Looking back on Nostalgia Ward’s Hit Novelty Song, “Pineapple Pizza,” and what finally getting played on The Dr. Demento Show means to me.
It’s no secret that I love a good slice of Hawaiian pizza. Who doesn’t? What? It’s a startlingly divisive topic online? How can a delicious blend of Canadian bacon, juicy pineapple, four different kinds of cheese (asiago, parmesan, mozzarella, and romano — for those interested in such things) and some black olives on a slice of pizza cause unhappiness? The world may never know. Or I don’t really care; I’m not sure which. Regardless, the pizza has an interesting history and helped me achieve a lifelong goal last year: getting a song played on The Dr. Demento Show.
Let’s rewind a bit. As a kid, I adored everything Dr. Demento — the host of a two-hour, nationally syndicated radio show specializing in comedy and novelty songs — played on the air. I loved “Weird Al” Yankovic, Barnes & Barnes, Sheb Wooley and Shel Silverstein. I still do. When I became interested in playing guitar at age 13 (on an old Harmony H162 — which I still play), I picked up the instrument with a singular goal: to get a song on The Dr. Demento Show.
As time passed, I never strayed from this goal. I finally worked up the confidence to write and record a few tunes on an old Tascam cassette-based Portastudio, but not all of them were attempts at humor. Some of them were actually quite serious, like “The Red Sea” (a bit of a protest song I wrote for a history class), “Layin’ Down the Track” (a blues number about the Transcontinental Railroad), and “Dangerous World” (exactly what it says on the tin). I fancied myself the next Tom Petty or Warren Zevon at the time.
On the other side of that coin, however, were songs like “Personals” (about online dating circa 2002) — a big hit locally, but went absolutely nowhere on the show. Another song called “Bills” had a rather silly chorus calling for “the bill collectors” to “f*** themselves,” with homemade bleeps and all (because I thought intentionally bleeping the song was funnier than actually swearing). Finally, there was a piece entitled “Chronic Dylanism (Bob Dylan has a Cold)” that was about the great musician dealing with the common cold, complete with surreal imagery, harmonica, references to many of his songs, and a silly impression of Bob’s singing voice. Don’t ask me to play it — I can’t remember all the words (although I did remember two verses and the chords while writing this so, perhaps if there’s any interest, I’ll record it and post it here).
After sending the good doctor a CD of songs I was sure he’d love, I sat back and waited for him to play them on the show. He never did. I often wonder if my CD was among the stacks of albums responsible for putting him in a bad mood shortly before he came across the amazing Logan Whitehurst’s CD. I’ll never know for sure, but I did ask Dr. Demento if he still had the disc a few years ago. He responded that he did … but doesn’t remember it. So it goes. Throughout my CD were little musical experiments, only a few of which survive today. At some point, I lost my own master copies of the disc and forgot about it until one day in 2017.
I’m not exactly sure what was going through my mind at the time, but I suddenly experienced a burst of silly inspiration that led to an impromptu performance of a song about pineapple pizza. I refined the lyrics a bit, composed the music and brought a Dr. Demento alumni into the mix. Here’s what I wrote in the “liner notes” to the song:
The basic track for this performance of the song was recorded in a bedroom studio. Using nothing but a TASCAM DR-22W, a Harmony H162 acoustic guitar and my own voice, I recorded this tune in one take. Then I did another take. And a third. 17 takes later, I had a basic track I was happy with and committed to making the song a reality.
“Pineapple Pizza” is admittedly a silly, stupid song … but it’s a fun song. There’s no pressure, no divisiveness, no anger. Just unabashed love for a certain kind of pizza and a celebration of “the heavenly slice from above.” I never claimed to be a poet. I should also clarify that while the song’s narrator eschews black olives, I personally enjoy putting them on my own pineapple pizza, right alongside the pineapple and Canadian bacon. I discovered it in a (don’t laugh) dream. Following an invasive medical procedure. Good times.
I played acoustic rhythm/lead guitar and sang the song. Brad Stanfield — the famous voice and guitar behind Dr. Demento Show favorites “Gumball Wizard” and “The Waffle Whiffer” — supplied additional vocals, drums and bass for the song.
The official music video for the song (at the top of this piece), stars my friend Weird Paul Petroskey (you can read more about him in the piece I wrote for Tedium last year and find him on YouTube). I am nowhere to be seen in the video, but I enjoyed Paul’s take on my song. Watch it below. For those who prefer the audio version, Nostalgia Ward has a Bandcamp page where you can stream the song for free or buy an MP3 for the low, low price of $.99.
After “Pineapple Pizza” by Nostalgia Ward launched, it just sort of sat there until June 2019. I did almost zero advertising and, at that point, had yet hear about services like Distro Kid that will distribute your songs to streaming services. Later, as I was finishing my work on writing a series of articles about comedy/novelty music and Dr. Demento’s own Great Novelty Songwriting Contest, I decided to try sending him a song once again. I selected “Pineapple Pizza.” He played it on the show, giving a nice shout-out to both me and Weird Paul.
I accomplished my musical goal, a full 21 years after setting it in the first place. I heard the song playing on the show, feeling a tremendous sense of joy and accomplishment in hearing my ridiculous pizza song on my favorite radio show of all time. I’m certainly not the next “Weird Al” and I’ll be the first to admit that getting played on Dr. D isn’t going to propel my work into the music world at large. But it did bolster my confidence and piqued my interest in learning more and diverse styles of guitar playing.
Getting played on The Dr. Demento Show was an amazing accomplishment, but it didn’t spell the end of my music making career. I am pleased to announce there’s more music coming. I’ve been working on some ambient guitar music and other instrumental tracks lately that I’m quite excited about, along with a bluesy folk song or two.
I’ll still write silly songs, of course. The world needs more fun and irreverence. One could argue “Pineapple Pizza” was more miss than hit, but I had a blast writing and performing the song. In fact, to celebrate the song’s three year anniversary I intend to record a new version and a live performance or two.
Get ready folks, because it’s coming: “Pineapple Pizza (Deep Dish)” will be arriving any day now on the Nostalgia Ward YouTube channel. We haven’t done much with the brand since we launched the website in July 2017. That’s changing, too. There’ll probably be an EP at some point later in the year. Stay tuned.
Is “Pineapple Pizza” comedy? Novelty? Rock? And/or Roll? Do you love it or hate it (both the song and the slice)? What do you think, dear readers? We’d love to hear from you. For me, it’s difficult to classify. All I know is I had a blast creating it. Why don’t we just call it weird and go grab a cup of coffee? — DB