Friday, 25 January 2013

My favourite parody songs: the Bonzos, National Lampoon, NTNON, Chris Morris and Tony Ferrino

As I admitted in a recent exchange of comments with ex-KCS, I'm not big on comedy songs. True, when I was a nipper I almost wore out the 45s of Peter Sellers and Sophia Loren's "Goodness Gracious Me", Bernard Cribbins's "Right Said Fred" and a 10" Danny Kaye LP, Pure Delight - but those days do appear to represent a mini-golden age for mirthful platters. The songs that have made me laugh since I gave up short pants have almost all been parodies of specific records or whole musical genres.

Besides, "Canyons of Your Mind", the Bonzo Dog Band also nailed Elvis-influenced rock 'n' roll to a T with another track so good, a band named themselves after it:

Around the time the Bonzos were at their peak, I had a friend who was a bit of a whizz at musical parodies (I used to help out a bit). We especially enjoyed satirising hippy nonsense, so I was delighted, in 1975, when I first heard the National Lampoon's Lemmings album, a recording of a 1973 San Francisco stage show which mercilessly mocked Woodstock - the event, the generation and, in particular, its musical stars. I've just found a video of the whole damn thing on You Tube. The language is obscene, a lot of the comedy doesn't work, and it probably won't mean a thing to anyone under 50, but five of the songs still make me laugh out loud, including: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (or Freud, Pavlov, Adler & Jung) performing “Lemmings’ Lament” at 2’00”; Joni Mitchell at 10’50”; some politically-conscious Temptations-style Motown with "Papa Was a Running Dog Lackey of The Bourgeoisie" at 20’00”, immediately followed by James Taylor with “Highway Toes” at 22’40” (“shooting up the highway on the roadmap of my wrists”); Joan Baez at 37’00” (“so many grievous wrongs for me to right with tedious songs”); and the best of the lot - Joe Cocker with “Lonely at The Bottom (of a Barrell) at 41’15”.

Strangely, Australia was the only country where the Hee Bee Gee Bees' "Meaningless Songs in Very High Voices" was a hit in 1980:

The British parody kings of the 1980s were the Not The Nine O'Clock News team. First, they did over the New Romantics:

Then punk rock:

And then 2-Tone:

"The Day Today" managed to sandwich three billiant song parodies into a few brief minutes in the early 1990s - Nirvana, George Formby (singing "Subterranean Homesick Blues") and Rap Music:

In 1997, Steve Coogan gave us one of his greatest (albeit relatively short-lived) creations - nauseating Portuguese easy-listening star, Tony Ferrino. All of the following songs were featured in one  glorious programme - the magnificent The Tony Ferrino Phenomenon

(My favourite Ferrino song was "Valley of Our Souls", which can be heard here.)

I know there are lots of others worth hearing - but that's probably more than enough for now.


  1. I very much enjoyed this post. Thank you again.

  2. Excellent. I'd not seen the Lemmings clip. The Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez parts are hilarious. Apparently Joe Cocker failed to get the joke and was still grumbling about it twenty years later.

  3. Glad you both enjoyed it. Poor old Joe Cocker - he should have shown a bit more class and recorded a cover of "Lonely at the Bottom of a Barrell". It would probably have been a hit. (Ditto Joan Baez and "Pull the Triggers...") Talking of class, it took me a while to realise that the chap impersonating James Taylor was none other than Christopher Guest aka The Right Honourable The Lord Haden-Guest aka Nigel Tufnell in "This is Spinal Tap" - so now we know where her got his rock parody training.