When I was about ten, I was at a friend’s house when a song came on the radio. It sounded at first like just a regular pop song about lost love, when the singer’s voice suddenly went from a calm tenor to a wailing soprano. To my horror, I realized the man was going insane, and the song was all about his steady descent into madness. He’d alternate from measured, reasonable sounding speech, to the desperate gibberings of the deranged.
I was listening in mounting sympathy and horror when my friend told me we should go outside. I followed, to embarrassed to ask to stay and hear the end. I couldn’t get the image of the poor lunatic, probably trussed up in a padded cell, out of my head. I kept trying to discuss it with my friend, who was more interested in talking about the recently released TERMINATOR movie.
I never could forget that haunting song. I often hoped that maybe it had ended on a happy note, but I knew in my heart that the poor singer was doomed to be a lost soul. This was in the days before the internet, so I never could track it down. Years later, I finally heard it on one of my uncle’s novelty records, right after ‘A Boy Named Sue.’
I remember someone had done a comedy bit to that in a jr. high talent show…bizarre, to say the least…
I love this goofy song! When I was in the 6th grade, a local radio station played this often. I would even call to request it because I enjoyed listening to it so much. I was very upset when that radio station changed to country music. It was a long time before I was able to hear this song again. Thanks for reminding me about it , Brian!
Oh man – there were a few songs that freaked me out when I was a kid. One was The Logical Song by Supertramp. I must have been about 10 when I heard it on the radio and the part where he keeps saying can someone please tell me who I am totally freaked me out.
I didn’t hear They’re Coming to Take Me Away till I was way older – but if I had heard it as a kid I’m sure it would have freaked me out too.
I like the remake that Lard did with Jello Biafra singing much better than the original. JB always had a voice that sounded like lunatic ravings.
Back in the early 1980s, my family uncovered some old 45s at my Grand Mother’s house. This was one of them. I think I played it till my Mom was ready to kill me.
A favorite song from my seventies childhood. I had the 45 and would cradle my portable plastic record player on the window sill and blast this song as loud as possible (which wasn’t very loud on my crappy phonograph.) The flipside was the song in reverse. Brilliant.
This song creeped me out when I heard it on Dr. Demento… along with other things he’s play… like Fish Heads (the video also scared me).
The Doc had a Halloween show that showcased all the spookier ones…
I used to sit there listening to Dr. Demento with the Radio Shack tape-recorder at the ready. There were quite a few novelty songs that crossed over into spooky-town (even if from a humorous perspective). The Cockroach That Ate Cincinatti (Rose & the Arrangement), Cemetary Girls (Barnes & Barnes), I Want My Baby Back (Jimmy Cross—in which the singer pining for his lost love ends up DIGGING UP HER CORPSE! ), Poisoning Pigeons In the Park (Tom Lehrer, describing his psychotic new hobby), Dinner With Drac (Zacherle), etc.
The first time I really became aware of this song was when I was listening to K-Earth 101 one day and they played it, dedicating it to Saddam Hussien.
My brothers probably had played it before then, of course. They used to torment me by singing Barnes & Barnes Fish Heads until I cried.
Good post! I also remember this song though I found it more amusing than creepy. Felt the same way about Fish Heads too. Funny that someone mentioned finding Supertramp’s The Logical Song disturbing, oddly enough I’m not the only one! Actually, Supertramp, for me in general, were always rather disturbing. As far as other “standard” rock/pop songs go, The Cars’ Moving In Stereo always creeped me out as a kid.
I remember nearly crying when my relay team at day camp picked ‘Fish Heads’ as the team name.
I had the 45 too and like someone else said , the flip side was the song backwards.
Recently a friend…cant remember which one…mentioned the song like they had JUST recently heard it for the first time and said it was “sick” and “disturbing”. Wow. Really? I always thought it was funny.
By the way, I remember when I was in high school my best friend got dumped by her boyfriend and we wrote a similar song called “Baskets”…because it was about someone who got dumped, went crazy, was institutionalized and now spent their days weaving baskets in the sanitarium. The last verse of the song is pretty much lunatic ravings of “Baskets…Baskets…mwahahahaha…Bassskkkkketttttttts”. We sang it for a guy we knew once and he was genuinely horrified.
The guy on the album art looks like he’s jerking off.. :-O
My favorite version is the Nurse With Wound one, styled “The Burial of the Sardine”.
(And most commonly available on a Current 93 album, no less, and nobody’s got it on YouTube…)
There is in fact a happy ending to the saga of Napoleon…well, cheerful, anyway. The last song on the LP is sung by “Josephine XV” and is titled “I’m Happy They Took You Away”.