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1980: The Demented Year in Review

What a year 1980 was! 1980 was a wonderful year in terms of novelty music and subjects.

  • "Another One Rides the Bus", by "Weird Al" Yankovic, was performed and recorded live on KMET on Sep 14, 1980, and it seemed that for the next three months, everybody wanted to hear it again and again.

    1980 was the year we selected an actor for President, and while the actors in Hollywood went on strike, Ronald Reagan was literally the only actor working at the time...campaigning for president, of course. This novelty-record answers some of the questions with pop songs from that era.

  • "Election '80", by Dickie Goodman

    Ronald Reagan beat Jimmy Carter in that year, but a lot of Americans were a lot more interested in the end of a season cliffhanger on this TV show.

    On March 21, 1980, months before the actors went on strike, Dallas on CBS-TV ended their season with a cliff hanger as J.R. got shot, and when the actors went on strike, star Larry Hagman literally made off with the loot, and deservedly so, with salary raises and other perks among other things. It literaly took eight months before the whole world found out that Kristin Shepard shot J.R.

  • "Who Shot J.R.?", by Gary Burbank w/ Band McNally, which was a Top 100 hit single that year.

    Monty Python's "Contractual Obligation" album was one of the top comedy albums of 1980.

  • "I Bet You They Won't Play This Song On The Radio", by Monty Python

    Speaking of the above tune's title, one of the top demented records of 1980 was a song Dr. Demento was not allowed to play on most of the stations carrying the show. It had to do with the American hostage crisis that began the previous November and a major International news story of 1980, and the man whose picture was glued to dartboards all across America, the ruler of Iran, the Ayatollah!

  • "Ayatollah", by Steve Dahl Teenage Radiation, which got a lot of requests, but couldn't get played because it was too politically sensitive.
  • "Psycho Chicken (Clucked)", by The Fools

    And in the background, we hear a song from "The Empire Strikes Back" LP

    It was the year 1980 that Barnes and Barnes, Bill Mumy and Robert Haymer, put out their first album that's recently been rereleased on CD.

  • "Party In My Pants", by Barnes & Barnes, from "Voobaha", just rereleased on CD on Oglio Records with lots of bonus tracks

    This novelty song was the first big song about novelty songs. Pac-Man fever would arrive the next year.

  • "Space Invaders", by Uncle Vic

    One of the most delightfully peculiar releases of 1980 was The Residents Commerical album, with 40 songs, each one a minute long, like a commercial.

  • "Moisture", by The Residents

    in the background, we hear, of course, the theme of the "Dallas" TV show.

    Actually, this song arrived in November 1979, but this song reached its peak in early 1980. It's based on the Play Doh figure featured on occasion back then on the TV show "Saturday Night Live" that gets rearranged and destroyed by Mr. Hands and Mr. Sluggo every time. The keeper of the playlists, Jeff Morris, might be able to correct Dr. Demento, but Dr. D doesn't think this song has been played on his show for over a decade.

  • "Mr. Bill (original version)", by Meyer & Drake, who sent a lot of demented recordings in those days from the late 70s thru the early 80s.

    Events in 1980

    01/12, R.C., "Rapper's Delight" by Sugarhill Gang peaked at #36 on the pop singles chart.

    01/18, it was the day that Disco died when Studio 54 owners in New York, Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager, were sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison for tax evasion and fined $20,000. Pundits point to this moment when Studio 54 lost its directors, it lost its direction. Steve Dahl, a well-known hater of disco music, could not be reached for comment as he was probably celebrating its eventual demise.

    01/19, R.C., "Money" by The Flying Lizards peaked at #50 on the pop singles chart.


    01/22, "Comedy Is Not Pretty" album by Steve Martin was certified Gold by the RIAA

    01/28, The original Ants split from Adam. This must have been a case of ... Adam ... splitting?

    02/19, Bon Scott, born Ronald Belford Scott, lead singer of heavy metal band AC/DC, dies in London. He was on tour and chokes on his own vomit after an all-night drinking binge in London. His death comes just months after the band scores its first big American success with the album, "Highway To Hell." He was 33 years old.

    02/23, R.C., "I Don't Like Mondays" by The Boomtown Rats peaked at #73 on the pop singles chart.

    03/04, the Beatles' "Rarities" album was released in the U.S.

    03/14, "Richard Pryor's Greatest Hits" album by Richard Pryor was certified Gold by the RIAA

    03/21, "Who Shot J.R.?" It is night, and coldhearted J.R. Ewing sits in his office alone. And no wonder: In the course of the previous 50 minutes, he has managed to alienate, infuriate, and betray most of Texas, and all of his relatives. It's Miller time! Then a door in the outer office opens and someone enters. "Who's there?" J.R. asks. BLAM! He clutches his chest. BLAM! He hits the floor, exhales and...dies? The following November, more than 80 million viewers -- nearly as many as voted in the presidential election that month -- tuned in to Dallas for the resolution of this tantalizing cliffhanger. In case you forgot: It was Kristin who wounded J.R. It spawned a song by Gary Burbank "Who Shot J.R.?" that got airplay on country radio and the Dr. Demento Show.

    04/05, McGarrett Catches Wo Fat!, Last first-run Hawaii Five-O episode where Steve apprehends his longtime archenemy. Book him, Dano, finally! The series left the CBS sked April 26 after a successful 12-year run.

    04/10, on the "Tonight Show with Johnny Carson," Carson and guest David Letterman discuss the premiere date of Letterman's upcoming morning show on NBC.

    04/11, "Fridays", TV Variety, debut on ABC. It was a lame attempt to imitate NBC's Saturday Night Live, but it did make Michael Richards famous enough to land as Cosmo Kramer on "Seinfeld", and Larry David who cocreated "Seinfeld" with Jerry Seinfeld in 1989.

    04/11, "Mickey Mouse Disco" album by Mickey Mouse was certified Gold

    04/18, why are Bob Geldof and The Boomtown Rats appearing on ABC's late night series "Fridays"? To let everyone know that "I Don't Like Mondays"

    04/22, "Love Stinks" album by J. Geils Band was certified Gold by the RIAA

    04/25, "Life In Hell", Comic Strip, by Matt Groening, debuts.

    05/21, "The Empire Strikes Back," the second part of the second triology of Star Wars (hence Part V), opened in movie theaters in the USA.

    05/24, R.C., "Rock Lobster" by B-52's peaked at #56 on the pop singles chart.

    05/26, "Blues Brothers (soundtrack)" album by Blues Brothers was released

    05/31, R.C., "Love Stinks" by J. Geils Band peaked at #38 on the pop singles chart.

    06/00, Capitol Records, convinced that Weird Al Yankovic is a one hit wonder, dropped him after just six months.

    06/01, Ted Turner's Cable News Network (CNN), providing round-the-clock TV newscasts, made its debut as television's first all-news service, vowing to stay on the air until the world ends. The man who played Darth Vader identifies the station: "This is CNN."

    06/07, R.C., "Cars" by Gary Numan peaked at #9 on the pop singles chart.


    06/14, R.C., "Theme From New York, New York" by Frank Sinatra peaked at #32 on the pop singles chart.

    06/15, on KMET in Los Angeles, Weird Al Yankovic performed the punk version of Debbie Boone's hit "You Light Up My Life" during the local version of the Dr. Demento Show.

    06/16, "The Blues Brothers" movie starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd premiered in Chicago. The pair, formerly of NBC's "Saturday Night Live", played Jake and Elwood Blues. James Brown, Ray Charles, and Aretha Franklin performed. Cab Calloway also appeared with a rendition of his classic "Minnie the Moocher".

    06/23, NEW ON TV Comic DAVID LETTERMAN hosts a 90 minute daytime variety and talk show on NBC. But while some fans love his work, audiences in general doesn't, and the show will last for just 4 months

    07/02, "Airplane!" starring Robert Hays and featuring Leslie Nielsen and Lloyd Bridges, crashed into movie theaters in the U.S.A.

    07/17, Ronald Reagan formally accepts Republican nomination for president.

    07/19, R.C., "Who Shot J.R.?" by Gary Burbank with Band McNally peaked at #67 on the pop singles chart.

    07/19, R.C., "It's Still Rock And Roll To Me" (which also went gold this day) by Billy Joel peaked at #1 on the pop singles chart; Later this summer, Weird Al Yankovic relased a parody of Joel's single and redubbed it "It's Still Billy Joel To Me", which remains an unreleased tape heard exclusively for the Dr. Demento Show.

    07/21, draft registration began again in the United States for 19-and 20-year-old men. Guess what age the author was at the time? Uh-ohh... Frank Zappa released a single that year called "I Don't Wanna Get Drafted" in protest to the action. Excerpt: "Rollerskates and disco, they're so lots of fun, I'm too young and stupid to operate a gun."

    07/24, Peter Sellers, British actor and comedian, died. He was noted for his film roles in "Dr. Strangelove" and the "Pink Panther" movies, as well as the BBC radio series "The Goons."

    07/26, R.C., "Gimme Some Lovin'" by Blues Brothers peaked at #18 on the pop singles chart.

    08/09, R.C., "Empire Strikes Back (Medley)" by Meco peaked at #18 on the pop singles chart.

    09/10, "Blues Brothers (soundtrack)" album by Blues Brothers was certified Gold by the RIAA

    09/13, R.C., "All Out Of Love" by Air Supply peaked at #2 on the pop singles chart; funny that the first guitar riffs of that song is very similar to those of the 1978 demented hit "Dead Puppies" by Odgen Edsl.

    09/14, "Weird Al" Yankovic recorded "Another One Rides The Bus" for a Placebo EP live on The Dr. Demento Show on the late KMET-FM 94.7 in Los Angeles, Calif. Damascus doing the deep bass voice during the chorus and the bass drum-like boom was done by John Bermuda Schwartz who met Weird Al that same night.

    09/25, a sad day in rock and roll history. Led Zeppelin drummer John "Bonzo" Bonham was found dead in his bed of asphyxiation on his own vomit after drinking forty measures of vodka on the eve of the band's U.S. tour. The group decided he cannot be replaced and disbanded. John Bonham was 32.

    10/04, R.C., "Another One Bites The Dust" by Queen peaked at #1 on the pop singles chart; "Weird Al" parodied that into "Another One Rides The Bus" that he recorded live on the air at KMET-FM that same fall.

    10/14, "Chipmunk Punk" album by Chipmunks was certified Gold by the RIAA

    10/16, according to date estimates, the ground-breaking variety show "Bizarre" starring John Byner, late of Soap, and Bob Einsten debut on the Showtime pay channel. What was groundbreaking was that unlike regular broadcast TV, you can say words that appear in George Carlin's Seven Dirty Words routine. You can also show boobies, just like in an R-rated movie! The show lasted about 4 years. Call this The John Byner Comedy Half-Hour Blue, complete with Einstein, who also co-starred with host Byner there, bringing his Super Dave Osbourne to several Bizarre episodes.

    10/24, "The David Letterman Show", TV Talk Show; last aired on NBC daytime. It won Emmys the following May and returned on NBC's late night sked in Feb 1982.

    10/27, The first total Internet crash took place in its earliest days when the U.S defence department's prototype Internet - ARPANET - caught a virus.

    11/03, on his last day of a long campaign, presidential candidate Ronald Reagan told a heckler to "Ah, shut up!" and got a cheering ovation from his audience.

    11/04, Republican Ronald Reagan won the White House defeating President Carter by a strong margin. Republicans also won a majority of the seats in the U.S. Senate. Carter was in tears over his agonizing defeat.

    11/07, "You Can Tune A Piano, But You Can't Tuna Fish" album by R.E.O. Speedwagon was certified Platinum by the RIAA

    11/08, R.C., "Private Idaho" by B-52's peaked at #74 on the pop singles chart.

    11/15, R.C., "Whip It" by Devo peaked at #14 on the pop singles chart.

    11/21, an estimated 83 million viewers tuned in to the CBS prime-time soap opera Dallas to find out the answer to that summer long cliffhanger: "Who Shot J.R.?"; It turned out to be his sister-in-law Kristin Shephard, played by Mary Crosby; the season-ending March episode of "Dallas" began the tradition of season-ending cliff-hangers; Dallas also pioneered the "shower"/"dream" season. The jilted mistress was seen holding the smoking gun after a summer of viewers asking that haunting question, "Who Shot J.R.?" Eighty percent of all viewers watched the show, a 53.3 rating.

    11/29, R.C., "Turning Japanese" by The Vapors peaked at #36 on the pop singles chart.

    12/06, Bill Paxton presented his long-form video of the Barnes & Barnes demented tune "Fish Heads" on "Saturday Night Live."

    12/08, the comic strip "Bloom County" debut; it lasted through Aug 6, 1989.

    12/22, Stiff Records released an album titled "The Wit and Wisdom of Ronald Reagan." The record contained no sound whatsoever.

    12/27, R.C., "Merry Christmas In The NFL" by Willis "The Guard" & Vigorish (Buckner & Garcia) peaked at #82 on the pop singles chart.

    12/27, R.C., "What Can You Get A Wookiee For Christmas (When He Already Owns A Comb?)" by Star Wars Intergalactic Droid Choir & Chorale (Meco) peaked at #69 on the pop singles chart.

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