DOES HUMOUR BELONG IN MUSIC? (2021): Does anybody remember laughter?

 |   |  5 min read

DOES HUMOUR BELONG IN MUSIC? (2021): Does anybody remember laughter?

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

Victor Borge

Phoentic punctuation

The William Tell Overture etc

start 1.25 


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)

rs_229371_A2JP2Dand 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 




Black humour

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

Rutles_K_17125_a_cover__WB__Klaas 22Ruttles2_blog427


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 . . . 

. . .


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?"

His answer?



Share It

Your Comments

Kelvin Roy-Gapper - Feb 3, 2022

Good for the digestion...but so much to digest!

post a comment

More from this section   Something Elsewhere articles index

VOLUME: MAKING MUSIC IN AOTEAROA (2016): Songs from us for us

VOLUME: MAKING MUSIC IN AOTEAROA (2016): Songs from us for us

The exhibition of New Zealand popular music at the Auckland War Memorial Museum is now open. It is entitled Volume: Making Music in Aotearoa and runs until May 2007. And it is free. It... > Read more

BADFINGER and HARRY NILSSON: Without them, no Without You

BADFINGER and HARRY NILSSON: Without them, no Without You

Behind most hit songs -- perhaps even behind many songs -- there can be an interesting story. As songwriters tell us in the Famous Elsewhere Songwriting Questionnaire, very few songs dropped fully... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

DEAN HAPETA'S 2002 UPPER HUTT POSSE REMIXES: Say The Word, and you'll be freed

DEAN HAPETA'S 2002 UPPER HUTT POSSE REMIXES: Say The Word, and you'll be freed

Dean Hapeta was the mainman in the Upper Hutt Posse (which also included singer-songwriter Emma Paki), the group which recorded the first New Zealand rap single E Tu in 1988. It was a powerful... > Read more

YOKO ONO: FEELING THE SPACE, CONSIDERED (1973): Singing on the feminist frontline

YOKO ONO: FEELING THE SPACE, CONSIDERED (1973): Singing on the feminist frontline

Put aside Yoko Ono's contributions to the silly audio-verite and self-centred avant-garde albums (“French for bullshit,” John Lennon had said just a few years previous) with Lennon in... > Read more