Friday, January 27, 2012
Am I crazy, or does this sound like Russian to you?
This is the flip side of They're Coming To Take Me Away Ha Ha by Napoleon XIV, a novelty song that has been called one of the worst records ever made. Maybe I'm just nuts or something, but I loved this song when I first heard it, and I still think it's really fun today. The flip side was just the same song running in reverse. Even the label was a mirror image, with just a couple of exceptions. This may not be your cup of tea, but you can't deny that it's a very strange piece of pop music history!
Napoleon XIV was actually a professional songwriter named Jerry Samuels who started writing songs when he was 16 years old. Jerry was born on 3 May 1938 in Brooklyn, New York. The first song published with his name in the composer credits was called To Ev'ry Girl To Ev'ry Boy (The Meaning Of Love) by Johnnie Ray on Columbia 40252 in 1954:
He actually wrote this song with Sol Parker, even though it's credited to B. Parker. That's Sol's father, Barry. The same thing happened on Jerry's second published song, The Only Girl I'll Ever Love by Johnnie Ray on Columbia 40324 in 1955. The first song written solely by Jerry Samuels was So Rich And Yet So Very Poor by Tommy Mara on RKO Unique 377 in 1956. The biggest hit he wrote, but did not sing, came in 1964 with The Shelter Of Your Arms by Sammy Davis Junior, which peaked at #17 on Billboard's Hot 100.
Also in 1956, Jerry started recording his own records. His first was Puppy Love by Jerry Samuels on Vik 0197. By the way, there were at least 19 completely different songs recorded using the title Puppy Love in the 1950's and 1960's, which may be some kind of record! Jerry also recorded a Break-In novelty record called The Trial under the name Jerry Field And The Lawyers on Parkway 801 in 1958:
In 1959, he recorded Dancing Partners using the name Jerry Simms on RCA 7483:
He used that same name on Treasure Supreme on Dual 501 in 1961. He's also rumored to be singing under an assumed name on Gruesome by Mike Evans on A&M 837 from 1967:
I suspect he's also the artist on Medical School Talkin' Blues by Dr Douglas Greer on Reprise 0524 from 1968. But his biggest hit came in 1966 when he made They're Coming To Take Me Away Ha Ha! on Warner 5831. That bizarre novelty record shot up the charts, peaking at #3 on Billboard's Hot 100, and #1 on Cashbox. It also went to #7 in Canada on 1050 CHUM, #4 in England, #7 in Ireland, #13 in Australia, and #22 in Germany. The record dropped off the charts like a lead balloon after an avalanche of protests forced Program Directors to take it off the air.
He filled an album with more songs about insanity in that same year, then followed up with a second single from that album called (I'm In Love With My) Little Red Tricycle on RCA 5853. He was working on a second album for Warner called For God's Sake Stop The Feces in 1968, but it was never released.
He made one more novelty record in 1973 as Jerry Samuels again with I Owe A Lot To Iowa Pot b/w Who Are You To Tell Me Not To Smoke Marijuana on J.E.P. 1175.
Jerry is 73 now, but still running a talent agency in New York City.
Speaking of Crazy, did you know there was a little flaw in Crazy by Patsy Cline? When that track was recorded in Nashville, Patsy came in too early near the end of the song. This was fixed in the editing process, but her voice "leaked" into the instrument pickup microphones. You can hear it faintly in the background if you listen carefully. I've made it easier for you by jacking up the volume on that part. You should easily hear it at 2:29, right near the end:
You may think I've lost my mind, but I don't think 120,000 oldies provides enough variety. That's why I'm adding 100-200 new songs from the 1950's and 1960's to the MusicMaster Oldies mix every week. If I can keep up this pace, and I don't get myself committed to the Funny Farm, you could listen forever and never stop hearing something you've never heard before. Scary, right?
Oh, one last thing before I forget (too late, I did forget it!) They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha Haaa was not the first song of this kind. Let's dial the time machine back to 1947. Here's Hooray Hooray I'm Going Away by Beatrice Kay on Columbia 37922:
Totally sick and certifiably demented, eh?
Posted by joeknapp at 12:41 AM