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Music / Napoleon XIV

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"Thoughts that need thinking like spring has been sprung
Fantasy helps all of us to think young
Everyone knows that penguins go formal
So who's there among us to say who is normal?"
"Bats In My Belfry"

Napoleon XIV was the pseudonym of the American singer and songwriter Jerry Samuels (May 3, 1938- March 10, 2023).

Samuels started out writing and performing normal love songs; he released a few pop records in The '50s, and Sammy Davis Jr.'s version of his song "The Shelter of Your Arms" became a Top 20 hit in 1963. However, the material he recorded as Napoleon XIV is very different. It consists of aggressively weird novelty songs focusing on mental illnessnote , often featuring unhinged vocals, atonal "melodies", and minimalistic accompaniment. These songs are about as entertaining as they are creepy — and they can be pretty creepy. One of them, his Signature Song "They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!", was actually a Top 3 hit in 1966 for two weeks. It dropped not due to lack of interest, but due to mental health experts stating the song was too real and that Samuels was being exploited somehow, and got it banned on radio.

However, Napoleon XIV met his Waterloo when a follow-up single ("I'm in Love With My Little Red Tricycle") and an album (titled after "They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!") both flopped, and a second album intended for 1968 release (which would have been titled For God's Sake, Stop the Feces!) was canceled. Afterwards, Samuels found work as a booking agent, although Napoleon XIV briefly resurfaced in The '90s with The Second Coming, a compilation that combined the 1966 album with tracks intended for Feces and a few new recordings.

Samuels eventually passed away in March 2023, due to complications of Parkinson's disease dementia at the age of 84.

"They're Coming to Trope Me Away, Ha-Haaa!":

  • Answer Song: Josephine XV replied, "I'm Happy They Took You Away, Ha-Ha!". Meanwhile, the dog got his own response with "They Took You Away, I'm Glad, I'm Glad."note 
  • Bedlam House: The chorus of "They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha Ha":
    They're coming to take me away, ha ha,
    They're coming to take me away, ha haa, hee hee, ho ho
    To the funny farm, where life is beautiful all the time,
    And I'll be happy to see those nice young men in their clean, white coats
    And they're coming to take me away...
    To the happy home with trees and flowers and chirping birds,
    And basket weavers who sit and smile and twiddle their thumbs and toes
    And they're coming to take me away ha haaa!
  • Been There, Shaped History: "The Nuts On My Family Tree".
  • Bestiality Is Depraved: "Let's Cuddle Up In My Security Blanket" is a love song to a cow.
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind: The accusation of "They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haa!"
  • Domino Mask: He's shown wearing one in the publicity photo above.
  • Driven to Suicide: "Goofin' On the Job"... maybe.
  • Gratuitous Panning: "I Live in a Split-Level Head", where the first round of lyrics are in both channels — and then each channel simultaneously plays different lyrics.note 
  • Last Note Nightmare: "Goofin' On the Job".
  • Laughing Mad: Many of his songs.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: Every single thing he's ever done, with the possible exceptions of "Iowa Pot" and "The Explorer," and the definite exception of "Goofin' On The Job." The latter is sufficiently disturbing to him that he buried it in the middle of the CD release of his complete collection.