payment.
3.- To transfer the call to my living room in case I am there.
4.- To transfer the call to my bedroom in case I am sleeping.
5. -To transfer the call to my toilet in case I am attending to nature.
6.- To transfer the call to my mobile phone if I am not at home.
7.- To leave a message on my computer, a password to access my computer is required.
Password will be communicated at a later date to the Authorized Contact.
8. To return to the main menu and to listen to options 1 through 7.
9. To make a general complaint or inquiry.
The contact will then be put on hold, pending the attention of my automated answering service. While this may, on occasion, involve a lengthy wait, uplifting music will play for the duration of the call.
Regrettably, but again following your example, I must also levy an establishment fee to cover the setting up of this new arrangement.
May I wish you a happy, if ever-so-slightly less prosperous New Year?
Your Humble Client
British Journal of Urology International
A long-lived mistaken belief relates penis size to a visible body part: hand, foot, or nose. Among those who consider there might be something to such a correlation, some say masculine length directly relates to a man's shoe size, while others assert the measurement of the subject's hand from wrist to fingertip will reveal his exact personal dimensions. Still more believe a man's proboscis tells the tale when measured from the middle of his eyebrows to the tip, making his masculine information as plain as the nose on his face. Others who have been romanced by the belief opt for more generalized comparisons, avowing that large hands, feet, or noses correspond to larger equipment below.
Until only recently, the only refutation of this hypothesis was anecdotal - for every supposed relative measurement, menfolk could always be found whose vitals defied the supposed wisdom. ("I used to believe your theory until I met my ex-husband whose hands were large, but he was hung like a mouse. My current spouse has small, narrow hands and all I need to say is that I'm keeping this one!"). However, in a study published in the October 2002 issue of the British Journal of Urology International, researchers found the size of man's feet does not correlate to the size of his penis. (more)
DYO Penis Size Calculator
BABA JOEBOB's QUICK FENNELSEED PEACE LOAF
2 1/2 cups flour, (grown from Wheat in biologically
correct and non-polluted soil)
1 cup warm Spring Water, heated by the sun
Free Range Fennel Seeds
Cold Pressed Olive Oil
1 pkt dry Yeast, from any country honouring strict Child-Labour Laws
2 tbles Brown Organic Sugar
some Melted Butter, from a breast-fed Cow
Make sure your Feng Shui is correct and the bowl is facing with the open side upwards. Mix dry ingredients in bowl. Chant Hare Krishna Hare Rama six times. Make a well in the centre. Take a few seconds to contemplate the wellness of the well. Add 1 tble oil and water. Lightly knead into a pliant dough. The dough should resist a little as long as it's non-violent resistance. (Add more flour or water as necessary.) Place in another large buttered bowl, brush a little warm water over the top, cover with plastic wrap, or an Afghan head scarf, and place in a warm place for 45 minutes. Go meditate on the Oneness of the Universe. When the Oneness has truly Risen, turn the dough onto a floured board. Punch down once. Apologise to the dough spirit for punching it. Knead gently adding a little flour, if too sticky. (Optional: form dough into a shape that resembles Ghandi at the Spinning Wheel - or failing that, leave as it is and it will by default resemble John Howard Playing Checkers.) Place in a buttered tin. Let rise again in a quiet warm place for another 40 minutes. Draw a Mandala on your forehead with some of the melted butter and then brush the loaf with the rest of the melted butter. This enables your Head Chakra to be one with the Cosmic Loafiness. Bake for 30 minutes in a 220 C oven. (The loaf, not your head, bozo.) Cover with aluminium foil in the last ten minutes. (You can cover your head with some foil as well, at this stage, if you feel a little paranoid.) Turn bread onto a board and cool. Do some Tai Chi - The Hippie-Washes-the-Dishes Kata is a good one.
This bread goes especially well with porpoise
fritters. (That was a joke - so don't
go burning my records!)