The Friday Fillip: Novelty Songs

I wrote last week about memory and dredged up a strange novelty song, Purple People Eater, to make some point or other. Which got me thinking about novelty songs. So here’s a more or less random, and certainly idiosyncratic, set of those catchy, silly (or even daft), bits of nonce music that once were all the rage but now seem to have disappeared (whether in favour of earnestness or coolness unalloyed, I’m can’t say, being fairly unattached to the current pop music scene). Please feel free to disabuse me of this and point to current novelty tunes — or simply to point to your own faves from times gone by.

The songs are all on YouTube but for the most part have no videos worth watching, so I’m offering just the sound. Where there is an accompanying video of some merit, I’ll say so and link to it. Enjoy. And may these spawn an earworm or two for you.

Mah Na Mah Na, Piero Umilliani
Muppets be damned: this is the composer’s original 1968 Italian version.

The Intro & The Outro, The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band (1967)
“. . . Princess Anne on souzaphone . . . on my left, Sir Kenneth Clark, bass sax . . . ”

Poisoning Pigeons in the Park, Tom Lehrer (1953)
Nuff said. Could have been any one of his great songs.

I’m the scatman, John Scatman (2009?)
You may want the lyrics, in which case they’re here.

Goodness Gracious Me, Peter Sellers & Sophia Loren (1960?)
The elegant Ms Loren makes this a video worth watching, perhaps. This somewhat racist effort by Sellers has been taken by a South Asian comedy group for the name of their popular TV show.

I’m Too Sexy, Right Said Fred (1991)
Ok, his string vest (aka undershirt) makes this a video to watch. Too funny.

The Typewriter Song, Leroy Anderson (1950)
(Takes about 8 seconds to start.) If by any chance you don’t know what a “typewriter” is (or was), check out the video, which has a woman pretending to use one.


  1. In the last selection (Typewriter Song), the woman pretending to use the typewriter has obviously never actually used one. Each time the bell rings, she pretends she’s hitting a bell with her finger. Those of us who grew up with typewriters will remember that the bell rang automatically as you approached the end of a line and had only 10 characters left before reaching the right margin. In the days before automatic line wrapping, this was very useful!

  2. You forgot the ultimate novelty song, “Oh Yeah” by Yello

    [ed. note: ]

  3. I think there ought, at the very least, to be an honourable mention for “They’re Coming to Take Me Away Hahaaa!” by Napoleon XIV: The version cited includes the B side of the original 45 following the A side.

  4. Dr. Demento’s “I’d rather have a bottle in front of me (than a frontal lobotomy)