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2011-12-22 15:23:15
From: Dr. Demento
Christmas (continued)
Christmas Ė continued

Forgot to mention The Singing Dogs last time. Recorded in 1955 in Denmark, and painstakingly assembled, bark by bark, with splicing tape, their rendition of "Jingle Bells" has reappeared almost every Christmas ever since. It seemed to get more popular as the years went by. By 1991 similar records could be produced with much less effort, thanks to sampling synthesizers, and that year brought us the highly successful Jingle Cats from producer Mike Spalla. Since then we've had Christmas CD's featuring singing cows, chickens, ducks and babies, not to mention Spalla's Jingle Dogs. (I was expecting more of the same when a CD called Christmas Is All Itís Quacked Up To Be by The Waddles arrived this year, but it turned out to be a human singing holiday standards in a Donald Duck voice).

"The Chipmunk Song" was followed by several shameless knockoffs, including "The Happy Reindeer" by Dancer, Prancer and Nervous and "The Doctor and the Monks" by the Tip Top Band. More notable were a couple of later releases Ė a cover of the original Chipmunk song by The Whales, in which the voices are slowed down instead of sped up, and a remake by the Chipmunks themselves together with the very popular blues-boogie band Canned Heat, who happened to be on the same record label. My dear friend Alan Wilson, who sang on Canned Heatís hits "On The Road Again" and "Goiní Up The Country," called me after the session, quite excited after watching David Seville (Ross Bagdasarian) record the voices of Alvin, Theodore and Simon at normal speed. Alan much admired the way Bagdasarian subtly altered his vowels and consonants so that the lyrics would be clearly intelligible when sped up.

The Chipmunks eventually became a dynasty, making millions for Ross Bagdasarian Jr. who revived the act after his father's death. None of the countless Christmas novelty records released in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s came close to matching the Chipmunks' success, but a few do stand out. Allan Sherman's "The Twelve Gifts of Christmas" (1963) is still hilarious, even if there arenít many Japanese transistor radios under today's Christmas trees. "Santa Claus And His Old Lady" by Cheech & Chong (1971) became an FM rock radio perennial. (I helped out a bit on that one; producer Lou Adler asked me to lend him a few Christmas records to play for the artists. One of those was "Donde Esta Santa Claus" by boy soprano Augie Rios, which Cheech & Chong quote at the start of their record).

Whereas "The Chipmunk Song" was an instantaneous smash, the biggest Christmas novelty song since then took a few years to hit its peak. Randy Brooks, a part-time songwriter from Louisville who is the nephew of comedian Foster Brooks, wrote it about 1977. The following year he was appearing at a club in Lake Tahoe, and Northern California husband-and-wife duo Elmo and Patsy, entertaining at the same club, heard it and asked Brooks for a tape. Elmo and Patsy recorded it and released a 45 on their own label in 1979. It was played by a San Francisco DJ and soon sold out at local record stores. I believe I was the first to give the song national airplay, on my December 16, 1979 show. It was by far our most requested Christmas song of the 1980s.

The original version, re-pressed on Oink Records, sold more and more each year. In 1984 Epic Records re-recorded and re-released the song, and it was then that it made its way into the mainstream. The Epic version is mostly similar to the original, with two noticeable differences: a piano is added to the accompaniment, and when Elmo asks the question "Should we open up her gifts or send them back" voices answer "Send them back!" I always liked it better with the question left unanswered, and was a bit disappointed when the only version we could license for my Rhino CD Dr. Demento Presents The Greatest Christmas Novelty CD of All Time was the Epic re-make. (To be continued)

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Previous Replies:
2012-02-12 22:14:21
From: blindowlbio.com
Thank you!
Thanks for remembering Alan and sharing this fun bit of trivia with us! That's an intriguing story.
2011-12-27 13:23:25
From: Dr. Demento
Christmas is all it's quacked up to be
Johnny - no, I wasn't knocked out by it.
2011-12-23 20:49:58
From: Johnny
Dr. D
You didn't play anything from Christmas Is All Itís Quacked Up To Be. Guess that means that it isn't very good.