Deteriorata is a parody of Les Crane's 1971 spoken word recording of Desiderata, the early 20th century poem by Max Ehrmann. (Desiderata is Latin for "things to be desired"; the word deteriorata is a portmanteau of "desiderata" and the verb deteriorate.) The parody was written by Tony Hendra for National Lampoon, and was recorded as part of the National Lampoon Radio Dinner album, released in 1972. Voiceover talent Norman Rose read the "poem" and Melissa Manchester sang the chorus section of the song. Christopher Guest wrote the music.
Deteriorata was also released as a single, which stayed on the lower reaches of the Billboard magazine charts for a few weeks in late 1972. In addition, a printed version of the parody became one of National Lampoon's best-selling posters. The parody gained some significance and popularity as a frequent presentation on the Dr. Demento radio show. Les Crane himself admitted to preferring the parody version over his Grammy-winning recording of the original poem.
The song incorporates several catchphrases of the era:
- "Remember the Pueblo", a bumper sticker slogan honoring the crew of the USS Pueblo, held hostage by North Korea in 1968
- "Do not fold, spindle or mutilate", a caution printed on punched cards in the mid 20th century
- "Take heart amid the deepening gloom that your dog is finally getting enough cheese", making fun of a Gaines-Burgers dog food advertising campaign, which asked, "Is your dog getting enough cheese in his diet?"
- James Bates (April 21, 1987). "Ex-TV Host Scores With Computer Game: Les Crane, Once a Rival to Johnny Carson, Is a Hit in Software". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 8, 2005.