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Music

The 10 best spoof songs of all time

@SamWKemp

The perfect spoof is an elusive thing. We see parodies everywhere: in film, television and literature, but the most brilliant examples tend to come from the world of music. Why that is, I’m not sure – maybe because music is an industry that thrives on authenticity and integrity, which makes it all the more thrilling when that integrity is juxtaposed with childish fart jokes.

It’s also worth remembering that the best parodies closely imitate the form or genre they are attempting to mock. Spoofing a movie or a novel takes a lot of money and time while parodying a three-minute pop song can be done in a single day and for a pittance. Perhaps that’s why spoof songs are the most common form of parody.

If done well, a good parody song will appeal to fans and non-fans alike. Those who loved Nirvana when Al Yankovic’s ‘Smells Like Nirvana’ came out appreciated his attention to detail, while Cobainophiles basked in the realisation that it wasn’t just them who found the frontman’s lyrics to be utter nonsense.

Parody, by its very nature, isn’t meant to be taken seriously. That doesn’t take away from the fact that a good spoof song can elevate the genre to an art form in itself. The greatest proponents of the spoof tend to hold little reverence for the charts, for trends or for appearing cool to their fans. In this way, they can stand outside the mainstream and highlight the laughable aspects of a scene, no matter how seriously it takes itself. Of course, sometimes it’s all just a bit of fun.

The 10 best spoof songs:

‘Inner City Pressure’ – Flight of The Concords

In 2008, New Zealand’s second most successful folk duo used their songwriting chops to evoke the immortal Pet Shop Boys. Popularised by their cult series Flight Of The Concords ‘Inner City Pressure’ sees Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement don their turtlenecks, pull out their synths and paint a portrait of life on the never-never. With era-specific production and hilariously over the top English accents, ‘Inner City Pressure’ is a masterclass in the art of pastiche.

Greatest Line: “Counting coins on the counter of the 7/11 from a quarter past seven to a quarter-past seven / the manager, Bevan, starts to abuse me / hey man, I just want some meusli.”

‘Ohio Is For Emo Kids’ – Canadian Softball

With a name like Canadian Softball, it doesn’t take a genius to guess that the group’s third studio album Awkward and Depressed took aim at the emo subculture. Released in 2017, the LP was a retrospective look at all the weird aspects of the scene that emo fans were too hormone-ridden to acknowledge at the time. ‘Ohio Is For Emo Kids’ is a freakishly adept evocation of Panic At The Disco-era pop-punk, melded with screamo verses just too garbled to take seriously.

Greatest Line: “Sometimes I tear my skinny jeans / I lost my job at Dairy Queen, Dairy Queen”.

‘Boots’- The Residents

Multimedia art collective The Residents released a series of incredible spoof albums at a time when the scent of Beatles nostalgia lay heavy on the air. The group prefer to remain anonymous, so they perform wearing giant eyeball heads to disguise their identities.

Their debut album, Meet The Residents was released in 1974 on Ralph Records and saw the avant-garde troupe deliver a pastiche of John Lennon’s experimental and – some would say – masturbatory White Album track ‘Revolution 9’. Later that year, they would start work on Third Reich Rock’ n’ Roll, which saw the group cover songs from the 1950s and ’60s in an attempt to draw a parallel between rock music’s popularity and the rise of Nazism

Greatest Line: Hmm, maybe give it a listen first.

‘Big Bottom’ – Spinal Tap

How could we not? Spinal Tap are undoubtedly one of the best-loved and enduringly popular parody bands of all time. Released at the height of hair metal, This Is Spinal Tap cast an ironic gaze over the landscape of classic rock to bring music fans a parody of rock stardom in all its lycra-glad glory.

Indeed, Rob Reiner’s artful portrayal of the fictional rock group proved to be so true to life that many walked away believing that Spinal Tap was, in fact, a real British rock band.

Greatest Line: “Talk about bum cakes, my girls got ’em.”

‘Eat It’- Weird Al Yankovic

Gloriously childish and fabulously true to the original, Weird Al’s pop parody of Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It’ saw the Californian humourist isolate the aloof yet strangely affectionate brand of comedy that would make him a household name.

Complete with a shot-for-shot remake of Jackson’s original video, ‘Eat It’ was surpassed as Yankovic’s most popular song only after the release of ‘White and Nerdy’ in 2006. Like that single, ‘Eat It’s’ success lay in its contrast of rock ‘n’ roll aesthetics with distinctly self-deprecating lyrics.

Greatest Lyric: “Have some more chicken, have some more pie / it doesn’t matter if it’s boiled or it’s fried / just eat it.”

‘Cheese and Onions’ – The Rutles

After Monty Python came off air, Eric Idle set about crafting a new surreal comedy series called Rutland Weekend Television. The Rutles, the brainchild of Idle and his collaborator Neil Innes, were a fictional beat group who often featured on the show playing Beatles-inspired tracks, eventually even starring in their own mockumentary All You Need Is Cash. Their most beloved hit, ‘Cheese and Onion’ is a reinterpretation of McCartney’s ‘Let It Be’ with a more lunch-centric slant.

Greatest Line: “Do I have to spell it out? / C-H-E-E-S-E-A-N-D-O-N-I-O-N-S.”

‘Slipped My Disco’ – The Tubes

If they’d wanted to, The Tubes could have crafted seriously cosmic prog-rock albums – they had the talent. But rather than spending months locked in a studio tweaking the dial on a delay unit, they focused their efforts on bringing theatre, parody and satire into pop, pointing their collective hose at everything from sleazy British rockers to Studio 54.

You could listen to ‘Slipped My Disco’ and not even realise that it’s a jibe at the expense of Saturday Night Fever and its ilk. However, the cliche-ridden lyrics clearly point to The Tubes’ more mischievous intentions

Greatest Line “Sometimes my body does things that my brain don’t understand / I’m not the man I was / but my feet still think I am.”

‘The Intro and the Outro’ – The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band

Created by a group of art school students with an eye for absurdism, The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band attracted the public’s attention after appearing on the 1968 ITV Comedy series Do Not Adjust Your Set. Although the group started out playing a pastiche of 1920s trad jazz, they soon moved into playing more contemporary forms of rock, pop and psychedelia.

‘The Intro and the Outro’ taken from the group’s debut album, is an exhaustive monologue set to an Ellington-esque vamp, in which Vivian Stanshall introduces an increasingly unlikely selection of musicians plucked from popular culture and world history.

Greatest Lyric: “And looking very relaxed, Adolf Hitler on vibes.
Nice!”

‘Kill’ – Alberto Y Lost Trios Paranoias

In many ways, the Albertos were the northern successors of The Bonzos. Born in Manchester’s disenfranchised post-hippie underground scene, the group cultivated a reputation for artful derision coupled with adept musicality. After the fall of hippiedom, it seemed that nothing was worthy of integrity.

With this in mind, the Albertos set about parodying everyone from The Velvet Underground to – in a bizarre moment – the Bonzos themselves. ‘Kill’, a brilliantly witty spoof of The Sex Pistols’ early hits, sees Alberto Y Lost Trios Paranoias highlight the performative adolescent angst of the punk era with chugging guitars and sneering vocals.

Greatest Line: “I don’t like animals or lifting heavy weights / Gonna shoot me fingers off and carve up all me mates.”

‘Motherbanger’ – Chris Morris

Taken from his cult radio series On The Hour, Motherbanger’ sees Chris Morris expertly replicate the sound of Pixies while making Frank Back sing about wanting to have sex with his own mother both before and after her death. Its clear that Morris was a fan of the group’s work because everything about this track is spot on. The guitar parts could have come from the fret-fondling hand of Joey Santiago, just as the bassline sounds as though it could have been plucked from the mind of Kim Deal. It’s quite possible, ‘Motherbanger’ is the best parody song ever written.

Greatest Line: “Wanna whack my wand in the nearest pond / Wanna stick my spear in a stingray’s ear”