Weird Music

When I was a kid, I listened to the "Dr. Demento Show" religiously. It played on the local radio station on Sunday nights. A couple of friends of mine would also listen, and the next morning at school we would compare notes about which songs made us laugh the most, which ones we thought were just stupid, etc. I often taped the shows so I could collect the funniest songs, and I spent hours copying the best songs from each week onto a single tape.

Thus began a certain passion for weird music. Partly, my father is to blame -- he had been a DJ at a couple Massachusetts radio stations in the 1960s, and took home many of the 45's the station didn't want. Some of my earliest musical experiences were with these 45s, and there's some pretty bizarre stuff in there. Just like marijuana leads to heroin, those 45s led me to my current situation -- all sorts of stuff in my iTunes library that is utterly without redeeming social importance.

I was going through some of my father's records last weekend, and discovered the stash of 45s. What I really wanted to find was one that had remained in my memory as just about the worst record I'd ever heard in my life. I couldn't remember the singer, but I knew it was a rendition of "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" by someone who, I remember my father telling me, was a rabbi trying to get young people to realize that rabbis can be, you know, cool. (Later, I would spend a year teaching at a yeshiva, so got to know plenty of rabbis. Some of them can, indeed, be pretty darn cool.)

I found the record. A 45 with four songs on it sung by Sam Chalpin. It was as hilariously awful as I remembered. Now that we have this internet thing, I decided to see if anybody else had heard of Chalpin, and if the LP mentioned on the 45 (My Father the Pop Singer) actually existed. I also wanted to see if there was an MP3 of the song, because I really wanted some other folks to hear it.

First, the song. An MP3 of it can be found at this extraordinary collection of links -- scroll down to "Oytunes". (And while you're there, check out some of the others. 2 Live Jews! Oh, how I loved them when they were on Dr. D!)

Now to Sam Chalpin. The first thing I discovered with the Google was this article from Spectropop about the making of My Father the Pop Singer -- yes, it does exist as an LP, and the legendary Ahmet Ertegun apparently signed it to Atlantic himself! It's a somewhat sad story, though, of an obnoxious son forcing his unwitting father to make a fool of himself. But some more digging led me to this Batman message board (the album includes Chalpin's rendition of the TV show theme) where Sam Chalpin's grandson says, "As for the album itself, it was recorded as a comedy. A gag. My grandfather believe it or not WAS a good singer. He used to be a cantor for his temple. That album was basically clowning around." Some interesting conversation ensues.

Further googling didn't turn up much, but I did find this excellent collection of strange MP3s, where Sam Sachs is compared to Chalpin (though I don't find him quite as humorous). Don't miss the two songs there by the medical glee club The Four Skins. Really. You can download the whole collection as one big zip file ... and, of course, I did....

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