Return To 60’s Main Menu Recording Artists Of The 60s
“THEY’RE COMING TO TAKE ME AWAY, HA-HAAA!”
(Jerry “NAPOLEON XIV” Samuels)
Warner Bros. 5831
No.3 August 13, 1966
Jerry Samuels had a seemingly normal background and upbringing. He was born in 1938 in New York
City. He became a recording engineer at the Associated Studios, writing songs on the side. One of his
compositions, “The Shelter Of My Arms,” became a huge hit for Sammy Davis, Jr. (#17, 1964).
Two years later, however, Jerry was of a different bent of mind. With the nub of a nutty number in his
craw, Samuels booked himself an hour and a half of studio time. He brought in a drum, a tambourine,
and this idea for a “tune” called “They’re Coming To Take Me Away.” Jerry beat his instruments and
recited the composition with an ever-increasing feverishness. It was an odd song (as anyone who has
ever heard it can attest), a bizarre novelty bit about a man who suffers an emotional set backwhen his
beloved pooch leaves him.
“It popped into my head and I thought it was funny,” said Samuels to authors Bruce Nash and Allan
Zullo. Nine years prior, he admitted, he had spent eight months in a psychiatric hospital. “We always
made fun of our experience. Later, when I did the record, I knew it wouldn’t offend mental patients.
They laughed at it. I would have laughed at it if I had heard it when I was in the hospital.”
George Lee, an evecutive at Warner Bros., heard Jerry’s waxing and issued it immediately. A name
was needed for the label. “I picked XIV–Napoleon XIV–because I liked the way the Roman numerals
looked together.” Because the platter could be perceived as poking fun at those with mental difficulties,
the negative response to it was substantial: within days, most radio stations pulled it from their playlists.
The sales response, however, was strong–in less than a week, 500,000 copies had been purchased.
“Take Me Away, Ha Haaa!” became the fastest-selling record in Warner’s history–and the only top 40
single to feature the same song recorded backwards on the flip side!
In support of his new career, Jerry formed a rock’n’roll band and performed in a mask as Napoleon XIV.
Warner issued an LP full of like-minded ditties: “I Live In A Split-Level Head,” “Marching Off To
Bedlam,” “I’m In Love With My Little Red Tricycle.” The latter was released as Nap’s follow-up. Both the
single and the album were soon discontinued.
In 1973, Napoleon XIV’s re-released rendition of “They’re Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa! “
returned to the charts (#87). There have been reported sightings of one Napoleon XIV; much as the
alleged barroom sightings of a man some have called the masked mashugena man. These reports remain
Samuels maintains that he has only performed the tune once in public and that any such sightings are
bogus. “The first and only time that I sang the song in front of a live audience, I felt I was being laughed
at. That was very hard for me to take.”
Some say that Jerry Samuels operates a talent agency in Philadephia that specializes in suppling entertain-
ment to senior citizen facilities.