Our first pick today for The 2018 PopCult Gift Guide is a tribute album that was released early this year. It’s a testament to the power and glory of Dr. Demento.
In case you don’t know who that is, since 1974 Dr. Demento has hosted a weekly radio show devoted to the occasionally-abandoned art of novelty records, and he’s been a starmaker in the worlds of comedic music and audio bizarreness. The Dr. Demento Show holds a place in pop culture’s humor wing alongside Mad Magazine and The National Lampoon.
His biggest discovery was Weird Al Yankovic, who famously slipped him a cassette of one of his original songs when Hansen visited his high school back in the mid-1970s, but he was also responsible for bringing Barnes and Barnes, Richard Cheese, Judy Tenuta, Emo Philips and others into the mainstream. Hansen not only discovered these artists, but in many cases he nurtured and encouraged them.
last January a punk rock tribute to Dr. Demento was released by Demented Punk Records. Dr. Demento: Covered In Punk was the brainchild of John Cafiero, of Osaka Popstar, a life-long Demento fan who is also a producer and manager. The record consists of punk rock covers of classic novelty tunes that have been played on The Dr. Demento Show. The album includes new recordings by “Weird Al” Yankovic, the Misfits, the B-52’s Fred Schneider, William Shatner, the late Adam West, Los Straitjackets and more
It’s a match made in heaven, as Demento was an early champion of punk rock, playing tracks by The Ramones, The Dickies, The Sex Pistols, Ian Dury and others back before punk entered into the mainstream. Among the songs on Dr. Demento: Covered In Punk are such Dr. Demento Show favorites as “Shaving Cream,” “Surfin’ Bird,” “The Monster Mash,” “Lydia, The Tattooed Lady,” “My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mama” and Yankovic’s “Eat It.”
All but one of the 19 tunes on Dr. Demento: Covered In Punk, were recorded especially for the set. Only a never-released Joan Jett & the Blackhearts’ version of “Science Fiction/Double Feature” from The Rocky Horror Show already existed. On the record, Dr. Demento provides newly-recorded commentary between songs, so that it recreates the experience of listening to The Dr. Demento Show. It’s like an extended episode of his show, with all-new music.
The standout tracks are Adam West’s cover of the Phil Harris classic “The Thing,” and Yankovic’s first-ever studio recording of a non-parody cover, The Ramone’s “Beat On The Brat.”
Check out a sample with this music video, Osaka Popstar’s cover of the Barnes and Barnes classic, “Fish Heads”