Friday, October 21, 2011

I Was Working in the Lab Late One Night

Yes, you guess correctly, I do have a 45rpm copy of Monster Mash by Bobby “Boris” Pickett. It reached #1 on Billboard in September 1962, just in time for the Halloween season. And then it did something few singles releases have every done with the same recording by the same artist, it re-enter the Top 10 some eleven years later (some sources say Monster Mash re-entered the Top 10 TWICE - at 8 and 11 years, but the 8 year event seems to be in dispute). I don’t know the full record on re-release/re-entry into the Top 10, but I’m only aware of it occurring one other time – with Chubby Checker’s The Twist (August 1960 and November 1961 – hitting #1 BOTH times). I don’t believe that feat has ever been repeated.

Some sources report that Elvis Presley thought Monster Mash was the silliest record he’d ever heard. Anyway, MM’s success shows the popularity of novelty songs, especially those from the 1960s and 1970s. Vincent Price, The Beach Boys and many others recorded covers of this hit.

Bobby Pickett was born in Somerville, Massachusetts to a father who was a theater manager. As a youngster, Bobby would watch many horror films and later incorporated impressions of them in his 1959 Hollywood nightclub act.

Pickett co-wrote Monster Mash with Leonard Capizzi in May 1962. The song was a spoof on the dance crazes popular at the time, including the Twist and the Mashed Potato, which inspired the title. The song featured Pickett's impersonations of veteran horror stars Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. It was passed on by every major record label, but after hearing the song, producer Gary S. Paxton agreed to take it on. Rocker-to-be and George Harrison friend, Leon Russell, played piano on the studio track. The single was released as being by "Bobby 'Boris' Pickett & The Crypt-Kickers".

Pickett performed his song live at Halloween shows well into his 60s, but died in 2007 due to complications from leukemia.

I’m actually not a fan of most horror movies (except the campy ones) and not big on the recent attractive-vampire trend in books and films. So this clever Lego version of Monster Mash suits me fine. Some days I feel like a Lego scientist anyway. "Rrrrrrrrr, Mash good!"


Assistant Village Idiot said...

Novelty songs seem to have gone away. I still have "The Ballad of Irving," with artificial laugh track completely out of proportion.

Michael said...

I just happened to be looking at the Wikipedia page for Queen. In 1975, Bohemian Rhapsody reached number nine in the United States and a 1992 re-release reached number two on Billboard for five weeks. I realize that is a lot later than MM. The interesting part of the story is that the re-release was prompted by its inclusion in a popular movie, Waynes World. So it actually charted higher with a completely different generation. Of course, it also indicated that it was the third best selling single in UK history, so the US lagged behind a bit. But don't get me wrong, I loved the MM and remember seeing Picket on American Bandstand lip-synching the tune.

Sponge-headed ScienceMan said...

Michael - No, I'm sure you are correct about Queen and I imagine there are a number of similar situations out there (where a popular movie brings back an old hit song), I'm just not personally aware of them. So I was hoping some readers out there might point some out. Thanks.