Stupid Tuesday question, Sex Packets edition

This past weekend, I accompanied the Better Half to his 20-year high school reunion.  He hadn’t seen many of his former classmates since graduation, and he had a grand time catching up with them.  For my part, I had a good time, too.  I already knew a few of his high school friends, and everyone I met was very friendly.  Plus, it’s always amusing to watch people as they dance in steadily greater states of inebriation.  Good times.

With the mention of dancing, you may reasonably assume that there was music to go with it.  The DJ (who I gathered was a member of the class, or from the hometown, or something) did a good job of picking music that had been popular at the time that attendees had been in high school, with a few older and newer hits thrown in for variety.  (I am a little bit irritated with myself for requesting something by Madonna, but failing to stipulate “except ‘Like a Virgin.'”)  While these musical selections did ram home the unmistakable conclusion that that particular era of American popular music was a vast wasteland of auditory dreck, it was useful in bringing back memories.

One song really stood out in this way — “The Humpty Dance,” by Digital Underground.  Released in 1990, it was a massive hit.  I didn’t find it especially enjoyable back in the day, but it wasn’t until hearing it a few days ago that its epic badness really became clear to me.  That song may well be the worst thing ever recorded.  I can literally think of nothing good to say about it.  The best I can do is a negative statement  — eg.  “as far as I know, nobody has been diagnosed with rectal cancer as a result of that song.”  It is lyrically, musically and culturally awful.  Those of you who wonder where grunge came from should listen to that song.  If you heard it over and over again, you’d stop washing your hair and mope around in flannel, too.

BUT!  Because of its inexplicable popularity and thus heavy airplay on the radio and TV, it is buried like an especially tenacious parasite in the limbic systems of people who grew up at a certain time.  And because of its inescapable terribleness, it has not become one of those songs that gets regular airplay any longer, and is thus sealed in amber in the time of its evanescent popularity.  So it is a perfect song for a high school reunion.  Verily, I think that a high school reunion is the only time is it ever acceptable to play “The Humpty Dance.”  Doing so in any other context is a violation of basic decency, the Geneva Conventions, and the tenets of several major world religions.

So that’s this week’s Stupid Question — what songs can only be played under very strict circumstances?  What can you sing or play at weddings, bat mitvahs, church bake sales, etc. that you just can’t get away with any other time?  NB. this differs from a previous STQ in that this is not a song you like because of the context in which you first heard it.  No, no.  This is a song you hate, and can only tolerate when heard thusly.

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.


    • I can only dance the Electric Slide when falling down drunk.

      True story.

    • I don’t think this counts, as I don’t believe the electric slide should be played under ANY circumstances.

  1. I don’t know if I have any songs to offer up because I feel most compelled to defend ‘The Humpty Dance’.

    I was a sophmore when this came out. White suburban kid attending a private Catholic school. But I also loved hip-hop like many of my classmates. We were between 80s hair metal and 90s grunge and hip-hop was fresh and, at that time, fun. You had Digital Underground, Young MC, Tone Loc, MC Hammer, DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, Kid & Play, Beastie Boys, etc. None of them took themselves too seriously. Even Public Enemy, who were the most serious group that any of us listened to, had Flavor Flav to take the edge off. So we all listened to hip-hop because it was fun (and it drove our parents bonkers).

    To me, this song is really the pinnacle of that period. It got white kids to be a little more accepting of black culture and got us rapping the lyrics at Friday night mixers. I dare anyone to play it in a bar with the right aged clients and not see several 30-something white people smiling. It’s dumb, it’s cheesy but it brings back some awesome memories for me…and the bass hook is still killer.

    • I definitely remember the period in hip hop that you’re describing, and will certainly concede both that it seemed like a more lighthearted era and that “The Humpty Dance” was part of said era. And hey, if you like it, far be if from me to strongly imply that you are wrong. Just because I’d rather listen to gravel in a blender doesn’t mean I think someone who disagrees with me should be started on Thorazine. It would be churlish in the extreme to suggest that a person who enjoys “The Humpty Dance” should not be trusted to operate heavy machinery, and I would certainly never say that such a person is unfit to hold public office.

      • I just chalk it up to another League-music-taste incompatibility for me. Weirdest hing I’ve ever seen…

          • Russell, come on…’I once got busy in a Burger King bathroom’ is one of the greatest lyrics in any song ever!

            Seriously, this song never fails to get everybody dancing everywhere. It’s hilarious, and basically an updated P-Funk track.

            What is not to love? Why do you hate fun? 😉

          • I hate fun because my heart is made of tar.

            And whatever whimsy is found in those lyrics is crushed under the spike heel of the “uh, uh, do me baby” refrain, which I hate with the white hot heat of a thousand suns.

          • Even in its original form, from whence the sample comes? Like I said, the whole track is straight-up P-Funk.

            Hating on Digital Underground I can *sort* of forgive, I guess, but Parliament?! This is a bridge too far.

            You, good Doctor, are hereby On Notice:


          • I will admit that I had not heard the Parliament original until now. I regret the lacuna of funk familiarity in my life thus lived.

            No, I do not mind it nearly as much in the original, which is orders of magnitude better in terms of musicality. The sample sounds better in its original setting, and doesn’t create nearly the same desire to plunge hot knitting needles in my ears as it does in “The Humpty Dance.”

    • The Big Stick speaks truth. ‘Humpty’ was definitely ‘accessible’ hip-hop compared to say, Public Enemy and NWA, but it was not nearly as dreadful as MC Hammer or (*spits*) Vanillia Ice.

      (and grunge was a response to hair bands, Dr. Saunders, (and to a lesser extent teeny pop a la New Kids on the Block and Color Me Badd)) not the early attempts to mainstream hip-hop.)

        • Feel free to bash grunge. I was never a fan. The only band I liked out of Seatlle at that time were the Presidents of the United States of America.

  2. I think Biz Markee (or however he spells it) with “Just a friend..”

    I remember being at UCONN Honor Band back in the late 80’s and after having been out to one of the “Under 21” gathering spots on campus, we trudged back to the dorm where we were all staying.

    We were woken up by some drunken frat guys singing that song under our window.



    On another note, your better half is younger than me.


    My 25th reunion is coming up in 3 years.

      • I console myself daily that my brother’s 30th is next year, and that the year after, he’ll be 50.

        I’ve already scoped out bakeries where he lives, so I can have a cake delivered for his ‘special’ day.

        Black, with a tombstone & vulture, yadda yadda.

        I mean, I’m the baby sister. I have to be evil. It’s in the contract.

    • The city in which you live would not exist without their rock ‘n roll.

      • Are you making a distinction between them and the Airplane?

        • Jefferson Starship was created with the Zombie brain eaten members of Jefferson Airplane. They can’t be the same.

  3. Anything from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, with the exception of A Fifth of Beethoven, which should be used only to torture Central American dictators.

  4. the lyrics may be dumb, but the bassline to the humpty dance is completely out of control. it’s pure bass sex.

    • The lyrics are genius! ‘I like my oatmeal lumpy’, the random shoutout to Samoans?! Come on!! I feel like I am taking crazy pills here!

      Hey dhex – I was in Other Music in NYC this weekend and picked up the Shackleton 3 EPs (the new one was more expensive, and I am a cheapo). Will be listening today!

      • dumb can be good, mind you, but yeah that’s kinda dumb.

        man now i’m imagining a 20 year hs reunion with shackleton dj’ing. enjoy it. haven’t been to other music in a while, as my physical record shopping has been cut down by the crushing weight of bourgeoisie heterosexual family life.

        • ‘my physical record shopping has been cut down by the crushing weight of bourgeoisie heterosexual family life’

          Join the club, my man. Thank god for the internet.

          My folks took the kids for the weekend so we could visit a friend that was in NYC, also for the weekend.

          My buddy works for OM doing their web stuff (he got us into the sold-out xx show but it was at Terminal 5 – terrible venue), so we always stop in there when in town.

          • i kinda like terminal 5. i know people don’t but i’ve seen a few really good shows there – mogwai, boredoms, etc. the sound if you’re in the middle of the floor is really quite good. security is a little heavy but since it used to be club exit, not surprising.

            i might get a shot at record shopping next month sometime. the wee one is still too young to enjoy such tender pleasures/i have no urge to apologize to a dozen strangers while he flings stuff out of bins.

          • yeah, the sound was great but there are very few places to get a line-of-sight view of the stage – we tried all floors, various spots.

            To be fair, it was totally jam-packed-sold-out and we rolled in pretty much just before it started, so if we had gotten there earlier, maybe we could have gotten on the floor and it would have been fine.

            But the ‘limited views’ refrain seems common – when I named the venue to another friend, they immediately mentioned it too.

            My boy loves the record store. When he was very small kept him in the stroller out of reach of the records. Now that he is older, he usually just treats it as a dance club, and ppl usually seem amused.

            It makes me sad that there prob. won’t be many record stores left when he gets older.

          • i’m 6’4″ so the whole limited views thing doesn’t really come into play that often for me. but yeah there’s a lot of columns/supports.

            “It makes me sad that there prob. won’t be many record stores left when he gets older.”

            they’ll be specialty things, like high end candy stores or antique booksellers. but yeah, that ship sailed as soon as fratboys figured out napster.

  5. I’d say “The Black Eyed Peas,” but I don’t think there are any appropriate venues for subjecting people to that music.

    • Having already shared my feelings about those who disagree with me on this issue in my reply to Mike supra, I will simply say that I recognize that people may differ from my views. Lord knows there are other musicians and songs that other people seem to love that I just can’t get into, so I’m willing to admit that I might be wrong about some of the things I don’t enjoy.

      Not about this, though. I’m totally right this time.

  6. Really, no one’s hit the Chicken Dance yet?

    In Wisconsin, from whence Mrs. Likko hails and I have my family roots, there must be some sort of a law mandating that all wedding receptions must include both the Chicken Dance and a polka.

    Just one of each, mind.

  7. As for the question:

    what songs can only be played under very strict circumstances?

    I decree that any country music may only be played at steakhouses with an old-west/cowboy motif.

  8. Does any DJ know “Mrs. Robinson” or “Wild Thing”? Boy, do I feel old!


  9. “Shout!”- on Sundays in the Fall in Buffalo, before the Bills have officially been eliminated from playoff contention, there is nothing more awesome to hear; outside of that context (well, and weddings too) the song is kinda annoying.

  10. in the Fall in Buffalo, before the Bills have officially been eliminated from playoff contention

    Isn’t that technically still summer?

    • Most years. Every once in awhile, usually in pre-Leap Years like last year, they decide to torment their fans by pretending to be competitive for a few weeks in September, allowing their fans to briefly have a false hope. Then October rolls around, the first snow starts to come down, and everyone wakes up and realizes that they still live in Buffalo and the local football team is still the Bills.

  11. Used to play in a wretched band. We did more than a few weddings and some Super Bowl parties at the VFW. Two horrid songs come to mind: Kokomo by the Beach Boys and Can’t Help Falling in Love with You by Elvis Presley.

    I once ate most of a bag of Twizzlers on a road trip. Now I can’t look at a Twizzler without a bout of revulsion. The same goes for these two songs.

    • Our high school mascot was the Shamrocks (Catholic school with large % of Irish kids). We usually shortened it to ‘Rocks’. At football games we would chant the Queen song ‘We Will Rock You’. Cheesy yes, but fun also.

      That song though, should NEVER be played outside sporting events. And of course, most classic rock radio stations think ‘We Are the Champions’ is legally required to be played immediately afterwards. That one should only ever be played as the championship winning team is walking off the field.

  12. There’s a radio station here that, once a year or so, will play every single fishing Beatles song, in alphabetical order. That is the only circumstance in which anyone should play Mr. Moonlight.

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