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Aug 14

CHEF – “Chocolate Salty Balls”

Popular36 comments • 2,558 views

#809, 2nd January 1999

chefcsb Every so often on Popular I hit a knowledge gap that there’s simply no way of talking around, and this is one. I have only ever seen one episode of South Park, after the pub one night, sometime in its first flush of success. I didn’t like it enough to watch more, and that turned out to be it for me and the show – this single aside. If you want a comment on South Park, how “Chocolate Salty Balls” fits into it, its cultural significance – well, the box is open, and I know a lot of the writers here are fans.

With that large and necessary context torn out, what independent life can this song have? Quite a lot. It’s the first outright comedy record to get to #1 since “The Stonk”, but the gap in care, structure and wit between the songs is colossal. There’s none of the soul-shrivelling forced bonhomie of Red Nose Day about this record, where you herd the comics of the day into a studio and pray something half-funny emerges. This is a return to a seventies model – funny songs that got to Number One because they made people laugh.

Except it was never quite so simple. The wheels of the chart require constant greasing, and the applicator here is DJ Chris Moyles, who made “Chocolate Salty Balls” his cause. The last time I touched on the unheavals of Radio One, during Britpop, the station was emerging from Matthew Bannister’s cultural purge. Out went the populist, roadshow-ready entertainer DJs; in came a gaggle of cool kids who knew a bit about music. Gone was the notion that wonderful Radio 1 would be the jolly backbone of Britain’s working day – instead it would move into a tastemaker role, shepherding new trends into the mainstream.

The long-term consequences of this play out across the 00s, but with Britpop at least the strategy seemed to work beautifully. But Britpop faded, and the brash post-Spice wave of tweenpop was exactly the sort of thing the new, cool, Radio 1 struggled with. Bannister’s remade station, you felt, had not really planned on what to do with music it didn’t instinctively like. The old Radio 1 had no such scruples.

And meanwhile, Moyles had emerged as the station’s rising star, very much along the old populist lines – entertainment and banter first, music second, though with a slightly hipper, crueller edge. Promoted to the drivetime show in October 1998, he wanted to foster a big smash, make an impact. Comedy records and hit-hungry DJs had been a regular fit back in the 1970s: they could be again – particularly a record from a show which, like Moyles himself, bounced along on a rep for political incorrectness.

That was one big difference between the old station and the new: the new one could embrace smutty records – if they came from a fashionable source – where the old one huffed and hummed and banned them. And so it was that the national pop station threw its tastemaking weight behind a song whose chorus – and main gag – is a guy singing “suck on my balls, baby”.

Back in the 70s heyday of the comedy record, that wouldn’t just have been unthinkable, it would have ruined the joke. In the days of Judge Dread (“It’s little boy blue with his horn”), the point wasn’t the dirt, it was sneaking it into a public space – like the charts – and sniggering as that space tried and failed to throw it back out.

“Chocolate Salty Balls” can’t rely on that frisson of subversion, even if Chris Moyles might have bristled at the idea he was part of an establishment now. Fortunately, it gets to rely on being funny instead. The central gag – cooking song turns sexual – isn’t just done with panache and left, it’s reinforced by two other, even better ideas. The first is that Parker and Stone know that if you’ve got Isaac Hayes doing your innocent-song-becomes-sex-jam running gag, you use him – so the “recipe instructions” verse of the song is gloriously, creamily over-the-top even without the innuendo (“a touch of va-NILL-uh”) and the music is robustly enjoyable pop funk in its own right.

And the second is that having flipped the cooking metaphor into the sex one, “Chocolate Salty Balls” collapses it back again, paying off the straight-faced tone with the “on fire” gag. It wouldn’t do to overstress the cleverness here – in the end, this is mostly about keeping the promise of a South Park record called “Chocolate Salty Balls” – but having a trick to end on is like knowing how to end a sketch well. It’s basic, but it’s seemed beyond almost every other comedy record we’ve dealt with.

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Comments

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  1. 26
    Ed on 22 Aug 2014 #

    The last time Popular went through the “cartoons = bands” routine. Some good ones here: http://freakytrigger.co.uk/popular/2011/03/the-simpsons-do-the-bartman/

    And 4 for Bart compared to 6 for Hayes feels about right.

  2. 27
    !!! on 22 Aug 2014 #

    This was on Chef Aid: The South Park album which featured among others DMX & ODB collaborating with Ozzy Osbourne and Puff Daddy, Lil Kim & Ma$e teaming up with System of a Down. There was everything from Wyclef Jean to Elton John to Rancid and Ween and a great Chef/Meatloaf duet. For a 13 year old it gave me a lot of different kinds of music to get into. I started listening to the Clash pretty much because I really liked the song Joe Strummer had on it.

  3. 28
    swanstep on 24 Aug 2014 #

    The U2-haters on Popular should definitely check out South Park’s Season 11 episode ‘More Crap’. It appears to be viewable (albeit in low quality) here.

  4. 29
    Kinitawowi on 24 Aug 2014 #

    *Bono-haters

  5. 30
    Garry on 24 Aug 2014 #

    I remember being in a packed college hall a year or so earlier waiting to find out who was Cartman’s dad, only to be confrounted with the Terrance and Phillip prank. I stayed with it for a year or so but drifted away. I hadn’t even been aware it is still a going concern.

    Chocolate Salty Balls was everywhere in 1999 for me, but I was at a University radio station so I couldn’t avoid it. It was one of only two Hayes tracks anyone of my group could name and of course he’s but a coda to Shaft.

    But it’s the Wyclef Jean + Cartman track Bubblegoose which got the wider airplay – whether uni, government or commercial radio stations. One version of Bubblegoose entered the Triple J Hottest at 19, but I’m not sure if this the the original or the Cartman version. And if the original was the popular version, did this make the Cartman version radio pick for Australia? Or was Wyclef still fondly remembered from the Fugees and was here again with the most popular obnoxious kid on television?

    Regardless I had never though of Wyclef before Chef Aid and South Park. A bit like Isaac Hayes really…

    (And I wouldn’t even register the Fugees until later)

  6. 31
    James BC on 26 Aug 2014 #

    I haven’t seen much of South Park but what I have seen seems to be genius – very sharp, especially the film. I also quite liked Chris Moyles, most of the time. But I don’t find this song funny at all.

    Has anyone tried out the recipe?

  7. 32
    flahr on 26 Aug 2014 #

    Probably not worth it – neither chocolate nor salt is listed as an ingredient.

  8. 33
    James BC on 27 Aug 2014 #

    It does mention chocolate in the second verse. You’re right there’s no salt – he must have used salted butter.

  9. 34
    davidsim on 27 Aug 2014 #

    Like Tom, I’ve never really watched South Park. Decent-in-parts funk track, a great vocal, lyrics that are funny once – maybe twice at a push. 4

  10. 35
    ciaran on 30 Aug 2014 #

    South park eh?

    At the time it was one of the most surreal looking things I’d ever witnessed on TV. Crapston Villas being another similar type show.

    It didnt immediately win me over as I was following sport when it started in Ireland around March 1998 and only got time to watch it later in the year. Having caught up with Season 2 by early 1999 I was well able to go into school with a barrel load of South Park gags and watched the show fondly.Some good stuff from memory – , the Anal Probe, Cartmans nazi uniform, The dodgy planetarium playing Footloose,Barbooo-rrrrr–aaaa,Chef ‘raising’ half a million dollars, and kenny surviving one episode.

    When that ended I was hooked but there was a 7/8 month gap when season 3 started and the magic was all but gone.studying for my finals in early 2001 I did watch some episodes like the sexual harrasment panda and the pokemon pisstake (Big Penis) but it wasnt the draw it once was. I havent got bored of a show like it before or even since.The last episode I watched was in early 2005 when we got a glimpse of Butters Dad! The Movie though was/is tremendous.

    It was some shock to the system for Irish TV. Imports were all the rage at the time. Every 2nd show was something from Australia/New Zealand.Home and Away, Neighbours had just started, a country practice,murder call, sons and daughters, Blue Heelers,the sullivans, shortland street and Breakers, a short lived Aussie soap. I watched them all I must admit. My favourite show of the time being Sydney Cop show Water Rats.It was only by the early 00′s did the aussie Tv phase begin to fade. SP really was breaking the mould compared to what else was on offer.

    TV seemed so basic in retrospect. The mid-90s seemed very comedy driven/hyped but drama was about to takeover in a big way.The so called Golden Age was on the horizon with The Sopranos about to debut and the Wire/24 not far away either. South Parks influence can be best shown with the birth of Adult Swin. Shows like Sealab 2021 and Aqua Teen Hunger force may not have become so popular without South Park.

    As for CSB, well it’s association with a big TV show is the USP here but the first 2 minutes or so wouldnt be out of place on shows like soul train (taking content out of the way!). Quite good for the first half or so before it loses momentum.Many of my age group could have bought it for the accompanying video as well as their hip thing getting to the top but Hayes’ does a decent job of it.6 it is

  11. 36
    Weej on 3 Sep 2014 #

    >If you want a comment on South Park, how “Chocolate Salty Balls” fits into it, its cultural significance – well, the box is open, and I know a lot of the writers here are fans.

    As an on-and-off viewer I’d say there isn’t much context needed – the joke in the song is the same as the joke in the series, minus the in-front-of-the-children inappropriateness, but that’s a positive if anything. It’s an Isaac Hayes comedy record, with Isaac Hayes voice and Isaac Hayes backing band, and that’s basically enough to get it a 7.

    As an odd tangent – when I first watched The Wire I noticed that the song on the opening credits sounded very much like the intro to ‘Chocolate Salty Balls’, so I made this and put it up on Youtube. It is easily the most ‘disliked’ thing I’ve ever uploaded.

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