Timothy

ONE HIT WONDERLAND Timothy.jpg

Date Aired
October 30, 2020
Running Time
18:34
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Todd plays "Timothy" on the piano.

THE BUOYS - TIMOTHY
A one-hit retrospective

Todd: [doing spooky voice] Welcome, boils and ghouls, to the return of the [logo shows up onscreen for...] One Hit Wonderland Spooktacular Edition! [in normal voice] Yes, it's back.

Clips of past Spooktacular Editions

Todd (VO): If you don't know, in the early years of this show the Spooktacular was a thing I'd do every year where I'd cover something Halloween-related like "The Monster Mash" and then I'd make increasingly desperate attempts to keep it going 'til I just ran out of ideas.


Todd: So, I haven't done it in a while. But then I realised "wait, there is this one song that I could use to bring it back". The question is whether I should.

Live performance clip of The Buoys - "Timothy"

Todd (VO): This is the song "Timothy" by The Buoys. It was a [shot of single cover] Top 20 hit in 1971, and...

Todd: ...it kinda qualifies.

Todd (VO): It's, uh... I guess it's not really spooky exactly. It's more...

Todd: ..."macabre", I guess is the word. It counts, but on the scale of Halloweeniness, it's less [picture of...] Universal Movie monsters and more [clip of...] Tales from the Crypt.

The Buoys: Timothy, Timothy

Jerry Hludzik: Where on earth did you go

Todd: It's about a guy named [image of text reading...] Timothy, and, uh, he's alive at the beginning of the song, and he's probably not at the end of it.

Todd (VO): It's one of the very many morbid story songs of the early 70s, and it's, uh...

Todd: ...well, I don't wanna spoil it.

Todd (VO): Rest assured that it might sound like just another AM radio folk-pop song...

Todd: But in reality, people were [image of shocked faces] shocked and appalled by it. [back to Todd] In fact, in the '90s, humour columnist [shot of cover for Dave Barry's Book of Bad Songs] Dave Barry ran a reader poll called The Bad Songs Survey, where people would vote on the worst song ever made. It [back to Todd] basically inspired my entire career.

Clip of Captain & Tennille

Todd (VO): But anyway, the results were dominated by wimpy, easy-listening smash hits, [clip of...] but "Timothy" ranked a respectful 4th place, which is impressive considering it wasn't a big hit at all. [shot of Billboard Hot 100] Got up as far as number 17 which, it's alright, but its chart run lasted a brief 8 weeks.

Todd: That shouldn't be enough time to do anything except maybe show up on a [shot of cover for Super Hits of the '70s: Have a Nice Day, Vol. 6] Rhino Records compilation somewhere. [back to Todd] And yet, "Timothy" reliably appears on a lot of these [shot of cover for The Rhino Brothers Present The World's Worst Records Vol. 2] "worst song ever" lists.

The Buoys: Timothy, Timothy

Todd: Doesn't sound that bad to me. So we're gonna get to the bottom of this.

Todd (VO): Let us now try and solve the mysterious disappearance of Timothy, and the much less mysterious disappearance of The Buoys, who definitely did not get a second hit after this.

Todd: Hoo buddy, here we go.

The Buoys: Timothy, Timothy

Jerry: God why don't I know

Before the hit

Todd: Well, it's Halloween. Wanna see something scary?

Clip of Rupert Holmes - "Escape (The Piña Colada Song)"

Rupert: If you like piña coladas

Todd: [waving hands] Aaaaaahhh!

Rupert: And getting caught in the rain

Todd (VO): Yes, this is of course Rupert Holmes, and if you like piñas...

Todd: ...coladas, that is...

Todd (VO): ...and getting caught in the rain, you can thank this man, who popularised both with his smash hit from 1979, "Escape (The Piña Colada Song)". You probably know it.

Todd: Despite numerous requests for me to cover him on One Hit Wonderland, I will not be doing so because...

Todd (VO): ...one, I already covered this song in an old separate video, and two...

Todd: ...he's not a one hit wonder.

Clip of Rupert Holmes - "Him"

Rupert: Him, him, him

What's she gonna do about him

Todd (VO): He had a second big hit in 1980 called "Him". It's actually much better than "The Piña Colada Song"...

Todd: ...I don't know why no one remembers it.

Rupert: She'll say "ah, he's just a friend"

Todd (VO): But Rupert Holmes had a very long and strange career besides just songs about his wife cheating on him and/or cheating on his wife. After his hits, he wrote several plays and musicals, he won a couple Tonys. [clip of ad for Remember WENN] In the '90s, he developed a sitcom. And before his hits, he wrote a lot of songs in the mid-70s [image of Rupert with...] for Barbara Streisand.

Todd: But we begin at the dawn of his career when [image of young Rupert Holmes] he was just a 20-year-old session musician and struggling songwriter, mostly getting by on commercial jingles and [back to Todd] arranging songs for marching bands.

Todd (VO): But he knew some guys at Scepter Records and [image of The Buoys] he made friends with a little up and coming band from central Pennsylvania called The Buoys. He got an agreement from the label that the band would record one of his songs as a single.

Todd: He knew he was low on the totem pole, there was gonna be no promotion for it, [clip of interview with Holmes] so he'd have to write the most instantly memorable song in the world, something so arresting that it'd promote itself. [back to Todd] So while he's thinking about that, he's at his day job, working on an...

Clip of Tennessee Ernie Ford's...

Todd (VO): ...arrangement of "Sixteen Tons". Which, you know, that's a classic country song about coal-mining.

Tennessee Ernie Ford: Picked up my shovel and I walked to the mine

I loaded sixteen tons

Todd (VO): And he thinks "coal mining, huh?"

Todd: And he gets an idea.

The big hit

Todd: Ok, let's just do this.

Clips of illustrations depicting "Timothy"

Todd (VO): "Timothy" is the story of three guys trapped in a mine.

Jerry: Trapped in a mine that had caved in

Apparently there was a cave-in, and they couldn't get out. All three of them, Narrator, Joe and Timothy.

Jerry: Joe, and me, and Tim

Todd: Ok, so if there's three of them, why is the song only named after Timothy? What's so special about him?

Jerry: When they broke through to pull us free

The only ones left to tell the tale

Was Joe and me

Todd: Oh, I see. Tim didn't make it. What happened? Well, let's get to verse two.

Jerry: Hungry as hell, no food to eat

And Joe said that he would sell his soul

For just a piece of meat

Todd: Before I say anything, why don't we see where this is going.

The Buoys: Timothy, Timothy

Jerry: Joe was looking at you

The Buoys: Timothy, Timothy

Jerry: God what did we do?

Todd: [beat] Noooo.

Todd (VO): At this point in the song, the narrator blacks out.

Todd: And he only comes back to consciousness...

Todd (VO): ...after the rescue, where we get this.

Jerry: My stomach was full as it could be

And nobody ever got around

To finding Timothy

The Buoys: Timothy

Todd: [beat] They ate him. They ate Timothy! This was a Top 40 hit!

Clips of radio DJs

Todd (VO): So I assume this means Casey Kasem and every other DJ had to get on the radio...

Todd: ...in between their regular programming of [live clips of...] Tome Jones and The Partridge Family, and be like:

Clip of a radio DJ

Todd (VO): [imitating a DJ] And now, a hot little number about killing and eating your co-workers. It's The Buoys with "Timothy"

Todd: Ok, backing it up.

Clip Rupert talking about "Timothy"

Todd (VO): We actually have footage of Rupert in 2002 explaining...

Todd: ...his creative process.

Todd (VO): Like I said, he wanted to make his one single count.

Rupert: I said "Well, if I were you, I-I would record a song that gets banned." And he said "What do you mean by that?" I said "Well, you know, if it's banned, there will be controversy about the song...

Image of The Buoys as Rupert keeps talking

Rupert: ...and the su- people will start paying attention to the group.

Todd: Well, that's a plan.

Rupert: Working on an arrangement of a song called "Sixteen Tons" for an artist named [cover of "Rock Me Gently" by...] Andy Kim. And I'm working on this lyric, in the other room, the TV is on.

Clip of an episode of...

Rupert: The TV show in the other room is The Galloping Gourmet with Graham Kerr

Graham Kerr: Spare ribs. You spear it with a knife.

Rupert: I'm doing a s- I'm working on [clip of...] "Sixteen Tons" by Tennessee Ernie Ford, and it goes:

Tennessee Ernie Ford: A poor man's made out of muscle and blood

Muscle and blood and skin and bones

Rupert: Muscle and blood and skin and bones. It sounds like a recipe.

Todd (VO): No!

Todd: No, it doesn't remotely! You're weird, man.

Todd (VO): Well anyway, his plan to ride controversy to success obviously worked. "Timothy" was just so lacking in taste.

Todd: And to be clear, I mean the song "Timothy" lacked in taste. I'm sure Timothy himself was probably delicious.

Todd (VO): But it was just tasteless enough that it got banned on radio stations everywhere as people realized what the song was about.

Todd: Which is probably why [shot of The Buoys] I couldn't find any video footage of them performing this song. [back to Todd] When your one hit is about [image of man biting into meat] devouring the title character, yeah, [clip of...] you're not getting invited on Carson. [back to Todd] But the thing is that while we like to believe that people in the past were more innocent...

Clip of kids in classroom

Todd (VO): ...the fact is that teenagers, just as much then as now, are...

Todd: ...edgelord little shits, so...

Todd (VO): ...one radio station would ban it, the kids would hear about it being banned and immediately seek it out, and start requesting it on other stations, and it just spread like that through the country.

Todd: At that point, Scepter Records realized they were gonna have to answer some hard questions and they started telling people that...

Shot of first illustration

Todd (VO): ...Timothy was [image of a mule gets pasted over Tim] a mule. No human-on-human munching was going on, just a mule.

Todd: Yeah. Okay, one, that's horseshit, obviously. Or muleshit in this case.

Shot of "Timothy" sheet music

Todd (VO): The song doesn't make any sense that way. [shot of green character with stomach full] Why would our singer be so distraught if he [shot of mule] just had to kill a stupid animal to survive?

Todd: That's clearly not what happened.

Clip of Dick Clark interviewing Rupert Holmes

Todd (VO): And when interviewers would call him up, [text "is timothy a mule" pasted over Clark] Rupert wouldn't even remotely [text "no lol" pasted over Holmes"] play along.

Todd: I mean, really. Be serious. But, two, even if he was a mule, would that really be that much better?

Old footage of mule running around

Todd (VO): Like, I mean, okay, fine, Timothy's just a mule but, I mean, he still has a name. At the very least he's personified in the song, the singer still feels really bad about it. [illustration of Timothy's remains] He still killed Timothy pretty gruesomely!

Todd: Joe and the singer still [shot of man about to bite into meat] dove in teeth first on Timothy's dead raw bloody flesh! [back to Todd] I still feel the vomit rising up in my throat!

Todd (VO): So I don't want to make it seem like I'm squeamish.

Todd: I've heard plenty of songs about eating people.

Clip of Alice Cooper - "Feed My Frankenstein"

Alice Cooper: I'll blow down your house

And then I'm gonna eat ya

Todd (VO): You know, there's this, [clips of...] "Eat The Rich" by Aerosmith, "Eat The Rich" by Motörhead, "Cannibal" by Kesha. So I thought I was prepared for this.

Todd: But "Timothy" still genuinely kinda horrified me. I mean, unlike those other songs, it was a top 40 hit, so that just makes it feel extra perverse. Also, those other songs, you know, they're...

Clip of Motörhead - "Eat The Rich"

Todd (VO): It's like a threat. Like "Ooh, I'm gonna eat you."

Todd: It's cute. "Timothy" is much more literal. [clip from Looney Tunes] This is no longer a hypothetical. These two guys ate their fellow man, presumably a friend of theirs. And not because they were evil monsters.

Todd (VO): But they were in a desperate situation, they were starving, they had no choice. This could happen to you! [Clip of illustrations depicting "Timothy"] You could have eaten Timothy! You could have been Timothy!

Todd: This is really dark! He is in agony!

Jerry: God what did we do?

Clip from South Park

Mr. Garrison: I'm bringing home some Eric Roberts in a doggie bag, does anybody else want some?

Todd: And if you want something really spooky to justify this being a Halloween episode well, get this.

Clip of old archival footage

Todd (VO): Holmes claims that he hadn't ever heard of this. But in 1963, just eight years before this. In Sheppton, Pennsylvania...

Todd: ...not forty minutes away from The Buoys hometown of Wilkes-Barre,

Todd (VO): ...there was, in fact, a mining accident. In which three men were trapped underground.

Todd: And there was a big rescue operation to get them out,

Todd (VO): ...and two of the men were saved, but the third was never found, and his body was never recovered. This actually happened.

Todd: What a spoooky coincidence. Or, [illustration of Timothy's remains] maybe it was the ghost of the real Timothy possessing [clip of performance from...] Rupert Holmes, getting him to tell his strory. [back to Todd] Or he's lying.

Clip of old news story

Todd (VO): I'm just saying. These guys are already in enough trouble. I wouldn't admit to knowingly exploiting an actual tragedy, while also intimating the two real people who survived ate the third.

Todd: Because from what I'm reading,

Clip of old archival footage

Todd (VO): ...there were a couple rumors about what those two guys did to survive. Bullshit rumors, the rescuers didn't find any remains in the survivor's chamber, so...

Todd: ...unless they ate that guy's entire skeleton, this didn't happen.

Clip of The Buoys live performance

Todd (VO): But enough context. Is the song actually any good?

Todd: Uh. Honestly, not really.

Todd (VO): I mean, there are parts that I like. That's a cool driving riff. And The Buoys themselves have some nice Crosby, Stills and Nash harmonies.

Todd: But the song doesn't really work for me. And it's not even the flesh eating. It's just really overproduced.

Jerry: I must have blacked out just around then

Todd (VO): The strings are... overbearing.

Todd: At least in the mix on Spotify.

Todd (VO): I think they did that on purpose. All those radio stations missed the theme of the song for a reason. [clip of Rupert Holmes interview] I think Holmes intentionally drowned out the verses to help it sneak past people.

Todd: But, [sighs] it's a lot. Especially that little chirp whenever they say "Timothy"

Audio clip of "Timothy" with the string chirps

The Buoys: Timothy, Timothy

Todd: Like, I don't know what that's supposed to be. Like, [image of...] maybe it's the ghost of Timothy whispering in your ear. It's... it's like almost Navi from Ocarina of Time irritating.

Clip from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time with "Timothy" playing over it

The Buoys: Timothy

Todd: It's just not something I'd want to listen to, even when I feel like [image of a man eating raw meat] listening to cannibal music. Which, you know, we all get in the mood sometimes.

Clip of The Buoys live performance

Todd (VO): Yeah, this just isn't for me. Cheesy production is the true horror. And even without that,

Todd: ...the song is more of a prank than anything. I'm not sure it holds up to repeated listens.

Todd (VO): But shock value has its place. If you get a kick out of things that are just truly inappropriate for most occasions, I'd give it a recommend.

Todd: "Timothy": The miner that eats like a meal. [Thumbs up]

The Failed Follow-Up

Todd: WHO CARES!?

Clip of The Buoys live performance

Todd (VO): I mean, we started with cannibalism! We're not gonna top that. It's all downhill from here.

Todd: I mean, recording "Timothy" was kind of a Devil's bargain, right?

Todd (VO): You'll get a hit, but...

Todd: ...you know, it's one thing if [images of...] Alice Cooper or Frank Zappa wants to sing about eating people.

Clip of The Buoys live performance

Todd (VO): But these guys are a thoroughly average band who presumably want a normal career. They wanna be the next [album cover of Something Happening by...] Paul Revere & The Raiders, not...

Todd: ...The Cannibal Band.

Clip of interview with Bill Kelly

Bill Kelly: We were very young. We made some, uh, some major mistakes.

Clip of The Buoys live performance

Todd (VO): So if they have any hope of transitioning to non gruesome songs, they've gotta do it quick. Unsurprisingly, they didn't pull it off. Holmes wrote them a few more songs, including their second single, "Give Up Your Guns."

Clip of The Buoys performing "Give Up Your Guns"

Jerry: She said "Give up your guns"

Todd (VO): It's a song about his girl wants him to put down his guns before he uses them [image of someone dressed as a cannibal] to kill someone and eat them.

Todd: Kidding. No, it's-it's an...

Todd (VO): ...Outlaw song. He's a fugitive, she wants him to turn himself in. And at the end of the song, the cops have caught up to him. And he has to decide...

Todd: ...whether he wants to die in a police shoot-out or just go quietly and be executed.

Jerry: Shooting here or hanging there

And either way I lose

Todd (VO): If you like these dramatic 70s story songs, it's alright. It didn't really do it for me. Not a huge fan of the guy's voice, but he does put some drama in it.

Jerry: So, give up your guns

But obviously it wasn't good enough to get the stink of human remains off of them. [image of Billboard chart with "Give Up Your Guns" at #88] It topped out in the 80s on the Hot 100, which is still much higher than I'd expect. And that's the last time they'd touch that chart.

Todd: Obviously, something as gross as "Timothy" was always gonna consume the rest of their career. You could say "Timothy" ate them.

Todd (VO): So I know what you're wondering. If they never had another hit, how come this is the one I had video footage of? Well, guess what.

Todd: "Give Up Your Guns" was absolutely huge in... [images of the flags of Japan...] No. [...and Great Britain] No. No, it was a top 5 hit in [image of a field in...] The Netherlands.

Clip of The Buoys performing "Give Up Your Guns"

The Buoys: But I've got my pistol

Todd (VO): Yeah, this is them on the Dutch program "Top Pop." Huge hit in the early 70s, and a big hit again in 1979 cause it was in a commercial. [scrolls down Dutch YouTube comments on the song] Look at these YouTube comments! The Dutch fucking love this song! Uh, I don't know what was going on in early 70s Amsterdam, so I can't say I get what the Dutch saw in it.

Todd: Uh, the fact that they never heard "Timothy" probably helped! [image of the single cover for...] They released one other single called [menacingly] "Bloodknot." Which sounds cooler than it is.

Image of a prison

Todd (VO): No, it's just about being in prison. A prison [image zoomed in on "Bloodknot"] with a pretty badass name, but...

Todd: ...you know, it's another "woe is me" criminal song.

Clip of The Buoys live performance

Todd (VO): All these other songs Rupert wrote for them are dark, but not funny, you know.

Todd: Boooo! Go back to eating people!

Did They Ever Do Anything Else?

Todd: Well, I already told you what Rupert got up to.

Clip of The Buoys live performance

Todd (VO): The Buoys themselves broke up in the late 70s. But unlike poor Timothy, a couple members did re-emerge.

Clip of The Jerry Kelly Band live performance

Around '78, lead vocalists Bill Kelly and Jerry Hludzik started a band called "Jerry Kelly". Eventually the label had to tell them that's a terrible band name, and they forced them [clip of live performance from...] to change it to "Dakota".

Dakota: If it takes all night

We're gonna get it right

Todd (VO): Which is just very funny to me. Like, "You know that [images of album covers from Chicago, America...] bit geography band trend that's happening on right now? We're gonna give you a name that [...Boston, and Kansas] immediately signals which band you're a ripoff of."

Clip of Dakota performing in the studio

Dakota: We'll find the answer, run away

I guess they were decent enough for a low-tier AOR band. The big highlight of their career is that they opened for [clip of live performance from...] Queen on their "The Game Tour" in 1980. [clip from Dakota's farewell concert] They don't seem to have ever charted anywhere, but as a regional act, they seem to be very, very popular and influential in the central Pennsylvania area. Judging by the fact that...

Montage clips of Jerry and Bill getting interviewed; Dakota live performance; Obituary for Jerry Hludzik

Todd (VO): ...I found tons of footage of them on YouTube. Including local coverage, live shows, also a bunch of glowing obituaries from various PA newspapers when Jerry died earlier this year.

Todd: Fair enough.

Clip of Dakota backstage

Todd (VO): And so, as a tribute to Dakota, let's hear them play their final time, at their farewell concert in 1987.

Clip of Dakota's farewell concert

Dakota: Timothy, Timothy

Jerry: Where on earth did you go?

Todd: THEY'RE PLAYING THE CANNIBAL SONG! WHOOOOOOOO!

Did They Deserve Better?

Todd: Come on.

Clip of Dakota's 25th Anniversary reunion

Bill: Stomach was full as it could be

Todd (VO): I have known of the existence of "Timothy" for decades. But, I'll be perfectly honest, doing this episode was the first time I actually listened to it.

Dakota: Timothy

And to be frank, you don't really have to listen to it. You just have to know that it's out there. It's hilarious that a bunch of no-names pranked a creepypasta onto the Hot 100. And really, that's all you need from it.

Todd: Nothing about the song could be as good as just the fact of that.

Todd (VO): It's great to know about, and to curse other people with knowing about. And now you have it too in your cultural lexicon.

Todd: Why don't you chew on that one and see how it tastes!

Live clip of "Timothy" ends

Closing Tag Song: Dakota - "Timothy"

THE END

"Timothy" is owned by Scepter Records

This video is owned by me

Illustrations by Krin

THANK YOU TO THE LOYAL PATRONS!!

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