Graham Reid | | 5 min read
If you look at the charts, MTV or scoure your way through iTunes or whatever you'd be mistaken for thinking that songwriters only ever write about serious stuff. Not at all, there is a looooong tradition of comedy songs, parodies and so on.
Most of them are gimmicky songs however and the artists are soon forgotten (one-hit wonders like Bob the Builder) but a number of them had good careers. The Beatles made any number of funny songs and it didn't seem to hinder their career.
While we are waiting for funny songs from U2, Coldplay, Mumford and Son, Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift or whoever, let's have a run through some amusing songs . . .
So what happens after the great love affair is over?
Well actually life carries on . . . but not many people write songs about that.
"The saddest thing about love, Joe, is that not only the love cannot last forever, but even the heartbreak is soon forgotten" -- William Faulkner in Soldier's Pay
Here's Loudon Wainwright III singing "a blues song", but he isn't blue at all.
Loudon Wainwright III, I'm Alright, 1985
and here's Solomon King. It's over . . . cheer up, it isn't the end of the world!
Solomon King, Happy Again (1968)
and you're allowed to be angry, as the great Harry Nilsson shows
and here's sensitive singer-songwriter Henry Phillips . . .
The First Time I Saw You
Sweet Little Blossom of Mine
The Bitch Song
The William Tell Overture etc
Post-modern or just dumb?
What do you get when you add reggae to Led Zeppelin songs and have the band fronted by an Elvis impersonator?
You get Dread Zeppelin
And there are also many parodies of famous songs
1996, OMC with How Bizarre
and the parody
here's the Michael Jackson original
here's the parody by the brilliant Weird Al Yaknovic (which you have to watch on You Tube, it's worth it)
and remember this . . .
Here's the Simon and Garfunkel hit from 1965.
Simon and Garfunkel
and this anti-Trump version
This is Spinal Tap: parody and satire
A definition of parody? An imitative work created to mock, comment on or trivialise an original work, its subject, author, style etc.
A definition of satire? A form in which vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule.
So what easier target than a heavy metal band?
These are same people showing what the band Spinal Tap used to do before they went heavy metal: they emerged in the era of the Beatles so . . .
and then when hippie days rolled around they . . .
A Mighty Wind: another parody
The same musicians who did Spinal Tap also took on folk musicians
Humour which makes fun of a serious subject or delights in cruelty, misfortune and so on
Here is Tom Lehrer, an American satirist and songwriter
a song about a nice day in the park
Butch Hancock: Split and Slide
Ian Dury (1942-2000)
From London, had a tough upbringing, contracted polio at seven, went to a school for the disabled, studied art, formed bands and was aware of the British music hall and entertainment tradition. A rogue.
This song was on the flipside of his single Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll ("are very good indeed"). It's about thievin' nudie books from a shop as a kid . . .
Razzle in my Pocket, Ian Dury and the Blockheads, 1977
The art of the insult
Here's Mareko from South Auckland getting his gangsta on with Celph Titled
(you are warned, there is profane gangsta language and worse!)
Here's some more angry rap, two gay guys from Los Angeles who are prepared to fight back against queer bashers etc
Fight Back, Age of Consent, 1983
The Beatles had fun
You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)
Lennon referencing other Beatles' songs
Glass Onion (1968)
And people had fun with the Beatles
This is the Rutles
A Beatles documentary
and the Rutles documentary
here's the Rutles' Hold My Hand (essentially a mash of the Beatles' She Loves You and I Want to Hold Your Hand)
Hold My Hand
Piggy in the Middle
here's the trailer for the Beatles animated film Yellow Submarine
and the Rutles version of a "Lennon" song.
and She Loves You by . . .
the greatest use of a pause [and self-editing] in music history . . .
. . .
FINALLY FOLKS ...... THE LATE FRANK ZAPPA
who had a long career as a brilliant non-genre musician, satirist, intellectual and political dissenter, and agent-provocateur. And he kicked people out of his bands if they took drugs.
He was once asked, "Frank, what are you on?"
"I'M ON DUTY"