I have always detested children’s music. Even when I was a kid. I found it pandering and lame. My parents were older — both in their mid-40s — when I was born, the youngest of five kids. So their doting parent days were long gone. I think I had a copy of Peter And The Wolf on vinyl, but it was likely purchased for one of my older siblings in the 1960s — perhaps not even by one of my parents.
I preferred listening to their Victor Borge, Frank Sinatra (At The Sands) and Oscar Peterson (Night Train) records — but better yet, my dad was always willing to pick me up something specific that I’d seen on TV, usually on The Muppet Show. This is how I started my record collection — at age 4 — with Elton John’s Greatest Hits Vol. II, School’s Out and Alice Cooper’s Greatest Hits, Autoamerican by Blondie and Turnstiles by Billy Joel. That last one actually was my first vinyl record. It came in my stocking from Santa in 1977. I never asked for it, but I still have it.
I think the only proper kids’ record in our home was my sister’s copy of Sesame Street Fever, in which I only had a marginal interest. I was more keen on her copy of Chicago Transit Authority.
My friends in elementary school were listening to things like those awful Father Abraham & The Smurfs records, or Raffi and Sharon, Lois & Bram. I still hate that “ooples and banoonoos” song. In Grade 2 we were allowed to bring in music our teacher would put on the classroom record player during “desk work time.” I have a very clear memory of making my classmates listen to Wings At The Speed Of Sound. Even earlier, I remember teaching kindergarten classmates the lyrics to Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds. The marshmallow pies bit was popular, as I recall.
So it wasn’t until later in life that I realized just how totally insane — or at least ridiculously off the mark — some kids’ records were. I’ve come to own a few of them, because they’re pretty hilarious. One example is my copy of Pink Panther Punk — a 1981 compilation album meant to be edgy versions of popular songs, none of which were exactly Sex Pistols, Damned, Clash, Ramones or Buzzcocks covers. In fact, the reason I picked up this album (from a rural thrift shop) was because of a cover of Pink Floyd’s Another Brick In The Wall (Part II).
The fake British punk accent and the clean guitar solo slay me. I can’t say for sure who’s singing but I believe it to be John Braden. Braden was an American musician who did a boatload of Strawberry Shortcake and Barbie albums. He actually did one proper album under his own name in 1969 — Ry Cooder is on it, along with Sneaky Pete and Chris Ethridge of The Flying Burrito Brothers. Holy gawd, it’s awful. The vibrato! Someone on YouTube correctly describes it as “restrained Tiny Tim.” It’s unlistenable.
The Pink Panther Punk album has a few of Braden’s original compositions on it — Panther On The Prowl, It’s Punk and Rock And Roll Panther. These are shuffled into a curious stew of decidedly non-punk contemporary hits like What A Fool Believes (Doobie Brothers) and It’s Still Rock And Roll To Me (Billy Joel). The closest thing to punk on here is the cover of Blondie’s Call Me.
But there’s even weirder shit out there to torment your children with. Of course lots of it can be filed under “religious indoctrination.” Watered-down singalongs of the convoluted things your parents believe. Janeen Jacobs Brady made about a dozen records about stuff kids love like Mormonism, the metric system and drugs.
The album Songs For A Mormon Child contains the killer I Want To Be A Mother and Did You Say Your Prayers Last Night. (And party every day.) Good gawd, Songs For A Mormon Child is currently available on Discogs for $660.
Is this really what kids want to listen to? I remember being in Grade 5 or 6 and the biggest musical thrill being blasting Piss On The Wall by J. Geils Band at recess, or sneakily listening to a tape of The Rodeo Song by Garry Lee & The Showdown. I actually found a copy of that record (Welcome To The Rodeo) for $1 at a thrift store.
One thing you’re sure to find in every thrift shop these days is Bill Cosby albums. Firmly in the “bizarre kids” category, at least retrospectively, is his album Bill Cosby Talks To Kids About Drugs.
Then there’s a whole series of albums by a terrifying ghoul named Slim Goodbody. Just picture The Greatest American Hero with his guts showing. Slim Goodbody wore a body suit designed to show the inside of his body — muscles, veins, organs, etc. Kind of like those transparent human body pages in the encyclopedia, if they were sponsored by Kraft (as Slim‘s albums were).
Songs like Large And Lovely Liver will make any kid want to dance. That is, unless they know that hepatomegaly (enlarged liver) is usually a sign of liver disease. Perhaps Slim Goodbody needs to lay off the sherry.
Another favourite of mine is puppet albums. Puppets are visual entertainment, primarily. Even as a kid I knew the puppet albums had no puppets singing on them — the just the people who normally voiced those puppets. Stranger still, there are even ventriloquist records. Think about that for a second. Right? Now, combine the insanity of ventriloquist records with evangelicals and you’ve really got something. I’m not sure what child would be comforted or entertained by an arm-held, hard-faced, pious little imp with dead eyes and a name that always ends in Y — Timmy, Marcy, Doody, Ricky, Randy Dandy and Woody.
Perhaps the best use of these records is the excellent resource they are for Photoshop embellishments. One of my personal faves: Marcy Sings Sabbath Songs. This might be fake, but When Satan Knocks At My Heart’s Door is altogether too real.
I’ll stick to Meat Puppets for my own kids, thanks.
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Area Resident is an Ottawa-based journalist, recording artist, music collector and re-seller. Hear (and buy) his music on Bandcamp, email him HERE, follow him on Instagram and check him out on Discogs.