The first time I ever heard of ball of twine was in a song by Weird Al Yankovic. It appears on his soundtrack album for the movie UHF. The film bombed at the box office, has since become a cult classic.
I always assumed it was a fictional story. I had no idea that the ball of twine was a real thing that anyone can see for themselves. It’s really located in Minnesota. The name of city is Darwin, which seems ironically appropriate.
Francis A. Johnson began constructing a ball out of leftover twine from his family’s farm when he was 45 years old. A reporter from the Minneapolis Tribune asked why it had gotten so large.
Johnson replied, “My mother taught me not to waste anything.”
Francis was a thrifty man, but he was also a collector. He once had 7,000 pencils. The ball of twine was just one of his many, though it became the most important.
Francis pulled in leftover twine from nearby farms, square-knotted the pieces, and added them to the enormous sphere in his yard. To spin the ball and maintain the roundness, he used a railroad jack. For a while he hung the ball from a tree.
From 1950 until 1979, Francis wrapped his twine ball strand by strand. He only stopped because he developed emphysema. He then died in 1989. His family believes that because he didn’t smoke, his ailment was caused by twine ball dust.
After his passing in 1989, the ball was trucked into Darwin’s downtown, where it is still located today. Now it’s a major tourist attraction. The nearly two-ton twine ball averages 150 visitors a day during the summer months. It now lives inside a glass-walled gazebo in a museum. If you ask nicely, they’ll unlock the gazebo to let you get within sniffing distance of Francis’s creation.
Maybe it’s time to plan a trip! It’s not that far from the Twin Cities Metro.
It’s hard to call a song by Devo a favorite because I have like 20 of them. This one is from the very early times of the band. The music video is delightful. The sounds and music are weird. This track and many other classics can be found on the album Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!.
It was 1980. This video is really more of a music film. The music video had not yet been invented. You can see the production value is not up to the level of the music videos that came out only a few years later. MTV was still on the horizon.
“Fashion” was a glam-rock touchstone. It appeared on Bowie’s Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) album, which featured the singles “Ashes To Ashes”, “Fashion”, “Scary Monsters” and “Up The Hill Backwards”. The track now appears on various greatest hits compilations such as ChangesBowie2.
David Bowie loved fashion but he was also critical of the concept. Fashion is a paradox. To be the most fashionable you must appear unimpressed even if you are thrilled. Look at the facial expressions made by models as they prance the runway. They always look angry and/or annoyed.
You might be less than impressed to learn that today is Fashion Day. It’s a trendy new observance, so you may not have heard of it. Look to FunHouse Radio to keep you in the know.
I can’t think of a better track to celebrate National Video Game Day. The story behind this track is pretty interesting.
It’s hard to track down the original recording of this song because it’s been redone a number of times and the original was released only in Japan.
In 1986, a Japanese talk show called All Night Nippon held a contest that asked fans to mail-in their own lyrics written to the tune of the Super Mario theme song. A winner was selected and singer Hiroko Taniyama is thought to have recorded the vocals but the performance was credited to Princess Peach, a character in the game.
The single was then produced and released on 7inch vinyl and cassette. The original title was “Mario No Daibouken: or “Mario’s Big Adventure”.
The single made it to the top 40 in Japan and was re-recorded in other languages as well but it never quite made it to the English-speaking world.
If you heard this track on FunHouse Radio, it was off the LP Trapped In The Body Of A White Girl. I have a copy of the 1987 release in my vinyl collection. It was her second full length album. The track had been previously released as single in 1983. The song was featured in the movie Earth Girls Are Easy in 1988.
I remember Julie Brown most for her music, valley girl character and her Madonna parodies. Other may remember that her music was featured on The Dr Demento Show.
She’s done more than comedy music.
Checking out her Wikipedia reveals that she has had a surprisingly storied career in show business. She’s been in movies like Attack of the 5 Ft. 2 In. Women. She’s appeared in TV Shows like The Middle & Happy Days, She’s even voiced cartoon characters for Animaniacs!
Today is American Redneck Day. Y’all ready to get busy? I’m crazy therefore this was the first song that came to mind for the occasion.
Sir Mix-A-Lot had an album and singles out on the scene long before “Baby Got Back”. His album Swass came out in 1988 on the strength of their single “Posse on Broadway” which was not a a comedy track like this one. I had the album on cassette.
“Square Dance Rap” was actually released as a single. I first heard the song on the radio but was a different mix. The version that appeared on the album had some editing done to it that makes it a little more goofy.
My fifth grade teacher managed to get our class to square dance back in 1985. Square dancing was really a thing in American culture, even as recently as the 1980s. The photo above was found on this great article about the square dancing fad. It’s from 1986 and shows an Ohio square dance club enjoying one of their twice monthly dances.
Have you ever learned to Square Dance? Let us know in the comments.
We love covers here. Who better to cover than Prince? This track was released back in 1988 only two years after the original. It reached high positions in the global pop charts and as such remains Art of Noise‘s biggest hit. They also received an MTV Music Video Award.
After recording a number of country-pop style tracks, Welsh singer Tom Jones made a left-field decision to cover “Kiss”. It ended up reviving his career.
WalesOnline did a study using Spotify data back in 2016. Jone’s “Kiss” was rated the 14th most dance-able song of all time. The caveat is that about 8% of all pop music does not appear on Spotify. That beat out Daft Punk who came in at 18 with “Around The World”.
Do you think this track is really that danceable? Let us know in the comments.