Dr. Demento is the unequivocal King of Novelty Music. At 76 years old, he is still promoting Novelty Music at every opportunity. Last week he released an album of cover tunes called Covered in Punk. Go out and buy the physical copy of the album, or download it in its entirety, with the Dr. Demento interludes and introductions that make the compilation feel like you're listening to your own version of the Dr. D. show. Today we rate the album, song by song and give you, the reader, an opportunity to hear a few hidden gems.
Dr. Demento Opening Theme (Pico & Sepulveda) Performed by the Demented Punk Orchestra...
Instead of me blathering on about the concept of the album, the good doctor will explain it himself.
Fish Heads by Osaka Popstar ★
Almost like a generic version of Fish Heads. Horrible. Please re-watch the original to get the taste of Popstar's Fish Heads out of your mouth.
Garbageman by Shatner ★★★★★
86 year old (!) William Shatner does it again by covering 1980's single Garbageman by the Cramps. Shatner's greatness transcends musical genres and the man himself is a national treasure.
Shaving Cream by Uncle Floyd & Oogie (Reprise) ★★
I still can't get over that the original song was released in 1946 and only became a hit 30 years later specifically because of the Dr. Demento Show.
Fluffy by Fred Schneider ★★★
Fred Schneider straddles the fine line between cool hipster and creepy uncle. As one of the lead singers of the B-52's, his place in musical history is secure with over 40 years of musical zaniness both inside and outside of the band. Fluffy is a good song, but every time I think of a Fred Schneider solo project, I think of Monster, an amazing little side number from 1983.
Dead Puppies by James Kochalka Superstar ★★
Some things should never even be considered to be covered, Dead Puppies by Ogden Edsl falls into that category.
Surfin Bird by Nobunny ★★★★
Surfin Bird by the Trashman reached #4 on the American Charts way, way back in 1963. Younger generations know the song as the one that Peter Griffin obsessively dances to on Family Guy Episodes. Nobunny actually does a good job of capturing the gravitas of the original and making it a bit darker and psychotic.
Rat Fink by Balzac ★★★
I never really liked the song Rat Fink by Allan Sherman that much, but the Balzac version made me like the original a bit more. I am a fan of Balzac, 2009's Paradox is one of my favorite songs of the past decade. (Though not demented in the least.)
I Like by Colleen Green ★
I did NOT like the Colleen Green version. Looked for other Colleen Green releases, didn't like those either. Posted below is Heathen Dan's version of I Like which is very, very, very, very disturbing.
Creature with the Atom Brain by Quintron & Miss Pussycat ★★
Rory Erickson was kind of an enigma to me. I always heard about the legend of Erickson, but was only aware of his music through 1990's cover album Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye: A Tribute to Roky Erickson. And none of those songs were Creature with the Atom Brain.
So I acquainted myself with Erickson's original and Quintron & Miss Pussycat's cover and officially recommend that you....
Go off the board and listen to Sister Double Happiness' version of Two-Headed Dog by Rory Erickson.
I Love Beans by the Meatmen ★★★
This may be the hardest song on the album to review. I've listened to it multiple times and I can't tell if I love it, or if I hate it.
It's a Gas by Los Straitjackets ★★★★
A richer version of 1963's original by THE Alfred E. Nueman, I like the skill of the guitarists on this release.
Institutionalized by Brak ★★★★★
It's only January, but this may be the song of the year in music. You take the genius of Andy Merrill's Brak and then combine it with one of the cornerstones of punk music and voila - MAGIC. Instead of anger, you receive absurdity. And instead of guitars and drums, you get a ukulele and a slide whistle. If you only listen to one song all year, listen to this monument to Dementia.
Eat It by Shonen Knife ★★★
One of the greatest lines in Novelty Music history is when Weird Al screams "don't you know that other kids are starving in Japan" back in 1984's original. So there's great irony when taking young punk girls from the Orient and covering one of Al's biggest hits. Shonen Knife does a nice job of making the song their own.
Batman Theme by the Hamburglars ★★★★
Perfect. Funnier and punkier than the original, the Hamburglars captured the essence of the album in one song.
The Thing by Adam West ★★★★
In 1950 Phil Harris recorded a quirky little novelty hit that reached #1 in America. That same year, a young Adam West was getting ready to graduate from college and get married. 67 years later, Pop Culture Icon Adam West recorded a souped up version of the song for Dr. Demento, a year before his death.
Science Fiction / Double Feature by Joan Jett ★★
Eh, okay, I guess. When it comes to covers of the song Science Fiction / Double Feature, I prefer 2003's Me First & the Gimme Gimmes' effort.
If you want to hear a great punk cover from the Rocky Horror Picture Show, do yourself a favor and listen to Apocalypse Hoboken's Sweet Transvestite. I think I called it deliciously over-the-top, or some such description in another BOS article.
National Brotherhood Week by the Vandals ★★★★
Not unlike the Balzac entry, I'm not the biggest fan of Tom Lehrer's original, but the Vandals nailed National Brotherhood Week and really cranked it up to create a classic punk song.
Mah Na Mah Na by the Kipper Kids ★★★
Not good enough to make me forget about the original, or even the Muppets version, but it's not bad. (Who am I kidding? I'm just looking for an excuse to use a Muppets Video.)
Those Two Dreadful Children by Rasputina ★★
Rasputina reminds us all of the hit and miss nature of any Dr. Demento compilation.
Suicide is Painless by Juicehead ★★★
Surprisingly, I kind of like Juicehead's upbeat cover of the M*A*S*H theme song. If you want to feel old, let me tell you that the original M*A*S*H movie is nearly 50 years old.
Disco Boy by Missing Persons ★★
Covering Frank Zappa is almost like trying to cover the Beatles. What I didn't know is that some members of Missing Persons met while performing with Zappa. I also didn't know that Missing Persons was still active. Good for them!
Below is Frank in all of his glory.
Telephone Man by Quintron & Miss Pussycat ★★
A nice take on Meri Wilson's 1977's Telephone Man release, but I didn't really like that song. Great Britain did, though, with the original charting in the Top 10. In the United States? It was a Top 20 hit that went Gold.
Punk Rock Girl by Philly Boy Roy ★★★
Not bad. The music is spot on. The difference between the original and the cover is in the original, you want to hang out with Joe Genaro, he really seems like a fun guy. Philly Boy Roy, on the other hand, when I listen to his cover, I want to punch him in the face.
Lydia the Tattooed Lady by the Dead Milkmen ★★★★
We love the Milkmen here, having just written about them last month. With that said, they captured the zeal of the original Lydia seamlessly. Not familiar with the original? Well the first hint should have been the reference to Hitler in the lyrics. The original was sung by Groucho Marx in the Marx Brothers' 1939 movie "At the Circus."
Me and My Vibrator by Caroline & the Treats ★★★
Caroline and the Treats do a nice job covering Suzie Seacall's 1979 original and making the new creation sound like it belongs on the Grease Soundtrack.
Editors Note: During the writing process, I typed in Me and My Vibrator Caroline, under the video category on Google. Being half asleep, I expected to find the Covered in Punk Link.
KIDS: YOU WILL NOT FIND ANY DR. DEMENTO SONG THAT WAY!
Monster by Nobunny ★★★★
Speaking of Fred Schneider.....
My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama by the Meatmen ★★★
Not bad for the Meatmen. Better than Frank's original, but lacking compared to Dweezil's remake.
Monster Mash by the Kids of Widney High ★★★★
The Mash was the #1 Song in America on Halloween Week back in 1962. This holiday classic has been covered over a dozen times by artists as varied as the Vincent Price, the Misfits, and Kidz Bop. The Widney High cover is one of the better efforts.
Do yourself a favor and look up the backstory on the Kids of Widney High.
The Cockroach That Ate Cincinnati by the Misfits ★★
The original was 1985's classic from Rose & the Arrangement. Though recorded in the 80's, it sounded straight out of the mid-sixties. The Misfits cover is not unlike the band itself- overrated.
Pico & Sepulveda by Osaka Popstar ★★★★
An upbeat take from one of the many quirky songs from the 1980 cult favorite Forbidden Zone. I hope that Richard Elfman would be proud. (I am using this opportunity to post a clip from the film.)
Osaka Popstar shows a real urgency not felt in the Elfman classic without losing its spirit.
Beat on the Brat by Weird Al Yankovic ★★★★
Everything Weird Al touches turns to gold, even if it's a fairly straightforward cover. (With an accordion in the mix.)
Shaving Cream (Traditional Lyrics) by Uncle Floyd & Oogie ★★
Only minor differences between the Reprise and the Traditional Lyric Versions.
Cheerio, Cherry Lips, Cheerio by Uncle Floyd ★
Not sure about the thought process on this one. Dr. Demento says "Let's do an album of punk covers." Uncle Floyd says "How 'bout I cover Scrappy Lambert's 1929 closing theme?" As you can tell, I'm not the biggest Uncle Floyd fan. And yes, I do understand the significance of the song in Demento lore.