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1970: The Demented Year in Review

What a year 1970 was! 1970 was a wonderful year in terms of novelty music and subjects.

in the background we hear the theme from the X-rated movie "Midnight Cowboy"

1970 was the year the Dr. Demento show began. If you were born in the 1960's, chances are you spent an afternoon in 1970 watching the latest Disney feature...

  • "The Aristocats (excerpt)", by Maurice Chevalier, who emerged from retirement to sing that song.

    1970 was a violent year with war in South East Asia and four students killed during a protest rally at Kent State. But there was lots of comedy to help ease the pain. Funny songs on Top 40 radio and on the new FM underground rock stations, where you hear Frank Zappa and Firesign Theatre. This is one of the most successful demented Top 40 songs in 1970...

  • "Tennessee Bird Walk", by Jack Blanchard & Misty Morgan, the third biggest novelty single of the year

    and in the background we hear "The Chicken Strut" by The Meters from their Rhino anthology CD set "Funkify Your Life"

    In the fall of the previous year, everybody found their way to the new PBS children's "Sesame Street". Jim Henson's muppets were used liberally throughout the show, which in turn made Ernie and Bert, Big Bird, Kermit the Frog, Oscar the Grouch, Grover and other lovable Muppets household words that the children of the 1970's first learned and are now raising children of their own, who in turn are being introduced to the Muppets from "Sesame Street" today, going 29 years strong.

  • "Rubber Duckie", by Ernie (Jim Henson), the second biggest novelty single of 1970

    Monty Python completed its first season on British TV in 1970 and released its first album, which is very hard to find today. Monty Python did not become well-known in the USA until a couple of years later.

  • "Pet Shop", by Monty Python
  • "Gimme Dat Ding", by The Pipkins, the biggest novelty single of 1970, created originally for a children's television show in Britian.

    The lead singer of the Pipkins, Tony Burrows, was also the lead singer of dozens of other hit records in the 1970's. They're collected on a CD called "Love Grows Where My Rosemary Grows", which was another one of his hits.

    and in the background we hear the instrumental "Stoned Cowboy" by Fantasy

    Of course, most of the finest recorded humor of 1970 never showed up on Top 40 radio, but you could hear Firesign Theatre and Frank Zappa on so-called underground FM radio.

    If you were in college in 1970, chances are you have spent a little time in a darkened room listening to albums by Firesign Theatre. The album they made that year was called "Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers" and many people thought that this was their finest work in their career. In the fall of 1998, Firesign Theatre released a new CD. A lot of Firesign's humor was inspired by old movies, old TV, old radio, growing up experiences for baby boomers which they twisted so cleverly for the contemporary mind like this excerpt from their album...

  • "High School Madness! (from This Side)", by The Firesign Theatre

    Frank Zappa was a very busy man in 1970, working on his "200 Motels" movie, doing live concerts, and releasing three albums, "Burnt Weenie Sandwich", "Weasels Ripped My Flesh", and "Chunga's Revenge" which included the song below.

  • "Would You Go All The Way?", by Frank Zappa featuring Flo and Eddie as the lead singer, formerly of The Turtles.

    1970 was the year the Dr. Demento Show began on KPPC in Pasadena. Oddly enough, he doesn't think he played any of the items heard in the last 20 minutes on the show that year. He might have played Rubber Duckie once, he's not sure, he didn't start writing down what he played until a little bit later.

    Now of course Frank Zappa and Firesign Theatre were played all day long on the station he was on. Dr. D was brought in to play rare stuff from his collection.

    Dr. Demento used to play a lot of obscure rock and roll 45's that had stars behind them and we have an example here.

    In 1970, Sly Stone was a very big star. He had hits like "Hot Fun in the Summertime", "I Wanna Take You Higher", "Everyday People" which is now the Toyota theme song, "Thank U Fur Lettin Me Be Mice Elf Again" which was the first R&B hit to use odd spelling in the title like everybody else today, but Dr. Demento digresses, which he used to do constantly in those days. Anyway, Sly was a huge star but he had made many obscure records before he became famous, and as far back as 1960, Sly was one of the Stewart Brothers who cut this next song, "Sleep On The Porch", similar to the Coasters hits of the 1950's, but a bit tad more risque perhaps. We go back to 1960 for this one...

  • "Sleep On The Porch", by The Stewart Brothers from 1960 including Sylvester Stewart before he became well known as Sly Stone in the 1970's.

    and in the background we hear an instrumental hit by El Chicano

    Soon the Dr. Demento Show expanded to things that were even older going way back before the rock and roll days. This record from 1928 soon became a great favorite even though the only copy Dr. Demento had in those days was even scratchier than this one. We go way way back for this one...

  • "Ain't We Crazy", by Haywire Mac from 1928.

    Events in 1970

    01/31, R.C., "Whole Lotta Love" by Led Zeppelin peaked at #4 on the pop singles chart; it was parodied with kazoos later on.

    03/14, R.C., "Je T'Aime...Moi Non Plus" by Jane Birkin & Serge Gainsbourg peaked at #58 on the pop singles chart.

    04/08, Rhino Cofounder Richard Foos meets first "rock star," Wild Man Fischer, at Wallich's Music City at Hollywood & Vine.

    04/25, R.C., "Tennessee Bird Walk" by Jack Blanchard & Misty Morgan peaked at #23 on the pop singles chart.

    06/24, "Catch 22" opened in movie theaters.

    07/18, R.C., "Gimme Dat Ding" by The Pipkins peaked at #9 on the pop singles chart.

    08/00, Frank Zappa's album [10] WEASELS RIPPED MY FLESH was released including the tracks "My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mama" and "Weasels Ripped My Flesh".

    08/15, R.C., "Summertime Blues" by The Who peaked at #27 on the pop singles chart.

    08/31, "In The Summertime" single by Mungo Jerry was certified Gold by the RIAA

    10/08, according to tradition, Dr. Demento made his debut on Pasadena radio station KPPC-FM.

    12/24, The animated feature film, "The Aristocats" is released in theatres. It cost $4 million to make. It is the first animated feature film completed without Walt Disney. "The Jungle Book" released in 1967 was the first animated movie released after Disney died in 1966.

    12/26, R.C., "My Sweet Lord" by George Harrison peaked at #1 on the pop singles chart. George stole the melody from The Chiffons' "He's So Fine" according to a court ruling. Meanwhile, his triple-album "All Things Must Pass" entered the pop chart.

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