Before there was The Backstreet Boys and before there was New Kids on the Block there was B.S.O.H.C. What, you never heard of B.S.O.H.C? Well then obviously you did not hang out in my friend Dave's backyard in the late eighties. If you had you would have seen what I consider to be the greatest band to ever play in his backyard (to the best of my knowledge). But what does B.S.O.H.C stand for?
In the eighties they tried to do a reboot of the classic TV western Bonanza, called Bonanza: The Next Generation. It was about the sons of the original characters now running the Ponderosa. None of the original cast was on the show, but I was a Bonanza fan so I decided to watch. At one point in the show this hulking cowboy is trespassing on the Ponderosa so naturally the sons of Adam and Little Joe get into a fight with him. When it's over they ask the man who he is. With great dramatic fanfare he states, "I am the Bastard Son of Hoss Cartwright". It had to be one of the cheesiest lines I had ever heard so naturally we took it as the name of our band. We became the Bastard Sons of Hoss Cartwright (B.S.O.H.C). Eventually the name was pared down to just Bastard Sons but the Hoss Cartwright part was always implied.
But before we needed a name for the band, we needed the band and before that we needed songs to play. Let's start there.
I had started writing poetry when I was a freshman in high school at just about the same time all that angst about life hits you routinely in the face. I used to take my note book and sit up on the grassy knoll that was wedged neatly near the overpass of Routes 9 and 516 in Old Bridge. Not exactly Walden's Pond, but it worked for me.
When I grew a bit older I realized these weren't poems, they were lyrics. The major drawback was that I didn't know anything about music. But fortunately for me my mother had some forethought on that matter. A few years earlier she had won some money in the state lottery and went out and bought a piano with the hope that someone in the family would learn how to play. That piano sat in our living room for a very long time collecting dust and car keys and loose change. When I moved out I took that piano with me and with my revelation that I was writing lyrics I tried to teach myself how to play. As it turned out, this self-taught musician had an idiot for a teacher.
I continued to write lyrics without any real hope of ever seeing them performed. Then in the mid-eighties, after I started working at AT&T, I made friends with people who were actual musicians. We decided to form a "band" (air-quotes intended) and we got together to play some covers. I went out and bought an electric keyboard with the hope I could fake my way through until I could actually figure out how to play it. In the band was Phil (Blind Dog) on guitar, Nick (who ironically did not have a nickname) played bass, Lou (Louba) was our singer. Periodically Rob (Rockin' Rob) would stop by and join us, and then there was Dave (Dave) on drums. The joke was that Dave wasn't a real musician, he was a drummer.
As I stated before, music was not my calling, but I tried. After playing together for a while, and after asking Phil for the umpteenth time what the chord structure for Radio Radio was, Lou turned to me and asked, "Why don't you just go and buy the book?"
I almost hit him with my keyboard.
All bands go through their contentious period; wanting to kill your band mate just meant we were on the right track.
Then after muddling our way through Elvis Costello and The Clash covers (and by muddling I mean they put up with me) we decided to do original songs. I would write the lyrics and Phil would write the music. Finally I would hear my lyrics played live (I didn't say well -- I said live). My first song was New York City Rain. I wrote it with haunting noir images in mind; rain slicked city streets filled with faceless shadows. In my heart it called out for a bluesy back beat.
Phil turned it into a reggae song and sonofabitch if it didn't sound great as a reggae song (damn you, Blind Dog).
We mostly played at Dave's house with our only audience being the life-sized plastic cow that his parents kept on the back lawn. As far as I could tell that cow loved us; never a word of complaint. Dave's mother sat in on a few songs and played keyboards. I knew then how Pete Best felt when Ringo Starr showed up.
Our next song was something called Burning Waste of Time. Actually, it was called Burning Sense of Time, but Dave wrote that one and, as I said before, he was a drummer.
The next song I wrote was called Suicide Queen, an upbeat little number about a woman committing suicide outside of New York City. Suicide Queen contained some of my favorite lines like the following: 'you were like Alice/In a Wonderland gone mad/Or Dorothy traveling down through OZ with a smoking gun in your hand'. Take that New Direction on the Block Boyz; B.S.O.H.C. was not going to be your average boy band.
But things fell apart and the band broke up when I wrote a three page Opus called Vikings. It was about rival street gangs and a final deadly battle that culminated with stolen '61 Buick LeSabre and a Viking funeral somewhere in the streets of Manhattan. The band just didn't understand my vision (actually, neither did I).
That was it -- we all went our separate ways musically. We are all still friends and I still have the piano so you never know when a reunion tour could be in the works.
"And I looked at him and my blood ran cold/And I said: "My name is 'Sue!' How do you do!" This 1969 novelty song isn't so farfetched in today's society where celebrities select very interesting, offbeat names for their offspring. The song became Johnny Cash's biggest hit on the pop charts peaking at No. 2.
"May the bird of paradise fly up your nose/May an elephant caress you with his toes/May your wife be plagued with runners in her hose/May the bird of paradise fly up your nose." Nothing says up "up your nose with a rubber hose," quite like this 1965 attention-getter that may just be the granddaddy of all novelty songs. You can sing this song the next time someone cuts you off in traffic to ward off road rage. "May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose" went to No. 1 on the country charts and ranked 15 on the pop charts, making it LJD's most successful song of his career. It was played on pop stations even thought LJD is primarily known as a country artist.
"She was afraid to come out of the locker/She was as nervous as she could be/She was afraid to come out of the locker/She was afraid that somebody would see/One, two, three, four, tell the people what she wore ..." Brian Hyland enjoyed going to the top of the charts with this sweet bubblegum song in 1960. A little trivia from our friends at "Wikipedia": "At a time when bikini bathing suits were still seen as too risqué to be mainstream, the song prompted a sudden takeoff in bikini sales and is credited as being one of the earliest contributors to the acceptance of the suit in society." Bridget Bardot wasn't afraid to come out of the water in a bikini. I wore a one-piece because you could fit my boobs into thimbles when I was a teenager.
"I said Mr. Purple People Eater, what's your line?/He said eating purple people, and it sure is fine/But that's not the reason that I came to land/I wanna get a job in a rock 'n roll band." Sheb took "Flying Purple People Eater" to No. 1 in 1958. As a result of the novelty song's popularity, purple people have never gotten the respect they deserve in our society. See the cute animated version here.
"From my laboratory in the castle east/To the master bedroom where the vampires feast/The Ghouls all came from their humble abodes/To get a jolt from my electrodes" "Monster Mash" landed at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in October of 1962 becoming a Halloween theme song for the ages. Bobby did a spot-on voice impersonation of horror movie actor Boris Karloff. Wonder if Karloff's estate gets royalties? Maybe we should just let dead dogs -- er, monsters -- lie.
"(Alley Oop) He's the toughest man there is alive/(Alley Oop) Wearin' clothes from a wildcat's hide/(Alley Oop) He's the king of the jungle jive/(Look at that cave man go!!) (SCREAM)" The Hollywood Argyles skipped their way up to No. 1 on the charts with this song in 1960. Ally Oop is most likely a direct descendant of Larry the Rock Guy. Who knew?
"Does your chewing gum lose its flavour/On the bedpost overnight/If your mother says don't chew it/Do you swallow it in spite/Can you catch it on your tonsils/Can you heave it left and right/Does your chewing gum lose its flavour/On the bedpost overnight?" Lonnie Donegan apparently was Britain's most successful recording artist before The Beatles. He was one of the few artists to actually use a washboard to entertain his audiences. (Would I make that up?) His clever "chewing gum" song was one of his hits. If you're having a bad day, just take a listen and it'll make you tap your feet and break out into a big smile.
"When I was a little bitty boy/My grandmother bought me a cute little toy/Silver bells hanging on a string/She said it was my Ding a ling a ling." Chuck Berry (one of greatest pioneers of rock 'n' roll) took what seemed like a dirty little song, and had some fun with it. He encouraged his audiences to sing along (Mitch Miller never did this song on his sing-a-long television show.) The song explains "how the singer received a toy consisting of 'silver bells hanging on a string' from his grandmother, who calls them his ding-a-ling. The lyrics consistently exercise the double entendre with a ding-a-ling standing in for "the penis." It's harmless and fun, and it reached the top of the charts.
"Oh, yes, they call him the Streak/Fastest thing on two feet/He's just as proud as he can be of his anatomy/He goin' give us a peek." "The Mississippi Squirrel Revival," "It's Me Again, Margaret," "Ahab the Arab," and "Gitarzan" have to be honorable mentions here. I LOVE Ray Stevens and his crazy, feel-good songs! I wish he would have taken me to my senior prom in high school so I could have had a few laughs (nobody asked me because I was a wallflower). I've morphed into an adult wallflower. It's not too late to call me. It's me again, Ray.
"Trailers for sale or rent/Rooms to let, fifty cents/No phone, no pool no pets/I ain't got no cigarettes/Ah, but two hours of pushin' broom/buys an eight by twelve four-bit room/I'm a man of means by no means/King of the Road." Let's face it, Roger Miller is the Man when it comes to novelty songs. I could have picked half a dozen of his songs ("Dang Me," "England Swings," "Chug-a-Lug," "You Can't Rollerskate in a Buffalo Herd," etc.) that could have easily made this list. This 1964 song was initially inspired by a sign Roger saw in Chicago: "Trailers for sale or rent." Talented songwriters can go off on a lyrical tangent interpreting street signs or whatever moves them ... especially if they have a union card. Roger Miller is the KING of the road ... and novelty songs! (OK, we have to watch "Dang Me" here.)
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