Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Comic Characters Mentioned in songs from the '50s to the '70s

It's very common these days for comic characters to appear in pop songs, but it was not common prior to the 1980s, so I thought I would start compiling a list:

1. Alley Oop, by Dallas Frazier, first recorded by the Hollywood Argyles:

There's a man in the funny papers we all know
(Alley Oop, oop, oop, oop-oop)
He lives 'way back a long time ago
(Alley Oop, oop, oop, oop-oop)
He don't eat nothin' but a bear cat stew
(Alley Oop, oop, oop, oop-oop)
Well, this cat's name is-a Alley Oop
(Alley Oop, oop, oop, oop-oop)

2. Sunshine Superman, by Donovan

Superman or Green Lantern, ain't got a-nothin' on me

The girl shown in the video is Sue Lyon, best known for her portrayal of Lolita in the 1960s Stanley Kubrick film, who apparently dated Donovan around 1965.

3. Bungalow Bill by the Beatles:

Deep in the jungle where the mighty tiger lies
Bill and his elephants were taken by surprise
So Captain Marvel zapped him right between the eyes
All the children sing

Not sure who was zapped right between the eyes; one of Captain Marvel's best friends was a tiger named Talky Tawny.

4. Part of the Union by the Strawbs:

I'm not too hard but the sight of my card makes me some kind of Superman.

Perhaps a good indication of why England's economy almost collapsed in the late 1970s?

5. Wish I Could Fly Like Superman by the Kinks:

Superman, Superman, wish I could fly like Superman
Superman, Superman, wanna fly like Superman.

The song also evokes the old Charles Atlas ads, which were also mentioned briefly on the album The Who Sell Out.

6. Superman by the Clique:

I am, I am Superman, and I know what's happening

I suppose the Hitler stuff is in there to kind of reflect the Superman/master race idea. This song was more famously covered by REM in the 1980s.

7. Guitarzan by Ray Stevens

Stevens did mostly did comedy/novelty songs like this, although he had a monster hit with "Everything Is Beautiful" in 1970.

Any others from this era? I'm not including theme songs (like the Spiderman song or the Batman theme).

Update: Here's a huge list that includes more modern songs. Hat tip to commenter Michael Grabois.

Here's a whole album of Marvel-related songs by a group called Icarus. Interestingly, two musicians appearing on that album were part of the Strawbs and were co-writers of Part of the Union, discussed above. Hat tip to commenter Matt.

I thought of another three songs after making the post. The Royal Guardsmen had three terrific hits with their Snoopy Versus the Red Baron, the Return of the Red Baron and Snoopy's Christmas.

Apparently there was a Snoopy for President song as well, appropriate this year:

Update II: Remembered another one. Apparently Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart recorded a song called "Metal Man Has Won His Wings". This was inspired by a comic they found lying around in the recording studio which had an ad for two DC issues: Hawkman #1, which said "Hawkman has won his wings!" along with an ad for an early Metal Men issue. I'll see if I can locate the ad in question.