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Napoleon XIV

The weirdest novelty record to hit the Top 40 -- indeed, a strong candidate for the weirdest hit record of any kind, period -- was Napoleon XIV's "They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!" Against a clomp-clomp tambourine beat, Napoleon spoke-chanted his manic-depressive tale of failed romance, the vocals suddenly speeding up into an unsettlingly cheerful giddiness as sirens revved up in the background. Not a single note of music was played or sung throughout the track, which zoomed up to number three in the summer of 1966, as the necessary counterpoint to Barry Sadler's insipid, similarly off-the-wall smash that year, "The Ballad of the Green Berets." The implications of a song in which the narrator describes himself going crazy and being carted off to the loony bin selling a million copies had unsettling implications for a nation that prides itself on its stability and character. It engendered great controversy and only stayed in the Top 20 for five weeks, partially because many radio stations withdrew the record from their playlists, possibly because of complaints from concerned parents and other righteous citizens.

Napoleon XIV was actually Jerry Samuels, a 28-year-old recording engineer who had previously written small hit singles for pop crooners Johnny Ray and Sammy Davis, Jr., as well as making a conventional single of his own. "They're Coming to Take Me Away" was a sophisticated production feat for its time, with a maddening beat produced by tambourines, drums, and thigh slaps. The principal drum pattern was crafted by looping a ten-second piece of tape, and Samuels varied the speed of the vocals to simulate the off-the-rails state of a man going crazy while keeping the background tempo constant. Even weirder was the flip side, "!Aaah-ah, Yawa Em Ekat ot Gnimoc Er'yeht," which was -- you guessed it -- the A-side run backwards, a blend that yielded what was probably the most unlistenable piece of vinyl of all time.

To capitalize on the left-field success of "They're Coming to Take Me Away," Samuels/Napoleon XIV quickly produced an album of variations on the theme, such as "Bats in My Belfry" and "I Live in a Split-Level Head." Most of the material (unlike the single) was not written by Samuels, but by comedy writer Jim Lehner (once the head writer for Jonathan Winters) and composer Bobby Gosh (then writing with Sammy Cahn!), and the novelty quickly wore thin over the course of an LP. "They're Coming to Take Me Away" isn't the kind of single that lends itself to formulaic follow-ups, though Samuels/Napoleon XIV did release other singles, and recorded an unreleased album in the late '60s. Considering its title, For God's Sake, Stop the Feces!, it may have been better off remaining in the can.

Samuels went on to a career as unpredictable as his hit smash, making his living for a time selling marijuana roach clips to head shops. For a couple of decades he worked the piano bars of the Philadelphia area; on a Napoleon XIV reissue CD he proudly noted that "I became probably the most popular entertainer at nursing homes and senior facilities in the Philadelphia and Delaware Valley area." (Presumably he didn't play his hit single for those audiences.) That reissue CD combined the 1966 Napoleon XIV album with some additional material from the '60s and some later tracks recorded in 1995. ~ Richie Unterberger
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: 25 All-Time Novelty Hits

2. Western Movies

3. Baby Talk

4. The All-American Boy

5. The Ballad Of Davy Crockett

6. Seven Little Girls Sitting In The Back Seat

7. Nee Nee Na Na Na Na Nu Nu

9. Shaving Cream

10. Hot Rod Lincoln

11. Alley-Oop

12. Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor (On The Bedpost Over Night)

13. Mr. Custer

14. Yogi

15. The Mummy

16. Surfin' Bird

19. Martian Hop

20. Gitarzan

21. Junk Food Junkie

22. Gimme Dat Ding

23. Telephone Man

24. Mr. Jaws

x

Track List: Dr. Demento 20th Anniversary Collection

Disc 1

1. Delicious!

2. The Scotsman

3. Junk Food Junkie

4. Eat It

5. Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavour (On The Bedpost Overnight)

7. Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah! (A Letter From Camp)

9. The Purple People Eater

10. Monster Mash

11. Cocktails For Two

12. Transfusion

13. Beep Beep

14. St. George And The Dragonet

16. Gitarzan

17. Earache My Eye

Disc 2

1. Dancin' Fool

2. Star Trekkin'

4. Masochism Tango

5. The Homecoming Queen's Got A Gun

7. The Battle Of Kookamonga

9. Der Fuehrer's Face

10. Fish Heads

11. Poisoning Pigeons In The Park

12. Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take The Garbage Out

14. Surfin' Bird

x

Track List: Golden Age Of Rock 'N' Roll Special Novelty Edition

1. Martian Hop

2. Mr. Bass Man

3. I Want My Baby Back

4. Baby Sittin' Boogie

5. Yogi

6. Ape Call

7. Delicious!

8. Long Tall Texan

9. Mr. Custer

10. The Purple People Eater

12. Rip Van Winkle

13. Witch Doctor

15. Beep Beep

16. More Money For You And Me

17. The Mummy

18. The Blob

19. The Little Space Girl

21. Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini

22. Who Put The Bomp (In The Bomp Bomp Bomp)

23. Psycho

24. Ahab, The Arab

25. Haunted House

26. Alley-Oop

27. The Old Payola Roll Blues Side 1

28. Ambrose Part 5

29. Leader Of The Laundromat

x

Track List: Revolutions In Sound: Warner Bros. Records - The First Fifty Years

1. I'll Be With You In Apple Blossom Time

2. Try A Little Tenderness

3. 77 Sunset Strip

4. My Old Flame

5. Kookie, Kookie (Lend Me Your Comb)

6. Sixteen Reasons

7. Cathy's Clown

8. Abe Lincoln Vs. Madison Avenue

9. Chant To The Night

11. Let's Think About Living

12. Crying In The Rain

13. Blowin' In The Wind

14. If I Had A Hammer

15. Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah (A Letter From Camp)

16. The Lonely Surfer

17. September Song

18. Night Creature (First Movement): Blind Bug

19. Dollar's Dance

20. Out Of Limits

21. Everybody Loves Somebody

22. It Was A Very Good Year

23. Girl Don't Come

24. Thou Shalt Not Steal

25. Good Lovin'

26. I'm A Fool

27. Houston

28. The Vatican Rag

29. Tiny Bubbles

30. That's Life

31. These Boots Are Made For Walkin'

32. They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!

33. Purple Haze

34. The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion)

35. I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)

36. Double Yellow Line

37. Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Is In)

38. If You're A Viper

39. Sit Down, I Think I Love You

40. Pata Pata

41. 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)

42. It's A Happening World

43. Never My Love

45. While Drifting

46. Magic Hollow

47. Some Velvet Morning

48. The All Golden

49. Crystal Liaison

51. Morning Girl

52. Tip Toe Thru' The Tulips With Me

53. Classical Gas

54. Oh Well

55. Spirit In The Sky

56. But It's Alright

57. Stay With Me

58. I've Gotta Be Me

59. Leaving On A Jet Plane

60. Box Of Rain

61. Fire And Rain

62. If You Could Read My Mind

64. She's A Lady

65. P.F. Sloan

66. Vehicle

67. Express Yourself

68. Speed King

69. Locomotive Breath

70. Stay With Me

72. I'm Eighteen

73. Back Street Luv

74. Song To The Siren

75. Surf's Up

76. I Don't Want To Talk About It

77. You Can Close Your Eyes

78. Heart Of Gold

79. Willin'

80. Love Me Like A Man

81. The Poor Ditching Boy

83. Summer Breeze

84. A Horse With No Name

85. Sanctuary

86. Sail Away

87. City Of New Orleans

88. On Your Way Down

89. Low Yo Yo Stuff

90. Virginia Plain

91. Smoke On The Water

92. School's Out

93. Bertha

94. Blue Sky

95. Hello It's Me

96. Suavecito

97. Waiting For The Rain

98. Andalucia

99. In My Hour Of Darkness

100. Morning Sun

101. Midnight At The Oasis

102. So Very Hard To Go

104. Dixie Chicken

105. China Grove

106. Ramblin' Man

107. Dueling Banjos

108. Rock The Nation

109. Day Of The Eagle

110. Keep On Smilin'

111. Beautiful Texas Sunshine

112. Tattler

114. Hey Pocky A-Way (Single Version)

115. Butterfat

116. Your Love

117. So In Love

118. Let's Do It Again

119. Fooled Around And Fell In Love

120. Dream Weaver

121. Just Us

122. Ain't Misbehavin' (I'm Savin' My Love For You)

123. Boulder To Birmingham

124. Landslide

125. Tonight's The Night (Gonna Be Alright)

126. You Make Me Feel Like Dancing

127. Let Your Love Flow

128. Popsicle Toes

129. This Masquerade

130. I'm A Loser

131. Slow Ride

132. Excuse Me

133. Short People

134. You Light Up My Life

135. Da Doo Ron Ron

136. Sheena Is A Punk Rocker

137. Love - Building On Fire

138. Sonic Reducer

139. Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love

140. Go Your Own Way

141. The First Cut Is The Deepest

142. Don't Break The Heart That Loves You

143. How Much I Feel

144. What A Fool Believes

145. Every Kinda People

146. Sultans Of Swing

147. Lotta Love

148. King Tut

149. Bootzilla

150. Rock Lobster

151. Pop Muzik

152. I Should Have Known Better

153. Do Anything You Want To

154. Cheap Sunglasses

155. Chuck E's In Love

156. Just When I Needed You Most

157. Sailing

160. The Glow Of Love

161. Once In A Lifetime

162. Best Friend

163. Natural's Not In It

164. Freedom Of Choice

165. The Jezebel Spirit

166. Tainted Love

167. Pull Up To The Bumper

168. Genius Of Love

169. While You See A Chance

170. We're In This Love Together

171. Til I Gain Control Again

172. Pearl Necklace

173. I'm Shakin'

174. Amanda Ruth

175. I Melt With You

176. Only You

177. O Superman (For Massenet)

179. Avalon

180. I'm A Wonderful Thing, Baby

181. Heat Of The Moment

182. Holy Diver

183. Middle Of The Road

184. Blue Monday

185. Gone Daddy Gone

186. Swingin'

187. I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues

188. Ain't Nobody

189. Jump

190. The Boys Of Summer

191. The Killing Moon

192. Someday, Someway

193. Just A Gigolo/I Ain't Got Nobody

194. Take On Me

195. She Sells Sanctuary

196. Money For Nothing

197. Slave To Love

198. Just Like Honey

199. Life In A Northern Town

200. Higher Love

201. You Can Call Me Al

202. Tutu

203. Lean On Me

205. Guitars, Cadillacs

206. Alex Chilton

207. Got My Mind Set On You

208. I Want To Be Your Man

209. Always

210. To Know Him Is To Love Him

211. Chains Of Love

212. What's On Your Mind (Pure Energy)

213. Nite And Day

214. Handle With Care

215. Love And Mercy

216. Jane Says

217. The Maker

218. Paris, Texas

219. Falling

220. Like A Prayer

221. Me, Myself And I

222. Love Shack

223. Veronica

224. One

225. I'll Be Your Everything

226. What I Am

227. Epic

228. O.G. Original Gangster

229. Been Caught Stealing

230. The Humpty Dance

231. Personal Jesus

233. High Enough

234. I Fell In Love

235. Here's A Quarter (Call Someone Who Cares)

236. Wicked Game

237. Crazy

238. Losing My Religion

240. I Wanna Sex You Up

241. Baby Got Back

242. Jump Around

244. Remedy

245. Layla

246. Tears In Heaven

247. Under The Bridge

248. Kiko And The Lavender Moon

249. Harvest Moon

250. Constant Craving

251. The Long Cut

252. Man On The Moon

253. Feed The Tree

254. Johnny Mathis' Feet

255. Far Behind

256. Closer To Free

257. The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove

258. Calling All Angels

259. If That's Your Boyfriend (He Wasn't Last Night)

260. Can We Talk

261. Wish

262. Thinkin' Problem

263. Delia's Gone

264. You Don't Know How It Feels

265. You Wreck Me

266. Longview

267. 7 Words

268. Hey Man Nice Shot

269. You Oughta Know

270. Kiss From A Rose

271. Drown

272. This Woman And This Man

273. Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?

275. Super Bon Bon

276. The Chanukah Song

277. Brimful Of Asha

278. People Ain't No Good

280. Still Waters

281. Hot Rod Heart

282. Iris

283. The Mummers' Dance

284. Believe

285. One Week

286. Breathe

287. Carry The Zero

288. Push It

289. Down With The Sickness

290. Cousin Dupree

291. Just In Case

292. All You Wanted

293. Do You Realize??

294. Can't Stop

295. Bandages

296. The Taste Of Ink

297. Headstrong

298. Breaking The Habit

299. Cannonball

300. Boulevard Of Broken Dreams

302. Bat Country

303. Back Then

305. Home

306. Bad Day

307. Awake

308. Fidelity

309. Everything About It Is A Love Song

310. Starlight

311. Welcome To The Black Parade

312. Colony Of Birchmen

313. What I've Done

314. Silver Lining

315. Ave Maria

316. Back In Your Head

317. Thrash Unreal

318. Your Touch

319. Icky Thump

320. The Day That Never Comes

Comments

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Lol they're coming to take me away
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Love this song
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Dr. Dime to Show
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Crazy song lol (;
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Love
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dulze1
Did best song ever but I wish they would take away my sister
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tikka2701 is scard
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There coming to take ME away HA-HA!!
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??????????
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Ha-Haa
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My family's theme song
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Ahhhhhhhhhh! : (
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I sang this yesterday and I scared my sister. I also sang this at school. XDXXDXDXDXDX D X D
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Love this !!
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ぉゔぇ位t!
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I love this!!!!! He's gone mad! A psycho! :) I like it!
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this is rlly funny :)

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