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