Don't forget to STAAAAAY DEEE-EE-EE MENTED!
June 8, 2010 1:30 PM   Subscribe

End of an Era / Mental Health Care Announcement: Doctor Demento is retiring from the airwaves after 40 years in the looney biz. If you're one of his patients, that's the bad news: "He has come to agree with his manager and his family that it's necessary. The broadcast has been losing money for some time."   The good news is that he'll continue producing shows for his own website's visitors every week for $2 a pop, for all you junk music junkies.
posted by not_on_display (57 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
They've come to take him away, ha ha.
posted by mattdidthat at 1:33 PM on June 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


.


Dead broadcasts... aren't much fun...
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 1:34 PM on June 8, 2010 [2 favorites]




.

Fishheads?
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 1:38 PM on June 8, 2010




.

The end of an era.
posted by frwagon at 1:40 PM on June 8, 2010


He should have himself another espresso.
posted by chavenet at 1:40 PM on June 8, 2010


When they pulled the plug on KPPC, his original station, the whole on-air staff was on the air, and Pico and Sepulveda was the last, or among the last songs played before the format changed to Christian broadcasting. Ah, takes me back!
posted by Danf at 1:42 PM on June 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


This news has struck me like a boot to the head.
posted by adipocere at 1:42 PM on June 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


Fortunately, we'll always have Dr. Retarded.
posted by Mayor Curley at 1:45 PM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow. I think a required part of being a 10 year old boy growing up in Suburbia, USA is huddling around your radio under the covers at midnight (which is the time it came on in my market) and recording the show onto cassette (it took 2 actually) and trading them with your friends at school during the week. I probably still know all of the words to several hundred of those songs by heart. Yoda, Dead Puppies, I Want to Kiss Her But (she won't let me), Shaving Cream, Existential Blues, and of course, Fishheads. It's so awesome he kept this show going as long as he did. He's an American Cultural Treasure and if the world was as it should be, he'd have a seat in Obama's cabinet.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:49 PM on June 8, 2010 [21 favorites]


.
posted by jtron at 1:51 PM on June 8, 2010


Man, they carried his show on KLOL in Houston back in the mid-seventies. Between that & Monty Python coming on PBS every saturday night, I had my childhood humor warped but good. I haven't listened in years. I s'pose that makes me part of the problem. Damn.
posted by Devils Rancher at 1:51 PM on June 8, 2010


Doctor Demento always struck me as being something like a podcast in terms of personality and niche interests before there was such a thing. I see on his site that he can't do podcasts for rights reasons (the labels won't let him) and so he's stuck with streaming, which is a shame. If it were a podcast, I'd consider subscribing.
posted by immlass at 1:57 PM on June 8, 2010


Tonight, let us all leave our chewing gum on the bedpost in tribute.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 1:59 PM on June 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well this news makes me feel like shaving cream.
posted by stevis23 at 2:01 PM on June 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


I swear thar I am not making this up but I remember him playing a commercial for "Tommy The Talking Toilet Tank" but I can neither find it via Google nor by searching on his site (it does bring up Disco Toilet, which despite being a classic in its own right, is not what I'm looking for). Am I hallucinating or did this really exist?
posted by tommasz at 2:02 PM on June 8, 2010


I was a regular listener during the KMET era in the late 70s, but for all the attention the good doctor got for the crazy songs he would occasionally sneak in other things. The Demento show was the first place I heard the Sex Pistols and the Ramones.
posted by quartzcity at 2:02 PM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


And another part of my childhood dies.

Still, I know he'll always go forward, because he can't find reverse.
posted by yiftach at 2:05 PM on June 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


All shows are available in standard quality 32Kbps mono (equivalent quality to 64Kbps stereo) format, as well as 128Kbps high quality for D.O.C. members only.

$2 for a one-off 32kbps radio show, or $14.95 per month for 128kbps? For broadcasts of exclusive music? How many listeners does he have now, how many have high bandwidth connections (vs the 56kbps threshold that is currently in place), and how much bandwidth would they use for a 192kbps stream? Some community or college stations have online streams of that quality, and they're listener supported (with some underwriting).

I understand online streaming costs money, but it feels like Dr. Demento's online presence is stuck in the late 1990s or early 2000s.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:05 PM on June 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Boy, this breaks my heart. Along with Johnny Fever, he's one of the small handful of people that led me to a career in radio.

I wish him all the best ... but I can't shake the sinking feeling that he's not gonna sell many episodes at $2 each. Maybe he should go the "buy our iPhone app, stream our entire archive" model that This American Life took. I dunno.
posted by jbickers at 2:05 PM on June 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Cheerio, Cherry Lips, Cheerio.
posted by NolanRyanHatesMatches at 2:12 PM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sorry for the Demento Wrath, here's my Demento Memories:

I heard the show a few times growing up, but I was usually in the mood for something else. But I was driving back from a weekend music festival, and caught a college station for a short while, just long enough to hear this song. I don't remember if the DJ mentioned it was from a Dr. Demento compilation or something of that sort, but my friend and I knew little of that song. Later we found a six-record set of the Greatest Novelty Records of All Time, one record per decade and a collection of Christmas songs. "Marvin I Love You" was there, in the 1980s. It was fantastic.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:15 PM on June 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I swear thar I am not making this up but I remember him playing a commercial for "Tommy The Talking Toilet Tank"

There's the R. Crumb poster... is it related to that?
posted by dammitjim at 2:17 PM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, not surprising. It was pulled from the Boston market something like 20+ years ago.

Oh, man, did I die laughing listening to "Entering Marion," but was peeved that he left out Shirley and Dennis. And Belchertown.
posted by Melismata at 2:25 PM on June 8, 2010


Oh, and "Standing on the Shoulders of Freaks" is the Best. Song. In. The. Entire. Universe.
posted by Melismata at 2:26 PM on June 8, 2010


Metafilter: always reminding us - too late - of those wonderful personalities we haven't thought of for thirty years.
posted by kozad at 2:27 PM on June 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


We may never have heard of Weird Al Yankovic, for better or worse, without Dr. Demento.
posted by Danf at 2:34 PM on June 8, 2010


Huge impact on my life and comedic taste.

What an amazing thing - to be able to spend 40 years sharing funny and bizarre songs with people and get paid for it.

Keep your hat on Dr. D, but my hat is off to you.

And thank you especially for introducing me to The Frantics.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:36 PM on June 8, 2010


When I was a wee lad about 20 years ago, his show was on at midnight locally, which of course meant I wasn't allowed to listen to it. So, I had a 120-minute cassette tape that I loaded into the family stereo, which helpfully had a "reverse-once" feature that let me tape the entire show once I'd snuck in and pressed Record. I'd spend a good portion of the next week listening to it and dubbing off the songs that I liked, complete with Demento's banter.

Then I labeled the tapes "Dr. Dimento" because I didn't know how it was spelled.

.
posted by neckro23 at 2:38 PM on June 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Met the guy in 1975. Very nice guy. Showed him one of the rarer 45s in my collection that I'd never heard him play ("The Chocolate Freak"). He told me he didn't have it; asked to borrow it; got my address; taped it; returned it; played it on his show several times. I considered it one of my proudest radio achievements.

Because of my collection of odd records, I was recruited by my college radio station to do a Sunday Night "Dr. Demento Clone" show. Every college station in L.A. had one at the time. I tried hard to differentiate myself, using as much original content as I could come up with. I had the idea of doing a 'creatively censored' version of George Carlin's "Seven Words You Can't Say on Television". I had a record of Hanna Barbera Cartoon Sound Effects and designated one cartoony sound for each word on the list (SPLAT for shit, SPLASH for piss, WADDAWADDAWADDA for motherfucker, etc.). After a long night in the production studio (those days the only way to edit was with raw audio tape and razor blades), I had a minor masterpiece. It was very popular on my show and apparently came to the attention of someone associated with Dr. D's show... who instead of asking for my version, made one of his own, using (IMO) inferior sound effects. It was very popular on his show too. I didn't find out about it until after I graduated and stopped working the college station. Was majorly SPLASHed at the guy who did it, but not at Dr. Demento. As I said, he IS a very nice guy. Lost my original spliced-up tape, so I let it go.

Of course, as a Weird Al fanboy, I thoroughly appreciated The Good Doctor's role in getting The Weird One's career started.

I also worked for several years close to the real life corner of Pico & Sepulveda, and frequented the mini-mall on the northeast corner for donus, tacos and haircuts (all three establishments are still there almost 20 years later). It must be noted that the inclusion of "Pico and Sepulveda" in the "Forbidden Zone" movie can be traced to Dr. D's support of The Mystic Knights of Oingo Boingo before they evolved into a New Wave band.

Anyway, the show will go on, just not on conventional old-fashioned broadcast radio, making (for me) June 6th, 2010 The Day The Radio Died.
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:43 PM on June 8, 2010 [7 favorites]


My brush with Demento: My good friend got married to my other good friend -- and during the wedding planning revealed that her uncle was a radio personality. Yep, Uncle Barry is Dr. Demento! I met him at the rehearsal dinner -- a quiet, shy gentleman. At the reception, the famous tux and hat came out, and so did the wacky on- air persona. He seems like a really great guy.
posted by Malla at 2:46 PM on June 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


BART WINS!
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:57 PM on June 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


.
posted by Splunge at 3:10 PM on June 8, 2010


This is a bummer to hear. I remember listening to Dr. Demento's show on WLUP (The Loop, FM 98) in Chicago in the early 1980s late on Sunday nights. Even then it didn't seem to have a regular slot, and started at variable times. It ended too late for my Monday morning wake-up time of around 5:45, but it provided something for me to talk about with this really cute girl in my Earth Science class during my freshman year of high school. And I'll never forget the first time I heard Tom T-Bone Stankus's "Existential Blues." I thought it was hilarious, and upon listening to it again, I think it still is pretty damn funny.
posted by anaphoric at 3:13 PM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


immlass: Doctor Demento always struck me as being something like a podcast in terms of personality and niche interests before there was such a thing.

I was an FM radio junkie through my teen and college years, and there seemed to be more of a place for niche shows late at night or on the weekends 20 years ago. It seems like in the race to cut costs while milking every last bit of revenue from advertising through aggressive homogenization that there's a lot less room on the dial for that sort of thing. The stations that are not converting to talk formats appear to be in a race for bland market-driven common-denominator stuff.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:20 PM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


My brush with Demento: I met him at the Tower Records in the U District. He was there for some promotion while I happened to be looking for some record or another. I knew him as Barret Hansen, producer of John Fahey's Requia and The Yellow Princess and being part of the cast of characters on various Takoma Fahey album liner notes, and mentioned all this and how I would always admire him for his role in Fahey's music as he set up for his Dr. Demento appearance in his Dr. Demento attire. He was not amused. I just chalked that up to his being tired and cranky.

Get Off My Lawn segment: Man, if you young whippersnappers had lived through Top 40 radio, you would have decidedly different views about novelty songs, at least insofar as the hits were concerned. Try listening to The Flying Purple People Eater or They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-ha once an hour every hour of the day for two or three weeks solid for an example.

But, apart from that, this is the end of an era. Or maybe just the end of the end of an era.
posted by y2karl at 3:28 PM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


y2Karl, I had no idea that he was associated with John Fahey. Wow, what a connection to make, especially because Fahey was a role model, musically (fortunately in no other way).

I am surprised he was grouchy about it.
posted by Danf at 3:50 PM on June 8, 2010


Well, it was a promotion and he was all dolled up in Dr. Demento drag and all and here was some obviously not his target demographic kind of guy yakking him up about something not likely to make him any money that day.
posted by y2karl at 4:01 PM on June 8, 2010


.
posted by Bookhouse at 4:03 PM on June 8, 2010


I am so bummed.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:17 PM on June 8, 2010


The man's a hell of a broadcaster. We moved around a lot as a kid, and it was fun/frustrating trying to figure out where and when Dr. Demento might be on where we were.

He seems like the kind of broadcaster who could make a sponsored podcast. I can see folks like Maximum Fun, et. al. taking him under their wing and making a go of it. Though perhaps that's a naive thought.
posted by artlung at 4:25 PM on June 8, 2010


So what I'm hearing is that he doesn't have tapes of all of his shows going back to the 70's, that he can have digitized and available on the web? THAT I would pay for!

I can remember one summer night in '79, when he played some RUSH and Cheech and Chong's "Momma talka to me" song back to back. Changed my life.
posted by snsranch at 4:32 PM on June 8, 2010


Ivor Biggun's homage to the Doctor: "Let's All Get Demented"
posted by Knappster at 5:00 PM on June 8, 2010


So what I'm hearing is that he doesn't have tapes of all of his shows going back to the 70's, that he can have digitized and available on the web? THAT I would pay for!

Many of those shows are owned by Westwood One, so he would have no legal right to them for free.

He seems like the kind of broadcaster who could make a sponsored podcast. I can see folks like Maximum Fun, et. al. taking him under their wing and making a go of it. Though perhaps that's a naive thought.

Maybe, maybe not.

There's a Chicagoland media blog that posted about the end of Dr. Demento on the radio on Saturday. He bears some of the blame for the drop in the number of affiliates:
He and his management team had become very demanding of their affiliates. Asking for high fees for the show, demanding certain time slots, and most recently, demanding that all affiliate radio stations shut down their Internet streaming while his show was on the air. Listeners were only allowed to listen via airwaves or via a subscription to his own website. These demands, coming from a low-rated weekend show, did not sit well with many station managers. In the last three years, the show went from many, many dozens of stations down to under a dozen. As of this weekend -- Dr. Demento's final weekend on the air -- the show is down to only six radio affiliates.
WLUP was apparently the last station to drop the show, and apparently was broadcasting it for free, unlike other stations. I should also note that he took over syndicating the show in 1992 with his own company, which made him very vulnerable to changes in the radio industry.
posted by ZeusHumms at 5:09 PM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Frank Zappa on Dr. Demento

Oh man I miss Frank Zappa so much. Weird Al talks about Dr. D. I still have an old mixtape that I recorded form radio shows back in high school.
posted by jessamyn at 5:32 PM on June 8, 2010


ZeusHumms, man, that's dismaying. I sure hope he's considering alternate business models when dealing with the internet. It's really hard to see how $2/show is going to work for him. I hope he proves me wrong.
posted by artlung at 6:13 PM on June 8, 2010


Here's yet another (relatively) young man who set up a tape deck to record Dr D every sunday night at midnight. I had a mountain of the cheapest tapes I could find, each episode spanning one and a half of 'em. I stopped recording the show about the time Napster came around- I'd just write down the names of the songs I liked, and download 'em later.

Gradually, the internet took over as my novelty music source, edging out Dr D in a manner I'm a bit ashamed of. I randomly tuned in on a sunday night to the classic rock station that aired the show for twenty some-odd years... and it was gone. Checked the internet to find that he was down to eight or so radio stations. Sadness abound, but no . here- the man is far from dead, and I have a feeling he's far from done.
posted by maus at 7:43 PM on June 8, 2010


Man, they carried his show on KLOL in Houston back in the mid-seventies.

A comedy show on a station with call letters KLOL? Awesome.
posted by grouse at 8:08 PM on June 8, 2010


As a teenager growing up in central Oregon I thought the radio world began and ended with Casey Kasem's American Top 40. In fact, one of my most treasured possessions was a set of four LPs that contained a week's show. That is, until I spent a week in a motorhome with my cousins from California ...

... who had brought with them a cassette copy of a Dr. Demento show. Shaving Cream, Fish Heads, They're Coming to Take Me Away: looking back, that may have been the week I realized that I was just going to have to move away from our little rural town someday to see what other oddities there were to explore. I was hard pressed to get my hands on more episodes, but that hardly mattered, I learned in college, since the Top 10 was largely heavily recycled from earlier weeks' shows.

One of my earlier dates with my now-wife was seeing Dr. D do his schtick live at Reed College, his alma mater. That was one of the nights I realized we were meant to be together. Me and my wife, that is.
posted by vverse23 at 9:00 PM on June 8, 2010


> A comedy show on a station with call letters KLOL? Awesome.

It really was. Since then it's been bought and resold several times and is now a bland corporate latin pop format.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:06 PM on June 8, 2010


The Scotsman was, for me, the n'est plus ultra of the good Dr's show.
posted by SPrintF at 9:35 PM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


The demise of the show is yet another loss of the fractious internet media scene. Why listen to a "disc jockey" when you can just download your favorites?

I also think the marketplace for wacky music has sort of dissipated. The novelty of hearing weird stuff coming out of Dad's Stereo just isn't there any more.

The shame, I think, is that people aren't making wacky music any more. Not at least that I can ever find...

(I too have boxes of clear, yellow and pink crappy cassettes of Dr. Demento shows rotting away. Every time I try to digitize them, I realize that they sound like ass. AM radio on 20 year old cassettes just doesn't stand up...

Reminds me of the absolute insanity that WLUP AM1000 was back in the day. I tried taping a lot of it, but I've found that what I have isn't what I thought I had. Does anyone know where to get old Kevin Matthews shows??)
posted by gjc at 7:09 AM on June 9, 2010


The shame, I think, is that people aren't making wacky music any more. Not at least that I can ever find...

Aside from the continuing career of Weird Al, for starters there's The Mad Music Archive, The Funny Music Project and Dementia Radio.
posted by ZeusHumms at 7:18 AM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


As a middle schooler, I bought the "Greatest Novelty Songs of All Time" records one by one, some on vinyl, some on cassette. I loved them, played them to cheer myself up, became the evangel of weird music to those afflicted with normalcy. Those songs helped me survive as a high-school weirdo, a college weirdo and a lifelong geek.

So cheers, Doctor. You cured my life of boringness, and gave me songs that told me I wasn't alone.
posted by Pallas Athena at 10:39 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


For those interested, a local Twin Cities show, Crap From the Past, did a tribute show with many Demento favorites, which can be downloaded.
posted by ZeusHumms at 9:34 PM on June 13, 2010


Crap From the Past is the only pop music show worth listening to these days. Most of what Ron "Boogiemonster" Gerber plays is amazing, from overlooked Pop Gems, to very rare Men at Work early material. He also pulls out bad music and makes fun of it. Its very fun to listen to.
posted by wheelieman at 11:26 AM on June 23, 2010


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