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1981: The Demented Year in Review

What a year 1981 was! 1981 was a wonderful year in terms of novelty music and subjects.

This was the year an actor took the oath in office, Indiana Jones packed them into theaters, people were puzzled over Rubik's Cube, Eddie Murphy and Joe Piscopo virtually saved Saturday Night Live from death, Luke defeats the Casadine freeze machine that put Port Charles on ice, Dallas was joined by another soaper, Dynasty, MTV signed on the cablewaves playing nothing but interesting music videos, and Charles and Di had a huuuuge wedding seen my billions worldwide, as well as another fictional wedding blown up for the soap supercouple Luke and Laura, and, of course, Valerie Bertinelli married Eddie Van Halen, breaking the hearts of many guys, except probably the gay guys. We said goodbye to John Boy and the rest on The Waltons after nine years and was first told to be careful out there on Hill Street Blues. Needless to mention, D.T. turned 21 that year and got his first job.

Getting back to the president, 200 million people were trying to get used to the idea of Ronald Reagan as president. This was the first of a great number of novelty songs this president inspired over his eight-year reign as the President...

  • "The Ronnie Reagan Rag", by Dale Gonyea

    This was the #1 song by a landslide, and it's his followup of his megahit "Another One Rides The Bus" song from the year before. This is not the redone song he done for his 1985 version with the full band he recorded for "Dare to Be Stupid", but this is the demo that we heard for the first four years...

  • "Yoda (demo)", by "Weird Al" Yankovic, found on the 1998 Demento Society CD.

    The song "Bette Davis Eyes" by Kim Carnes inspired more demented parodies than any other current hit in the entire history of the Dr. Demento Show. On the Funny 25 countdown from 1981, Dr. Demento recalls the parodies that were made in a tribute. All this began with the song that many music experts said was the biggest hit of 1981...

  • "Bette Davis' Eyes (bit)", by Kim Carnes

    ...well the story actually began in 1975 when Jackie DeShannon recorded the hit that she wrote...

  • "Bette Davis' Eyes (bit)", by Jackie DeShasnnon

    ...the demented part of the story began when Kim Carnes' song hit #1 on the pop charts and this record came our way...

  • "Jimmy Durante Nose (bit)", by Vince Sanchez

    ...and then a record from Texas...

  • "Colonel Sander's Thighs (bit)", by Rotunda

    ...and of course, this one...

  • "Marty Feldman Eyes (bit)". by Bruce Baby Man Baum

    ...also we had "Lou Ferrigno Thighs", "Leonard Nimoy's Ears", and lots of other parodies that year.

    "Weird Al" Yankovic, meanwhile, was beginning to get his band together and writing lots of his songs that would turn up in his debut album in 1983.

  • "Stop Draggin' My Car Around (demo)", by "Weird Al" Yankovic, a 1981 demo version

  • "Rock And Roll Doctor", by Travesty, Ltd., a comedy group from Washington D.C., who sent this tape along a year before they would release it on their album, and that but remained #9 for the year and has been a favorite for many years.

    While we're on the subject of medicine, as I mentioned earlier, the heroic Luke Spencer married Laura Baldwin and the Mr. Freeze storyline has captivated many viewers and turned "General Hospital" into such a pheonenom that it was almost unthinkable that it once was considered for cancellation three years back. But in any case, the year 1981 had a rarity, a novelty song paying tribute to a soap opera that actually hit the Top 40 charts and it was #23 that year on the Funny 25 countdown...

  • "General Hospi-Tale", by The Afternoon Delights. Ironically, they were rapping about the storyline from the previous year. OK, so now you know that I was hooked madly. I dug that Laura lady.

    Need I mention that a star of the same soap, Rick Springfield, had his music career rejuvinated as well as being a soap hunk that year.

    Here is a syntheized song, in 1981, as the so-called new wave futique songs were signified with the use of synthesizers as a major component of a band. This German band as I suppose was from their landmark album "Computer World", which was a digital consciousness awareness album showcasing the beginnings of electronic music on the pop charts.

  • "Pocket Calculator", by Kraftwerk

    This tape got lots of requests. Tell us if attitudes have changed since 1981...

  • "Bomb In The Mail", by Bob Tombasco

    That song was years before we came to know about the Unabomber.

    1981 was also a year when disco medleys of old hits, big band tunes, classical tunes, Beatles tunes, and what have you, with disco beats added in were very big. Ivor mixed together some of the current hits of the time.

  • "Bras On 45", by Ivor Biggun & The D. Kups

    the Marvin The Paranoid Android character was based on The Hitchhiker's Guide to The Galaxy, which started out as a radio series on the BBC in England, and also became a series of best-selling novels and a TV series. That British single from 1981 features the original voice of Marvin on the BBC, Stephen Moore, and it was written by the man who created the whole thing, Douglas Adams...

  • "Marvin", by Marvin The Paranoid Android

    After the original "Marvin" became a hit in England, they created this sequel, "Marvin, I Love You", which was also successful.

    Events in 1981

    01/00, R.C., "Weird Al" Yankovic's single "Another One Rides the Bus" peaked at #103 on the Billboard pop singles chart

    01/00, Pac Man the video game was invented and debut in arcades setting off a fever unprecented since disco.

    01/00, "Weird Al" Yankovic records "Mr. Frump In The Iron Lung" and "Gotta Boogie" for a Placebo EP.

    01/05, science fiction fans "don't panic" when the miniseries "The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy" makes its British debut. The series won't cross the Atlantic for two years.

    01/19, "Weird Al" Yankovic recorded "Happy Birthday" for a Placebo EP.

    01/20, Ronald Reagan was inaugurated as the 40th president of the United States. That same day, 52 American hostages were released by Iran after 444 days in captivity. In the eight years that followed, Reagan was the subject of hundreds of funny records heard all over morning radio and Dr. Demento.

    01/31, R.C., "The Tide Is High" by Blondie peaked at #1 on the pop singles chart. Barnes and Barnes parodied it into "That Was Number One".

    02/00, "Weird Al" Yankovic released his Placebo EP featuring "Another One Rides The Bus", "Gotta Boogie", "Happy Birthday", and "Mr. Frump In The Iron Lung".

    02/19, The New York State Supreme Court ruled that George Harrison was found guilty of plagiarism and ordered to pay the owners of the 1963 song (The Chiffons) "He's So Fine" $587,000. They claimed similarities with his 1970 hit "My Sweet Lord." He was ordered to pay over a half-million dollars in damages to ABKCO Music. ABKCO was owned by former Apple Corps manager Allen Klein, who left the BEATLES label acrimoniously. Of all the riffs, chords, melodies, octaves and notes out there, George had to go and pick those in particular. What are the odds of that?

    02/20, on "Fridays" on ABC, Andy Kaufman ruins every sketch in this live broadcast of the ABC's answer to "SNL." Toward show's end, Andy gets in a scuffle with cast members as the horrified audience looks on.

    02/21, Charles Rocket in a Saturday Night Live skit at the end of the show clearly said the naughty "f" word live on the East coast feed of NBC-TV. At closing credits time, Charlene Tilton, the guest host, was saying goodbye to the audience when Charles Rocket, who was in a "Who Shot J.R." sketch with her in the previous segment, then asks "who the 'f' did it?" and the audience roared. Charles received a five-letter "F" word the following month...FIRED! You could say that a ... ROCKET ... was fired from New York. Oh, and "SNL" musical guest Prince also uses that same funky four-letter word in his performance of the song "Partyup."

    02/21, R.C., "Shaddap You Face" by Joe Dolce peaked at #1 on the U.K. pop singles chart.

    02/23, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" album (soundtrack) was certified Gold by the RIAA

    02/27, NBC reunites one of TV's other ooky kooky spooky family for the reunion movie, "The Munsters' Revenge." It's mad scientist Sid Caesar they're seeking revenge against, for having created robot doubles of Herman and Grandpa to rob banks.

    03/07, the new cast of "Saturday Night Live" gets an on-air pep talk from host Bill Murray, who later uses his appearance to "present Academy Awards" to original "SNL" cast members.

    03/18, Ralph Hinkley, a white guy with an afro, is chosen by The Aliens to save the planet Earth from destroying itself, with the help of an FBI agent, and a magic pair of red and black pajamas, and the suit's lost instruction manual. Barry McGuire's "Eve of Destruction" is the only thing that schoolteacher Ralph Hinkley's car stereo can tune in. Sigh, if only he hadn't lost the instruction book. "The Greatest American Hero" takes flight for 45 episodes, only 40 of which are shown on ABC. DC Comics threatens to sue the creators of "The Greatest American Hero" because -- believe it or not -- they consider it too similar in concept to "Superman."

    03/21, "Weird Al" Yankovic gave a live performance at The Country Club in Reseda CA for Dr. Demento's 10th Anniversary live show.

    03/30, President Reagan was shot and seriously injured outside a Washington, D.C., hotel by gunman John W. Hinckley Jr., who also wounded White House news secretary James Brady, a Secret Service agent, and a District of Columbia police officer, but recovered quickly & joked about his ruined suit. As Reagan is wheeled into surgery, he quips to the doctors, "Please tell me you're Republicans." Hinckley wanted to impress actress Jodie Foster. Hinckley was later found NOT guilty by reason of insanity.

    04/11, "Bette Davis Eyes" by Kim Carnes entered the Top 40 chart.

    04/21, in a hairstylist's nightmare, "Weird Al" Yankovic makes his first nationwide TV appearance on NBC's "Tomorrow" with Tom Snyder.

    05/00, Second City Television (TV Variety) last aired in syndication before joining NBC-TV's late night sked.

    05/02, R.C., "Wasn't That A Party" by The Rovers peaked at #37 on the pop singles chart.

    05/06, Jerry Seinfelf first appearred on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" to do a stand-up routine.

    05/15, "Second City TV" moves from syndication to NBC expanding from 30 minutes to 90 under the new name "S.C.T.V. Network 90."

    05/15, when we last left "Gilligan's Island" (which many hoped we finally had), The Howells had turned the place into a resort with all the other characters (if not actors) returning to run the joint. After a plane crash and escape from the Universal Studios Jaws monster, we join the "Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island," there the team has to fight an orange basketball playing robot named George created by villains Martin Landau and Barbara Bain, for control of the island's supply of the energy source Supremium.

    05/16, R.C., "Bette Davis Eyes" by Kim Carnes peaked at #1 on the pop singles chart and stayed there for nine weeks (skipping over a week), inspired at least a dozen parodies, "Jimmy Durante's Nose", "Colonel Sander's Thighs", the biggest one was "Marty Feldman Eyes" by Bruce Baby Manbaum.

    06/12, "Raiders Of The Lost Ark" Motion Picture starring Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones opened in U.S.A. theaters.

    06/19, "Double Dutch Bus (12")" single by Frankie Smith was certified Gold

    06/26, Bill Murray's seventh feature film, "Stripes," opens in theaters. Among the late-night friends joining him are John Candy, Joe Flaherty, and the Dave Thomas.

    07/02, Medley singles make it to top-40 radio. The most popular is "Stars on 45" by a group of Dutch studio musicians and singers. The medly has strung together sound-alike versions of popular hits like "Sugar Sugar", "Venus" and several Beatles songs. The song hits #1 and goes gold and sets the trend for other medly hits.

    07/11, R.C., "Shaddap You Face" by Joe Dolce peaked at #53 on the pop singles chart. WhatzametaU? Why you look so sad?

    07/18, "Weird Al" Yankovic recorded "I'll Be Mellow When I'm Dead". It got many plays on the Dr. Demento Show until a newer version was relased for Al's debut album in 1993.

    07/29, Millions of people around the world watched on television as England's Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer took center stage amidst the pomp and splendor of their Royal Wedding at St. Paul's Cathedral in London. The ceremony took place in the wee small hours of the morning in America, but was still a ratings success, with coverage on all networks. 2,500 guests were in actual attendance. They separated in 1993. In retrospect, shouldn't they have spent a bit less money on the wedding?

    08/01, MTV: Music Television was launched in about 2.1 million homes as the world's first all-rock video music cable channel. First up: The Buggles' "Video Killed The Radio Star". MTV would become a driving force in mass media and pop culture. MTV's original five veejays were Martha Quinn, Nina Blackwood, Mark Goodman, J.J. Jackson and Alan Hunter. Approximately 200 videos were shown daily on the station.

    08/15, R.C., "Double Dutch Bus" by Frankie Smith peaked at #30 on the pop singles chart.

    08/28, "Urban Chipmunk" album by Chipmunks was certified Gold by the RIAA

    09/00, "Don Kirshner's Rock Concert", TV Music; last aired in syndication.

    09/00, Frank Zappa's album [32] YOU ARE WHAT YOU IS was released including the track "Goblin Girl".

    09/12, At the request of NBSmurf Smurfident Fred Silversmurf, Pierre "Peyo" Culliford's "Smurfs" smurf their way into a very smurfy Smurferday morning Smurftoon, where they help smurf the lineup into big smurf for the next 9 smurfsons. Created by Peyo Culliford in '57

    09/20, "Weird Al" Yankovic gave a live performance at Los Angeles County Fair in Pomona CA and Live on the KMET-FM Dr. Demento show.

    09/21, on "General Hospital", Luke Spencer attempts to stop the Cassadines from freezing the world with their "Ice Princess" weather machine. Now what does this remind me of, by gum? Ah yes, it's reminiscent of Batman and Robin foiling the evil Mr. Freeze in those old 60's ABC shows.

    09/22, "Double Dutch Bus (7")" single by Frankie Smith was certified Gold by the RIAA

    10/03, R.C., "Genreal Hospi-Tale" by The Afternoon Delights peaked at #33 on the pop singles chart.

    11/17, Luke and Laura said their "I Do's" while Scotty Baldwin made an unwelcome surprise return on the ABC soap "General Hospital", whose episode was the highest rated ever in Nielsens in daytime history, ... until 1995 when the O.J. verdict was announced.

    11/30, "The Regis Philbin Show", TV Talk Show; debut on NBC.

    12/02, American pop singer Britney Spears born in Kentwood, La.

    12/12, on the cover of TV Guide: "Video Games". Other Articles: Jonathan Winters, Love Sydney

    12/12, "Weird Al" Yankovic recorded "Pacman" unreleased tape.

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