50 Skidillion Watts of Slightly Dated New York Weirdo Hipster Novelty Humor

Bongos Bass & Bob - Never Mind the Sex Pistols 05-09-2020 sm

I have a decent collection of novelty records, from the first “break-in” 7-inch, Buchanan and Goodman’s “Flying Saucer Pts I & II,” to a fish-head-shaped picture disc of Barnes & Barnes classic, “Fish Heads,” to the full-scale replica of “Weird Al” Yankovic’s accordion housing vinyl remasters of his entire 40-year career in the industry. (I even had the good fortune of getting Dr. Demento, himself to sign my 1953 debut 10″ of Songs By Tom Lehrer!) So when I discovered that the hilarious Bongos, Bass, and Bob had put out a record featuring many of my favorite Demented hits, I tracked down a copy right away.

The band recorded one album with Penn Gillette and produced by Kramer in 1988 titled, Never Mind The Sex Pistols, Here’s Bongos, Bass, and Bob (What Were They Thinking???) on Jillette’s label, 50 Skidillion Watts, (written out as 50,000,000,000000,000,000,000 Watts Records), Catalog # 50,000,000,000,000,000,000,003.

The album includes favorites like:

  • Oral Hygiene
  • Walkin’ in the Park
  • What’s Your Name, Babe?
  • Clothes of the Dead
  • and Thorazine Shuffle (a cover of the single by Modern Entertainment)

The album is a comedic mishmash of genres, including folk, world music, country, jazz, rock, doo-wop, punk, and calypso, as well as lo-fi, noise, and avant-garde musical styles. 

The trio is a self-proclaimed “speed Mariachi” band composed of Penn Jillette on bass, Dean Seal on bongos, and Rob Elk on guitar. Several tracks were featured on The Dr. Demento Show, and an alternate sans-Jillette take of “Oral Hygiene” recorded under the name “Mr. Elk and Mr. Seal” was featured on WITR’s Friggin Here radio show in the 90s. It also appeared as track #2 on Dr. Demento’s Basement Tapes Volume 01.

I’d spent those halcyon summers painstakingly taping 27 weeks worth of broadcasts of Friggin Here and entering the complete set lists into a word processor to print on my dot matrix printer, (this was 1995 after all), so it was a real treat to claim the songs I so fondly remembered on wax.

It’s offbeat, humorous, and original stuff.

From Allmusic:

The bongos come courtesy of Dean J. Seal, the bass is via Penn Jillette (of Penn & Teller fame), and the Bob is derived from guitarist Rob “Running” Elk on this funny, eclectic record overseen by producer Kramer. There are 16 songs on Never Mind the Sex Pistols, Here’s Bongos, Bass, Bob! (What on Earth Were They Thinking?), and about as many musical styles, including punk, calypso and doo-wop; the acute and amusing lyrics target oral hygiene, Thorazine, girls with guns and thrift shopping (“Clothes of the Dead”). Much more musically competent than expected, this is a superior musical-comedy record, and one that holds up to repeated listenings.

And Wikipedia notes:

Kramer is a musician, composer, record producer, and founder of the New York City record label Shimmy-Disc. 

Kramer played on tour with Butthole Surfers, Ween, Half Japanese, The Fugs, and John Zorn and other improvising musicians of New York’s so-called “downtown scene” of the 1980s.

Kramer produced Galaxie 500’s entire oeuvre, and discovered and produced Duluth slowcore band, Low. He also produced for White Zombie, GWAR, King Missile, Daniel Johnston, and Urge Overkill.

Rutlesriki.fandom.com adds that the group also recorded a cover version of The Rutles’ “Number One” for the tribute album, Rutles Highway Revisited, released in 1993.

Of “Thorazine Shuffle,” G Zahora writes:

“Thorazine Shuffle” is a Modern Entertainment piece, but BB&B’s rendition is particularly brilliant; the bass and bongo arrangement is ultra-spartan jazz-via-Velvet Underground, the vocals quiet and businesslike (except for the freakout choruses, where Penn goes a bit nuts himself). 

Zahora closes their review noting:

It’s not for everyone, but if you dig slightly dated New York weirdo hipster novelty humor, are a rabid Penn and Teller fan or just a colored vinyl lover, Never Mind the Sex Pistols…Here’s Bongos, Bass and Bob is worth tracking down.

There’s an incredibly exhaustive write-up on the record archived on Popsike here for anyone interested, which includes transcripts of articles on the album from Playboy in 1996 and the rest of G Zahora’s album notes. 

Related projects of note include John S. Hall & Kramer (Hall is the vocalist from King Missile)’s Real Men LP and Captain Howdy (Penn Jillette w Kramer) who produced “The Best Song Ever Written” b/w “Dino’s Head” which I own on 45. But Bongos, Bass, and Bob remain a stand-out favorite from the best of the Dr. Demento era.

There is a playlist of a vinyl-rip of the album on YouTube, though a few tracks are cut in the wrong places, (track 2, “Clothes of the Dead” for example is mistakenly cut short at a moment of silence before the final chorus which resumes at the beginning of video #3). Still, it provides a taste of the comedic madness and irreverence of this record. 

A Birthday Like No Other!

I’ve been saving up for this mega-post of audiophilic treasures.  I’m back from a week’s vacation to my old home town where I spent my birthday visiting friends, family and my life-long favorite record shop.

Entering the shop I walked past a NM Beatles butcher cover, straight to the back where 3,000 LPs had just been traded in. Tom, the owner told me it was the best collection he’d ever seen (other than his own.)

All of the discs were alphabetical by artist, and all dead mint. Tom said, “I could easily shrink wrap the whole lot and sell ’em in Japan if I wanted to. The owner played these discs once to rip them and then filed them away.”

I passed up 20 mint Miles Davis LPs knowing I couldn’t afford to bring them all home, but my eyes went wide when I reached the Tom Waits collection. I pulled every disc I didn’t already own and walked up to the counter.

I said to Tom, “hold these – I’m going to pace around for 3 minutes… and then I’m going to come back and buy them.”

I had already ordered two other Waits’ LPs for my birthday – Bone Machine and Bad As Me.  They’re in the mail now.

But getting so many Waits LPs all at once in unplayed condition and not spending a cent on shipping… totally made my birthday!


Next during a routine visit to my local antique mall I found a copy of the Rutles’ self-titled 12″ promo on yellow vinyl with the hilarious banana label from 1978.


(To anyone who isn’t familiar with the Beatles parody band – please go to Youtube and watch their uproariously funny mockumentary, All You Need Is Cash.  It stars Eric Idle, George Harrison Mick Jagger, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray and many others!)

Hold My Hand

Let’s Be Natural

Another birthday order arrived by mail this week – the limited edition Flaming Lips’ Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots pressed on red vinyl.  This is a perfect compliment to my other limited edition Lips’ disc – their award winning masterpiece, The Soft Bulletin + bonus CD.


On the grounds outside the antique mall I found three more Sesame Street records which I didn’t already have in my collection, along with four Muppet and four Sesame Pez dispensers.


The vendor also had the 1984 Sesame Street Fisher Price playhouse (without the figures) and a rare 1978 9-disc box set titled “My First Sesame Street Record Collection,” the later of which I could not pass up taking home.

The set is complete with original box, printed bag, nine 45 RPM singles and their respective colorful cardboard sleeves.  Little is known about these sets and various versions were sold in the late 70s.  Only two photos are posted in the Muppet Wiki and my copy is far more complete than those pictured!

That weekend I went garage saling and found two more Jim Henson treasures – a Red Fraggle plush at the Super Flea and a 1986 30th Birthday poster of the Muppets and Henson, himself!  The poster turned up at a garage sale for $1.  Not bad.

Two more Parliament Funkadelic LPs also came by mail.  Unfortunately the “original pressing” Maggot Brain I ordered turned out to be a cheap repress from the 90s so I sold it and cut my losses.  The other disc was good – a sealed original copy of Funkadelic’s debut self-titled LP.  (It’s breaking my heart trying to decide whether or not to open it!)

I came real close to ordering the new limited edition green vinyl re-release of White Zombie’s Astro-Creep 2000, but after contacting the label I learned that the glorious lyric art that came with the CD is not included with the vinyl, so I passed.

…which brings me to what was going to be my most celebrated find of the year.

I thought myself incredibly fortunate to finally have my dream turntable AND a new pre-amp to drastically upgrade my set up.

I was using a linear direct drive Optimus LAB-2250 turntable, a $20 economy phono stage and NAD L40 integrated amp.  Sure, the NAD is nothing to turn your nose up at, but the table and cheap phono stage crippled what little quality I had.

Close friends may recall that I had a gorgeous vintage 70s McIntosh receiver, but that it had intermittent crackling which the folks at MAC headquarters could not eliminate after 2 years of servicing the unit.

Well the replacement is in transit now, but the same sadly cannot be said about the turntable.

This is the Denon DP-60L.  It is what many call the finest machine ever manufactured by Denon.  It has a no-contact end sensor auto-lift mechanism, back-lit controls and a rosewood plinth.   As an added bonus, this specific table was fitted with a Signet cartridge which you often see paired with turntables double the value of the 60L.  I thought I had finally found my dream table – until it arrived at my doorstep… broken and non-functional.  It was apparently destroyed in the mail, but despite my paying for insurance on the $600 purchase, the post office chose not to accept responsibility and denied my claim.  I turned to Paypal hoping they would protect my funds, but the terms of my purchase fell though a fine-print loophole and the funds were denied.

Two months later, I am appealing the USPS’s denial.  WISH ME ALL THE LUCK IN THE WORLD.  This was the biggest equipment purchase of my life.

On the positive side there is still the McIntosh amp waiting for me, thanks to the immeasurable generosity of a dear friend.

The new MAC eliminates the problem of the cheap phono stage.  This beast (with a shipping weight of 69 pounds!) was manufactured in the early 90s.  It’s the McIntosh C39 pre-amplifier.  I’m working on picking up a power amp to pair it with.

The heartbreaking thing about the Denon is that I had a conversation with Tom (the record store owner mentioned at the beginning of this post) and it turns out that he’s using the exact same model at home!

This is a man with 30,000 LPs in his personal collection.  If it’s good enough for him, then it’s most certainly good enough for me!  One day, it will be mine.

Wish me luck with the claim.  Still, it was one hell of a birthday.