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1974: The Demented Year in Review

What a year 1974 was! 1974 was a wonderful year in terms of novelty music and subjects.

1974 was the year the Dr. Demento radio show made its nationwide debut in syndication over many radio stations in America, though fans in Los Angeles have heard his local-only show on the late KPPC and then KMET in the 1970's. Some of the hits of 1974 may have been positively influenced by airplay on the Dr. Demento show once the show hit the syndication breeze, and later on, inspired the resurrection of "Shaving Cream" by Benny Bell the following year.

Cheech and Chong's "Wedding Album" was released that year and produced this hit...

  • "Earache My Eye Featuring Alice Bowie", by Cheech & Chong

    1974 was the year President Nixon resigned from the White House amid the Watergate controversey, but most of the comedy records about the scandal came out in 1972 and 1973, but Dickie Goodman does allude to the scandal, while introducing many top 40 hits of 1974 in the year's other big story of the year, the Energy Crisis. This record is not to be confused with "Energy Crisis '79", which came out five years later when another oil shortage hit.

  • "Energy Crisis '74", by Dickie Goodman

    Here's another oil shortage song inspired by this other top story of the year. Well, the vinyl that records were made out of? That comes from oil too!

  • "The Crude Oil Blues", by Jerry Reed

    The late Wolfman Jack was at the peak of his fame in 1974, thanks to the movie "American Graffiti", which came out in the summer of 1973. Wolfman was quite an inspiration for Barret Hansen. Wolfman Jack once hosted a popular late night music show on NBC called "The Midnight Special" which inspired this tribute by Ray Stevens...

  • "Moonlight Special", by Ray Stevens with Ray doing a Wolfman impression known as "The Sheepdog" from the Rhino CD "The Best of Ray Stevens" with Dr. Demento's liner notes on booklet

    Frank Zappa put out one of his all-time biggest seller "Apostrophe" in 1974 which yielded one of his radio hits on rock and Top 40 radio. Dr. Demento likes to play this song about this time of year when the snow just begins to fall around Thanksgiving time.

  • "Don't Eat The Yellow Snow/Nanook Rubs It", by Frank Zappa

    and in the background the late drummer Cozy Powell had a song out in 1974 which made a lot of noise and got a lot of airplay, "Dance With the Devil"

    There were a lot of comedy songs on the pop charts in 1974, maybe the last prolific year for novelty songs on Top 40 radio before it got all discofied and all that. This song reached #7 on the Billboard Top 40 charts in 1974 and it was the 2nd biggest novelty record of the year...

  • "Wildwood Weed", by Jim Stafford off the "Dr. Demento Country Corn" CD nowadays

    Evel Knevel was in the news a lot in 1974, and this novelty comedy cut-in was a Dickie-Goodman style tribute to the motorcycle daredevil...

  • "Evil Boll-Weevil", by Grand Canyon

    This was the 3rd biggest novelty record of the year.

  • "Life Is A Rock (But The Radio Rolled Me)", by Reunion

    and in the background we hear "Tubular Bells" by Michael Fields

    The Streak

  • "Buck Naked", by Hank Williams, Jr. from his 1987 release "Born to Boogie."

    Why do people wear clothes when it's warm? Some people say that clothing was invented because too many fights developed when naked men saw naked women looking at other naked men, but, because it's traditionally acceptable for clothed men to enjoy looking at naked women.

    Now that little song kind of wraps up the whole traditional Americana attitude towards nudity in a nice little nutshell...

  • "The Battle Of Kookamonga", by Homer & Jethro
    Buy "Dr. Demento's 20th Anniversary Collection" Here: Amazon

    For many years, Americans who wanted to be naked together found refuge in private clubs the general public calls "nudist colonies." The nudists themselves prefer words like "natural resort" or something like that. These gatherings inspired a whole lot of comedy songs and stand-up routines, mostly by people who never went near a real natureist resort. This song has been a long-time favorite...

  • "The Bumble Bee Invaded A Nudist Colony", by Billy Mitchell
  • "Show It At The Beach", by Shel Silverstein

    While nude beaches have managed to flourish here and there, one step ahead of the authorities, who insist that if they let somebody take off their bathing suit and getting an all-over suntan, a huge-group sex orgy is sure to follow. Nude beaches are rarely rarely ever that way, and so the stand-off continued, and in 1974, something amazing happened...

    This hit was a million-seller plus and hit #1 for three weeks in a row in 1974, the biggest so-called novelty single of the 1970's by far. Streaking was a major fad, one of the biggest fads to hit this country in this century.

    The #1 best-selling novelty record of 1974 celevrated the subject of streaking, the #1 fad of 1974.

    One of the most-requested artists is Ray Stevens whose been keeping us laughing for 35 years now and has hardly needed to change his style in all that time. Don't mess with success after all. Ray was a guest on the show in the Spring of 1987 and inevitably the conversation turned to songs about people running around without any clothes on.

    RS: You know there were so many records released during the streaking period that they the trade Billboard had a special section with a review on them called Streaks Of The Week.

    Dr. D: I got a special little shelf at home with nothing but streaking records.

    RS: How many do you think is in there? About 40?

    Dr. D: About 40, yea.

    RS: Yea, that's what I figured. And luckily, mine was one that made it out of all those records. But I attribute to the fact that I had this song months before the fad hit. I had read a little article in the back of Newsweek on a plane about a UCLA student who took off his clothes a ran through a crowd and they called it streaking and I said boy now there's an idea for a song. Something just clicked. And when I got home, I wrote the song and studied the piano bench and rushed to record it and sure enough first thing you know all you could see on the news were streakers. I ran in the studio and got the record out and sure enough it was the one.

  • "The Streak", by Ray Stevens also on the "Dr. Demento Country Corn" CD

    It's the spring of 1974. That year, the Watergate affair was building to a climax and Richard Nixon would soon be the first American President ever to resign. There was a critical gasoline shortage that escalated into a full-blown energy crisis, and in less serious news, Henry Aaron broke Babe Ruth's all-time home run record that spring. That's what was going on when so many young Americans all of a sudden went streaking.

    Now streaking meant "running from point A to point B stark naked, except tennis shoes, in front of as many unsuspecting witnesses as possible. Along with Ray Steven's song, there were at least a couple of dozen other streaking songs on the market. Here are some samples from the Demento archives.

    They were streaking the ballgames, they were streaking the Academy Awards, they even streaked on the Dr. Demento show a few times back then.

    Streaking was about as nonsexual as nudity could possibly get. Streaking was more about freedom while conquering your inhibitions, it was about being alive. Of course, not all the people who made records understood all that.

    Streaking montage:

  • "Come Streak With Me (excerpt)", by Pleasure
  • "Streakin' USA (excerpt)", by Harry Hepcat & The Boogie Woogie Boys
  • "Speaking Of Streaking (excerpt)", by Howard Hardsell, a spoof on the late ABC sportscaster Howard Cosell.
  • "The Streak (in Cajun French) (excerpt)", by Belton Richard

    Events in 1974

    01/06, the United States began Night Saving Time, or whatever it was called, as President Nixon, under pressure from the gasoline shortage due to the oil embargo, put the United States on year-round Daylight Saving (not Savings) Time. Boy, was it really hard to get up in the morning!

    01/15, This day began a new era on ABC-TV as the show that would really help reshape the network in the next five years debut. "Happy Days", the TV Comedy inspired by the movie "American Graffitti" and about life in the 1950s and introduced us to The Fonz, began an 11 year run on ABC-TV. You can find Fonzie's leather jacket from that first show in the Smithsonian Institution. The theme song for the show's first two seasons was the first #1 rock'n roll hit, "Rock Around The Clock". Soon after, more "American Graffitti" actors found TV series within the next seven years. Can you name them all? See The August 1 Datebook for the answer.

    01/19, R.C., "Smokin' In The Boy's Room" by Brownsville Station peaked at #3 on the pop singles chart.

    01/19, R.C., "Sister Mary Elephant (Shudd-Up!)" by Cheech & Chong peaked at #24 on the pop singles chart.

    02/07, Mel Brooks' "Blazing Saddles" starring Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder opened in some Los Angeles theaters.

    02/23, Columbia Records releases Billy Joel's "Piano Man." "Keanu Man" was a parody of that song. So was "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Ode to a Superhero."

    03/02, R.C., "Spiders & Snakes" by Jim Stafford peaked at #3 on the pop singles chart.

    03/02, R.C., "Energy Crisis '74" by Dickie Goodman peaked at #33 on the pop singles chart.

    03/11, The Rhino retail store creates a new way to get rid of nonselling albums; it pays people a nickel to take home Danny Bonaduce's album.

    03/22, Frank Zappa's album [18] APOSTROPHE(') was released including the tracks "Don't Eat The Yellow Snow", "Nanook Rubs It", "St. Alphonzo's Pancake Breakfast", "Cosmik Debris", "Apostrophe(')" and "Stink Foot"

    03/28, a streaker (i.e.: someone running around naked), ran onto the set of "The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson" this night. The clever NBC censors decided to blackout the lower half of the TV screen on the videotape to prevent an "X" rating. The streaker was arrested, but released, for "lack of evidence," said Johnny.

    04/02, Elizabeth Taylor waits in the wings, ready to announce Best Picture at the Oscars. Introducing her is David Niven. "And now," he reads from cue cards, "to divulge the contents of this year's most important envelope is a very important contributor to world entertainment and someone quite likely.…" And at that, a man wearing long hair and a moustache — and nothing else — bursts into view, trots across the stage behind Niven, flashes a peace sign and trots off. The audience titters, then laughs, then roars. The orchestra strikes up, assuming that the show will quickly break for a commercial, although, by sheer luck, at home the man was seen only from the waist up. "Well, ladies and gentlemen, that was almost bound to happen," says Niven, referring to the fad of streaking then popping up everywhere. "But isn't it fascinating," he continues, ad-libbing, "to think that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings."

    04/09, In a bizarre game in San Diego, new owner Ray Kroc berated his team's play over the public address system. During his speech, an unidentified fan streaked across the field. The Padres then scored three runs, but lost anyway to Houston, 9-5. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn made Kroc apologize to the fans.

    04/10, Magicians Penn & Teller 1st meet.

    04/24, Ray Stevens enjoys his biggest hit with "The Streak," a well-timed funny look at the current craze among teenagers. The makes it to Number one next month.

    04/25, According to Rolling Stone, thanks to Ray Stevens' hit, "The Streak," streakers have hit concerts by Yes, Gregg Allman and the Beach Boys, who were victimized by two of their very own -- Mike Love and Dennis Wilson.

    04/27, "The Streak" by Ray Stevens entered the Top 40 chart.

    05/11, R.C., "Tubular Bells" by Mike Oldfield peaked at #7 on the pop singles chart.

    05/18, R.C., "The Streak" by Ray Stevens peaked at #1 on the pop singles chart. "The Streak" started a 3-week run. The novelty tune by Ray Stevens, was about people running "nekkid" where they shouldn't be "nekkid", like, in public. It was the second number one hit for the comedian who made numerous appearances on the "Andy Williams" TV show in the late 1960s, as well as his own show in the summer of 1970. His first number one hit, just prior to "The Streak" was "Everything Is Beautiful". Both songs won gold records, as did his comedic "Gitarzan", a top ten hit in 1969. Stevens has been the top novelty recording artist of the past three decades. "Booga-da, booga, da!"

    06/01, R.C., "My Girl Bill" by Jim Stafford peaked at #12 on the pop singles chart.

    06/15, R.C., "The Streak" by Ray Stevens peaked at #1 on the U.K. pop singles chart.

    06/21, "Hollywood Swinging" single by Kool & The Gang was certified Gold by the RIAA. In 2000, parodist David Tanny wrote the melody as "Hollywood Squarin'"

    07/07, The Dr. Demento radio show was syndicated nationally for the first time. The first #1 song of the week? "Boobs A Lot" by The Holy Modal Rounders

    07/11, AT THE MOVIES: "BLAZING SADDLES" (Harvey Korman, Madeline Kahn, Cleavon Little)

    08/09, At noon on this day, President Richard M. Nixon formally resigned as president of the United States becoming the first person in the history of the country to resign the top political office in the land. Gerald R. Ford was sworn in as the nation's 38th chief executive.

    08/16, punk was launched in the United States when the Ramones played its first gig at CBGB in New York.

    08/24, "The Streak" single by Ray Stevens was certified Gold by the RIAA

    08/24, R.C., "Wildwood Weed" by Jim Stafford peaked at #7 on the pop singles chart.

    09/02, "Here's Lucy", TV Comedy; last aired on CBS, Lucille Ball leaves network TV after a stunning 23-year streak!

    09/07, "New Adventures Of Gilligan", TV Cartoon Show; debut on ABC.

    09/10, Frank Zappa's album [19] ROXY AND ELSEWHERE was released.

    09/13, "The Rockford Files", TV Crime Drama starring James Garner, debut on NBC. James Garner brings his low-key persona to the character of ex-con private investigator Jim Rockford.

    09/21, Bachman-Turner Overdrive released "You Ai-You Ai-You Ain't Seen N-N-N-N-N-N-N-Nothing Yet." (You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet)

    09/21, R.C., "Kung Fu Fighting" by Carl Douglas peaked at #1 on the U.K. pop singles chart.

    09/28, "Life Is A Rock (But The Radio Rolled Me)", by Reunion entered the Top 40 chart.

    10/09, "Cheech & Chong's Wedding Album" album by Cheech & Chong was certified Gold by the RIAA

    10/12, R.C., "Earache My Eye (Featuring Alice Bowie)" by Cheech & Chong peaked at #9 on the pop singles chart.

    10/13, longtime television host Ed Sullivan died in New York City at age 72. He hosted one heluva really big shew. Nobody could ever fill his...shews.

    10/18, "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" opened in movie theaters.

    10/30, principal shooting begins on a film version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

    11/02, R.C., "Don't Eat The Yellow Snow" by Frank Zappa peaked at #86 on the pop singles chart.

    11/15, the most expensive two-record album was released, on Casablanca Records. It was a comedy disc titled, "Here's Johnny - Magic Moments from the Tonight Show."

    11/16, R.C., "Life Is A Rock (But The Radio Rolled Me)" by Reunion peaked at #8 on the pop singles chart.

    12/05, "Monty Python's Flying Circus" (TV Variety) was last shown on BBC. After the show ended, people just stomped their TV sets flat with a giant foot!

    12/07, R.C., "Kung Fu Fighting" by Carl Douglas peaked at #1 on the pop singles chart.

    12/07, R.C., "Black Lassie (Featuring Johnny Stash)" by Cheech & Chong peaked at #55 on the pop singles chart.

    12/14, Mel Brooks' "Young Frankenstein" starring Gene Wilder, Marty Feldman, Peter Boyle, and Madeleine Kahn, opened at the Sutton.

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