Little Criminals – Randy Newman

The MARK’S VINTAGE VINYL page features something from Mark’s collection of recordings from over the years. Most of it is on vinyl – hence the name – though there will be a few entries from his CDs (remember those?).

Little Criminals, by Randy Newman

  • Fifth studio album, released in 1977.
  • The album is Newman’s highest charting album at #9. The single Short People is the only Newman song in his career to make the top 40 – it peaked at #2.
  • Short People was controversial in its day. The lyrics suggest an attack on short people – people shorter than 5’6″ were outraged to hear “Short people got no reason to live” and “they got little hands and little eyes and they walk around tellin’ great big lies. They got little noses and tiny little teeth. They wear platform shoes on their nasty little feet.” Newman responded that the song was about prejudice, and it did not represent his personal opinions.
  • In 1978, a Maryland State delegate tried to introduce legislation to make it illegal to play Short People on the radio. It did not get to the floor, as it was deemed unconstitutional.
  • Backing vocals and instrumentation on the album were provided by Eagles members Glenn Frey, Joe Walsh, Don Henley and Tim Schmit.
  • While Newman did not have many hits himself, he is one of the most prolific songwriters for films, with 24 film scores. This has led to 15 Grammy nominations, and 6 winners, for Toy Story 3, Cars, Monsters Inc., Toy Story 2, A Bug’s Life, and The Natural. He also has won 2 Academy awards for Best Original Song for We Belong Together (from Toy Story 3) and If I Didn’t Have You (from Monsters Inc.). He also has won 3 Primetime Emmy Awards for music written for the TV series Monk and Cop Rock.
  • Little Criminals is definitely quirky. Newman’s songs are strange stories – they are not feel good love pop songs. Just the song titles tell you that this is a different record – examples include You Can’t Fool the Fatman, Texas Girl at the Funeral of Her Father, Sigmund Freud’s Impersonation of Albert Einstein in America, and Kathleen (Catholicism Made Easier). My favorite is a song called Baltimore, a depressing, spooky song about the city near where I grew up.  I was intrigued enough to buy the next album he released after hearing Little Criminals. 
  • Here’s his famous song, Short People. It shows Newman as he creates the song in the recording studio.

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