Napoleon XIV – They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!
By Evan Toth
Somewhere in-between MAD magazine, Ren and Stimpy, and Weird Al lived the work of Jerry Samuels, better known as Napoleon XIV who passed away from complications related to Parkinson’s disease on March 10, 2023. “They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haa” was Jerry’s big hit: reaching Number 3 on the Billboard 100, but there was more to this songwriter than this quirky number. A listen to his first - and only - full-length LP reveals some of the wackiest compositions you’d hope to hear, even though the mental hospital theme was a bit ghastly (though it worked for Alice Cooper 12 years later, albeit with a more serious and biographical bent). 1966’s They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa! finds Jerry not only aiming for another novelty hit, or two, but - in the process - creating some serious precursors to the hip-hop genre, specifically “Bats in My Belfry” and another favorite of mine, the lead-off track, “I’m in Love With My Little Red Tricycle”. My copy is a Rhino reissue from 1985 in stereo and sounds terrific, it's clean and quiet and provides the perfect laughing pad to highlight the intricacies of Samuel's detailed and expertly recorded vocals. Samuels’ comedic voice and ability to convey a singular brand of loopy humor remains a touchstone in the novelty genre, but it’s his skill that makes it good; it wouldn’t be so funny - it wouldn’t be so weird - if it wasn’t crafted with such care.