350. ‘The Streak’, by Ray Stevens

Oh Lordy. Did anyone order a country rock, spoken word, novelty song about a sprinting nudist…? Anyone? Anyone?

The Streak, by Ray Stevens (his 1st and only #1)

1 week, from 9th – 16th June 1974

No punches pulled: this is a song that makes your teeth clench. The mix of sound effects and voice acting, not to mention liberal use of a banjo, does not make for a relaxing listen. Then there’s a wheeee noise that SongFacts describes as a: ‘zipppp kazoo sound.’ Eeesh! It is a story told by two characters: a roving news reporter, and a slack-jawed yokel who, for some unspecified reason, is being followed by a streaker.

Oh yes they call him ‘the streak’, Fastest thing on two feet… Off he goes, around the supermarket, through the gas station, over to the basketball stadium… He’s just as proud as he can be, With his anatomy, He goin’ give us a peek… The yokel is appalled by ‘The Streak’, but the same can’t be said for his wife Ethel… No matter how much of a warning her husband gives her, she always ends up catching a glimpse…

I don’t want to sound like a po-faced prude, but… This song isn’t very funny. Its closest chart-topping companion would be Benny Hill’s ‘Ernie’, but at least that was witty and warm, and just plain old silly. ‘The Streak’, though, is brash, in your face, and just plain old irritating. The lowest point is the canned laughter – actual canned laughter – as if the producers deep down knew that it wasn’t in any way hilarious and needed to convince themselves.

Some of the lines are kind of clever, I guess: he’s always makin’ the news, wearing just his tennis shoes… and I do like the image of ol’ Ethel disobeying her husband to have a glance. By the end, she’s made her choice and has stripped off too. Ethel you shameless hussy! (Her husband’s words, not mine, and apparently mis-heard by many for something much ruder…)

I wasn’t around, but apparently there was a streaking craze in the mid seventies. In March ’74 alone there was a streaker at an Arsenal Vs Man City match, that Wikipedia debatably describes as ‘the first instance of streaking in English football’, and a streaker at a cricket test between Australia and New Zealand. Meanwhile, a ‘streaking epidemic’ was hitting US college sports. There was even a streaker at the 1974 Oscars! Clearly the world was ready for a hit single about running in the nude. And Ray Stevens delivered… I dunno, maybe you had to be there.

Stevens had been around since the fifties – a country singer-songwriter who flipped between serious and comedic singles at random. His two biggest hits before this had been ‘Ahab the Arab’ – a US #5 in 1962 – and the primary school hymn ‘Everything Is Beautiful’ – an actual Billboard #1 in 1970. An eclectic range, to put it mildly…

But back to ‘The Streak’. The main problem with this is that it is obnoxious. I’ve said it before – some novelties are novelties by accident, through experiment, trial and error. ‘Mouldy Old Dough’, for example, or even ‘Telstar’ – a glorious, weird outlier in the history of the charts. Other novelties set out from the start to amuse, entertain or, more often than not, annoy. Did anyone who bought ‘The Streak’ actually listen to it more than twice? Probably not. But there it is: a transatlantic #1 hit.

22 thoughts on “350. ‘The Streak’, by Ray Stevens

  1. Yes, it was of it’s time, and yes it got very annoying (like most novelty songs) after a few weeks. Streaking really was big news in 1974, so Ray was doing his bit to take the piss, being charitable maybe it helped kill it off 🙂 Everything Is Beautiful, in 1974, was my all-time fave record so Ray could do no wrong for me, even with this one, and even with his novelty tracks (he did all the voices, a virtual one-man show). The novelty tracks have dated badly in a few cases as what was acceptable then isn’t now, but I’ll stand by Gitarzan, still funny. And I defy anyone not to smile happily at In The Mood – the Muppets covered it, but ignore that one and listen to a chorus of Ray Stevens multi-tracked clucks singing Glen Miller. I make no apologies, singing chickens will never NOT be funny…!

    The record that SHOULD have topped the UK charts was his version of Misty, a total gem that got stuck at 2 in 1975 behind the late Johnny Nash, not a bad track but fab Johnny deserved to top with earlier songs rather than a later comeback track. So, has Everything Is Beautiful become a HYMN now?!!! The kids on the record include his daughters, Ray wrote it, and the lyrical sentiment preaching for tolerance summed up my life view aged 12 and beyond – plus it reminded me of happy childhood days in tropical Singapore when dad turned it up loud when it came on the radio….. 🙂

    1. To be honest… I am very irreligious and so any song that mentions God is a hymn in my book! It sounds like a primary school hymn, and I’m not convinced we didn’t sing it in an assembly or two.

      And as far as streaking is concerned, I’d certainly take an epidemic of people running around in the scud right now, compared to our current health situation!

      You are not the first person to mention Gitarzan, and so I will be sure to check this one out…

  2. badfinger20 (Max)

    At the time to a seven year old it was funny…after 1 listen though it got old. I was so young I barely got it. I do remember at baseball and football games (American) that streaking was going on every now and then. It was popular for a few weeks.

    I can’t listen to it today!

    1. I mean, if I were seven years old I think this would be the funniest thing ever recorded! Coming at it 45 years too late… Nah, not for me!

      I love the fact that streaking was a fad for a few months… I suppose there was no internet and fewer TV channels. People had to amuse themselves somehow!

      1. badfinger20 (Max)

        And amuse they did…yep the internet was the library at that time…or a set of encyclopedias.

        Believe it or not…it was a fun time to be a kid. Much more freedom to explore.

      2. badfinger20 (Max)

        Yea it changed everything of course…some good and some not.

        I even miss going to the video store and renting a movie…now it’s a few seconds away. I don’t appreciate it as much now because of it.

  3. My parents made the mistake of buying a Ray Stevens album for me. I put it on my little suitcase record player and wore it out. In my 20s, a family friend asked me if I wanted the album back. I never knew that my parents snatched it for sanity reasons. I kept playing Gitarzan over and over. LOL!

  4. I take my hat off to Ray Stevens, who is a very accomplished all-rounder. It’s unfortunate that his most successful single by far is the one that has worn the least well. (You could say the same about Chuck Berry). His other biggest novelty hit, ‘Bridget the Midget’, was clever (all those speeded-up voices) and amusing a few times, but likewise very much of its time. But give me ‘Misty’ or the more serious late 60s turntable hit ‘Mr Businessman’ any day.

  5. I do remember the mid-70s streaking craze very well. We even had streakers in Southport one time and it got on the evening news. Barely remember this single though. I do remember talk of someone releasing a single but the actual song clearly had little impact on 8yo me.

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