Novelty records tapped into the fears, obsessions, fads and cultural mores of the time, using Sci-Fi, Horror movies and TV characters as their main sources of inspiration.
Deejays tired of programming wearisome ballads and repetitive rock 45s, welcomed novelty records as a means of introducing an element of surprise into their shows and this, together with positive sales, encouraged record companies to produce them in increasing quantities but there was a downside. The public were buying the songs rather than the name on the record and, in almost every case, the artists were stigmatised as one-hit wonders.
Experiments with tape speeds in the pre-digital 1950s/60s resulted in an entire sub-genre of records based on cartoon-ish voice effects. David Seville's 1958 mega-hit, Witch Doctor gave rise to Sheb Wooley's million-selling The Purple People Eater as well as lesser hits such as Jesse Lee Turner's The Little Space Girl and Rip Van Winkle by the Devotions. (Experimenting further, Seville created the Chipmunks, which he parlayed into a multi-million dollar enterprise.)
Back in 1956, two young independent producers, Buchanan and Goodman, created rock'n'roll's first novelty cut-in hit, The Flying Saucer. The inventive Goodman, who went on to make a career out of cut-ins, was also the inspiration behind Spencer and Spencer's Russian Band Stand, which sent up Russian totalitarianism at the height of the Cold War. Spoken word narratives such as Jim Backus' marvellously lascivious Delicious! and Linda Laurie's kitsch Ambrose Part 5 also proved popular.
Several titles - Yogi, Ape Call, The Little Space Girl and Ambrose Part 5 - have been digitally mastered from original tape for the first time. Previous CD re-issues of Ray Stevens' ingenious Ahab, The Arab feature the much longer LP version. The original hit 45 version is reissued here for the first time. The UK pressing of satirist Stan Freberg's The Old Payola Roll Blues Side 1 ended some 20 seconds earlier than the American version, missing the reference to payola and making nonsense of the title. We have used the American ending here.
Records such as Alley-Oop by the Hollywood Argyles and Western Movies by the Olympics, already featured in the main GA series, were left off but we've included the rare cover version of Alley-Oop by the Dyna-Sores, an R&B studio group which creamed off enough sales to become a minor hit in its own right.
These are the 30 novelty hits that counted, mastered from the best possible sources, in a lavishly illustrated, fully annotated 32-page package. Each record relates seamlessly to the next, and it is this comforting homogeneity that gives the Special Novelty Edition" an almost poetic charm. "The Golden Age Of American Rock'n'Roll" is a trademark of quality and this "Special Novelty Edition" is likely to become one of the most popular in the series. "Delicious!
By Rob Finnis