When I happened to think of the Four Preps’ “More Money for You and Me” the other day, I hadn’t listened to it quite a few years.  Recorded in 1960, it’s a medley of parodies which stands as one of the best novelty songs produced by a generation that produced an awful lot of them.  I remember discovering it on a compilation of the era’s novelty tracks back when I was in fifth grade and, since I was familiar with the oldies being parodied, finding it very clever and funny.  If anything, now that I’ve rediscovered it, I like it even more.

(To appreciate this selection, you should probably have at least a glancing familiarity with the songs being parodied.  While these were all famous songs at the time – four of them were #1 hits – every one of them dates to 1960 or earlier, so it’s understandable if you’re unfamiliar with some or all of them.  They’re included at the bottom of this post.)

The basic premise of the song is that the Four Preps want a bigger share of the pop music market, so they’re seizing the spotlight to take potshots at other vocal groups who had scored big hits in the past couple of years.  They fantasize about sending the Fleetwoods to freeze in Alaska, the Hollywood Argyles and the Platters to burn in hell (!), and the Kingston Trio on a permanent vacation to communist Cuba.  Elsewhere, they rib Dion & the Belmonts for their “New York street toughs with a sensitive side” image, and the Four Freshmen for recording under that name in their thirties.

One key to creating a successful song parody is successfully imitating the style of the artist being parodied.  In this regard, the Four Preps absolutely nail it; their impersonations of every one of the six artists parodied here are astonishingly good.  But, like the best parodists, they use their altered lyrics to twist the knife a bit.  Particularly noteworthy examples of their sly sense of humor:

  • In the section parodying “Alley Oop,” they declare the Hollywood Argyles an “awful hip” group, skewering the song’s ridiculous overuse of beatnik slang (“Look at that caveman go… He sure is hip ain’t he?  Like, what’s happening… he’s too much.  Ride, daddy, ride.  Get him, man.  Like, hipsville.”).  Amusingly, their pronunciation of “hip” foreshadows Dana Carvey’s in his George H.W. Bush impressions on SNL decades later.
  • In the section parodying the Platters’ “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” they pull off a disarmingly clever switch by swapping out the line “They asked me how I knew/my true love was true” for “They asked me how I knew/our career was through” – a nasty but wickedly funny dig at the rapid disintegration of the Platters’ career with the 1960 departure of their lead singer, Tony Williams.  They also poke fun at Williams’ penchant for dramatic buildups to a big finish by having their Williams-imitator’s microphone cut out just as he hits the final note of “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.”
  • And, saving the best for last, they illustrate their animosity towards Dion & the Belmonts by providing us with an absolutely hysterical image:  the “juvenile delinquent” Belmonts sneaking out of their own concert to steal hubcaps in the parking lot.  Without giving us a chance to recover from our laughter, they quickly segue into a soundtrack for that image:  a version of “A Teenager in Love” wherein Dion, rather than moping, “Each time we have a quarrel/it almost breaks my heart/Because I’m so afraid/that we will have to part,” instead sings, “Each time I steal a hubcap/it almost breaks my heart/Why do I steal those hubcaps/why did I have to start?”  It’s an utterly brilliant take-down of Dion’s “New York street tough with a sensitive side” image.

The Four Preps – “More Money for You and Me”

SONGS BEING PARODIED:

The Fleetwoods – “Mr. Blue” (1959)*

The Hollywood Argyles – “Alley Oop” (1960)*

The Platters – “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” (1958)*

The Four Freshmen – “In This Whole Wide World” (1955)

The Kingston Trio – “A Worried Man” (1959)

The Kingston Trio – “Tom Dooley” (1958)*

Dion & the Belmonts – “A Teenager in Love” (1959)

*denotes #1 hit

Advertisements