We three kings of Orient are
trying to smoke a rubber cigar.
It was loaded; it exploded!...
Angels we have heard on high.
If you remember guffawing over that one in the schoolyard, you probably recall other classics like "On Top of Spaghetti," "Found a Peanut" and "Greasy, Grimy Gopher Guts."
Do kids still share these slightly subversive songs? Or is Weird Al Yankovic the only survivor of a golden age of novelty songs?
There used to be so many of them, regularly hitting the airwaves to add laughter to that democratic transition from Big Band and crooners to rock 'n' roll.
In addition to alternative lyrics for well-known songs, there were narratives based on samplings of Top-40 hits ("The Flying Saucer"), nonsense-added tunes (Spike Jones' "Chloe") and just-plain-weird originals ("The Witch Doctor").
I grew up on these things, reading parody songs in Mad magazine, giggling at "The Billboard Song" ("smoke Coca-Cola cigarettes, chew Wrigley's spearmint beer") and learning such lyrics as "Oo ee oo ah-ah, ting-tang, walla-walla big bang." A friend and I even "wrote" a couple on our own: "Traffic Noise" (to the tune of "Candy Girl") and "My Medicine's Back" (to the tune of "My Boyfriend's Back").
Novelty songs drifted into the 1970s with "The Streak" and "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer," but as music became a fragmented menu of satellite radio and personalized playlists, the shared laughter began to die down. It's up to Weird Al now.
Perhaps it says something about me that I remember all this, but I think the dearth of novelty songs today also says something about our national character. Have we lost the ability to laugh at ourselves and with each other? Is there no room for silliness any more?
Or is it simply that our shared sense of humor has moved from music to videos and Facebook memes? If that's the case, this blog says a fond goodbye to Guitarzan and hello to the cat on the Roomba.