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Dr. Demento Overrecycling Humor? (Oct 2000)

A posting on the newsgroup rec.music.dementia has brought up the issue of some problems with the content of the Dr. Demento show.

While the "Dr. Demento Show" has had problems getting radio station clearances as of late, there may be one notable reason why several radio staitons haven't been too warm on his radio show lately.

That is, there is a problem with excessive recycling of the same old songs and sketches from years past, classics that are still being repeated on occasion that are getting a bit old and irrevelant for today's cultrual tastes.

Like classic rock, Dr. Demento is facing the same problem holding on to listeners as well as affilliates in the same way as a radio station that plays classic rock or oldies is having a tough time keeping its listeners as they tire of the same old songs from decades ago and have a need to search for newer material to listen to.

Songs that sounded fresh in the 60's and 70's may still be classics whether its from Cheech and Chong to Tom Lehrer to Napoleon XIV, but longtime listeners of the Dr. Demento Show may be getting tired of hearing the same classic songs over and over again, now that most of the classics are readily available for purchase on CD's at Amazon.com and CDnow.com among others.

"It's as if Dr. Demento has gotten lazy and decided to recycle the same subjects for newer years with about 10% fresh material," says Tom who works at a radio station that will not be identified. "Listeners requested that we drop the show due to excessive repeating as his musical direction is inconsistent with the musical direction of our format in terms of years as our Modern Rock format rarely plays any rock from before the 1980's."

"The show's doing OK," says Steven whose radio station is barely holding on to the show, "But if On The Radio Broadcasting raises their fees and the price is too high, or if Dr. Demento drops one point, the show is outta here."

Other e-mails from radio programmers indicated that what Dr. Demento needs to get his show back on the air on their stations is to reinvent the show itself.

"Most of the material is just not funny," says an anonymous e-mailer. "Songs about pedophilia (Kinko The Clown), farting, and stalking are just not acceptable subjects for our format and we refuse to program the show if Demento plans to aim that low for humor."

Jeffrey, working at another undisclosed radio station, says about Dr. Demento, "While some of the subjects are timeless, most of the songs have alredy been played enough times already. The Funny Five features mostly reoccurrences of the same songs from 20-30 years ago and it displaces some of the newer material that is not getting enough airplay on Barrett's program."

Another anonymous e-mailer adds, "Dr. Demento needs to put out all-new shows full of newer material for one hour, and just play a 1/2 hour of classics, just once a year and no more, while his Funny Five segment would be like Billboard just counting down the current hits. We don't see the same old Beatles or Elvis songs on today's charts, do we?"

Has the Dr. Demento Show shot itself in the foot too many times? Some of the newer material for the TV vein, for example, features subjects too cult for the mainstream television viewer while there may be a lot of mass-appeal novelty songs that would not only get requests, but to help get Dr. Demento's show on more stations.

What "Weird Al" Yankovic wrote about in his songs, for example, are subjects that just about everybody could relate to such as food, cars, pop icon takeoffs, and music parodies of well-known hits. It's the mass appeal that attracts listeners. By going too cult, Demento may be turning off not only its listeners, but also the radio station affilliates as well.

"If Dr. Demento would just quit playing those damn Fish Heads and Dead Puppies, it would be a start,' says another anonymous radio programmer. "We have just gotten our fill of dinosaur novelties so many times that we had to pull the show three years ago due to listener exodus."

"Some of the humor is just too high-brow for the average listener," explains another radio programmer who just quit the business. "Some of the British humor he keeps playing would be better suited for National Public Radio than for a mass appeal radio station such as the one I used to work for."

The pickiness factor of Dr. Demento may also be to blame as his radio show, once daring enough to play anything amusing or weird enough, is unnecessairily shutting out up and coming novelty songwriters such as David Tanny of San Diego.

"I've created some amusing songs on my computer on tape, but it seems that Barrett Hansen just keeps finding an excuse to not play the songs," says a frustrated Tanny. "I've recorded a song about 'Pokemon', but he played Weird Al's 'Polkamon' instead. I've recorded a parody of 'C mon Ride the Train' called 'C mon Drink The Beer,' but he played lukeski's 'Ride The Bus', and I sent in those songs months before the other singers, who are good by the way, wrote their versions. I'm beginning to honestly believe that Demento is not firing on all cylinders anymore; he will be going the way of the dinosaur if he doesn't shape up and fast."

As for songs about science-fiction TV as of late, Tanny responds, "I never watched Babylon 5 or Voyager as they've seemed to have lost their mass appeal and have gotten too cult for most of the public's tastes. I wrote some amusing TV songs about a game show 'Hollywood Squares', a current NBC show 'Frasier', and a classic family show 'Eight is Enough'."

"I can tell you straight up that more people have been watching Frasier than have been watching Babylon or Voyager combined," Tanny says. "Mass appeal novelty songs get listeners, and listeners mean ratings, and ratings mean that Demento gets better ratings."

On Eight is Enough, "I kind of patterned it like Weird Al's Brady Bunch song more or less, but it's my parody on a Beatles song 'Eight Days a Week,' which was a #1 pop hit in the 60's." He is also the master of the domain eightisenough.com on the Internet.

"I made it very easy for the listener to hear my songs online even if nobody will play them," he says. Tanny has no plans to release them on a CD yet, but he says that as soon as he can get 74 minutes of material, he's got a CD ready.

"I want to give my buyers a full CD's worth," says Tanny. "I may be cheap, but so are the CD buyers as well."

As for his campaign to get Dr. Demento's Show back on local radio, he says, "Demento has to change his musical direction first, but the radio stations have to be more receptive to newer novelty music. Not only that, On The Radio Broadcasting must be able to acknowledge the problems with their built-in national spots that are part of the package as stations such as KLOS won't carry Demento due to conflicts of corporate interest with the national advertisers. I don't think I'll want Dr. Demento on my local station until he begins playing my songs on his show, and let the audience decide whether they like them or not. After all, the listener is always right."

Tom Rockwell on the subject of in-show commercials, says on USENET, "Stations have also complained about the in-show commercials. For those that don't know there are commercials right on the CDs that the stations get. After the station plays those ads they play the local ads, then play the next segment. Some stations, especially the big corporate ones, don't like this. They feel they are giving away advertising time to people who have not paid them for the airtime."

Recent Dr. Demento Show Review 10-22-00

Hal. O. Ween posted this on rec.music.dementia:
  With the rise of alternative music, MP3 sites, and the ever-growing
popularity of Halloween, it seems that the Dr.Demento show may be resting
on their laurels a bit.  Listeners have come to expect new and eclectic
music from the Doctor, but as far as I can guesstimate there's not a
single new Halloween song during the whole two hours (or even one that
hasn't been played on Demento before).  If you've heard past Halloween
shows, you won't hear anything "new" except for maybe Alligator Wine,
which isn't exactly the ultimate in Halloween songs.  The show could
freshen their offerings by doing an MP3.com search to turn up new talent. 
 
 However, the Doctor artfully used sound effects to weave the songs
together.  Yet for other segments, his voice ran abruptly right up to the
songs (purists and those who carefully record the music will be
non-plussed).  The sound effects were from a CD put together under the
Martha Stewart brand, to which the Doctor quite rightly quips "What is
Halloween coming to?".  Incidentally, the CD artwork features Martha's
face doctored up with red eyes to give her an evil visage.  People close
to Stewart say they didn't notice anything different.
 
 
 The Dr. Demento Show #00-43 - October 22, 2000 Topic: Halloween part 1/2
 
 Halloween - Heywood Banks
 The mandatory modern classic about the loss of the wonderfully innocent
Halloween we experienced as kids. 
 
 Grim Grinning Ghosts - Thurl Ravenscroft
 This older song easily outclasses "Monster Mash" and really ought to
considered a must-play.  Frosted Flake lovers will also be pleased to hear
an oddly familiar voice. 
 
 Mr. Ghost Goes To Town - The 5 Jones Boys
 This historical piece should be considered a staple, as should it's
equally well-crafted 70's cover version with Jon Schwartz. 
 
 Headless Ghost - Nightmares
 The owl sounds preceding this song were cleverly chosen by the Demento
show, but the song itself should probably be used only once-annually at
best, though people who were teens in the 50's may find this to be a cute
memory-jog. 
 
 Zombie Jamboree - Rockapella
 Demento's added sound effects actually ate into this one, but not to any
great detriment.  Slightly better that "Headless Ghost" and more apt to be
enjoyed by people of all ages. 
 
 Carmen Miranda's Ghost - Leslie Fish
 Another Halloween staple that cleverly grafts together haunted space
stations, fruit, dead singers and an ominous warning about Earth's fate. 
 
 The Monsters' Hop - Bert Convy
 A fair rarity but not overly inspired.  You can do just as well with an
echo box and a kareoke machine. 
 
 Skeleton In The Closet - Louis Armstrong
 A nice historical piece which is still very worthwhile, and not just
because ole' satchel mouth is heard here. 
 
 Halloween Cut-Up 2000 - Whimsical Will
 A weak effort, though Will puts out other amusing bits. 
 
 
 Comin' Back For More - C.W. McCall
 Not exactly overly Halloweenish, but anything about meat-eating can
potentially be creepy. 
 
 Bates Motel - John Bell
 Amusing the first couple of times you hear it. Thankfully it's fairly
short. 
 
 Nudist Colony Of The Dead - Mark Pirro & The Pirromount Pictures
Orchestra & Chorus & Joyce Mordoh
 This just might be the ultimate Halloweeny staple for freethinkers.  And
better still, there's a movie by the same name.  Unless you're a member of
the Christian Coalition, you should like this one. 
 
 The Time Warp - The Rocky Horror Picture Show cast
 If you haven't seen the movie in the theatres, then this song might not
automatically scream "Halloween". But it can certainly fit the holiday. 
It's just a tiny stretch to include it her when there's other more
Halloweenish music available. 
 
 Midnight Stroll - The Revels
 A smooth, relaxed, well-crafted 'ween tune with a taste of the 50's.  The
good kind. 
 
 Ghost Walk - Borrah Minevitch & His Harmonica Rascals
 Instrumental. Nice. 
 
 Cemetery Girls - Barnes & Barnes
 No Halloween is complete without this incredible gem.  Of all the songs
that mention necrophilia, this one is most apt to be added to your list of
guilty pleasure songs.  Fans of the Twilight Zone, Babylon 5 and Lost In
Space will love it too.  It's amazing that people request "Monster Mash" 
or "I Want My Baby Back" when ingenious Halloweeny tunes like this exist. 
 
 
 A Nightmare On My Street (Single Version) - D.J. Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh
Prince
 Getting a bit overplayed considering it's length, but still begrudgingly
danceable.  Say what you will about Will Smith but this is a probably a
modern staple for Halloween. 
 
 Dark Shadows theme
 OK as long as it's kept brief. 
 
 Dead - The Poets
 The title is short and doesn't quite do the song justice. 
 
 I'm In The Ground For Good - The Newports
 If you like a 50's style sappy song, sung from the point of view of a
murdered man, then this song is yours.  Except for the screams and
occasional sound effects, you have to follow the lyrics to realize it
could even be used for Halloween.  The melody sure isn't Halloweenish. 
 
 I'm A Ghost - anonymous
 An older piece that should be considered for your Halloween collection. 
Even the kids will like it.  Parents will *really* want it. 
 
 Dead Man's Party - Oingo Boingo
 Some have said that most of Oingo Boingo's music could be used for
Halloween.  Danny Elfman, frontman for Oingo Boingo also did the music for
"The Nightmare Before Christmas". 
 
 I Put A Spell On You - Screamin' Jay Hawkins
 Not quite a must-have, but pretty close. 
 
 Screamin' Jay Hawkins' Coffin Story (from show #86-11) 
 Once a decade is (more than) enough for this historical interview-piece
to be aired.  Otherwise, leave it on the Demento web site in MP3 format. 
 It's not music, and the show could have used this space more effectively
by featuring other little-known spooky music.  It's also annoying that
this ran right into Alligator Wine, without any pause. 
 
 Alligator Wine - Screamin' Jay Hawkins
 Not quite Halloween music.  More like backwater bijou remedies.  It's
also a bit too much like Hawkins' other song "I Put A Spell On You". 
You'd do better to record the soundtrack from the James Bond "Live And Let
Die" movie. 
 
 The top "Scary Five" Halloween songs for this week: 
 
 #5 I Want My Baby Back - Jimmy Cross
 Also not very terribly Halloweenish, and as such is best when reserved
only for airplay every few years.  Makes one wonder how the Scary Five is
picked. 
 
 #4 With Her Head Tucked Underneath Her Arm - Caryl P. Weiss
 It's just not Halloween without `Her Head', but with at least 7 other
cover versions out there, a minimum of 2 other versions should be played
each October.  Not everybody thinks Weiss's version is the best. 
 The timing gap between the Doctor and the start of this song was also too
short. 
 
 #3 It's Halloween - The Shaggs
 Terrible music that might, just might, possibly, maybe, grow on you. 
Let's not make this a habit.  Who requested this anyway? 
 
 #2 Monster Mash - Bobby (Boris) Pickett & The Crypt-Kickers
 Haven't we heard this song at least 100 times too many?  Let the dead lie
in peace.  Pickett has fresher offerings like "Monster Rap", "Monster
Concert" and "It's Alive".  The Monster Mash has no place in a top-20, let
alone at #2.  And that's not even saying Pickett necessarily deserves a
place in the top five, though he _has_ managed to produce an impressively
large number of catchy sequels to Monster Mash.  In fact, they're better
than the original Mash.  Why doesn't anybody notice? 
 
 #1 Werecow - Flippy T. Fishead & The Mighty Ground Beeves
 A clever tune whose major weakness is that it is just a bit too long. 
But it still deserves to be a Halloween staple.  Somebody needs to do a
spin-off and parody of "Werecow" merged with "Cows With Guns".  Wait a few
years and then throw in silver bullets and Chickens In Choppers and you
might have a sequel franchise as big as Bobby (Boris) Pickett's.  All this
makes one wonder if and when there will be music about Count Duckula
(other than the cartoon and computer game themes). 
 
 Overall Grade: 
 If you've never ever heard anything but the Mash, you'll rate this an A. 
Otherwise it just gets a C, though if this were a recycling class, the
show would get an A+.  Either the Doctor needs to expand to a 3rd
Halloween show or he should get some more diverse material.  The content
is still worthwhile, but long-time listeners will be bored.
Russell K responds to his review:
Hey Hal, good review!  I view some of the songs a little differently, but I
enjoyed your perspective.

I've recorded several Dr. Demento Halloween shows over the years (too bad
he's not heard here in Southern California right now).  I've compiled my own
Dr. Demento Halloween CD from my recorded collection, made up of many of my
favorites.

I really like "Pizza Girl" from The Eddie Haskell Experience, a great
demented ghost story.  I think "I Want My Baby Back" fits in as a clever
demented spooky story, too, rather than as a pure Halloween tune.

I love the music and harmonies in "Werewolf" by The Five Man Electric Band.

Two more favorites are "(It's a) Monsters' Holiday" (Buck Owens) and "Grave
Robbing Tonight" (Zacherle), both very catchy tunes.

I added to my collection two "stretches" but I think they fit the Halloween
"dead" theme well:  "I'll be Mellow When I'm Dead" (Weird Al) followed by
"Baby I'm Dead" (Mike Toomey).   )"Baby I'm Dead" is sung by "Elvis"
complaining that poeple won't accept the fact that he is dead and gone.  A
wonderful demented tune.)

Did you know Dr. Demento played Michael Jackson's "Thriller" on his local
show here in Los Angeles?  Looking through the playlists I don't think he
ever played it on his syndicated show.  He even intro-ed it by saying people
might be surprised to hear it on his show.  On the other hand, he stated it
may be one of the all time Halloween classics.  I thought it sounded
terrific on his show, and would like to hear him play it again sometime.

Has he ever played Danny Elfman's "It's Halloween" from "Nightmare Before
Christmas"?  Seems like an obvious selection to play once in a while.
R.H. Draney in r.m.d. also responds:
From some of your
comments it seems you may be overlooking the fact that there's *another*
Halloween show next week...some of your objections may be answered then
(although I agree that some pieces are beginning to get a little
stale)...a couple of points on specific songs:

"Grim Grinning Ghosts": besides being Tony the Tiger, Thurl Ravenscroft
is also known from that *other* holiday's hit "You're A Mean One Mr
Grinch"...the only part of the cartoon not filled by Boris Karloff as
both Grinch and narrator...it'll be interesting to see what Jim Carrey's
version does to the franchise....

"Carmen Miranda's Ghost": there's a whole book of short SF stories
inspired by this piece, edited by Don Sakers...

"Nudist Colony Of The Dead": you're right, there *is* a movie with this
title...and this is the theme song from that movie....

"The Time Warp": possibly "Sweet Transvestite" or even "Over At The
Frankenstein Place" might be more representative of the Halloween
spirit...still, as the Doc pointed out, this is the 25th anniversary of
RHPS, and there had to be *some* kind of tribute....

"Cemetery Girls": good, but played too often...let's have "Something's
In The Bag" once in a while, just for variety....

"It's Halloween": a tradition...you have to have "Monster Mash" and this
every October just like you have to have Alvin and the Chipmunks rocking
out with Canned Heat every Christmas...I notice "Halloween Spooks" by
Lambert, Hendricks and Ross wasn't on this week, so I suppose it'll turn
up on the second show....

Someone also mentioned Buck Owens' "Monster's Holiday"...I wonder how
many requests this got down through the years that didn't get counted
because they didn't name the artist and it was just assumed that the
votes were for the Bobby 'Boris' Pickett tune of the same name....r

-- 
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