Monday, April 10, 2006

photogenic, schizophrenic you

There isn't much more to say that hasn't already been said about this track many times over from others over the years.

from Wikipedia: Napoleon XIV was the pseudonym of record producer Jerry Samuels (b 1938 New York City) who had moderate success with the song "They're Coming To Take Me Away Ha-Haaa!", released in 1966 (reaching #4 UK, #3 US). The song deals with mental illness brought about by the lover of the vocalist leaving him and was controversial at the time for its willingness to confront the subject directly—albeit humorously:

"Remember when you ran away and I got on my knees and begged you not to leave because I'd go berserk? Well, you left me anyhow, and then the days got worse and worse, and now you see I've gone completely out of my mind!"

Musically, the track is significant in that it does not actually feature any musical notes being played, although a melody was, quite naturally, planned for it. Instead, the backing is provided by a combination of drums and tambourines overlaid with a siren—presumably that of the authorities' vehicle "coming to take me away". The pitch of the vocals also raise and lower throughout the performance to signify the increasing insanity of the vocalist. The vocal effect was accomplished via a tape recorder modified by Samuels himself.

from AMG: Samuels went on to a career as unpredicable as his hit smash, making his living for a time selling marijuana roach clips to head shops. For the past couple of decades he's worked the piano bars of the Philadelphia area; on the recent Napoleon XIV reissue CD, he proudly notes 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 newly recorded tracks from 1995.

Here is WFMU's excellent post about the 21 Variations on the hit single. Included in this is Lard's version, which makes total sense to me since the vocals seem reminiscient of Jello Biafra in the first place.

Napoleon XIV - They're Coming to Take Me Away Ha-Haaa
Napoleon XIV - Doin' the Napoleon
Napolean XIV - The Place Where The Nuts Hunt The Squirrels


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