Sunday, December 23, 2007

David Seville & Those Other Guys






Yesterday my nieces saw that Chipmunk film while I shopped at the Chicago Ridge mall. I've always told people that David Seville AKA Ross Bagdasarian was a fantastic drummer, because as a kid, the flip side of my 45 RPM "Chipmunk Christmas Song" featured Seville's "Hey, That's Almost Good," which consisted of the guy pounding on the keyboard with some jazzy horns in the background, as David/Ross hipstered into the two second break the title words of the song. Even as a kid, I felt like a beatnik, without knowing what a hippie was yet. Damn thing is, just about NOBODY recalls Seville's piano work. Just as no one recognizes the Hollywood Flames' "Frankenstein's Den" (from my Hallowe'en post), rather the lead singer's big hit "Rockin' Robin," so it is with Seville's "The Witch Doctor." Unlike, say, the song about the "Purple People Eater," one would only recognize the lyrics "ook ork iik ah ah ting tang walla walla bing bang." The song was featured in an episode of THE JETSONS, I think the one where George dropped some blotter acid with Mr. Spacely. My father somehow knew these lyrics, perhaps from his stint as an Air Force decoder during the Korean War, maybe as a bouncer at Mania's Lucky Stop at Division and Hermitage. (My mother was a dice girl at the Orange Lantern on Mary Street, a block west). After my grandmother Grace died, we got a bunch of photos back, one of which shows my father and I, both somewhat emaciated in our poverty on Crystal Street, me a shrimp at the age of four thanks to the whimsiness of my maker, eating one of our polak/hillbilly staples: Peanut Butter, Syrup, and Bread. As I said, tough times, lots of medical bills, my dad not yet a city beat cop with benefits. So I'm torn between the memories of my father singing the chorus of that idiotic song and Seville's magically smooth and sadly forgotten piano moves. He wrote "C'mon-a My House" (made famous by Rosemary Clooney), was a cousin to writer William Saroyan, and appeared playing the piano in REAR WINDOW. Seville died of a heart attack at the age of 53. Hey, that's almost good...Wayne

7 comments:

Larry Santoro said...

It is my recollection that the real lyric you're trying to quote goes like this:

Ooo, Eee, ooo, ahhh, ahh, ting tang, walla, walla BING, bang,

Ooo, eee, ooo ahh, ahh, ting TANG walla, walla, bang, bang.

Just to keep the rhythm straight.

Charles Gramlich said...

I remember eating peanut butter, syrup and bread on occassion growing up. I hadn't thought of that in a long long time.

I'm not sure the Chipmunk song would have been allowed in our house. There wasn't much music played around our house. The radio was for listening to the weather stations. But mom and dad did watch things like Grand Ole Opry and the Porter Waggoner Review, and Lawrence Welk. Later they watched Hee Haw sometimes and I liked that.

HemlockMan said...

Ross Bagdasarian was a very sharp guy. One of my old pals who's really into bios of people from that era is always telling me what a brillaint fellow Bagdasarian was.

As Larry says, the song you're thinking of was not the Chipmunks tune, but was something written specifically for The Jetsons TV show. Even as a kid I thought the Jetsons song sucked ass.

I, too, was a child fan of Alvin and the Chipmunks. I really loved those bastards.

That's quite a touching photo of you with your dad. Yes, you both look painfully thin there, but it also looks as if your dad is really taking good care of you. The more I read about your dad, the more I like the description of him.

Steve Malley said...

Merry Christmas!

Kate S said...

Awww.... such a sweet photo.

All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth. And a hoola hoop.

G. W. Ferguson said...

Eep Opp Ork Ah-Ah

The Witch Doctor

Both of which left me permanently scarred

errant_rogue said...

Wow! I was just talking to my neighbor about the little-known song I loved as a kid, "That's Almost Good" and so I ran upstairs to look it up in the hopes of emailing him with a link and I found your post. The following quote you wrote expresses perfectly how I felt about the tune, "I've always told people that David Seville AKA Ross Bagdasarian was a fantastic drummer, because as a kid, the flip side of my 45 RPM "Chipmunk Christmas Song" featured Seville's "Hey, That's Almost Good," which consisted of the guy pounding on the keyboard with some jazzy horns in the background, as David/Ross hipstered into the two second break the title words of the song. Even as a kid, I felt like a beatnik, without knowing what a hippie was yet."

The picture of you and your Dad is eerily similar to me and my Dad too... he was 6'3" and about 145 lbs. and he loved jazz (Still does!)

Ironically, I played David Seville at Universal Studios when they first brought the Chipmunks to the park.

Very cool post. Thanks for bringing back some great memories.

Cheers,

Lance