Roctober.com    Roctober Magazine

Alvin, Bold As Love

MONDO CHIPMUNK-O!

(From Roctober #31, 2001)

CONTRIBUTORS: BA-Bob Abrahamian, JA-Jake Austen, JB-John Battles, KC-Kim Cooper (Editor, Scram), DC-Dana Countryman (Editor, Cool and Strange Music), PC-Plastic Crimewave (Editor Galactic Zoo Dossier, available from Drag City POB 476867 Chicago, IL 60647), RD-Robert Dayton (of Canned Hamm), DD-Dustin Drase, PG-Peter Gianakopoulos, EG-Edmund Graye, CL-Chris Ligon (co-owner of Chris and Heather’s Record Roundup, 773.271.5330), JL-Julian Lawrence, JP-James Porter

Alvin and the Chipmunks…to some they are the most annoying group ever, but to the pure of heart and good of soul they are beloved like few other combos in pop history. The most prolific and enduring novelty group of all time they have produced numerous recordings and countless imitators. Presented here is a celebration of their catalogue, their clones and their predecessors. This brief introduction should only serve to give context to the following, as the story of The Chipmunks and their tape speed brethren will be told in the following pages of reviews and descriptions by an international posse of cultural critics. Not all agree (some are anti-Chipmunks revival, others are open minded) but all understand the inherent greatness of the rodent rockers. This is, of course, not the "Ultimate" Chips Guide. There are more recordings out there to be found, more details to be uncovered, better reviews to be written. But for now this is likely the most absurdly comprehensive list you’re gonna find. So without further ado, we present (after a brief overview) Mondo Chipmunk-O!

Ross Bagdasarian (b. 1919) an Armenian American novelty song writer/bit actor turned tape speed manipulation into gold when he had his first big hit with "Witch Doctor" in 1958. By recording at a slow speed while articulating clearly and slowly so that when the tape is played back at regular speed it will be a sped up, high pitched version of the voice recorded, he explored a comic effect whose potential had yet to be fully realized. He soon followed "Witch Doctor" up with a Christmas single recorded in only a few days that introduced three performing rodent siblings with an ambiguous relationship to their Svengali father figure David Seville (Bagdasarian’s non-ethnic alter-ego). However this human came to adopt (or father) three chipmunks was unclear, but what was clear as soon as the record was released, selling faster than any single in history, was that Simon, Theodore, and especially the mischievous Alvin, were here to stay. For the next decade the Chips enjoyed success on novelty records, on TV (as puppets on Ed Sullivan), in comic books, as dolls, and as an animated television show. Bagdasarian retired the act in 1967 and worked on his vineyards until his untimely death in 1972. In the late 70s his son, Ross Jr. became interested in reviving the act, but no one was biting. After radio DJs began making Chipmunk parody records featuring sped up voices singing contemporary punk and rock songs, a grassroots movement built. In 1980 a small label released "Chipmunk Punk" with great success. Ross, Jr. was doing the voices and running the show now, and soon he oversaw a full blown revival that would never reach the frenzy of the first Chipmunks singles, but that would burn longer and more steadily for the better part of the next two decades. More records, a long running cartoon, videos, merchandising and more followed, and Ross and his lady (now wife) Janice Karman kept it rockin’. In 1996 Bagdasarian sold controlling interest in the Chipmunks to Universal, promised that a big budget Chips flick (like Rocky and Bullwinkle or The Flintstones or Josie and the Pussycats) and a new TV series were in the works. Nothing happened and Bagdasarian is now suing big time, as we are in the first lull in Chips activity since 1979. But have no fear, Alvin, Simon and Theodore will return! They are part of our cultural fabric, and are truly bigger than corporate America. And that is saying something!

CHIPMUNKS RECORDS

CHIPMUNK SINGLES

"The Chipmunk Song" b/w "Almost Good" (Liberty 55168, 1958)

This is the all-time classic that started everything. Every element is established in the brief 2:17 (originally it was 1:30, before Liberty records honcho Si Waronker [whom Simon is named for] made Bagdasarian add extra banter). Dave is the patriarch trying to get his proteges to produce in the recording studio. Alvin (named for Liberty Records’ Al Bennett) is the problem child who makes his "dad" yell at him mere seconds into the song. Simon is the smart one (his one solo line of dialogue demonstrates a fine vocabulary). And Theodore (named for Liberty’s Ted Keep) is the giggling idiot. The tune demonstrates Bagdasarian’s snappy pop craftsmanship, and also sets up the formula in which Alvin’s attitude causes the record to teeter towards chaos, yet stay on point just enough to end up a solid song. Finally, the record strikes a balance between appealing to children and appealing to adults, a hallmark of early Chipmunk records. This became a Christmas perennial because it balances the irreverence of Alvin’s mischief with an overall wholesomeness, making the record appropriate for the holidays but not too sappy. While this ostensibly is about materialism (the Chips each sing about what they want for Christmas, Alvin coveting a hula hoop) I think the vibe it really captures is the way family members interact during holidays. David Seville’s turn as an exasperated father hopelessly trying to get his kids to play the part of little angels for Christmas really rings true. Alvin is really funny on this record (as is Simon, who arrogantly answers "Naturally!" when David says he was good) but I think the funniest bit here is when David says "Alvin, you were a little flat, watch it." Alvin keeps pushing Dave’s buttons and pretending to not be listening ‘til Dave yells, but notice that Alvin never misses a beat…he’s in total control! Another really nice thing here is the accurate demonstration of the effect of one bad apple; at the end after Alvin opens the door to anarchy (they might as well put a circle around the "A" on his sweater) Simon and Theodore start acting out just as much! This record, by the way, sold 6 million copes, and made over 4 and half million dollars, in under two months when it was released. (JA) Bagdasarian's studio wizardry didn't end with sped up nut grabbers. Naw, the B's of early Chipmunks singles had their own form of magic, under the guise of "The Music of David Seville." This B-side opens ominously with jungle bongos, then piano and reverb drenched handclaps join in. This persuasive percussion gradually turns into more of a party over its' 2 minutes and 2 seconds as David enthusiastically and periodically exclaims, "Hey! That's almost good!" Self-depreciation through under statement. (RD)

"Alvin’s Harmonica" b/w "Mediocre" (Liberty 55179 1959)

The second chapter of the Alvin legend adds three more elements to the mythos: Alvin plays harmonica (though he really is more playing with it like a toy than playing it like Harmonicat). The Chipmunks are ladies men (Lyric: "We sure like girls, all kindsa girls, from Annie to Veronica, we like them small or fat or tall…and if we want to get a kiss we take them food or popcorn"). And we also learn that Bagdasarian has a charming but square notion of what constitutes Rock and Roll, as demonstrated by the kids adding "cha cha cha" to the end of the song. This record also features Dave getting more of a comeuppance than you’d expect. I guess he deserves it for his unsupportive, harsh tone towards Alvin, "Alright Alvin make a fool of yourself, play your harmonica!" But you gotta feel for him when it all falls apart after Alvin’s rudimentary harp skills set off a domino effect of youth music chaos. "Now look what you did, you got them all cha cha-ing…" You know that everything is really going against Dave when he yells, "Theodore…Simon…Orchestra!" I mean, you don’t have to be paranoid to feel like things ain’t going right if the orchestra turns on you! Funniest moments are when Alvin annoys Dave by answering him with a talking harmonica, and then appropriately (for a foraging rodent) yells, "Ah nuts!" (JA) The non-Alvin flipside is the same concept as "Almost Good" but, obviously much more self-defeating and self-deprecating. No handclaps this time round but we do get to cha-cha-cha! David hems and haws and I-don't-knows all throughout the number until he tells the band to stop as he says, "...Wait a minute! I can't publish that! It's, uh, mediocre!" They didn't even get to hit the 2 minute mark! They sounded like they were having fun, too! No, it's certainly not mediocre and David's running commentary of saying that it's mediocre actually makes the song even less so and anything but! (RD)

"Ragtime Cowboy Joe" b/w "Flip side" (Liberty 55200, 1959)

On this number The Chipmunks sing about the "...high falootin' rootin' tootin'" Ragtime Cowboy Joe, punctuated by random gunfire. Party poopin' David tells Alvin to put the gun down. Is David so concerned with gun safety that he doesn't want Alvin to hurt himself? Is David anti-NRA? Actually, he just wants Alvin to finish the song. One must truly appreciate Seville's perfectionism. The number ends with horse gallops as Alvin yells, "Hi-yo, Alvinnnn....." The flip side is called "Flip Side" cuz that's what it is. It's also a very exotic instrumental! Ominous jungle bongos that stay ominous. Whistling kicks off a melody that piano and, later, a vocal chant of "Doo doo doo dee doo, ree dee dee dee dee doo..." follow. And more reverb hand claps! Has a bit of a Joe Meek vibe. When I hear this I see toucans. (RD)

"Alvin' Orchestra" b/w "Copyright 1960" (Liberty 55233. 1960)

Variations on a theme in the sequel department often use the "bigger is better" scenario. An orchestra is much more bombastic and chaotic than a harmonica. David develops a coronary when Alvin gets into conductor mode. David calculates the rental costs in his head and yells, "Alvin, will you cut it out! What are we gonna pay this orchestra with? Chestnuts?!?" Alvin then passive-aggressively claims not to understand a word that David's saying. "Orchestra, will you please go home!" One can see the vein in David's forehead rise and pop out. The song itself is about driving along the countryside, a difficult activity to do when one has an orchestra in tow. The orchestra, since they were already hired, are put to use again on David's languid piano led B side, "Copyright 1960." I guess this means that David just threw his hands up in defeat. Time is money and the instrumental is only 1 minute and 52 seconds long. (RD)

"Coming 'Round the Mountain" b/w "Sing a Goofy Song" (Liberty 55246, 1960)

"Coming round…" is a weird record that half sounds like they’re doing an eclectic progressive PoMo arrangement, and half sounds like they’re trying on different arrangements for size. They open as an almost creepy marching band, then the next verse they get jazzed up, then they get kinda New Orleans on the next and then back to the marching band for the fade out. It’s a pretty novel concept, with no narrative set-up or jokes, but maybe kids wouldn’t dig this as a single. The flip is really David Seville singing with the Chips backing him up. But then during the instrumental break he whispers to the boys that it’s going well, but Alvin isn’t paying attention and starts messing up. As the song ends David is pleased as punch that there wasn’t an argument on the record and then he makes the mistake of praising himself, which gives Alvin a chance to get back at him for calling him out for being "a little flat" back in ’58. (JA)

"The Chipmunk Song" b/w "Alvin’s Harmonica" (Liberty 55250, 1960)

This double A-side picture sleeve reissue is notable because the Chipmunks are still portrayed on the picture sleeve as "realistic" animals. Early Chipmunks records feature illustrations of rodents with anatomy that resembles a real live chipmunk. When the boys wear shoes or cowboy boots they don’t fit on their oddly shaped paws. Years later Ross Jr. said the original Chipmunks looked like things that could give you rabies. Though there would be some variation (sometimes they wore clothes, sometimes their faces seemed more human) this was pretty consistent until 1961. Aware that the visual was limiting Ross and the production house spent an extra long time developing a new look for the animated version of the Munks. A year after this record they would be the cartoon Chips we know and love. (JA)

"Alvin for President" b/w "Sack Time" (Liberty 55277, 1960)

If Alvin was running against Kennedy and Nixon who would you vote for? He loved the ladies like Jack, but came from a much more wholesome family. He would have certainly played dirty tricks like Dick, but likely couldn’t pull off the diplomacy with China as well (check out his attitude in Japan on the "Around The World" LP). Well, all I know is, if he ran in 2000 he woulda won in a landslide. JFK actually wrote a note to Alvin that read, "I am pleased to know that I have at least one worthy opponent." (WT)

"Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" b/w "Spain" (Liberty 55289, 1960)

The Chips drag David to the North Pole, where he’s freezing, but they’ve promised him a surprise. And that surprise is Rudolph, who sings along with the boys in a voice that indicates his nose is red from nasal congestion. Dave, unimpressed, or on the verge of frostbite, retreats to a warm igloo before the song is over, missing Alvin’s song ending bitch-and-moan fest about still wanting a hula hoop. On the flip the boys are invited to sing with a Spanish orchestra led by a florid guitar. Alvin takes his time, then wails "OH SENORI…" once every few bars, almost randomly, as if he has no lyrics, but then just as they wind it up he breaks into a verse about a senorita, but is cut off by a heavy Spanish accent telling him, "I’m sorry Señor Alvin, you’re too late, the song is over." This is followed by dead silence. An almost dadaistic piece, this is one of the gloriously weirdest Chipmunk tunes. (JA)

"The Alvin Twist" b/w "I Wish I Could Speak French" (Liberty 55424, 1962)

The 1962 Top 40 hit "The Alvin Twist" showed the hard-core commercial side of The Chipmunks. Not a "novelty" or children's record, it was a serious stab at mainstream pop radio success. No side stories, no yelling David Seville, just layers of piercing vocal harmonies on top of rocking Twist music provided by LA's best studio session men. (HY)

"America the Beautiful" b/w "My Wild Irish Rose" (Liberty 55452, 1960)

The boys sing a patriotic hymn and a drinking song! The former could drive you to drink and the latter could make you want to leave the country! (EG)

"Alvin's All Star Chipmunk Band" b/w "Old Macdonald Cha Cha Cha" (Liberty 55544, 1963)

The A side is remarkable because we learn that Alvin and his brothers aren’t the only mutant human-esque Chipmunks…he brings in a bevy of them to jam with. The flip is one of the most charming Chip tunes (and a four year old album cut) where the Chips (over a pleasant pseudo Mambo rhythm) sing "Old McDonald," adding "cha cha cha" after every line (it doesn’t replace "e-i-e-i-o"). The best part is the interactive portion where David tells the kids at home to do the "cha-cha-chas" and the Chips keep quiet. Try to not sing it! (WT)

Eefin' Alvin b/w "Flip Side" (Liberty 55632, 1963)

This is either a record that makes no reasonably sane sense whatsover, or it’s the single greatest example of a novelty record Natural Law inevitability. "Little Eefin Annie" by Al Perkins popularized an awkward, unnatural, pseudo hillbilly vocal gimmick where you kinda do a rural asthmatic scat, sorta playing invisible harmonica by wheezing and puffing, gulping and swallowing and expelling air, hitting two half notes on the exhale. It’s hard to describe and not easy to do, though I think Southerners can do it birth. Mac Davis used to do it on his show, and one of the highlights of "eefing" has to be Jimmie Riddle’s self explanatory "Yakety Eef." I don’t know if it is ever supposed to have historically been done for non-comical effect, but basically if you put eefing on "Amazing Grace" it becomes a novelty song. So imagine how much more absurd this becomes when this is sped up Alvin style! This record is either Grammy material or a sign of the Apocalypse. (WT, CL)

"The Night Before Christmas" b/w "Wonderful Day" (Liberty 55635, 1963)

David Seville delivers a Be-Boppin "Night Before…" that sounds kinda like your math teacher trying to do a rap about integers to, "really connect to the kids." "Wonderful Day" is the follow up/sound alike to "The Chipmunk Song," and at the end when Alvin starts harmonica jamming to his dad’s dismay (Dave: "YOU’RE PLAYING THE WRONG SONG IN THE WRONG KEY!") we learn a secret of the Chipmunks: Alvin only has moderately adequate chops. Maybe Dave should have let him play more. (JA)

"All My Lovin'" b/w "Do You Want To Know A Secret" (Liberty 55734, 1964)

Harmless rote covers of the Beatles tunes with no Dave and no edge. Cute, but there is no Chipmunk flavor here, this might as well be The Chippers or Woody the Chipmunk. (JA)

"Do-re-mi" b/w "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" (Liberty 55773, 1965)

Though sales figures are not available to me, I suspect the album (and this single) where the Chipmunks sang along with a real live children’s choir might have been their worst selling, because I certainly almost never see used copies. My theory is that some people can’t stand the Chipmunks high pitched shtick, and some people can’t stand to hear children singing, and when those cross sections overlap, you’re doomed! Alvin, Simon, Theodore and the label must have loved these songs, though, because they appear again three years later on their movie tribute album. Of course, that was the album that buried their careers for over a decade. (WT)

"I'm Henry VIII, I Am" b/w "What's New Pussycat" (Liberty 55832, 1965)

"I'm Henry VIII, I Am" has a better guitar solo than the original by Herman's Hermits. (JP)

"The Chipmunk Song" b/w "Christmas Blues" (with Canned Heat) (Liberty 56079, 1968)

No one twisted Canned Heat’s collective arms into doing this---it was actually their idea! During the sixties Blues revival, L.A.’s Canned Heat were one of the prominent names in the genre, right along with the Blues Project (from new York) and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band (Chicago). Unlike those other two bands, the Heat actually charted a few singles in the Top 40 ("Going Up The Country" is the best remembered). The band also had a broader sense of humor than the usual young blues unit---singer Bob "The Bear" Hite had a diverse record collection as massive as he was. Seeing as how the Heat recorded for the same label as the Chipmunks (who hadn’t had a new release in awhile), Hite thought it would be a gas and a giggle to team up. This is one record where trying to describe it is like dancing about architecture, but I’ll make an attempt: somehow the Chipmunks and Canned Heat find themselves booked in the same studio at the same time, arguing furiously. Hite interrupts the Chipmunks’ original 1958 "Chipmunk Song" with his own band’s patented boogies, and after some resistance form Alvin, the Chips finally cave into the beat. I never thought I’d hear the word "psychedelic" coming form a Chipmunk’s mouth (the cartoon characters. Not the actual forest animals), but here it is. Hite made double sure that a copy worked its way to L.A. oldies DJ Art Laboe (owner of Original Sound, the label that virtually invented the oldies compilation), but airplay was not forthcoming. With all the soldiers not coming home from Vietnam, I guess there was precious little to laugh about that Christmas. (JP)

"Talk To The Animals" b/w "My Friend the Doctor" (Sunset 61002, 1968)

"Talk To The Animals" opens with Dave singing, and he’s no Sammy. Then the Chips join in, curiously wishing they could talk to animals…yet they are animals! Perhaps that paradox is why Dave sings a bit more on this than he normally would. "My Friend the Doctor" has Seville doing an Irish turn (he kept away from ethnic humor more than most novelty tunesmiths, but he’ll dive in occasionally) and he changes some lyrics to address talking to chipmunks specifically rather than animals in general. (JA)

"Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" b/w "Hushbye Mountain" (Sunset 61003, 1968)

Two playful, funny numbers from the Chips movie album. These aren’t nearly as great as David Seville original songs (in which Bagdasarian’s enthusiasm for the tune seemed to translate into funnier comedy and better Chipmunk singing, if you’d believe it) but you could tell that Ross appreciated kiddie showtunes more than Rock and Roll, so he is somewhat invested. (WT)

"You May Be Right" b/w "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" (Excelsior SIS-1001, 1980)

Ross Jr. takes over and at this point it’s a welcome return. Though Billy Joel and Queen aren’t exactly punk icons, this single from their comeback Punk LP demonstrates some pretty heartfelt warbling. (JA) The single they should have released from Chipmunk Punk was "My Sharona." When I spoke to Berton Averre, the songwriter/lead guitarist from the Knack I told him "My Sharona" rules and I liked the Chipmunks version better than the original. He did not respond to this comment. (HY)

"Call Me" b/w "Refugee" (Excelsior/Pickwick SIS-1003, 1980)

I can’t tell if it’s Simon or Theodore (I’m pretty sure it’s the T man) hitting some sour notes on the harmony part of this Blondie tune. I really like the Tom Petty cover. Alvin sings the whole lead, with Simon and Theodore kicking in, with some sweet harmony this time, on the chorus. Alvin, however, is in his own world, and unlike the original incarnation of the Chipmunks, this time Alvin really wails the lyrics with serious heart and conviction…he means it. Though there’s a sorta comedic break where Theodore asks Simon to explain the lyrics to him, Alvin pays it no mind and jumps back in, building to a rasping crescendo to bring it home. This tune really successfully cashed in on the concept of the Chips going "street." (JA)

"On The Road Again" b/w "Coward Of The County" (RCA 12247 1981)

Alvin changes Willie Nelson’s tune into a lament about hating to tour. "Off the road again, I just can’t wait to get off the road again, the life I love is playing baseball,’" Alvin somehow manages to even get his voice higher to emphasize his fave game, "with my friends, I just can’t wait too get off the road again." David Seville is actually being fairly tolerant, his protests weak and far between, but that’s only because he has an ace up his sleeve. He finally lays his cards out, and threatens that if they don’t sing the song right they are going to be off the road again for real…and they are going too have to go to school! As the sing the Redheaded Stranger’s lyrics correctly one is left to ponder what the relationship is between man and beasts here…is he the benevolent father figure or is he really exploiting these kids to vicariously live his failed rock star dreams. Does he even provide tutors when they tour? His threat makes me fear that the DCFS (Department of Chipmunk and Family Services) might need to look into this. The b-side is an example of when the Chips likely should have changed the lyrics. In this version the coward’s daddy still dies in prison. A shrill novelty rodent voice declaring, "Son my life is over, but yours has just begun" doesn’t sit too comfortably. And the record is supposed to end on that lingering, poignant Kenny Rogers reprise of the phrase, "Everyone considered him…the coward of the county…" but somehow it doesn’t have the same presence when sung in Chipmunk voice. (JA)

"Lunchbox" b/w "Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Chipmunks" (RCA 1230, 1981)  

Lunchbox is a goofy tune in which Jerry Reed gets pitched a C&W song by Alvin that features the line "I’ve got a lunchbox full of broken hearts, a thermos full of tears." At the end Jerry tactfully passes on the tune by claiming it’s too good for him, and he sends the boys Burt Reynolds’ way. The B-side has a great bit that goes: Simon and Theodore: "Mamas don’t let your baby’s grow up to be cowboys…" Alvin: "Chipmunks!" Dave: "ALVIN!" Now that’s funnier than Weird Al! (JA)

"Sleigh Ride" b/w "Chipmunk Song" (RCA PB-12354, 1982)

Perhaps the most uninspired Chips Christmas record ever. The generic backing track on this makes the high Chip singing (with no comedy/Dave/jokes) just seem like speeded up voices rather than real characters. Ross Bagdasarian Sr.’s playful music writing was as important as the vocal effects to the success of the records, and this proves it. (JA)

"Bette Davis Eyes " b/w "Heartbreaker" (RCA PB-13098, 1982)

The Chipmunks' "Bette Davis Eyes" instantly surpassed Kim Carnes' #1 hit version (1981). And just forget about composer Jackie DeShannon's original version on the "New Arrangement" LP, 1975. Jackie's hesitant vocals, the out of place roadhouse horns and limp slide/steel guitar created a lame loser. The "Chipmunk Rock" LP version of "Bette Davis Eyes" is introduced with a brief story in which the 'Munks, told to avoid Rock 'N' Roll, rehearse the Barbershop Quartet tune "By The Old Mill Stream" for an upcoming PTA performance. The (picture sleeve) single version deleted the story and went straight to seductive synthesizers soon complemented by Alvin's husky/raspy vocal textures. Dynamic harmonies and classic 1980's synth beats/hand claps made The Chipmunks "Bette Davis Eyes" a New Wave classic to be forever reckoned with. (HY)

"E.T. & ME" b/w "Tomorrow" (RCA PB-13374, 1982)

From Senior to Junior. From charming to charmless. This unofficial cash-in ain't nowheres near as good as Neil Diamond's "Heartlight." Product placement in this number includes McDonalds and Reese's Pieces. The melody is Alvin's radio signals to contact E.T. At the end of this bland ballad the space ship comes down. I hope that it's full of big, sinister aliens that will destroy these body snatched Chipmunks. They just aren't right, it's like they've been sent through a Full House filter (yes, I know this record is pre-Full House). On "Tomorrow" Fake David weakly tells Fake Alvin to do his homework. Going through the motions. It was raining when I listened to this and I truly did not believe that the sun would come out tomorrow. Or ever. (RD)

"Achy Breaky Heart" b/w "I Ain't No Dang Cartoon" (Columbia 74776, 1992)

I’m glad Billy Ray Cyrus decided to work with the Chipmunks, he seems like a guy who can appreciate them without irony. The B-side is perhaps Alvin’s most futile statement of indignance. (WT)

"Macarena" (English version) w/ "Macarena" (Spanish version) (credited to Los Del Chipmunks) (Sony Wonder, 1996)

Hands up, all four of you who thought that Los Del Rios would have another hit besides "Macarena," THE schlock party hit of that year. With something this gimmicky, it seemed inevitable when the Chipmunks turned up with their version (in English and Spanish, no less). If there were Chipmunk versions of "Who Let The Dogs Out" or "Whoomp! There It Is," I'd like to know. This is their big play for the dance music market---although it sounds like four or five Chipmunks on the record, only two are shown on the cover. In a nasty, dark-side move straight out of C&C Music Factory/Black Box (overweight diva on the record, skinny model lipsynching in video), the chubby Chip doesn't get to hang out on the CD cover with his thinner brothers. (JP)

CHIPMUNK LPS

"Let’s All Sing With The Chipmunks" (Liberty LST 7132/mono LRP 3132, 1959)

The album opens with a funny and sophisticated joke right off the bat. The music starts up for "Yankee Doodle Dandy," and David asks if everyone’s ready, to which Simon and Theodore respond affirmatively. Alvin isn’t paying attention, so when David yells his name, Alvin snaps out of his daydream and starts mechanically singing, "Christmas, Christmas time is here!" The joke for the rest of the song is Alvin yelling "Spaghetti" instead of macaroni. The album balances the kiddie and adult audiences well. "The Little Dog" and "Pop Goes The Weasel" are very much kiddie songs, with some lines left out for tykes to sing along. But ‘Chipmunk Fun" has lecherous Alvin talking about his love for "pretty women." Best Seville rant of the LP: "Alvin, will you get out of that tuba!" It’s notable that though the word "Rock and Roll" gets thrown around this LP, Seville’s take on it is a swinging sax heavy square Jazz Pop with a polka beat. The album tracks are good, but this also compiles the hot hit singles "Alvin’s Harmonica," "The Chipmunk Song," and the not as hot, but still great "Ragtime Cowboy Joe" single. All the early Chipmunk LPs came with covers printed on metallic foil covers so as to be extra shiny for the kids. The first few LPs also debuted with the Chipmunks in their more animalistic form. The original cover for this has them in vaudeville bow ties, vests, straw hats and canes while a cartoon Dave conducts an orchestra in tails. The Chips would quickly lose the old timey look and become contemporary kids (though their knock-off rivals the Grasshoppers maintained the Ragtime look for years). In 1961 the new designs for Alvin, Simon, Theodore and David were debuted for the TV show (they spent an extra-long time developing the new look) and this LP was reissued with the new Chips and the new David on the cover, plus the caveat "Songs from The Alvin Show." Alvin is still crooning on one knee as in the original cover, but now his pose mimics Elvis, not Jolson. This also was available pressed in red vinyl. (JA)

Sing Again With The Chipmunks (Liberty LST 7159/mono LRP 3132, 1960)

Though it doesn’t have the power punch of having a couple of million selling singles on it, this funny platter is no sophomore slump. Prime shtick includes Alvin messing with Seville’s mind by bastardizing "Home On The Range’ with the line, "where the deer and the cantaloupe play." When Dave corrects him, Alvin responds, "Well I’m hungry." This LP includes the bouncy Bagdasarian original, "I Wish I Had A Horse," which features no mischief, but some really great rhythmic exchanges. The Chips also prepare themselves for the dialect humor of their next LP with this exchange: David: "Boys how would you like to do something Southern?" Theodore: "Like fried chicken?" Theodore: "Or cornpone?" Alvin: "Or Hamhocks?" David: "No, like ‘Swanee River.’ " Simon: "Well hush my mouth!" A nice moment is when the Chips ask David to sing "Witch Doctor" (See MARTIANS & MIDGETS section). "I don’t think so fellas, I made that records once." "But not with us." Then they snappily go into it, with three harmonizing Witch Doctors instead of one. This LP features the singles "Comin ‘Round The Mountain" and "Alvin’s Orchestra," plus the prime B-side "Sing A Goofy Song." On the back cover liner notes David writes, "…The Boys (Alvin, Simon and Theodore) had a wonderful time making this record for you. As for me, I should be released from the hospital soon." This LP originally came with gold foil cover art and the realistic Chipmunks causing mischief by leaving a skate on the stairs causing David (a real life photo of Bagdasarian!) to fall. The post cartoon reissue has a drawing of David, as well as the new Chipmunks. (JA)

Around The World With The Chipmunks (Liberty LRP 3170, 1961)

Possibly the funniest Chipmunks LP of all. Though the previous LPs feature the all time classic songs, this concept album is rock solid. The Chipmunks are circling the globe and, if such a thing is possible, engaging in semi-innocuous ethnic humor (Alvin in Scotland upon seeing a bagpiper: "How come the man in the dress is squeezing an octopus?"). The absolute highlight is the amazing "Japanese Banana." I can’t recall how many musicians I’ve heard praise this as their favorite Chipmunks song. In it Alvin craves a food they can’t get, and to an Eastern melody decides to torture Dave with the refrain, "Can I have a Japanese banana, it would be so very nice, want a juicy Japanese banana, don’t want the cherries and rice. We can see that they have so many things, and we are glad that it’s so, but do they grow a Japanese banana, that’s what we’d like to know." The banter between an embarrassed Dave and an indignant Alvin is some of their funniest. Alvin: "That’s the worst banjo player I’ve ever heard." Dave: "That’s not a banjo, it’s a samisan." Alvin: "That’s the worst sam-i-san player I ever heard." The other great song is "I Wish I Could Speak French," in which Alvin tries to pick up a mademoiselle by musically lamenting his lack of language skillz with the smooth cadence and delivery of Chevalier. It ends with her going for him, to which he responds, "Oui? Oui?…WOW!" In Italy a gondolier doesn’t appreciate the boys singing along and chides, "Hey you-a mouse-a, pipe down!" To which Alvin responds, "Mouse! Mouse! I’m Alvin the Chipmunk!" Gondolier: "Chipmunk, shmipmunk, silencio!" After another exchange the boys (to the tune of "O Sole Mio") sing, "Oh Gondolier-o, we are not mice, we’re singing chipmunks, we told you twice!" When Alvin asks the bagpiper to use his "octopus," the piper responds, "Sure laddy!" The boys then start "rocking and rolling," and Dave has the nerve to say, "You’re playing in the wrong key, Alvin!" Imagine that…denigrating a child’s bagpipe skills during his first attempt to play the thing! This record was available with an awesome foil cover, but I don’t think it appeared without the cartoon Chipmunks, as many of these skits were animated in the cartoon that premiered around the time this was on the shelves. (JA)

The Alvin Show (Liberty LST 7209, 1961)

This album, the soundtrack to the TV show, features audio versions of comedy bits and songs that appeared on the very funny program. After opening with the bouncy theme song ("This is The Alvin Show, The Alvin show…") we hear the story of the Margaret Dumont-esque Mrs. Frumpington, an anti-Rock crusader from the pre-P.M.R.C activist group the Society for Quiet and Universal Appreciation of Refined Enterprises." Upon introduction Alvin comments, "And you are he head of the S.Q.U.A.R.E.s, I take it." She then (oblivious of the Chipmunks’ identities) demonstrates what she sees as the most heinous of all music by playing snippets of the Chips’ rockin’ tunes, "Comin’ Round the Mountain," "Old MacDonald Cha Cha Cha" and "Witch Doctor." Alvin begins to brutally curse her out but Dave stops him. So Alvin goes into plan B: "I decided Mrs. Frumpington was going to sing my kind of music whether she likes it or not!" He goes to her house, gives her a flower, then starts discussing nature while his brothers hide outside and play instruments. He has her consider her love of the wind through the branches (guitar plucking), the sound of the bullfrog (bass fiddle) and the birds (a fake woodpecker playing percussion). As she starts to get more and more swept up into the rhythmic groove he asks, "Do you like families? Don’t you just love a baby, a baby…?" She responds, "A baby? A baby, a baby baBY BABY!" Now that he has her worked up he asks, "And how about a daddy, a daddy…?" "She has now lost control to the demon rhythms of Rock and Roll and starts screaming, "DADDY, DADDY ,DADDY, BABY, BABY, BABY!" A full horn section kicks in as she works herself into an erotic climax, "BABY BABY BABY, DADDY DADDY DADDY BABY BABY BABY! Ohhhhhh!" She can’t get out of the groove and howls her orgasmic Rock n’ Roll vocals until men in white coats take her away. Thus, the most sexually charged kiddie record ever proves that everything this woman feared was true, Rock music is Satan. The album side ends by attempting to desexualize Alvin a little by reprising "I Wish I Could Speak French," but ending it by having Alvin’s sexy encounter with the French gal turn out to be nothing but a (wet) dream. Side two opens with a TV interview. The boys sing a song (a new version of "Chipmunk Fun") to the reporter about what they like to do (play baseball, go swimming…watch Gunsmoke). The song and interview end with David pleased at their good behavior, but as the TV dude signs off Alvin reprises the tune with new, naughty lyrics. "I like to break dishes and fight with the squirrels, I like to pull pigtails when they’re on girls, we like to eat candy and talk in school. but we don’t like to study math, arithmetic makes me sick…" "I knew it," laments David. Perhaps the squirrel line was a jab at their animated rivals, The Nutty Squirrels. We then meet Clyde Crashcup, a scientist character introduced for the cartoon. His humor is very Ernie Kovacs-esque, but it doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the stuff. Dave then starts "Witch Doctor" solo, but the boys stop him and they sing it together. The album ends with a reprise of the TV theme, some goodbyes, and a few more Crashcup jokes. All in all, perhaps the wildest Alvin album ever. (JA)

The Chipmunks Songbook (Liberty LRP 3229/LST 7229 1962)

The Chipmunks from the start were perceived as perfect for kids, but also so clever and amusing that adults would groove on the jokes as well. Much of this is attributable to the sophistication of Ross Bagdasarian’s humorous instrumentation and songwriting. As evidenced by the nearly instrumental b-sides of the early Chips singles, all the whimsy and humor of the group can be almost matched just by the originality of Bagdasarian’s funny songwriting. However, after the Chips made their TV debut, with new designs and more fleshed out personalities, their was a bit of a wake up call about the Chips’ audience. Originally aired in prime time, a la the Flintstones or The Simpsons, the Alvin Show was a commercial flop despite its super high quality. It then moved to Saturday morning where the kiddie audience grooved to it for several successful seasons. This may have been a blow to Ross’s ego because all the LPs released post Alvin Show’s timeslot relocation seem more squarely aimed at the kids, and they now rely less and less on original songs and more on children’s standards and covers of pop songs. The pop covers would prove to be the least inspired, but that was several years off. For this album, after the charming (though not particularly comic) original, "The Alvin Twist," we get a dozen or so kids songs/vaudeville numbers, with plenty of funny Alvin/Dave-isms. "On Top Of Old Smokey," "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" and "Bicycle Built For Two" are all particularly pleasant. At this point (and on the Christmas LPs to follow) Bagdasarian may not be composing as much magic, and his work may be less sophisticated than on his recordings with a broader audience in mind. However, his respect for the craftsmanship of the songwriters of yore seems to lead to inspired arrangements and a genuinely joyous execution. By 1964 (though 2001) inspiration would become rarer, as most Chipmunks records would be just rote covers of current hits. (JA)

Christmas With The Chipmunks (Liberty LRP 3256/LST-7256 1962/Mistletoe, 1976/? 1980/Cema 1994)

The four-year-old "Chipmunk Song" is repeated here from their first album. This LP has a humorous cover drawing featuring the lads opening their presents four days too early (according to a wall calendar). Seville's still getting as much mileage out of the Chipmunks' biggest hit as he can---four years later, Alvin is still asking for a damn Hula Hoop. As for the rest, when Seville is not yelling at Alvin & co. to keep in line, he gets a couple of solo turns, as do the Chipmunks themselves. There's even a guest vocalist, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, on the song of the same name. Highlights include "Here Comes Santa Claus," in which Alvin starts orating the lyrics like John Barrymore, forcing David to scold his overacting, and a straight version of "Up On The House-Top," a great tune for the Chipmunks style. Yuletide music at its kitschy best. The original LP has the fancy foil and the non-foil covers. The 1980 issue is the same as original but omits "Over The River and Through The Woods" and "We Wish You A Merry Christmas." (JP)

Christmas With the Chipmunks Vol. 2 (Liberty LRP 3334/LST 7334 1963/EMI 1994)

This is Seville showing his sentimental side. Though he tries to act like a tough on wax, you can tell his heart is bigger than the post-transformed Grinch’s by just how sweet and straightforward this album is. Apparently the spirit of Christmas isn’t something to be irreverent about, as there’s hardly any shenanigans here. Sure Dave tries to get mad at Alvin when he starts improvising during "Twelve Days Of Christmas," but you can tell his heart isn’t in it. But conflict like that is rare here, and most of these carols are sung with reverence. Dave even sings lead twice, on a sappy but earnest" Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" and on a Beatnik version of "Night Before Christmas" that sounds like your math teacher trying to do a rap about integers to "get to the kids." Overall a pleasant album, but definitely more of a real kiddie record than most Chips stuff Russ Sr, did. (JA)

The Chipmunks Sing The Beatles Hits (Liberty LRP 3388/LST 7388/EMI Nutm 31 1964)

There are a number of old time Rock and Roll fans who think the Beatles ruined everything (usually citing "Sergeant Pepper" and the art-ification of rock.). Well I’m not going to take a position on that, but I will say that they kinda screwed up the Chipmunks. For the first time ever the creativity and verve of Ross Bagdasarian is totally stifled. Of course it’s funny that the chipmunks appear in Beatles wigs on the cover with Alvin holding a Beatles bass. But for the most part this is very much like the 80s chipmunk revival where they just did straight covers of Michael Jackson and Cyndi Lauper songs with slick studio musicians, sped up vocals and no real jokes or banter. And they don’t even respect the Chipmunks continuity…on "Love Me Do" the harmonica solo is replaced with a melodica! Not surprising, considering Alvin is playing his harp backwards, with the wrong end in his mouth, on the cover. The most spirited track may be "Twist and Shout," where David Seville makes a brief appearance (mixed low) to tell Alvin his wig is falling off, and where they actually improvise some vocal arrangements getting a little more soulful than the Beatles. The best part of that is the scaling up vocals at the end which climax with atonal shrill Chip-shrieks. Seville is actually becoming less involved, which I guess is a good metaphor for Baby Boomer generation gap development. But overall the cover art is the whole joke, and this is the first uninspired Chipmunks LP. (JA, JP)

The Chipmunks Sing With Children (Liberty LRP-3405/LST 7405 1965)

Here’s my theory: Some people can’t stand the Chipmunks high pitched shtick, and some people can’t stand to hear children singing. On top of that, showtunes like "Hello Dolly," hippy kiddie songs like "Puff (The Magic Dragon)" and songs that have had their definitive recording done and are in no need of Chipmunkization ("Que Serra Sera," "Tea For Two") are going to rub some people wrong. That’s three strikes against you and that’s likely why this record never seems to pop up used, meaning it’s likely that hardly anyone bought it. While The Jimmy Joyce Singers are clearly not the all time most annoying kids choir, and while Bagdasarian’s liner notes indicate he was genuinely challenged and excited by this project, Alvin really doesn’t need the competition and this isn’t the soundest concept. Still, it’s one of the weirder Chips LPs, and if you think of the kids as the equivalent of the theremin on "Good Vibrations" you can consider this the Chipmunks "Smile," a doomed masterpiece that’s years ahead of its time (so many years that it hasn’t arrived yet, ‘cause I still don’t dig it). (WT)

Chipmunks a Go Go (Liberty LST-7424/mono LRP 3424 1965)

Remember the episode of The Alvin Show where the Chipmunks (and David Seville) appear on some Bandstand type TV program to perform "The Yellow Rose of Texas," with Alvin wiggling his hips Elvis-style to the delight of the girls present? And square Seville totally trying too chill Alvin’s shit ("Come on, you know we don’t do that kind of music!!") Well, by '65 the Chips were older and wiser and rocked while Seville wisely stayed in the background on his drum kit (see cover). Here, they play catch-up with their second all-rock album in a year (after the Beatles tribute, natch), with an album cover depicting the Chips and Seville rocking with go-go girls in the background. So are they doing any abrasive garage-punk or wyld soul? No, the song selection is straight down the middle of the road: "What's New Pussycat," "Mrs. Brown, You've Got A Lovely Daughter," "This Diamond Ring," etc. There's a surprising cover of George Jones' "The Race Is On," but that's probably because lounge singer Jack Jones had a version around this time. Dobie Gray's poppish "The In Crowd" is the closest the Chips come to soul music (could you see them doing "My Girl" or "Respect?" Maybe "Baby Love"...), while the nearest to rowdy rock we get is Dino, Desi & Billy's "I'm A Fool." "I'm Henry VIII, I Am" even has a better guitar solo than the original by Herman's Hermits. No "Louie, Louie" or "Wipe Out"...but even when they were trying to, they never really could master that kind of music. (JP)

The Chipmunks see Doctor Dolittle (Sunset/Liberty S-5300, 1968)

Note the title isn’t "The Chipmunks SING Doctor Dolittle," but rather "…SEE Doctor Dolittle." The narrative here is great, the Chips have just seen the movie and they are STOKED! Understand that a the time the pre-release hype on "Doctor Dolittle" had everyone ready for this big budget flick to have the impact "Star Wars" would a decade later. It didn’t happen. But everyone committed to tie ins before the film flopped. Thus a lot of big names invested: The Chips, Sammy Davis Jr and Bobby Darin rushed out LPs covering the songs from the film, and Dr. Seuss’ imprint published a series of books. The movie ended up being a legendary financial disaster, but that doesn’t mean quality stuff didn’t come out of it. This LP likely tanked commercially, but it’s a ton of fun! Dave takes the boys to the movie, but they beg to see it again. He then challenges them to take a Dr. Dolittle test, and if they pass they can go again. Thus, they spend the LP joyously recounting the story and the cool parts of the movie, and of course, singing all the songs with David. As opposed to the pop cover LPs where Seville is a non-entity, this is all about the warm, loving relationship David and his kids have. Some of the lyrics are altered to be specific to Seville talking with the Chipmunks. There’s not much bratty acting up here (though Alvin delights in squealing like a pig on the last note of Dr. D’s theme). And as a reward for their good behavior, and good singing, at the end Dave takes them back to the theater for another Push me-Pull you fix! Note that the Chips are now on Liberty’s budget imprint, Sunset, an indicator of their fading commercial appeal. (JA)

The Chipmunks Go To The Movies (Sunset, 1969)

I really like this record because it makes me feel like David Seville really has fun with his kids, taking them to the movies and being a good friend. Mostly it’s the cover art that does this for me: They look the happiest they’ve ever been crossing the street to go to a big movie theater with searchlights and palm trees and the whole shebang. As they cross the street Dave is holding their hands like a responsible parent (of course Alvin is running wild…Dave only has two hands!). The songs are great, from "Oliver," "The Wizard of Oz," "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" and other family friendly flicks. Highlights include "Consider Yourself," "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" and The Bare Necessities." (WT)

Christmas with the Chipmunks (United Artists 1974)

A retread of previously trod Christmas snow, not a real new album. Don’t think they were back, and don’t let the fact that they were seemingly on a big label fool you. The Chips were down and out and were going to have to claw their way back to the top….and it wouldn’t happen for years to come. (WT)

Chipmunk Punk (Excelsior/Pickwick XLP-6008 1980)

This is the album that brought them back, based on some anonymous DJ’s comedy routine. Although NBC was briefly showing reruns of The Alvin Show in the 70s, at this point the Chipmunks were a distant memory for people 25 and over. Connecting these novelty record kings with the punk movement looked like the ultimate hipster joke. With Ross Bagdasarian dead, Ross, Jr. took over the reins, with mixed results. Just like their "Go Go" LP in the 60s, their taste in rock wasn’t particularly adventurous, with Knack songs, two by Blondie, one by Tom Petty, and one Cars, plus fake new Wave from outsiders-looking-in Billy Joel, Linda Rondstadt and Queen. Although some of the racier words were toned down, this LP doesn’t "make cute" for the children. What’s funniest about this record (which removes the Seville/father figure) is that the songs are all sung with deadpan, heart felt conviction, even though they are in Chipmunk voices. As far as punk cred, of course the 3 years late "New Wave" examples here don’t have much to do with underground Bad Brains or Dead Kennedys action that was going on from coast to coast in 1980. But to dismiss the punk-as-hell absurdity of this album is a mistake. When a VH1 documentary recently used the cover of "Chipmunk Punk" as an illustration of a nail in the coffin of punk, they clearly were demonstrating that they didn’t really understand the Ramones. The production is a lot cheesier than on the old Liberty LPs. When Bagdasarian, Sr. recorded the original albums he’d enunciate extra s-l-o-w and bassy at a low pitch, so that Alvin, Simon and Theodore came out bright and clear at the higher speed. Even with their voices in the stratosphere, you can clearly make out every word being said. On "Chipmunk Punk" the voices came out whiny and garbled. It’s still a good joke as fas as it goes, and Doug Oudekerk’s raw cover art, with Alvin in an alley looking like a real badass, is a last-ditch attempt to capture the Chips in their rowdy element, before they got all cuddly and Smurfy. (JP)

The Twelve Days Of Christmas with the Chipmunks (Pickwick SPC-1035 1980)

This is "Christmas w/ the Chipmunks Vol. 2" with new title & art. (WT)

Urban Chipmunk (RCA AFLI-4027 1981)

As a follow up to "Chipmunk Punk" this is good, but not nearly as great. While the jokes are all funny here (laughs would become rarer a few years later, I don’t know if Ross Jr. only had so much funny in him or what) but the songs aren’t magic. Still, 70s/80s Country Pop is pretty Chipmunk friendly. Not a lot of David Seville here, but during "Thank God I’m A Country Boy" Dave yells at Alvin to be quiet… it’s 2 in the morning! On "The Gambler," Alvin bums a Twinkie, not a cigarette (Shirley, Squirrely and Melvin, who replaced Alvin at Excelsior when the Chips left for RCA, recorded this the same year with Marlboros intact). This record also brings back the Canned Heat concept of guest stars. Jerry Reed gets pitched a song by Alvin that features the line "I’ve got a lunchbox full of broken hearts, a thermos full of tears" and Brenda Lee gets a marriage proposal from Alvin, to which she sings in response, "You’re a chipmunk, I’m a lady, we don’t have much in common…" At the end Alvin convinces Brenda he’s worthy, and I guess this album did the same for me. Note: Dolly Parton doesn’t appear on this record, but she would appear (in animated form, lending her voice) on the Alvin cartoon revived shortly after this came out, on an episode entitled, "Urban Chipmunk."(JA)

A Chipmunks Christmas (RCA AQL1-4041, 1981)

This has the modern age Chips returning to their Christmas roots on an album heavy with dialogue, but low on the zing one expects from the spoken word portions of Chipmunks LPs. That’s partially due to the fac that "special guest" Santa Claus doesn’t have as short a temper as Dave, and that when Dave (voiced by Ross Jr.) does speak it’s in the woosiest tones imaginable. This accompanied an animated TV special of the same name, and it represents the new, warmer Chipmunks that would be successfully revived in a TV series soon after. The story length narrative has Alvin giving his harmonica to sickly Tommy so he’ll get better, and then scheming to avoid telling Dave where his harp went. The only really funny part on this is when Alvin, after having first met the deathbed bound Tommy, and before reviving his spirit with his gift, has to rehearse, "The Chipmunk Song." He is so depressed he sings "Christmas, Christmas time is here…" in a somber, dragging voice, an absurd juxtaposition of lyrics and approach. There is also an attempt to revive the Clyde Crashcup character from the old cartoon (I don’t think he appeared on the new cartoon). They mostly do standards, and the original, "The Spirit Of Christmas," is awful! A nice touch is Santa telling you at the end of side one, "OK kids, time to turn the record over." I wonder what they did with that when Sony reissued this on CD. (JA)

Chipmunk Rock (RCA AFL1-4304, 1982)

In the prolific period between their "Punk" revival and their animated explosion, the Chips did lots of covers, and while there’s no comparison between this stuff and the genius early work, the quality here is far superior to material that would come soon. If you toss out the sentimental X-mas LP from the previous year, "Punk," "Urban" and Rock" actually make up a pretty solid body of work, as the covers they do really fit perfectly with the Chip-voice concept. On this record, "Take A Chance On Me," "Jessie’s Girl" and "Whip It" sound pretty solid. The most significant development here is he semi-introduction of the characters that would become the equals of the boys, "The Chipettes." Unlike the true Chipettes, however, on this album it’s just A, S & T in drag!!! (Alvin: "You guys aren’t getting me to put that wig on!") Though the cover art is now featuring the cutesy Chipmunks (as opposed to the brilliant earlier designs, or the raw "Punk" creatures) the artwork is still kinda funny. The back has them rocking on stage (a ripoff of the Shirley, Squirrely and Melvin LP!) but the inner gatefold has illustrations for song titles including one for "Whip It" that has them in Devo hats eating whip cream in space, one for "Leader Of The Pack" with Alvin on a Big Wheel leading a motorcycle gang on Harleys, and one for "Heartbreaker" with Alvin laying on his bed, surrounded by mail, with his walls covered with pictures sent to him by hot, adult, human women fans, as he’s flips through his "Little Black book Vol. III" while calling a hottie on the phone. Player! (JA)

Chipmunk Mania (K-Tel NC 560, 1982)

Budget compilation of early Chipmunk hits, also including "Witch Doctor." The B is all Beatles compositions form their Beatles LP. The album jacket features cheaply drawn Chipmunks rocking out in Beatles wigs set against a plain blue backdrop. In the lower left corner, big, pink hands reach out for the lads. (RD)

Chipmunks Go Hollywood (RCA AFL1-4376, 1982)

Uninspired, uncharming covers of 80s and 70s movie songs and showtunes. The original tune here, and the single, is called "E.T. and Me. Let’s just say if E.T.’s service used this LP as on-hold muzak, he’d probably be less excited to phone home. (EG)

The TV Chipmunks (1983)

Alvin Goes Wild (1984)

The Chipmunks Cruise (1984)

The Chipmunks Join the Circus (198?)

The Chipmunk Story (1984)

May The Best Chipmunk Win (1984)

Merry Christmas, Mr. Carroll (1990)

This kids books also came with Books On Tape versions of the stories. My fave is "May The Best…"which is a battle of the sexes between Chipmunk and Chipette. (WT)

Songs From Our TV Shows (Polystar PTV4 1040, 1984)

On the cover Simon and Theodore are depressed because their show is on a wall of televisions and it’s only showing Alvin. They look like they’re contemplating becoming the two Destiny’s Children who got kicked out. Highlights include their covers of "Beat It" and "Surfin USA" and the original, "There’s No Rock and Roll On Mars." (WT)

Munk Rock (EMI 1985)

No, this isn’t the Chips doing all covers of the German/US proto punk band the monks (although I’d love to hear Alvin sing, "I hate you with a passion baby…but call me !"). This is just reissues of various Chipmunk rock n’ roll covers form their Beatles LP and their Go Go LP, plus a cover of "California Girls," which David Lee Roth had a hot version of at the time. (WT)

The Chipmunks Songbook (EMI SLLB-9443, 1986)

Different then Liberty title, this was a TV Offer double LP (eventually a double CD as well) that features lots of old school Chipmunk songs, with more late 60s stuff than late 50s/early 60s material. (JA)

Christmas With The Chipmunks (United Artists UA-LA352-E2 198?)

This is Liberty Vol 1 and Vol 2 as a double LP with front cover art from each on either side of the jacket. (JA)

Born To Rock (Quality 1988) w/The Chipettes

This is the only record I’ve seen credited to The Chipmunks and the Chipettes, giving equal billing to the gals that helped make the tepid 80s cartoon a success. The Chipettes (Brittany, Jeanette and Eleanor) were worthy foils to the boys on TV, but at times they can be confusing onCD/cassette, because it’s hard to tell who the heck is who. Of course, it opens up the door for covers of the Bangles, Aretha and other ladies. Speaking of Aretha, this album’s art features the six creatures in 50s Grease get-ups lounging on the "Pink Cadillac," rendered in punky Manga style expressive art. Theodore is driving, Alvin is posing on the hood in shades with a guitar, Simon is leaning on the car, and the girls are spread out on the hood like a ZZ Top video. I think it’s very notable that Ms. Spears wasn’t the original kiddie pop Britney…but I’m also pretty sure that the Pepsi Princess is 20 or so, and wasn’t actually named after her Chipette predecessor. Anyhoo, on to the music: though this opens with a great cover of George Michael’s "Faith," the kids kinda keep it old school by covering current songs that are actually covers of songs that were out during the Chips 50s-60s heydey ("La Bamba," "Mony Mony," "Venus"). And the other stuff is fine, I mean, does, "Heaven Is A Place On Earth" get worse because of squeaky, screechy sped up rodent warbles? How could it be? The other choices in this oddball mix include Willie ("Always On My Mind"), Whitney ("I Want To dance With Somebody") and Michael ("Bad"). (EG)

Rockin' Through the Decades (EMI/Capitol 1990)

Sure you get your "Witch Doctor" but you also get covers of 50s ("Tutti Frutti," "Oh, Pretty Woman," "Heartbreak Hotel") 60s ("She Loves You," "Satisfaction," "Surfin' Safari"), 70s ("Crocodile Rock") and 80s ("Beat It"). The big "hit: on this album is the Chipettes doing what would be their signature cover song, "Girls Just Want To Have Fun," and though most Chipmuunks covers in this era are fairly unadventurous, at least this has the humor of referencing Cyndi Lauper, a woman who was obviously heavily influenced by the Chipmunks. (WT)

Chipmunks Greatest Hits (Curb 1992)

Drawing heavily from the first LP, this also features a bunch of tracks from the Beatles covers album. Though this doesn’t take into account the 80s revival (some would call that a bonus) this does have historical liner notes (by Don Ovens). (WT)

Chipmunks In Low Places (Sony Wonder 1992)

Recorded in Nashvillle, with a bunch of studio hotshots (including Billy Burnette and Jai Winding), this is the Chips response to "New Country," the post-Garth phenomenon that produced some serious radio friendly hits natural for the boys to latch unto. Born out of the "New Traditionalist" Country music of George Strait and Randy Travis in the 80s, the new "Hat Acts" seemed at first to be somewhat earnest, but soon revealed themselves to be cynical, calculated, manufactured products far more gimmicky than a cartoon rodent act. But in the early 90s it was still possible to see a link form the Country Gold of the 60s and 70s to the contemporary stuff, and this album, with old and new and a few originals thrown in, does just that. What’s really notable about this album as far as Chip-history goes is the parade of famous human guest stars. Though they had done the Canned Heat single, and the "Urban Chipmunk" LP, neither of those led to human/rodent unions becoming regular. After this they would share studios with numerous A-list bi-peds. The "hit" here, and the most natural New Country" song for the boys, is "Achy Breaky Heart"(with Billy Ray Cyrus). Other star turns include "There Ain't Nothing Wrong With The Radio" (with Aaron Tippin), "Stand By Your Man" (with Tammy Wynette), "Outlaws" and (with Waylon Jennings). Notable for the future is "Brothers And Old Boots" with Charlie Daniels, who would not appear on "Devil Went Down to Georgia" on the Chips follow up album the next year (perhaps they argued politics…I hear the Chipmunks are pro-gun control) and "Don't Rock The Jukebox" with Alan Jackson, who the kids would release an X-mas record with the next year (see Chipmunks Guest Appearances). (WT)

The Very Best of the Chipmunks (Cema 1993)

A knockoff cheap-o of Chip oldies from the Liberty days. (WT)

Here's Looking At Me!: 35 Years of Chipmunk Classics (Chipmunk/Sony 1993 LK 57821) This collection celebrating the Chips reaching middle age certainly wasn’t compiled by Rhino, or any other archivist label, as even the old songs are inferior remakes by the new Seville-less Chipmunks, with hard to discern voices, and Chipette guest shots. There’s a few that are still strange enough to be enjoyed; "Wooly Bully" features a gruff monster (the Wooly Bully, I suppose) rumbling the chorus, and "Leader of The pack" features the Chipettes singing about a motorcycle riding Alvin who I guess dies in a motorcycle crash). Also, it’s interesting to have the theme song for the 80s TV show on CD (though I would have liked to have the old theme song on it, too). But, alas, most of the selections are covers of Billy Joel, Michael Jackson, Madonna and the like. Even the modernized version of "The Chipmunk Song" is kinda bad, with the only cool thing being Alvin complaining that he’s been asking for the hula hoop for so damn long that he really wants other stuff now, but by this point he needs that hoop just to maintain his sanity. Then he gets it! Dave coughs up the elusive hula hoop! Historic indeed, but it’s still pretty bad sounding. The only really notable feature of this album is that the cover and interior art feature the new Smurfafied, rad, cutesy, airbrushed Alvin meeting the flat colored, funny looking 60s TV show Alvin. Of course, if they were being more accurate, the actual animal Chipmunks would appear, but that’s too much to ask for. (JA)

Urban Chipmunk (Chipmunk Records 1993 LK53435)

This revamped reissue of the 1981 album drops the Brenda Lee song and "Luckenback, TX" and adds "Boot Scootin’ Boogie (unremarkable) and "The Devil Went Down To Georgia." The latter (which kicks this whole thing off) is AMAZING in it’s bizarreness. This CD’s new Alvin seems a little harder edged than his mischievous predecessor (and much moreso than his current TV incarnation). He wagers not only his own eternal soul with Satan, but throws in his fellow Chipmunks’ souls as well, eliciting Theodore (or maybe Simon, I can’t tell 90s Chipmunk voices apart) to declare "You idiot!" In this version, of course, the Devil plays harmonica, not fiddle, and Alvin does out blow him at the end, demonstrating previously unshowcased chops. The cover art to this updates the original by making Alvin the cuter, but more rad (he has a devilish look rather than a dumb, happy one) version. He also is now balancing on the bar stool on a Nashville Yellow Pages, and has a stick of gum in his rolled up shirt sleeve like a cigarette pack. (JA)

Schools Out For Summer (1994)

Ragtime Cowboy Joe (1994)

Working On The Railroad (1994)

These cassettes are part of Alvin’s Video Audio fun-packs, featuring a VHS tape of TV cartoon adventures and an audio only sing-a-long tape. Despite the Alice Cooper theme title of the former, you can believe that Alvin isn’t dressed in Horror Glam chic, but rather in 80s "rad" suburban skatewear. (WT)

When You Wish Upon A Chipmunk : The Chipmunks Sing Songs From Classic Disney Movies (Sony/Chipmunk 1995)

This is for the kids, so of course it’s heavy on the new school Disney stuff ("Little Mermaid" and "Beauty and the Beast" songs, and a version of "Hakuna Matata" from "The Lion King" in which the Chipmunks prove that even they aren’t as annoying as Nathan Lane). In fact, it’s hard to accept the term classics when applied to "Aladdin" and "Pocahantas." But the kids also get down with some "He's A Tramp" (from "Lady And The Tramp"), "When You Wish Upon A Star," (from "Pinocchio") and especially the appropriate "Three Caballeros," (who’s a greater trio than A, S & T?). The cover art here is notable, as Alvin is the giant genie from Aladdin, Simon is Pinocchio and poor, fat Theodore is in drag as Tinkerbell! (WT)

The Easter Chipmunk (TW Kids 1995)

Alvin's Daydreams (TW Kids 1995)

These are "Comes To Life Books," 24 page kids books with computer doodads in them so that when you place a special machine (a/k/a "the storydisc") on each page of the book (a/k/a "the storyteller") the audio of the stories is "interactively" heard. "Daydreams" features a revival of "Alvin For President." (WT)

A Very Merry Chipmunk (Sony Wonder 1995)

Yet another X-Mas album, but on this one, while reviving a number of previously recorded classics ("Christmas Don’t Be Late," "Rudolph," etc.) we also get an ominous nod to the nineties here with both a Dianne Warren song(!) and a tune that many may consider a torturous marriage made in a deep recesses of Hell. Yes, it’s Celine Dion & The Chipmunks doing "Petit Papa Noel" (now going bilingual, the boys are a lot more cosmopolitan and sophisticated then they were in 1961 when their "Around The World" LP made them out to be Ugly Americans). One positive thing, here: The Chips voices undoubtedly wont seem annoying to anyone when paired with the Canuck goose necked warbler. (WT)

At The Movies (EMI, 1995)

Unlike their previous two movie tribute albums (three if you count "Dr. Dolittle") this is just a compilation of old Liberty stuff. However, it doesn’t just draw from the movie album, but also includes tunes form their Beatles, Dolittle, and other LPs. (WT)

Club Chipmunk: The Dance Mixes (Sony Wonder 1996)

Alvin and the Chipmunks, as well as the Chipettes, who guest on several tracks, groove on "Macarena" (English and Spanish versions…check out review of the single), "Love Shack," "Vogue," "Stayin' Alive," "I'm Too Sexy," "Turn The Beat Around," "Play that Funky Music, Chipmunk," (they may be white-sounding singers, but don’t forget they’re members of a marginalized minority!) and even a dance version of "Witch Doctor." "Basically, it’s hard to argue with Chipmunk remakes of songs that were initially recorded with just as much (or more) artifice and absurdity and calculation as the 80s-90s Chipmunk records themselves. Unlike the "Macarena" single cover where only two Chips are pictured, all three make the cut for this album’s art. But they seem to have either slimmed down or gotten an amazing tailor as their black suits really make them look tall and lean (though they only come up to the leopard stretch pants clad knees of the sexy dancers behind them). (WT)

Chipmunk Adventure Soundtrack (Hip-O 1998)

This soundtrack to their feature length video is a lot like their old, "Around The World" LP thematically. As their adventure has them globe hop they sing in Spanish (that happened a lot in the 90s, including a version of "Macarena!"), and they name check all the places they go (France, Italy, Amsterdam [don’t ask!], Mexico and lots more). There’s less whimsy here than on their 1960 globehopping adventure, but these original tunes are fairly positive and not particularly offensive, so like most 90s Chips releases they’re harmless and fun for the kids. And don’t think you’ll miss covers here, as they do a grating but fun version of "Wooly Bully." (WT)

The A Files: Alien Songs (Sony Wonder 1998)

I don’t know who approved this, but like the last season of Chipmunk cartoons that were all movie parodies this is pretty idiosyncratic. Alvin, Simon and Theodore are dressed as X-Files agents on the cover, and on the CD Alvin and Chipette Britanny are Mulder and Scully (or as they are called, "Moldy" and "Scuzzy") doing not-so-funny shtick around the "X-Files" theme music. The kids tackle (and miss a few tackles) a diverse bushel of sci-fi covers including "Men In Black," "Rocket Man," "The Time Warp" (Theodore does the Columbia solo), "People Are Strange" and "Mr. Spaceman." They may never regain their cred from when they were actually funny, but there’s no denying someone pretty hip is working with these kids these days just to get these particular songs in their paws. (WT)

The Chipmunks Greatest Christmas Hits (Capitol, 1999)

This is cooler than the past few Christmas CDs because it actually features all old material from the original single to the "Christmas with the Chipmunks" LPs, plus the "Chipmunks Song" with Canned Heat. It even has the old school original art from the "Christmas With the Chipmunks Vo. 2" cover. (WT)

Greatest Hits: Still Squeaky After All These Years (Capitol 1999)

As far as Chipmunks compilations this (the most recent and easiest to find) is the cream of the crop! All original era material, this has singles and material from the cartoon soundtrack, but also real fan faves like "Japanese Banana" and "I Wish I Could Speak French." Also, this features a booklet with 10 pages of Chipmunks history lavishly illustrated with Chipmunk memorabilia. And unlike the 35th anniversary CD, this acknowledges the true beginnings by featuring the 60s Chips on the cover in front of photos of the animalistic original ‘Munks in illustration and puppet form! (WT)

Christmas With The Chipmunks (Laserlight, 2000)

Another cheapo X-Mas repackaging, this 10 track CD is extra Budget-y, and should cost you $7 or less.

CHIPMUNK GUEST APPEARANCES

David Seville The Witch Doctor and Friends (London REU.1219 / Made in New Zealand 1958)

The kids do "Alvin's Harmonica" on their "dad’s" record. (WT)

Chubby Checker "The Class" (Parkway, 1959).

Before---just before---he became King Of The Twist, Chubby Checker's first big hit was "The Class," #38 on the Billboard singles charts. The title refers to a rockin' music class where Prof. Checker is teaching his students to sing "Mary Had A Little Lamb." This was really a vehicle to show off Checker’s celebrity impersonations (Fats Domino, the Coasters, Elvis Presley, and jazz drummer Cozy Cole, then riding high with "Topsy II"). When he gets around to the Chipmunks, he speeds up his voice for the purpose (assisted by Cameo-Parkway labelmate Bobby Rydell). (JP)

Alan Jackson Honky Tonk Christmas (Arista Records 1993)

This country CD seems pretty "normal.," featuring regular songs and a duet with a human (Keith Whitley), as well as such weepers as "Please, Daddy (Don't Get Drunk This Christmas)." Then out of left field comes "Santa's Gonna Come In A Pickup Truck," an unexpected duet with The Chipmunks. Awesome! (WT)

CHIPMUNKS ON COMPILATIONS

Liberty Proudly Presents Stereo... the Visual Sound (Liberty 1959)

Avnet Presents the Sound of Liberty (Avnet/Liberty 1962)

This features the oddball choice, "The Alvin Twist." (WT)

Dumb Ditties (K-Tel, 1977)

Features "Alvin’s harmonica," but sadly doesn’t feature the boys on the cover, which is an illustration of most of the song titles (a man is on top of spaghetti, Martians are hopping, teddy bears are having a picnic, etc.). (JA)

Christmas Comedy Classics (Priority 1985)

This features both "The Chipmunk Song" and "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer." (WT)

The Greatest Christmas Novelty CD of All Time (Rhino 1989)

Features "The Chipmunk Song." (WT)

Billboard Greatest Christmas Hits 1955-Present (Rhino Records 1989)

BILLBOARD CHRISTMAS FOUR-PACK! Box set (includes Billboard Greatest Christmas Hits 1955-Present) (Rhino Records 1989)

BILLBOARD CHRISTMAS FIVE-PACK! Box set (includes Billboard Greatest Christmas Hits 1955-Present) (Rhino Records 1989)

The Billboard CD features "The Chipmunk Song" (their Billboard-est hit) and the giant box set features about 2 zillion more tunes. (WT)

A TV Family Christmas (Scotti Bros. 1992)

Features "Twas the Night Before Christmas." (WT)

Rap Rhymes: Mother Goose On The Loose (Epic 1993)

This nursery rhymes done by hip hoppers CD features the rodent rap stylings of A, S & T on Disco/hip hoppified versions of "Old McDonald's Farm" and "This Old Man." Also features Latin rapper Kid Frost doing "One, Two, Buckle My Shoe," Married With Children’s David Faustino doing "Mary, Mary Quite Contrary" kiddie tunes from Mellowman Ace and Kid 'N Play, plus a few tracks by people I never heard of. Also, appropriately, you get to learn your ABCs with Stacey Q, and inappropriately Tone Loc does "Old Mother Hubbard. (WT)

Billboard Presents: Family Christmas Classics (Kid Rhino, 1995) This is an awesome collection, with "The Chipmunk Song" of course, but also Vince Guaraldi’s "Charlie Brown Christmas" music, Boris Karloff as the Grinch, Burl Ives doing "Holly Jolly Christmas," plus The Monkees, Huckleberry Hound, Judy Garland and tons more. (WT)

Hilarious Hits of the '50s (Cema 1996)

Features "Alvin's Harmonica." (WT)

Billboard Greatest Christmas Hits (1955-Present) (Rhino 1996)

Features "The Chipmunk Song." (WT)

Toon Tunes (Rhino 1997)

Lotsa good cartoon theme songs on this, but "The Alvin Show Theme" stands out as one of the best. (WT)

Christmas Comedy Classics Vol. 2 (Priority 1997)

A curveball here, not the big X-Mas hits, but "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" is featured. (WT)

Yuletide Soiree (Rhino 1998)

Features "The Chipmunk Song" and "Soiree" in the title…what a bargain! (WT)

Santa's Greatest Hits (Hip-O 1999)

Features "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)." (WT)

Greatest Hits of the 50's (Platinum 1999)

Features "The Chipmunk Song." (WT)

DR. DEMENTO's Greatest Xmas Novelty (Rhino 199?)

The Chipmunks entertain the Dementoids and Dementites with fellow mirthmakers Spike Jones, The Singing Dogs, Yogi Yorgesson, Bob & Doug McKenzie, Wild Man Fisher, Kip Addotto, and Cheech & Chong. (JA)

Christmas Comedy Classics (19??)

"Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" and other dumb ditties are supplemented by the fine Alvin cut, "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." Mel Blanc, Weird Al and the Jingle Cats make appearances.

OTHER CRITTERS

Chip ‘n’ Dale "Ten Little Indians" 5" picture disc (Rainbo, 194?)

Chip ‘n’ Dale "MR. CHIP’N MR. DALE" b/w "GOOFY’S SONG" 78rpm (Golden Record, 1948?)

Chip ‘n’ Dale "Chipmunk Fun: Railroadin’ Songs" (Disneyland DQ 1230, 1962)

V/A "Merry Christmas Carols" (Disneyland 2914)

V/A "Little Red Caboose and Other Children's Hits" (Disney 1359, 1973)

V/A "Splashdance" (Disney 62520, 1983)

Chip ‘n’ Dale "Rescue Rangers: the case of the missing egg" (Disneyland/Vista, 1988)

These are certainly not Chipmunks ripoffs, as these Disney characters predate the ‘Munks (they debuted in the cartoon "Private Pluto" in 1943, although their revival as The Rescue Rangers was a decade after the Chips "Punk" revival) but there’s no doubt their high pitched singing is in the same ballpark. Though they had a few recorded appearances that predate the Chipmunks, their high, speed manipulated voices are used somewhat differently, not as much as an indicator of chaos but rather as a cuteness magnifier. However, their post Alvin LP is pretty wild. With Disney not being the best purveyors of cutting edge Pop, the selections on their "Railroad" record, include faves like "Polly Wolly Doodle," "Daisy Daisy" and the "Chipmunk Train Song," and they are all pretty nutty. Plus add Donald Duck’s semi-intelligible rantings and you have an album with some genuinely strange vocals. And if Donald wasn’t enough, a decade later they teamed up with Burl Ives for another train album…this time caboose themed! (JA)

The Music of David Seville "The Bird On My Head" b/w "Hey There Moon" (Liberty 55140, 1958)

David Seville "Witch Doctor" b/w "The Bird On My Head" (UA 0063, 1973)

An early example of Bagdasarian's wiggy high-pitched wizardry on the A side. See, Seville's sitting in a vacant lot with a bird sitting on his head and he's singing about how he belongs in someone's arms. The bird sings the last line of each verse, "I belong in a tree" & "I forgot how to fly." They both sing together on the last verse to prove that we aren't separate from nature: we all have our problems. On the flip, David is in someone's arms but the much too bright moon is distracting his lady too much for smooching. He's begging the moon to dim itself. Does the moon speak in a high pitched voice? We don't get to find out. No reply. (RD)

The Astro Mice "No Cheese On The Moon" (Skyway, 1959?) A rare female-managed singing rodent rock act, The Astro Mice were apparently composed of manager Miss L.L. Louise Lewis, Blimp-Whimp and Skip. They recorded a remarkable one-sided single "No Cheese on the Moon," (b/w Louise Lewis' fire safety ditty, "Miss Matches U.S.A.") that combined both the CRITTER and MARTIAN genres. The group's quite remarkably high-pitched vocals are charming. (KC)

Nutty Squirrels "Uh! Oh!" (Part One/Part Two)(Hanover, 1959).

Fun Rock compilation (Sony, 1991) [Features "Uh Oh"]

Pecker motion picture soundtrack (RCA 1998) [Features "Uh Oh"]

The best-known of the Chipmunk imitators, these one-hit wonders had their moment with the jazzy "Uh! Oh!," with two different takes released as "Part One" and "Part Two." The second part was the hit, and the band swings so hard, this screams for a cover version from an established jazz vocalist. A puppet version of this group appeared on television's American Bandstand, with the two squirrels dressed in berets and suits ala Dizzy Gillespie. Lambert, Hendricks & Ross had nothing on the Nutty Squirrels. (JP)

 Nutty Squirrels: "Eager Beaver" b/w "Zowee" (Hanover 4551, 1960)

A supersonic scat follow up to "Uh Oh." Very funny. (EG)

The Nutty Squirrels "Nutty Squirrels (Hanover HM8014, 1960)

The Nutty Squirrels "Nutty Squirrels"  (Umbrella Records, 2001)

The Nutty Squirrels were the only Chipmunk imitators who could genuinely be called originals. Using the sped up voice technology, and admittedly inspired by Bagdasarian’s hit records, Jazz genius Don Elliott and TV composer Sascha Burland assembled some of the top Jazzbos, including Cannonball Adderley and Sam Most to record tracks for a pair of Beatnik Squirrels to scat and groove over. The Nutty Squirrels had goatees, berets, and c-o-o-l attitude, and their humor involved very little ‘joking" (they were usually too cool to talk sentences, sentences were for squares!) and more genuinely fun, humorous music. Every visual and audio moment with the Nutty two was a gas, including the stereo separation (one Squirrel in each ear) and the modern art inspired visual renderings. This album is grooving. In addition to the singles, tracks include the descriptive, "Nutty," "Uh-Huh," and of course, "Nutcracker." Appropriately, this has become a real fave amongst collectors and fans of funny stuff, and the Nuttys have seen their music surface on all kindsa soundtracks in the past few years, from a cartoon to a John Waters flick! Currently a CD version is available as a bootleg. Unfortunately many of the original masters have been apparently lost (by the late Steve Allen, who worked with the Squirrels) so don’t expect a legit reish. (EG)

Nutty Squirrels "Salt Peanuts" b/w "Ding Dong" (Hanover, DP-301, 1960)

Iron Giant soundtrack (Rhino 1999) [Features "Salt Peanuts"]

The picture sleeve for this single has an amazing sculpture of the two hipsters with their empty nutshells and fat gullets. They may not have had all the magic of the ‘Munks, but there is no doubt they were w-a-y cooler. (WT)

The Nutty Squirrels "Go Bird Watching" (Columbia CL-1859/CS-8389, 1960)

1960 was a busy year for the Squirrels. In addition to knocking out another LP (this one is just as hep and funny, with beautiful cover art) they also made their TV debut, a year before Alvin did! Because of delays in the production of the Chipmunks cartoon, a rival animation house was able to do a rush job on a Nutty Squirrels cartoon, and delivered a hip, Jazzy, spare product that was one of the more stylistic offerings of the day. Unfortunately they weren’t only ahead of the Chipmunks, they were ahead of their time, and most markets deemed it too "out there" and let the syndicated cartoons (100 5 minute toons in all) die. But they were a hit on WGN in Chicago! (EG)

Nutty Squirrels "Please Don’t Take Our Tree For Christmas" (Columbia 41818, 1961?)

Enviormentalists? I thought they were Beatniks, not hippies! (EG)

Alvin and the Squirrels "fella in a white coat" (Modern Sound 6911, 1961?)

Modern Sound had balls bigger than chestnuts to be this blatant! (WT)

Woody and The Woodchucks "Sing Your Favorites (Coronet CXS-184, 1963?) Actually, this album is just the Grasshoppers (See SINGING BUGS section) doing "Sing Along With The Grasshoppers" LP with "Alvin’s Harmonica" subtracted and "Swanee River" and "Red River Valley" added. The absolute absurdity of this is that the Grasshoppers say their names all the time, and neither Archie, Rickey and Dennis are named Woody. On the plus side, the fact that Woody appears to be drawn by a semi-retarded serial killer is kinda amusing. (JA)

The Chippers "The CHIPPERS Sing/Christmas With the Chippers" (Arc, Toronto 1963?)

The blurb is more promising than then music in the grooves: "HEY KIDS! Let us chipmunks in and we'll all have a lot of fun singing the Christmas songs you like best. Sometimes we get all mixed up, but it always comes out alright in the end. We'd like you to join us, too, if you can keep up. So, come on, put this record on your player and we'll stay with you for hours and hours, to help you have a merry, merry Christmas. The Chippers." Well, they never really get mixed up, as other than an intro to "Rudolph," this features no shenanigans whatsoever. What makes these Canadian rodents stand out is the extreme vibrato one of them has (The characters are nameless) and the humorless choice of X-mas songs. It’s hard to make a comedic version of "Good King Wenceslas." The only great track is "Jingle Bells," which has the singers genuinely using some goofy, fun dynamics that translate well to sped up voices. But overall, this is bland. Even the drawings of the Chippers, though somewhat expressive, are pretty generic. (JA)

Chippy The Chipmunk "Christmas With Chippy The Chipmunk" (Silver Seal UT/S 1006, 1963?)

The only possible justification of this album is that Chippy was in the Chippers and won some kinda lawsuit over the back catalogue…because it’s the exact same album with a different title! Actually, this adds "The Chipmunk Song," which is an interesting song to cover because you have to say the names Alvin, Simon and Theodore in the lyrics! The funny thing about cover songs is that legally you are always allowed to do them, no permission needed (though artists can make the royalty rate prohibitive) but you aren’t allowed to do them if you alter the song enough so that it may damage the reputation or success of the original. Thus, legally the only real way to cover "The Chipmunk Song" is to do all the shtick word for word, and the amount of alleged woodland creatures who did just that is staggering. By the way, the cover of this has an amazing picture of Chippy, amazing not because of the generic cartoon, but because it’s made of die-cut silver and red foil as thick as a pie tin glued on to the cardboard sleeve. You know, know that I look at him, he may not have been in the Chippers, he doesn’t resemble them. In fact, he looks just like…

Woody The Chipmunk and All The Gang "Sing A Song Of Christmas with Woody The Chipmunk And All The Gang" (Baronet 1006, 1963?)

It’s the exact same drawing as Chippy, though not foil, but silver snowflakes are embossed on the sleeve. I love the idea that not only can you license music, but artwork too…and the money you save goes into foil! Actually, I don’t recognize all these tracks (though some are the same as on both previous records), and some are pretty amusing. Trying to do "White Christmas," "Let it Snow" and "Home For The Holidays" as straight (at times even trying to be sexy) songs in Chip voices is ridiculously weird. It should be noted that the album notes admit that Woody and Chippy may be related, though they are a bit misleading: "The hilarious antics of America’s most beloved Chipmunk are here for Christmas. Mischievous Woody and the gang (Chippy and Chuck) are ready to celebrate the holiday…the performances are so skillful and delightful that we wouldn’t be surprised if the older members of the family found themselves joining in the fun." Hmm…I guess "fun" is relative, but I think claiming Woody is "America’s most beloved chipmunk" may be actionable. (JA)

The Nutty Squirrels "…Sing A HARD DAY'S NIGHT and Other Smashes" (MGM E-4272, 1964)

They shouldn’t have been doing rock and roll…they were Beatniks! Jazzbos! But in 1964 I guess even the heppest submitted. At least they aren’t too Beatles obsessed. Nutty versions of "GTO," "Needles and Pins," and "Bread and Butter" make for a flavorful treat, if not one quite up to previous Squirrel standards. (WT)

Allan Sherman "The Laarge Daark Aardvark Song" (from the. album "My Name Is Allan" Warner Brothers W-1604, 1965)

Allan "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah" Sherman sings this song from one of his many albums with the help of The James Joyce Singers. And the funny voiced aardvark joins in with asides ("Delicious," "That's me!") and the lyric, "Boom boom boom boom ba doo boom, yeah yeah yeah!" Allan Sherman sings that no one takes the aardvark seriously and Allan should know as he's "...the friendly neighbourhood giraffe." (RD, JL)

Pinky and Perky "Pinky and Perky's Hit Parade," plus 15 more LPs (1968, Music for Pleasure Ltd, MFP 1282)

Huge in Britain with a TV show on the BBC from 1957-1973, Pinky and Perky are two endearing pig puppets that are, apparently, making a comeback. Their show focussed mostly on music and chat. They've played Vegas and have been on Ed Sullivan. This is but one of their 16 albums. I don't know if they've done the sped up vocals from the beginning of their career but this album is full of it and the occasional Brit baritone from Mr. Morton Frog. They have played alongside The Beatles and here they do a coupla their songs along with "Hello Dolly" which becomes "Hello Pinky." The front cover has Pinky and Perky asking, "Can you tell the difference between these and the original sounds?" Thankfully, yes, and it's charming! (RD, JL)

Little Duck & the Quackers "Out Of Sight" (Paula, 1968)

Chipmunk-style version of the James Brown hit. Said to be Louisiana soul-rockers the Uniques under an assumed name. One member (lead singer and future country star Joe Stampley) is credited as arranger. (JP)

The Marty Gold Children’s Chorus "Songs From How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (Pickwick/Camden ACL-9003, 1973)

These semi-sour singing tykes spent side one of their LP butchering Dr. Seuss when Jim Carrey was still in grammar school. They had to fill side two with something, so between songs about Elmer Elf and other such nonsense we hear the human kids sing a disconcerting version of "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late." After one verse a frighteningly condescending adult woman interrupts with, "Children…Children! I have a surprise for you! We have a visit from, guess who? Your little furry friends from the woods! They would like to celebrate Christmas with you. Let’s hear them sing…ready…" We are then treated to perhaps the shrillest "furry friends" ever, yet the poor grasp on the speed manipulation technology is somehow charming. The second verse is just the melody done as, "La la la la." And the "furry friend’ who wants a hula hoop sounds as innocent as the baby Jesus, there’s no mischief, greed or naughtiness involved here! Actually, the awkward quasi-soulless delivery of the hula hoop line is the same in the kid verse as in the furry verse, which leads me to believe they just used the same Marty Gold kids and sped up their voices, which must have been fun for the kids (and cheap for the producers). (JA)

Shirley & Squirrely "Hey Shirley (This Is Squirrely)" (GRT, 1976)

V/A "All Ears" (Realistic Cat. No. 50-6002) [features "Hey Shirley (This Is Squirrely)"]

Apparently two-thirds of Shirley, Squirrely & Melvin had a prehistory. Before Excelsior Records resurrected them as the successors to the departed Chipmunks, they made an icky-cute country & western novelty single cashing in on the CB radio craze. For a group of rodents (in this case, squirrels), they have a lot of vocal range. While Squirrely gets his mack on with Shirley, there's probably about umpteen different voices breaking in on the line (including a proper British accent and a stuttering Porky Pig knockoff). And you can tell each and every one apart. Can't do that with the Chipmunks (especially after the Chipettes moved in). The other side is the instrumental backing track. Radio Shack carried a comp LP featuring this track to help advertise the various CB radios they sold at the time. (JP)

Charlie The Hamster goes to Sunday School with Floyd Robinson (SINGCORD ZLP 99, 1976)

Charlie The Hamster Sings the Ten Commandments (197?)

Charlie The Hamster Sings Old Favourites (197?)

Charlie The Hamster Teaches Bible Stories (197?)

It seems that Floyd Robinson combined his love of country music, The Chipmunks, and Jesus Christ to make Charlie The Hamster. Charlie is less mischievous than Alvin but still jokes around. Floyd is less angry than David, he patiently chides Charlie. Charlie and Floyd seem fairly likeable. They often sing together, occasionally letting Charlie's lil’ cousins Huey and Stanley join in. Here's some banter from the intro to "Think Jesus": "Charlie, what do you like to think of most?" "Candy! Ice cream! Popcorn!" "Let me put it this way, Charlie: WHO do you like to think of most?" "That's easy! Jesus!" Full band (guitar, bass, drums, organ) backs them up on these songs and the two instrumentals feature some good picking and strumming, Jew’s harp, and hiccuping. The front cover of the "Sunday School" LP shows Charlie and his lil' cousins in their Sunday best in front of church. One cousin has a slingshot in his back pocket! The back cover has a photo of a grinning pompadoured Floyd posing with his guitar. This isn't the first or only Charlie The Hamster record. Charlie The Hamster has inspired my band Canned Hamm to debut their new friend Hamster Hamm into their act and in upcoming albums. (RD)

Charlie the Hamster Leads The Choir with Floyd Robinson (Singcord ZLP 978 1975)

This album adds a different wrinkle: a whole choir of hamsters! The front cover drawing shows them in their gowns goofing around yet the record itself is drier than the usual Charlie hijinx. It's pretty straight ahead song introductions with more serious songs like, "His Name Be Glorified And Honoured." But the vocal effects! Wow! It really does sound like a whole choir of Charlies singing together beautifully in a huge wooden church! They sound so holy! (RD)

Woody Woodchuck Sings Bible Stories with Floyd Robinson (Word Wonder World Series K-7381 1977) The move to the Word label means bigger production values and the addition of synthesizer. Here Floyd branches out in the animal world. Woody is like Charlie The Hamster with a head cold. He's got a raspier voice. The Woody and Charlie records are very similar, they both even do "The Sunday School Song." Woody's album opens with him singing, "How much wood could a woodchuck chuck..." He also sings, "...the promised land, the promised land, I am going to the promised land," then exclaims, "See you there!" The front cover shows Woody in overalls reading Bible stories to two bunnies, two birds, a raccoon, an owl, two eyes in the dark peeping out of a log, all around a campfire in the woods. (RD)

The Adventures of Bernie The Billy Goat-Songs For Sunday School -Music and Words by Floyd Robinson (Tempo R-2101 1977)

Finlay the Fish (?)

Things get weirder with Floyd's new animal friend, Bernie the Billy Goat. I mean, a goat isn't exactly a Christian symbol, is it? Bernie's voice is like Charlie and Woody's except with more of a drawl and a strong goat quiver and tremble. He even goes, "Beh-h-h-h-h!," alot. Here's an example: "Bernie, what are you doing?" "Exercising faith!" (singing:)"1, 2, You're doing fine, read the Bible one more time, 3, 4, 5, 6, It'll make you strong, it'll make you quick, 7, 8, 9, 10, Now read it once again, I'm exercising faith in the Lord." And this example: "Bernie, isn't it good just knowing that Jesus is using you?" "Oh-h-h-h, boy-y-y-y-y-y!" This record is creepy! The cover shows Bernie in overalls in a barnyard with a cow, a duck, a pig, a chicken, a rooster, a horse, and two eyes in the dark peeping out of a barn window. They're all singing Sunday School songs. Don Bolles owns an equally odd Floyd Robinson record that features Finlay The Fish who gurgles when he talks and sings! (RD, JL)

FUNTOWN: Favorite 20 Selections LP (K-tel NC 498 1978)

Petite Sings For You-Pet Care Tips (CM-100 distributed by Clay-Mor, a custom product of Pickwick Canada)

Archie Wood and his Friends Christmas Album (E-500)

As a kid, I used to stare and stare at the "FUNTOWN" album while listening to it repetitively. The circular photos of the puppets would peer out at me- the ventriloquist dummies Archie Wood (wood, get it?), Grandpa Wood, and Tammy True, the cute little dog puppet Petite, and Marvin Mouse. "Who are they?," I'd wonder. "Do they exist beyond this record?" In the early 90's I found out that they did indeedy! I was out drinking one night with my friends Julian and Lester and they happened to bring up Funtown. I flipped! "You know of Funtown?!?" This caused them to burst out laughing! Julian and Lester are both from Winnipeg, Manitoba, home of K-tel and where Funtown ran for 25 years on Winnipeg television. This was an institution that was called "Archie Wood and his Friends" on weekdays and "Funtown" on Saturdays. It was hosted by "Uncle Bob" Swarts, who was known around Funtown as "Mayor Bob." The first time that I heard "Hey Jude" I thought that these "Beatles" were ripping off Marvin Mouse's and Tuttle Turtle's "Hey Tuttle" and I didn't think that "Hey Jude" was anywheres near as good! Now as an adult, I realize that Mayor Bob was just improvising and character acting overtop of a track from Marty Gold's "Moog Plays the Beatles" LP. In tribute, my band Canned Hamm took the very same backing track along with Marvin Mouse and Tuttle Turtle's banter to make "Hey, Lil' Hamm." In later years, Mayor Bob had developed an oft rumoured reputation as an alcoholic and one can sure hear it on this album, he stumbles and slurs over stock backing tracks like "Can't Buy Me Love" (where Tammy True tries to woo Mayor Bob by giving him ten bucks and singing this song) and "Put A Little Love In your Heart" (where Grandpa Wood literally misses a cue to a verse and has to catch up, leading me to believe that this whole album was done in one take). But where do the sped up vocals come in? On Petite, the cute little female dog's numbers. This cuddly little bitch's vocals aren't just sped up! They speed up the whole stock pop song! "Paper Tiger," "Walkin' My Cat Named Dog," "The Doggie in the Window," and "Mocking Bird Hill" are all sped up! Possibly even from 33 1/3 to 45 RPM! How brilliantly shoddy! All on an original K-tel album (the only other "original" K-tel album I know of is "Rock Fantasy," an equally amazing album that takes place in, "the land where animals are people" that was most likely made with some Jewel Akens stock backing tracks of "Vegetable Love Song," "Birds and The Bee," etc. at a K-tel staff party). Former Winnipegers tell me that Uncle Bob often used to yell at kids to get off of his lawn. And, in fact, my ex-girlfriend Kim's mom went on a date or two with Uncle Bob! I would have loved to have seen this show.

Michael Dumontier of The famed Royal Art Lodge out of Winnipeg sent me the "Petitte Sings…" record. Much earlier Uncle Bob than "Funtown." This cover has a huge circular photo of Petite with a much smaller photo underneath of Uncle Bob waving up to her. The back cover gives us 8 pet care tips (#7. Never pet a strange pet). Although Uncle Bob sounds somewhat more coherent and less slurred than he was later on, this whole album is still shoddy. Shoddilly tremendous! Since it's Petite, the whole thing is just sped up pop songs like "These Boots Are Made for Walking" and "Snowbird." In between songs Mayor Bob and the puppets chat with one another. They give us safety tips. Marvin Mouse's safety tip is, "Um, when you're playing outside never, never, never play with sharp sticks, you might stick it in your in your eye." Petite's speaking voice is just falsetto Uncle Bob. Marvin gets angry because he doesn't get to sing any songs. Eventually, even though it's Petite's album, they let him sing. Marvin chooses "Little White Duck" but it's actually just the Burl Ives recording. And regular speed at that!

"Archie Woods and Friends Christmas Album" is a very early album! Petite's songs don't even speed up, it's just Uncle Bob with a falsetto. The organ music is by "Agnes Forsythe" ("their" quotation marks, not mine). Marvin Mouse sings "Santa Claus is Coming to Town." On the cover Uncle Bob and all the puppets are lined up together beside a Christmas tree and in front of a cardboard castle set. You know what I just realized? Archie Wood, Grandpa Wood, and Tammy True are never seen together! I think it's the same puppet! Tammy is just Archie in black pigtails and buckskin (she's supposed to be 'native') and Grandpa is just Archie with white hair and a beard. They even have similar voices! (RD)

Jay Cotton and The Sexmunx "God Save The Queen" (demo, late 70's/early 80's?)

Gary Panter & Jay Cotton "One Hell Sandwich" picture disc LP (Blast First, 1990)

Savage Pencil presented a whole series of albums by artists and cartoonists with lavish 12 page booklets. Picture discs feature beautiful art by the artists! This demo is a pretty good replica of The Chipmunks style, featuring Schystkopf, Carnivore, and Awful of The Sexmunx. Jay as the David character tells the kids at home to get out their safety pins. He tells The Sexmunx to keep trying to sound more punk but they're just not intimidating enough! In the booklet Jay Cotton wrote, "I had the original Chipmunks engineer, Ted Keep, the original session men and the original piano lined up to go next and the money fell through. Heck. Demo of "Anarchy In The U.K." is unusable. It would have been the "B" side." Either way, this is the REAL Chipmunk Punk. (RD)

Shirley, Squirrely and Melvin "Live" (Excelsior XLP-88009, 1981)

Shirley, Squirrely and Melvin "Boulevard" b/w "I Like Reggae Too" (Excelsior 1142, 1981)(Excelcior)

Shirley, Squirrely and Melvin "Christmas With Shirley and Squirrely (and Melvin, Too!)" (Excelsior 1982)

By the end of the 70s the Chipmunks were pretty much washed up, but Excelsior records took a chance on them, and "Chipmunk Punk" was a leftfield smash! Loyalty apparently not being a chipmunk trait, as soon as they hit they immediately signed with the first major that waved enough nuts in their faces, leaving Excelsior out in the cold. Or did they? A cynic might say they label figured, "What the hell, I can speed up tape as well as any Armenian!" An idealist might say they just went out and found an equally talented group of rodents. And so without missing a beat this trio debuted featuring a couple of Blues Brothers type boy-squirrels (Melvin played sax and guitar, Squirrely picked up percussion and laid some guitar licks in as well) and a hot diva frontwoman with a huge tail. This crew had built up a huge following at the grassroots level, and had an indie single under their belts, so the label decided to do something that the Chips had never done…record a live album! Hey, if it worked for the MC5? Anyhoo, this is a real Eddie and the Cruisers/Bar rock type LP (despite a stadium sized crowd roaring during the entire set) and as far as material went, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, The Beatles and "Soul Man" are the flavors of the day. One nice element is that without Bagdasarian Productions involved there’s less boundaries, so the absurdity of this group, and their stage banter, is more directed for adults to chuckle at while kids are enjoying the funny voices. Clearly a cover of Janis Joplin’s "Mercedes Benz" is completely over the top for a kiddie record, and during "The Gambler" they even do some cigarette inhaling sound effects straight off a Cheech and Chong LP. The single from the album is equally weird; a very adult Jackson Browne song and an original that namechecks Blondie, The Rolling Stones and punk rock. Their follow-up Christmas record was less inspired, with all standards and only one curveball ("Christmas Haunted House"). Because of the odd title of the X-Mas release, cheapo CD reissues credit the album to "Shirley and Squirrely’ only, leaving Melvin out in the trees. (JA)

Tom, Dick and Harry w/ Clarence Carter "Too Weak To Fight" from "Between A Rock And A Hard Place" LP (Ichiban, 1990)

No, not the hit version (and follow up to "Slip Away") from 1968, but a later version recut with sped up voices. The "Strokin’" veteran of southern Soul named his pets Tom, Dick and Harry, and somehow wound up making a better Chipmunks record than the people who had the rights. The three rodents main job is to chant the title at the appropriate moment, but not without a "Fight," with Carter in the David Seville role. The backtalk between verses is a lot funnier than the dumbed-down real Chipmunks records (since 1980), and I can easily see the vocal bits being voiced by a female chorus. (JP)

Flossie and the Unicorns S/T (1996, Hanson, HN013)

Quintron/Flossie and the Unicorns "MC Baby Kitty" b/w "Snow Machine" (Bulb, BLB-044, 1996)

V/A "Camp Skingraft 33 Hits! (!) Now Wave Volumes 1-3" compilation (Skin Graft GR50, 1998) [featuring Flossie and The Unicorns "Chewing Gum From Outer Space"]

Flossie and The Unicorns "LMNOP" (Skingraft, 1998)

Flossie and the Unicorns "The Animal’s Clubhouse" (Rhinestone/Skingraft, 2000)

Miss Pussycat "Part of Two Puppet Shows" (Anal Log, 2000)

Panacea Pussycat puts pizzazz into puppetry! How come no one else makes puppet records anymore? The concept makes sense: recordings of puppets! Quintron, the merrily mad organist, helps out at times. Both he and Miss Pussycat share the same candy and King Vitamin fuelled environment in New Orleans that affects/effects their respective creative outputs. Miss Pussycat has created her own delirious world here. The voices of her puppet/animal band Flossie and the Unicorns don't just speed up-they distort, slow down, go over, under, sideways-along with sounds that disorient. The debut full length record tells the story of how Flossie and The Unicorns become a rock'n'roll band to give children everywhere psychic powers and fresh breath. Christian ventriloquist puppet record collector Don Bolles shows up from L.A. to be their houseguest and to give them Hawkwind's phone number. It has a cake frosting pink coloured cover. But it doesn't taste like frosting. It tastes like cardboard. (RD)

Chris Ligon "Crazy Dazy" (Record Roundup, 2000)

Gwangi the cat sings harmony and indignant lead on the title track. (JA)

Hampton The Hamster "Hampster Dance" (Koch, 2000)

I think there may be a lot of back story to this record, so if I got it wrong, please Internet Goons, forgive me! The "Hamster Dance"/"Hampster Dance" is an amazingly catchy, super annoying ditty that features a scatting creature with a voice that makes Alvin sound like a baritone. I think his rise to fame may involve cute animated dancing internet rodents, and I further think there has been some legal wrangling over who owns the name/etc. (thus the "P" in "Hampster") but Hampton’s is the version hat gets played on Radio Disney so this is the one I’ve heard. This record is clinical and soulless, yet somehow hypnotizing. Imagine if The Nutty Squirrels were conceived and executed by John Tesh and you may have an idea what this is all about. (JA)

El Chichicuilotes (2001?)

I’ve seen CDs by these crudely animated chickens on Spanish language TV and I have no freaking idea what’s going on. While they always sing with sped up tape they sometimes sing in high sped up voices and sometimes in (relatively) lower, more manly sped up voices. (JA)

SINGING BUGS

Tony Burrello "The Sound of Worms" (Horrible -100, 1952)

"There's a new sound, the newest sound around, the strangest sound that you have ever heard." Sung with increasingly frenetic calliope and sound effects. The worm makes very happy, squishy, mud wriggling high pitched noises throughout. The Muppets covered this later to lesser effect. (RD)

The Grasshoppers "Sing-A-Long With The Grasshoppers (Twinkle TW 12, also Diplomat 2215, Spin-O-Rama MK 3074, and a number of other labels, first issued ca. 1960?)

Listening to this scratchy kids' LP is a total trip down memory lane for me. I remember my mom brought it home for me in 1963, after having picked it up while shopping at the local Mayfair grocery store. Little did I know that this cheap-o Spin-o-Rama LP was a "rip-off" of the incredibly successful Chipmunks records. The record leads off with the "The Chipmunk Song" ("Christmas, Christmas, Don't be late...) Wait a minute....GRASSHOPPERS singing "The Chipmunk Song"?? Yep. They even do "Alvin's Harmonica" - confusing the issue even more. And instead of the now-familiar Alvin, Theodore and Simon, we get Archie, Ricky and Dennis. The guy taking the David Seville role is "Eddie". The singing and instrumental back is actually pretty darn good, compared to some other "rip-off" Chipmunks products I have. Sounds like they hired some studio musicians, with muted trumpets, drums, piano, bass and guitar. Most other records of the Chipmunk Rip-Off genre that I've heard have just one cheesy organ or something as back up. I actually used to play this record at 16 rpm to hear how it was recorded by the studio singer(s), and credit this LP with my first education in harmony singing. I was in a bunch of bands years later, and was always ready to break into the familiar 3-part arrangement of "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" ala Grasshoppers, but dagnab it, never got the chance. This record is actually in stereo, with neat separation of voices and instruments, but back in those childhood days, I'd never heard stereo and was perfectly happy with my mono kiddie record player. My other big memory of this record is my ultra-conservative Preacher's Wife mom, making sure I couldn't play the one rocked-up gospel version of "When The Saints Go March In", as she dutifully and skillfully "X'd" out the grooves to that one track. Of course, when she wasn't around, I just had to play this forbidden fruit, scratches, needle-jumps and all! God knows what it must have done to that needle, but hey, I was 7 years old. My original copy of this record was lost long ago, but like all good record-collectin' baby boomers, I've since picked up a replacement copy, and although I rarely play it, when I do it instantly transports me back to those simpler, pre-Beatles days. Sweet-Tarts, anyone? (DC)

The Grasshoppers "Sing Along With The Grasshoppers: the Chipmunk Song and 11 other songs" a/k/a "Sing-A-Long With The Grasshoppers" (Parade SP 374, and dozens of other records,196?)

The Grasshoppers "More Sing-A-Long With The Grasshoppers Vol. 2" (Promenade 2216)

Used record archeology is an inexact science, but it would seem from the sheer volume of Grasshoppers material unearthed that they were the main knockoff group of the Chipmunks. But unlike the Chips, who had a big record company behind them and chart positions, merchandising and crossover (to adults) appeal on their minds, these are kiddie records on cheapo labels directed at parents who’d rather spend the minimum for kids who can’t tell the difference. I’m not sure exactly how it worked, but the recordings that the Grasshoppers did were leased, sold, rented to (or stolen by) dozens of labels over the years. On many of these the same drawing, or a variation thereof, of the Grasshoppers appears. OK, as best I can tell these are the basic tracks on their "debut" album: "Alvin’s Harmonica," "Big Rock Candy Mountain," "Chipmunk Song," "Counting Song," "Glow Worm," "I’m A Yankee Doodle Dandy," "I’ve Been Working On The Railroad," "Little Tin Soldier And A Little Toy Drum," "On Top Of Old Smokey," "Row Row Row Your Boat" "Take Me Out To The Ballgame," "When The Saints Go Marching In." Volume 2 introduces these songs: "A Boy In Buckskin," "A Hunting We Will Go," "Aloha," "Anchors Aweigh," "Brush Up Your Shakespeare," "Dixie," "Doggie In The Window," "Happy Birthday," "On A Bicycle Built for Two" "Red River Valley," "76 Trombones," and "Swanee River." So you basically have 24 tracks that subsequently get shuffled around on countless LPs with slight difference in art and title for decades. Often they would even change the group’s name (see Woody and the Woodchucks in CRITTERS section). But to dismiss these bugs because of their budgetness would be a mistake. These are pretty great records. The music is fun and well arranged, and all the singing and speaking is intelligible (not so with many knockoffs, or even some latter day Chipmunk records). Most importantly, mischievous Dennis, Archie and Rickey and their human friend/manager/dad Eddie Maynard can be really funny. In "A-Hunting We Will Go" Eddie asks what animals they want to hunt. They respond "E-le-phants!" "Hip-po-pot-o-mi!" "Cows?" On their cover of "Alvin’s harmonica Dennis explains that he likes his harmonica because he dropped it in his mom’s cake batter and it tastes good. They play baseball in the studio while recording. One thing that really differentiates the Hoppers from the Chips is that instead of 50s pop/novelty, their act is more rooted in vaudeville/Minstrel traditions, with old timey songs, Riverboat references, and pictures of them dressed as a Dixieland/barbershop quartet type outfits, with straw hats and bowties. Sometimes they hover around a microphone (or daisy) and on one record they even gather around an upright piano crooning. Musically these records are really a pleasure. Their harmonies are always tight and funny, "A Boy In Buckskin" is a wonderful fun recording, and "Brush Up Your Shakespeare" (a rare example of a hip choice) is a blast. One notable thing is that though Eddie never really loses his temper like Seville, he can at times be far crueler than David would ever be, threatening the boys with death more than once. At one point when they don’t sing he tells them a story about a man who was going to step on some grasshoppers because he couldn’t hear them singing, with "the bottom of a big, heavy shoe coming nearer…and…nearer" until they fearfully break into song. When Dennis decides to test the waters of transgenderism by wearing a grass skirt to sing "Aloha," Eddie tells him "Boys don’t wear grass skirts." When Dennis insists, Eddie comes after him with a lawnmower! Perhaps his brutal discipline can be attributed to his background; when the Hoppers improvise lyrics that don’t rhyme he laments, "Why did I ever leave the navy?" Of course, these bugs may deserve tough love, they can be worse behaved than Alvin and the gang ever were, lighting dynamite instead of birthday candles, shooting arrows, threatening Eddie with bayonets when singing "Dixie," and knocking ladies over with their "Bicycle Built for Two." Their biggest Chip ripoff, by the way, isn’t their honest covers but their "I’ve Been Working On The Railroad," in which they use "Choo Choo Choo" to copy the upbeat groove of the Chips’ "Old MacDonald Cha Cha Cha." Perhaps the law self-esteem that has them rip off the chipmunks stems from the fact that they usually only appear in the corners of their own album art, with centerstage held by naked chipmunks playing instruments, a farm animal/forest animal band or bear cubs that an artist thought were chipmunks. (JA)

Little Bones "What I Say" b/w "Ya Ya" (Prann, 1963). In a recent interview, Turner claimed that he was the first man to do the speeded-up Chipmunk voice thing when he messed around with a tape machine and gave us Little Bones, the World's Greatest Singing Cricket. Either there's an earlier Little Bones record we're missing, or maybe Ike recorded this in '63 and didn't hear the Chipmunks until '64. (WT)

The Grasshoppers "The Grasshoppers Sing the (picture of a Beatles’ wig) Hits" (Diplomat D2337, 1964)

When I said the Grasshoppers only had 24 songs I wasn’t counting this record for good reason. I guess Eddie retired because the patriarch is now referred to as Jerry. And I guess Grasshoppers have a short lifecycle, because three new ones appear here, Henry, Leroy and Herman. Most significantly this differs from the other recordings because instead of a slick studio band this music seems to have been recorded by possibly real kids, certainly not pros. This is a raw rock and roll record with amateurishly stiff drumming. And forget early Grasshoppers comparisons, more importantly this sounds like a garage band compared to the slick Chipmunks Beatles LP. These bugs do skits, giggle and interject mid song, instead of the way the Chips played their LP too straight with minimal Seville. I think it’s pretty clear that Seville (and Eddie Maynard of the Grasshoppers) likely didn’t get 60s rock and thus couldn’t really put a genuine rock record out by their pets/kids. This, then, is the first, and possibly the best ever Chipmunk style rock and roll record. There’s a budget thing going on here (they don’t have the Beatles name anywhere, using a wig as a rebus-style symbol for the band’s name), but despite only having three Beatles songs, they accurately Merseybeat up the other public domain stuff ("Good Old Summertime," "In The good old Summertime"), hiply including material the Beatles covered as a Beat band in German clubs. On wax we learn, after we hear some garage-style tuning up, that, "We just came back from Liverpool." Jerry sings an extremely square version of "My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean," mocking stiff whiteness like a Def Comedy Jam comic (humor that would be impossible for Eddie Maynard to comprehend) and then the Hoppers update the song. But Jerry keeps begging the younger generation for validation, "That wasn’t square, was it? Was it!?" The best song on the record (if it’s not the raw as salmonella chicken version of "Shortenin’ Bread") is an original(?) called "Wearyin’ Worryin’ Blues." It opens with Jerry playing acoustic guitar, making the Grasshoppers interrupt: "Jerry…Jerry!" "What?" "DON’T PLAY!" As he mumbles dissent they skiffle on! The cover art is awesome. Only the bowties are left over from their last incarnation. Other than that it’s Beatles wigs, left handed electric sitar, minimal drum kit and a Beatles bass. And a frog (maybe Jerry is a frog?) is conducting with a baton while playing guitar. By the way, this is definitely the same Grasshoppers "franchise" as before, not just a coincidental thing that may have sprung from the Beatles-bug connection, because this is on a label that also licensed old Grasshoppers stuff. (JA, JP)

The Bedbugs "Yeah Yeah" b/w "Lucy Lucy" (Liberty 55679 1964)

This is allegedly a Ross Bagdasarian production. I’ve heard of cheating on your wife…but cheating on your adopted bestial kids!?! (WT)

Ike & Tina Turner "Betcha Can't Kiss Me Just One Time" (Innis, 1967)

Little Bones, the World's Greatest Singing Cricket, comes out of retirement to help Tina and the Ikettes put this one over. One of Ike Turner's finest creations, with fuzz guitar and a taunting chorus ("I betcha can't kiss me just one time, baby...without asking me!"). Reissued on a zillion budget albums. (JP)

The Pixies "The Chipmunk Song" (Diplomat SX 1723, 197?) Actually, this is just the Grasshoppers "Sing Along With The Grasshoppers: The Chipmunks Song" LP with Alvin’s Harmonica and "I’ve Been Working on the Railroad" subtracted. The cover art features kids and animals (though no chipmunks…or grasshoppers or pixies for that matter) runnign around a Christmas tree. (JA)

The Grasshoppers with the Merry Orchestra "The Chipmunk Song" (Merry, MR 6022, 1980) Same tracks as "Sing Along with the Grasshoppers: The Chipmunks Song" except "Red River Valley" and "Swanee River" replace "Alvin’s Harmonica" and "Little Tin Soldier" The cover art features a big dumb chipmunk head with a cowboy hat and no grasshoppers whatsover. (JA)

Singing Cockroaches "Ratso" (on ‘A Taste Of Punk’n" Flexi LP, Roctober Records 004, 1995)

These three dirty creatures fight with their greaseball manager "Eddie" (could it be an older, surlier Eddie who managed the Grasshoppers?) and reluctantly sing a song about Roctober’s own Ratso. (JA)

MARTIANS AND MIDGETS

For whatever reason, recording engineers over the years have been pretty certain that little people from earth (and Middle Earth … see PSYCHECHIPMUNK section) and men from mars (thought to be small in stature according to Warner Brothers animation and varied gag cartoons) sounded eerily like singing rodents. Here’s a few examples….

The Wizard of Oz soundtrack album of 78rpm records (1939?)

The Wizard of Oz soundtrack (MGM, 1956)

The Wizard of Oz soundtrack 10" (Decca, DL 5152, 1968?)

The Wizard of Oz deluxe soundtrack (Rhino1998)

The Lollipop Guild, a musical bevy of Munchkins form the lad of Oz, in the flick The Wizard of Oz, have a suite of memorable songs that may very well be the first major voice-manipulation-for-squeeky-effect moment in Pop Culture (if not, it’s certainly been one of the most influential). Who can forget those lovable midgets squawking away! I’m not sure if these were initially released on 78s, though I know some 78s from the film exist. I have heard them on a number of subsequent releases, though. (JA)

"Fun At The Circus" b/w "A Black Monkey Named Bunky" (Panda Records, PAN-3002, year 195?)

A recurring theme of children's records is the trip to the circus and this is the best one that I have heard so far. It's done like a news report which opens at the circus parade with our narrator interviewing the circus people. He turns it over "..to that famous midget, Lee Stacey," to show us around the sideshow. Lee has an altered "midget" voice. He interviews a midget who has an unaltered low voice and a giant with an unaltered high voice. They both sing "I've Been Working On The Railroad" together in unaltered regular voices. Lee also meets a talking flea that laughs in a very deep reverb heavy way. Then we get to hear some fireworks. Lee signs off but comes back not much later to show all of us glam kids how Bobo the Clown applies his makeup. Hint: lots of greasepaint. (RD)

Buchanan & Goodman "The Flying Saucer" (Part One/Part Two) (Luniverse, 1956)

Sid Noel and His Outer Spacemen "The Flying Saucer" (Part One/Part Two) (Aladin, 1956)

Ross Bagdasarian ("David Seville") wasn't the first person to use speeded-up voices on a record, and neither was Ike Turner (see "Little Bones" in SINGING BUGS section). We don't know if Buchanan & Goodman came first either, but their Top 10 novelty hit "The Flying Saucer" (with high voiced Martians) definitely preceded either. And like all top 10 records there were cover versions (Noel’s for example), which is pretty weird when you consider how this record went. (JP)

Buchanan & Goodman "The Flying Saucer The Second" (1957)

Buchanan & Goodman "Santa and the Satellite Pt. 1" b/w "Santa and the Satellite pt. 2" (1958)

B&G pioneered the "cut-in record" with their previous hit, and bizarrely not only did all subsequent ones feature snippets of popular records making funny responses to reporters’ questions (Q: Elvis, how are you feeling? A: I’m all shook up…") but also for years most were about flying saucers. All of B&G’s, including the former where Elvis saves Mars and the latter where Santa Claus vs. the Martians (sorta), feature a sped up, electronically delayed Martian voice ending the song. (EG)

Bobby Leonard "Project Venus" (Unity CP-2114, 1957?)

Marty "Marty on Planet Mars" pt. 1 and 2 (Novelty 101, 1956?)

Syd Lawrence and Friends "The Answer To The Flying Saucer — U.F.O. Men From Mars" (Cosmic, 1956)

Project Venus compilation LP (Planet X, 1989?)

Of the many Martian cut-in knock-offs these are notable. "Project Venus" features a sexy girl alien with only a little sped up action on her voice. "Marty…" features the ever popular helium voiced, "Outer Space D.J." Best off, Lawrence’s answer record to Buchanan and Goodman’s hit features the Martian side of the story. The record opens up with a hyperspeed sped up song playing, which a Martian newscaster cuts off and identifies as part of a "Supersonic broadcast," before announcing their version of the events covered on B&G’s hit. These and more (many of which feature a non-Chipmunk variation on the Martian voice; lotsa delay, but no sped up stuff) are available on an excellent compilation named for Leonard’s tune. (EG)

Buchanan & Goodman "Flying Saucer The 3rd" b/w "The Cha Cha Lesson" (Comic Records, CR500, 1958)

On this one, Mars has exploded, the Martians have landed on earth. They threaten the President so the President says that if they wanna remain on earth they must go to school! The Martian voiced teacher ("Good morning, class!") asks them various skill testing questions answered in cut up song hits. They graduate and decide to go to the moon. The B is a different kind of lesson than a school lesson with the frustrated instructor teaching old Jewish ladies who'd rather eat danishes. No sped up voices were involved. (RD)

Jesse Lee Turner "The Little Space Girl," (Carlton, 1958).

Turner made it to #20 on Billboard's pop charts in early '59 (it was released in late '58) with this dated novelty, where once again a speeded-up voice is used to signify a space alien. It hasn't aged well at all, but can you imagine having to hear this in regular radio rotation in the late fifties? Once that chorus hooks you, it will not let go: "You've got four arms (the better to hold you), three lips (the better to kiss you), three eyes (all the better to SEEEE!)" There's also a grim, ominous verse that bears repeating here: "What will people think when we go strolling by?/They'd not only laugh at us, they'd lay right down and die/Then they'd put you and me in jail (!!!), there we would be/And the people, they'd come from miles around, just to look at you and me..." However, most performers from the fifties with "Lee" as a middle name have at least one good rockabilly track in them, so forget this outa-space nonsense and dig the B-side, "Shake, Baby, Shake." (JP)

David Seville "Witch Doctor" b/w "Don't Whistle At Me Baby" (Liberty 55132, 1958)

David Seville "Witch Doctor" EP(Liberty LSX-1003, 1958)

David Seville and his Orchestra "Witch Doctor" EP (London REU.10.007, France, 1958)

David Seville "Witch Doctor" b/w "Swanee River" (Liberty 55272, 1960)

David Seville "Witch Doctor" b/w "The Bird On My Head" (UA 0063, 1973)

Perhaps the most important non-Chipmunk sped up record ever, this established Seville (a/k/a/ Ross Bagdasarian Sr.) as a genius novelty artist. The success of this song, utilizing Chipmunks tape speed technology for the Witch Doctor’s voice, made the Chipmunks possible. David, it seems, has an unreceptive object of desire (who has "been holding love from [him] just like [she] were a miser) so he goes to his friend The Witch Doctor for some love juju. I dig that the good Doctor is his friend! The Witch Doctor provides not a love potion, but rather a musical incantation that is sure to have full aphrodisiatical powers! In a super high Alvin voice the Doctor tells David to say this to her: "Ooh Ee Ooh Ah Ah, Ting Tang Walla Walla Bing Bang, Ooh Ee Ooh Ah Ah Ting Tang Walla Walla Bing Bang!" Of course, with Seville’s clever musical genius the bouncing, swinging music (starting at full tempo out the gate) is as irresistible as the love chant. Though this did not have the overwhelming appeal of the Chips partly because there is no banter between David and the Doc, there is in fact some great interaction. After the Doctor sings the first chorus and David sings the second, the next few are sung as duets (Bagdasarian doing both voices, of course) and Ross’ joyful love for the recording technology is palpable as he blends, and counter balances the "two" singers. The Chipmunks covered this soong often. Also notable is that though the high voice clearly indicated this is supposed to be a pygmy Witch Doctor, some overseas pic sleeves (this was an international smash) show a rather tall Witch Doctor. (JA)

The Big Bopper "Purple People Eater Meets The Witch Doctor" b/w "Chantlly Lace" (Mercury 71219, 1958)

Joe South "Purple People Eater Meets The Witch Doctor" b/w "My Fondest Memory" (NRC 5000, 1958)

40 Funky Hits triple LP compilation (1976?) [features Joe South "Purple People Eater Meets The Witch Doctor"]

The Best Of Joe South (Koch 1999) [features "Purple People Eater Meets The Witch Doctor"]

Texas D.J. J.P. Richardson, "The Big Bopper," wrote great tunes like "White Lightnin'" while enjoying a prosperous, if all too brief, recording career of his own. He went on to combine the stars of the two biggest songs of the genre in an original Novelty Rock double sequel, sort of a "Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman" of R'n'R...but, will they rock or will they fight? While its bouncing Pop-Rockabilly rhythms and Richardson's hearty bass bellow joining forces with the hep-talkin' P. P. E. and the high squawkin’ W.D. are positively irresistible, the version by future solo hitmaker and in demand songwriter Joe South wins hands down, with a more flat-out rockin' arrangement and a delivery that's more humorous, and more comfortable with the hipster vernacular. His version appears on the seminal comp, "40 Funky Hits," while Bopper’s original graces the B-side of "Chantilly Lace." The Big Bopper's son is currently performing his dad's act as a tribute to the man he never knew. It's highly unlikely that he's doing this song. (JB)

Pasquale and Luigi with Tony "Italian Martians" (Tammy 45-1007, 1959)

V/A "Goomba Party" compilation (Broken English Jive 1907, 1989) [features "Italian Martians"]

This ethnic humor novelty record features a variation on the Buchanan and Goodman sped up voiced Martians; this time aliens come to earth singing Italian trad-pop! Cosmic gondoliers! (JB)

Jimmie Haskell: "Countdown" (Imperial LP-9068, 1959?/luxury limited edition, Germany, 2000/ Zippy CD Company, Taiwan, 2001)

This ultra rare, exotica/electronica buff coveted (thus the reissues) LP features some of the weirdest manipulations imaginable, including the ever-popular Martian voice. "Blast Off", "Asteroid Hop" and "Weightless Blues" are well loved, but "We Get Messages" is the cut for Chipmunks/Dickie Goodman fans. Big Jay McNeely and James Burton appear on the record. (EG)

Joe Meek "I Hear A New World"(Triumph RGX ST9000, 1960, full LP Not released, but scheduled for 1960/RPM Records TRXST 9000, 1991)

Recording innovator/legend Joe Meek indulged himself in his major obsession with outer space on this early concept album (some say the first ever). Four tracks were released on the Triumph Records label as an EP that was recommended for use as a stereo test record. The full album never seemed to have been released until the CD. Joe Meek filled this record with tons of wild and imaginative effects, including the voices of aliens! On the title track these voices are used as an echo of an echo ("I hear a new world...I hear a new world...I hear a new world...calling me...calling me...calling me"). In the liner notes Joe Meek describes the song "Entry of the Globbots" as, "This is one of the tracks where you can almost see the type of people that live on one section of the moon. They are happy, jolly little beings and as they parade before us you can almost see their cheeky blue-coloured faces." Marching drums, guitar, bass, and other percussion come in after a volcanic eruption as they sing, "Doo doo doo doo dooo, doo doo doo doo..." "March of the Dribcots" is bouncier with addition of altered piano as they sing, "dee dooby dum, dee dooby dum dum dum..." This album drips reverb. (RD)

Dickie Goodman "Martian Melody" (Mark-X, 1961)

The flip of "The Touchables" (a regional novelty single based on the TV show The Untouchables) is introduced by a Chipmunk-like voice before the band kicks into a Fats Domino groove (speeded up via tape). Features people laughing as if they're getting away with murder. (JP)

Ran-Dells "The Martian Hop" (Chairman, 1963)

Los Apson "The Martian Hop (some Mexican label, 1963?)

Definitely a classic on par with "Purple People Eater " and "Witch Doctor," as good as, or better than, either. It's Doo Wop at 100 mph with sped up and normal voices on an outer space collision drive. Los Apson, from Mexico, did a great version, too…in Spanish! (JB)

Rod Rogers and His Swinging Strings "The Music Man From Mars" (Film City 1960?)

"I Died Today-The Music Of Rodd Keith" (Tzadik TZ7401)

When Al Valentine sent his cash and lyrics off to be discovered he must have thought he'd have a novelty hit! And Rodd Keith (under the name Rod Rogers) sure made it sound like one! Of course, this being the world of song-poems, it wasn't. In the song, a Martian sits in with an orchestra (that sounds like a mellotron sounding like an orchestra). The orchestra leader commands him to play it but he only plays three notes! "Are you a first class pest?" he asks. The Martian voice retorts, "I just play the good notes and you can have the rest!" (RD)

Ray Stevens "Bridget The Midget (The Queen Of The Blues)" (Barnaby ZS7 2024, 1970)

I LOVE all of Stevens’ comedy reocrds (I’m not sure what to do with the serious stuff) and the way he plays every character and develops a multi-layered, frenetic situation on each song always made me feel his amazing production work represented unheralded, unusual genius that ranked with Meek, Wilson and the like. But upon a recent listening orgy I realized that on a great deal of those masterpieces about Gorillas, A-rabs, GiTarzans and such he actually isn’t doing much crazy production at all…he’s just performing at some bizarre level! As a noted live artist he likely didn’t want to create stuff he couldn’t reproduce onstage. So often he’s playing 10 characters and working all kinds of different funny musical elements in each song, but he’s doing it in such a way that he can do it all by himself, usually opting for a comic falsetto instead of a sped up Chipmunk voice. But on the masterpiece "Bridget" he really does her voice the fabulous 50s way…with Alvinesque technology! And she/he can really belt it out. My favorite part is the Joplin-esque Bridget doing a call and response with the audience, her with her strange speed voice, them not so strange. Also, to drive it home, Bridget has a super fan/stalker who keeps interrupting ("I dig it, I r-e-a-l-l-y dig it!") in a SLOWED down voice. As funny as any Chipmunk record! (JA)

John Lennon "Meat City" on "Mind Games" (Apple, 1973)

Includes a brief snippet that sounds like a Dickie Goodman flying saucer man, for no apparent reason...I think George Carlin said that if you play it backwards, at slow speed , IT SCREWS UP YOUR NEEDLE! (JB)

Chubukos "Witch Doctor Bump" (Mainstream, 1973)

This basically sounds like "Soul Makossa," Manu Dibango's Afro-funk hit of that year, turned inside out, with a cheesy high-speed voice going "sock it to the east...sock it to the west," to snag grade-schoolers like me. No lie, I had this single when I was in first grade and thought it was the most revolutionary thing I'd ever heard. No relation to David Seville's "Witch Doctor" except in spirit. When the original version of "Makossa" was still an African import, several companies rush-released cover versions (they all failed after Atlantic bought the rights to Dibango's superior original, taking it straight to the US Top 40). Mainstream beat the rush with a weak copy by Afrique, who were actually a bunch of bored New York session musicians. Apparently, with the Chubukos, the label was getting their money's worth by squeezing the trend dry. The flip, "House Of Rising Funk," is actually filler from Afrique's one and only LP, recredited to the Chubukos. "Witch Doctor Bump" includes phony-sounding African chants that wouldn't fool the most naive tourist, although one line bears repeating: "chubuko, chewbacca, chubuko, chewbacca..." This was some four years before Star Wars. (JP)

Brownsville Station "Martian Boogie" (Private Stock, 1977)

Cub Koda pays tribute to "Martian Hop," identified by him as one of "The 25 Songs That Saved My Life" (I played nearly all of them when he went in for dialysis, but sadly, Rock 'n' Roll couldn’t save his life this time). He also tips the hat to "Boogie Chillun," "Feelin' Good," "Rockin' Chair Daddy" and then some in this hilarious, and plenty rockin' excursion that features a little green man from Mars with a sped up voice and a penchant for "Martian cigarettes." (JB)

Rod Aiu "Me And My Friends" b/w "For You" (RPA 1983) The greatest record ever found by anyone in a Honolulu thrift store, as far as I’m concerned, this record (allegedly taken "from the musical ‘It’s About time’") tells the story of Rod’s imaginary chuldhood friends, Mark the Two Digit Midget and Lingering Myrtle the Three Legged Turtle. This isn’t exactly a psychedelic record, but Rod just constantly giggles and laughs throughout as if the munchies and an appreciation of Jerry Garcia are inevitabilities. Of course the Two Digit Midget speaks in a sped up voice. And oh what he says! ‘ "Wouldn’t it be nice, wouldn’t it be nice," (you see the midget, he said most things twice), "If sometime soon, maybe at noon, we could ask the king for some songs to sing?" ’ Rod ends it by whistling while Mark giggles absurdly and says his salutations. Rod, an actor who appeared on Hawaii shot episodes of "Hawaii 5-0" and "Jake and the Fatman," may very well be the Hawaiian Harvey Sid Fisher! (JA)

The Butthole Surfers "U.S.S.A." (from "Locust Abortion Technician" Touch and Go, 1987)

Imagine being abducted by aliens and taken into their giant spacecraft where they interrogate you about the two Cold War super powers. They yell, "U.S.S.A.! U.S.S.R.!" and "U.S.A.! U.S.R." in a repeated barrage. This "song" is from an evil, evil album. Pure evil. And their best. (RD)

broom "Pumpkin Eater" (from The Peter Fonda Tribute 10", Massacre At Central Hi Records, 1992)

At the end of this Barbarella/ "Chewy, Chewy" themed psyche styled cut, a Martian-styled voice says, "That was delicious. I wonder what it was." Then the spaceship flies away... (RD)

PSYCHECHIPMUNK VOCAL SONGS:

I’m not saying Chipmunks records led kids to drugs, but a whole lot of youngsters who were 12 when the Chips broke started using both hallucinogenics and Chipmunk technology to make records by the time they were of Rock age. Here’s some samples:

Mothers of Invention "Return of the Son of Monster Magnet" (from "Freak Out," Verve, 1966)

An endless jam with all kindsa crazy voices, include high Chipmunk-esque squeakings. (EG)

The Monocles "The Spider And The Fly" b/w "The Other Side of Happiness" (Chicory 407, 1966)

V/A "Pebbles Vol. 3 - The Acid Gallery" compilation (AIP CD 5020, 1992) [Features"Spider And the Fly"]

Not the Rolling Stones pseudo-Blues number, this is The Monocles play on the famous scene from the Vincent Price movie "The Fly’ where the spider’s web caught human/fly hybrid screams, "Help me, help me!" If this is a falsetto and not a sped up tape it’s an amazing falsetto. This is a horrifying Primitive garage psyche freakout. (PC)

The Mirage "Ebenezer Beaver" (1967?, recorded for CBS, Unreleased)

V/A "Artefacts From The Psychedelic Dungeon Volume1" singles box set (Vinyl Museum Products A-Box 1, 1989) [Features"Ebenezer Beaver]

V/A "Artefacts From The Psychedelic Dungeon" compilation (Israphon ISR 007, 199?) [Features "Ebenezer Beaver"]

The song is about Ebenezer Beaver, but this is definitely a Psyche song before it’s a Critter song. You hear Ebenezer in the background chattering in a Chipmunk voice beneath some very Beatlesy British Psyche Pop. (PC)

Jimi Hendrix "EXP" (from "Axis: Bold As Love" MCA 10894, 1967)

The D.J. rattles off his shpiel in a Chipmunk voice. (PG)

Pink Floyd "Scream Thy Last Scream, Old Woman With a Casket" (recorded 1967, officially unreleased)

One of two great songs (the other being the remarkable "Vegetable Man") never officially released from the classic line-up's back catalogue. Both songs rate among The Floyd's most ambitious outings, though many consider them to be earmarks of the, "Oh, goodness! Syd's gone and lost it" phase, even though this terrifying, yet hilarious, Pandora's Box of overdubbed sped up voices and one faint normal speed voice are actually the work of Nick Mason. (JB)

The Beach Boys "She's Goin' Bald" (from the album "Smiley Smile", 1967, Brother Records, Brother T-9001)

The Beach Boys are laughing at this poor girl cuz she's losing all of her hair at an alarming rate and she doesn't know what to do! This whole album is head scratchingly terrific! One section of this song has the boys sing, "What a blow" repeatedly speeding up and speeding up more with their natural harmonies getting very unnatural. An unsettling sense of fun. (RD)

Marshmallow Steamshovel "Mr. Mold" b/w "Steamshovel" (Head #1908, 1968)

V/A "Burghers, Vol. 1" compilation (Big Wink BW-1, 1993?) [Features "Steamshovel"]

V/A "30 Seconds Before The Calico Wall" compilation (Arf! Arf! AA-050, 1995) [Features "Steamshovel"]

This Pittsburgh, psyche single’s b-side has a squeeky speed manipulated flipside that was the main inspiration a decade later for the brilliant Pennsylvania novelty punk act, The Psychotic Petunias (see OTHER section). (JA)

T. Rex "’Pon A Hill" (From the LP "Unicorn," Blue Thumb, 1969)

The elves all have speeded up voices. I can’t say I like it, but it’s weird and whimsical, almost like a children’s novel being read. (DD, PG)

Holy Modal Rounders "The Duji Song" (From the LP "The Moray Eels Eat The Holy Modal Rounders," Elektra 1969)

This is one of those albums that flows continuous -no breaks- and for a brief period Peter Stamfel sings along with sped up voices about how he loves to do his duji, and how he's gonna be a Commie and pick up anybody. "I do, do, do!" He can do this because he's on amphetamines. This album is one fucked-psyche-folk masterpiece! (RD)

David Bowie "Bewlan Brothers" (From "Hunky Dory," RCA, 1971)

Allegedly about Bowie’s relationship with Iggy, this song features background singers that sound like they’re on helium. (PG, DD)

T. Rex Christmas Fan Club Flexi (1972)

Bolan talks to the elf Nobbly Wobbly who speaks in a sped voice. (PG)

David Bowie "Laughing Gnome" (London, 1973)

Gnomes definitely go into the "Psyche" category and not the "Midgets" category. Here Bowie laughs along with the high voiced gnome in perhaps his most embarrassing moment other than when he wore mime makeup. (PC)

David Bowie "Because You’re Young" (From "Scary Monsters," RCA, 1980)

Features both high and low speed shifted voices. (PG)

Caroliner Rainbow, etc., etc. various albums (late 80's on)

Had a squeaky, high pitched bull that sang hallucinogenic ergot covered bread lyrics of the 1800's on albums that can be played at any speed, anyways. (RD)

OTHER SPEED MANIPULATION RECORDS

Carlos Casal "Don't Meet Mr.Frankenstein" (195?, label unknown)

V/A "Sin Alley Vol 4" compilation (Sleaze, 198?) [Features "Don't Meet Mr.Frankenstein"]

V/A "Monster Bop" compilation (Buffalo Bop 1993) [Features "Don't Meet Mr.Frankenstein"]

A lively, atmospheric Horror/Novelty Rocker that's unfortunately nearly killed by a cutesy "Purple People Eater" voice assuming the part of the Frankenstein monster. Where’s Bobby Pickett when we need him? (JB)

Sheb Wooley "The Purple People Eater" (MGM, 1958)

Towards the end of this song the one eyed one horned flying purple eater says, "I like short shorts.'" Sheb Wooley also recorded in a drunk voice as Ben Colder. (RD)

The Coasters "Little Egypt" (Atco, 1961) That’s right, put Chipmunk style voices on the back end of the song, just as the record is fading out, and catch everybody by surprise! (JP)

Kai Ray -"I Want Some of That" b/w "Trashman’s Blues" (Brite Star/Shooting Star 2267, 1961)

V/A "Scum Of The Earth" compilation (Sound Stories SS 011, 1998) [Features "I Want Some of That"]

V/A "Born Bad Vol. 5" compilation(199?) [Features"I Want Some of That"]

A pretty fuckin' flipped take on Jungle Exotica in Rock 'n' Roll form with sped up (or helium - induced) voices invoking tribal chants and tropical birds at the same time. No wonder Lux and Ivy of the Cramps rate this among their faves. (JB)

Angelo's Angels "Spring Cleaning" (Ermine, 1963)

Chicago band (with a name that sounds like a Little League team) scored a local hit with this driving Del Shannon-ish rocker. Look out for that Chipmunk voice that, from nowhere, answers the lead singer during the chorus. What happened, the background girls didn't show? (JP)

Napoleon XIV "They're Coming To Take Me Away" (WB, 1966)

To show insanity Jerry Samuels renamed himself Napoleon XIV (and he did spend time in a psychiatric hospital back in the late 1950s). To show insanity his voice got sped up and drenched in reverb as the sirens wailed and wailed. This song made me what I am today, if only just for the repetitive tambourine playing technique. (RD)

French Fries "Small fries" b/w "Danse A La Musique" (Epic, 1968)

Well, well---a Chipmunk ripoff involving none other than…Sly & the Family Stone??? Believe it or leave it. Sly Stone produced and wrote both sides, and if you slow it down to 33 (or 16), that’s the old riot-master himself sounding like he’s on helium. Most bands in the sixties had their one token "fuck-around" record, and this was Sly's. "Small Fries" is a tale of three little pigs who get drafted. Amazingly, in a year where the war overseas was hard to escape, there are no references to Vietnam, pro or con. There's not even much of a plot---all we know is that "Freddie" avoids Uncle Sam because of his church ties, lazy "Larry" becomes an Army chef, and "Sylvester" decides to become a Navy man (note that the pigs are named after the three African-American males in the original Family Stone lineup---that's undoubtedly the whole band riffing in the background). The flip is a mostly-instrumental version of "Dance To The Music," with wicked fuzz guitar plus the French Fries doing some background scat-singing. If Epic (or whomever) gets around to compiling a Sly Stone "rarities" compilation, sure hope somebody remembers the French Fries rotting away in the vaults. (JP)

Terry Jacks "She Even Took The Cat" f/w "Concrete Sea" (London Records CL.7965 L.181, 1972)

When The Poppy Family B-side "Where Evil Grows" became a hit, the President of London Records told Terry Jacks to not record successful B-sides but bad ones that couldn't become hits. The A has to be the hit. So, Terry Jacks recorded "Put The Bone In" as the B to the highly successful "Seasons In The Sun." This particular B to "Concrete Sea" is less infamous but just as weird, if not weirder. The fella in this song had his woman leave him and now the mice run free because"...she even took the cat." The harmonics are squiggly. In this obvious Neil Young parody, Terry Jacks has somehow electronically altered his voice to sound all high pitched and warbly. So does the guitar. So do the harmonies. (RD)

Ramones "Pinhead" b/w "Swallow My Pride" (Sire SA 738, 1977)

Ramones "Leave Home (Sire, 1977) [Features "Pinhead"]

Various members of the group can be heard, their voices altered to represent "pinheads," at the fadeout, saying things like, "Pleased to meet ya!" and "So, you wanna be a pinhead? It's so much easier to come up here and pick my nose! HA!" (JB)

Psychotic Petunias "Louie, Louie" b/w "Surfin’ Bird" (Mayhem, 1978)

Psychotic Petunias "96 Tears"(Mayhem, 1979 unreleased, acetates only)

I decided that singing flowers aren’t critters…right? Anyhoo, these Petunias rip through as insane a psychefreakout version of double Louie imaginable. It’s not just the trashed up nutjob music (performed and produced by Ohio journeyman drummer, Mike Kolesar, eventually of The Cynics) that fuels the insanity, but the fact that apparently an entire field of helium voxed flowers is wailing the sea shanty with as much gusto as flora can muster. The B-side features J.R. Bird (the singer’s real name, but the name conjures a cartoon Surfing beaked one) on leads and you can’t really hear the Petunias at all. This record makes no sense, yet it is so perfect in its logic that I consider it one of the best non Chips speed singles ever, and it is a perfect marriage of punk/Nuggets sensibilities. Kolesar recorded a follow up but never released it. (JA)

Barnes & Barnes "Fish Heads" b/w "High School Gym" (Lumania 101/102, 1979)

Bill Mumy of Lost In Space is in this band, and the music video has a guest appearance by Dr. Demento. The song was first played on Demento’s show in ’78, the year before the single. Chorus of song is sped up singing, "Fishheads, fishheads, roly poly fishheads, fishheads, fishheads, eat them up, yum!" It has a very pleasant melody. (RD)

Monty Python "I Like Chinese" (From "The Monty Python Contractual Obligation Album" Arista, 1980)

It still works, put Chipmunk style voices on the back end of the song, just as the record is fading out, and catch everybody by surprise! (JP)

Pac-Man "The Amazing Adventures Of Pac-Man" (Kidstuff, KSS-5023, 1980)

Pac-Man's voice is only slightly sped up but still echo altered as he sings about his slightly crazy lazy day on the song "Slightly Lazy, Crazy Day." On the song, "It's My Job" he feels justified. Very 80's hollow sounding just keyboards production. At least, I think Pac-Man's voice is sped up. Either that or he's Nick Gilder. (RD)

Culturcide "A Day At My Job b/w "Mommy and I Are One" (NufSed, NSFPOS4, 1991, first released 1984)

This single starts out rockin' with band and electronics then becomes a sped up loop that says, "Shit." A fellow talks overtop. Then it turns into the phrase "Mommy And I Are One" looped at regular speed. Turn the record over. It continues. Then it speeds up with even more sped up talking overtop. Then they fuck around a little bit more. (RD)

Pat Bone "Clinkerated Chimes" (On the LP "Wavy Gravy Vol. 2" compilation, Beware records, 198?)

An amusing, sorta Christmas, Chipmunks/Nutty Squirrels knock off credited to a "Pat Bone" appears on "Wavy Gravy 2," which means it could be by anyone (joke names are often applied in this series). There is a song by the same name on an early Mad magazine LP, but I don't recall it having anything to do with this number. (JB)

The Butthole Surfers "Annoying Song" (from "Independent Worm Saloon," Capitol, 1993)

Not that annoying really. (RD)

Ron of Japan 33RPM single (Hanson, late 90's)

These now-post High School girlies compressed a helluva lot into this one sided single. Is this all they ever did? Well, if so, it's a great body of work! A sound cacophony party that is very listenable! Completely uninhibited. Plenty experimenting. Little technical virtuosity just good times that begins with the cheapest of funky groove drum machines with heavily distorted tinny sped up voices that "rap" then "scream" and "roar." In between that is a recorder solo. The rest switches gears constantly, whatever comes next is always a surprise each time I listen. (RD)

Lootpack "Whenimondamic" 12" (Stone’s Throw, 1999) Features guest appearance by Quasimoto.

Quasimoto "Microphone Mathematics" 12" (Stones Throw, 1999)

Quasimoto "Unseen" (Stones Throw, 2000)

Quasimoto "Unseen" Instrumental version (Stones Throw, 2000)

Quasimoto "Basic Instinct" 12" (Stones Throw, 2001)

Quasimoto "Come On Feet" 12" (Stones Throw, 2000)

Quasimoto "Hittin' Hooks" 7" (Stones Throw, 2000)

DJ Design "Sparkadelia" (Stones Throw, 2001) Features guest appearance by Quasimoto.

Lootpack "The Packumentary" video (Stones Throw 2001)

Possibly the only pitch-shifted rapper (if you don't include vocoder stuff) is Quasimoto, who is really an alter-ego of of Madlib of the West-coast group Lootpack. Quasimoto released several singles and recently released a whole album. As far as I can tell, Quasimoto doesn't have any specific sort of character (like he's not supposed to be some hunchback creature rapping), which means it's really strange hearing regular rap songs (like about police racism in "Low Class Conspiracy") in a funny voice; it's also weird hearing the high voice quote Kool Keith, "I slap my bitch up, like a pimp." I think the shifted voice is supposed to somehow be ill and original, but it doesn't really work for me. I guess some people can get into it. (BA)

A longer version of this article is available in Roctober #31