ANIMATION SPIN
May 6, 2014 posted by Greg Ehrbar

Alvin And The Chipmunks Sing The Beatles

A celebration the 50th anniversary of The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show with a look at The Chipmunks album about which The Beatles themselves were supportive—plus a Chipette tribute to Mom.

Chipbeat

THE CHIPMUNKS SING THE BEATLES HITS
Alvin, Simon and Theodore with David Seville
Liberty/Sunset Records LST-7388 (Stereo) LRP-3388 (Mono) (12” 33 1/3 RPM / Mono / 1964)
Vinyl Reissue: (10 of 12 Songs) Liberty LN-10177 (1982)
CD Reissue: (All 12 Songs) EMI 7-48379-2 (1982)

Producer/Vocalist: Ross Bagdasarian. Engineer: Dave Hassinger. Cover Designer: Studio Five. Running Time: 28 minutes.
Songs: “All My Lovin’,” “Do You Want to Know a Secret?” “She Loves You,” “From Me to You,” “Love Me Do,” “Twist and Shout,” “A Hard Day’s Night,” “I Saw Her Standing There,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Please Please Me,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand” by John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

Their eighth album for Liberty Records, The Chipmunks’ first complete album to embrace rock and roll was The Chipmunks Sing The Beatles Hits. It became the most-reissued album in the Chipmunks canon. Ross Bagdasarian Jr. told Goldmine magazine that his dad “thought it would be a cute idea for a Chipmunk record and he spoke with the Beatles. When he was in London, he even met the Beatles, who were very supportive of the idea.”

ChipmunksBeatlesEPIt was released between the CBS season and the syndication run of The Alvin Show, so the look of Alvin, Simon and Theodore reflects the series. In his new book, The Art of Jay Ward Productions, author Darrell Van Citters credits artist Bob Kurtz, “…the only one able to please Chipmunks creator Ross Bagdasarian; in fact, Kurtz’s character designs became the final models for Dave Seville and all three Chipmunks.”

Much as I love this album, the high-key songs present the Chipmunks at their shrillest, particularly “She Loves You” and “I Saw Her Standing There.” When they do The Beatles’ “whoo,” it sounds like a whistling teakettle. They are best suited to the lower-key harmonies of songs like “From Me to You” and “P.S. I Love You.” When I was a in the Cub Scouts, I spun this album on the Grosswald’s console stereo—set for repeat—and it played for hours. Mrs. Grosswald said, “Greg, after today you’re going to have me talking like a Chipmunk!”

The album’s success led to another pop collection, Chipmunks ‘a Go-Go, then Bagdasarian went back to a more easy listening style for his albums until his passing in 1972. His son and daughter-in-law, Ross Jr. and Janice Karman, revived The Chipmunks in the 1980’s, resulting in a long-running second animated series, four movies and an eclectic catalog of subsequent albums.

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN

“Do You Want to Know a Secret?”
Since Mother’s Day is coming, this Beatles tune was inspired by John Lennon’s mum, who used to sing “I’m Wishing” to him as a child—with the opening verse, “Want to know a secret? Promise not to tell?” (Coincidentally, the Snow White-inspired Seven Dwarfs Mine Coaster ride opens May 28 at Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World.)



ChipmunkAdvLP500

THE CHIPMUNK ADVENTURE
Music from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Buena Vista (Disney) Records BC-23 (12” 33 1/3 RPM / 1987)
Also released as Buena Vista Read-Along 284-DC (1987)
CD Reissue: Hip-O Records HPD-40088 (1998)

Album Producers: Janice Karman, Ross Bagdasarian. Composer: Randy Edelman. Film Producer: Ross Bagdasarian. Writers: Janice Karman, Ross Bagdasarian. Director: Janice Karman. Running Time: 33 minutes.

Original Songs: “Off to See the World,” “Flying with the Eagles” by Randy Edelman; Mexican Holiday” by Randy Edelman and Ross Bagdasarian; “Weekend in France, Italy, England, Amsterdam, Greece” by Randy Edelman, Ross Bagdasarian and Janice Karman; “My Mother” by Randy Goodrum; “The Girls of Rock and Roll” by Jay Levy and Terry Shaddick; “Getting Lucky” by Barry DeVorzon; “Diamond Dolls” by Donna Weiss and Elysée Alexander.
Existing Songs: “Yi, Yi, Yi, Yi / Cuento Le Gusta” by Mack Gordon, Harry Warren, Gabriel Ruiz and Ray Gilbert; “Wooly Bully” by Domingo Samudio.
Instrumental: “The Chipmunk Adventure Theme Song” by Randy Edelman.

The first animated feature starring Alvin and the Chipmunks was released nationally in 1987, 20 years before their first live-action/CG movie. The second Chipmunks TV series was already running on NBC and the feature ties into that series, complete with the character of Mrs. Miller, voiced by Dody Goodman, who hums two Ross Bagdasarian Sr.’s hit songs (“Come On-A My House” and “Witch Doctor”) in this film.

ChipAdvReadAlong-250The other stars of the movie are a who’s-who of artists and animators who contributed in various ways to the feature, including Glen Keane, Dave Pruiksma, Andy Gaskill, Corny Cole, Heidi Guedel, Susan Kroyer, Will Finn, Kevin Lima and Bill Plympton, with “Special Thanks to Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston.” Ron Dias gets an opening screen credit as “background color stylist.” Whatever relative strengths or weaknesses the finished film may have, it sure looks stunning—and the new Blu-ray shows the work of these artisans to major advantage. (The Blu-ray also includes one short cartoon from The Alvin show: “The Brave Chipmunks” from the album Around the World with The Chipmunks.

The soundtrack album was one of two albums released by Disneyland/Vista Records in 1987, along with two read-along cassettes (one based on this film and the other called The Chipmunks Join the Circus). Ironically, this all happened 20 years after the same label released Walt Disney’s concept for high-pitched voices, Ludwig Mousensky and the All-Mouse Orchestra and Chorus, only to be eclipsed by Bagdasarian’s twist on the technique the following year with the megahit, “The Chipmunk Song.” The album is still available on CD.

According to Ron Dias, since the movie was episodic and was completed over a long stretch of time and several sequences planned and dropped. The soundtrack album contains a song that didn’t make it into the finished product, “Weekend in France, Italy, England, Amsterdam, Greece,” though you can hear it in the background at the start of the sequence taking place in Greece. Could the song title be an inside joke about the deleted scenes?

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Main Theme / My Mother”
Even when she is pitched up for the Chipettes, Janice Karman’s lovely singing voice comes through on songs like this one, a melodic, touching tune by Randy Goodrum (who wrote Anne Murray’s hit, “You Needed Me”). Preceding this tune is the also wonderful theme music by Randy Edelman.


18 Comments

  • My first LPs were all Chipmunks albums and The Alvin Show was one of my favorite cartoon shows. Before the Chipmunk’s Beatles album came out, I wasn’t a big Beatles fan, but after playing the songs over and over a thousand times, I started to appreciate the British rock group, at least a little. Now I listen to Beatles internet radio a lot, but when they play some of the older songs, I still think of the Chipmunk’s versions.

    • Unlike someone like me who’s first introduction to The Beatles had to be the King Features TV show that reran on MTV in the 80′s, but our introductions to the Fab Four can vary depending on where we were at the time we first became aware of their music.

  • I so badly want a proper DVD release of the original Alvin Show. All I see is ugly 80s/90s/CGI versions…

    • One episode of The Alvin Show was released on DVD a few years back, but not the complete series. I think I spent $15 for that DVD, which is outrageous for a single half-hour episode. Today, Amazon had it for sale in the $40 range. Unbelievable!

    • Today, Amazon had it for sale in the $40 range. Unbelievable!

      It’s out of print already?

      Yes, we’re still awaiting for our Alvin Show box set if or when that happens. Until then, it seems like a big tease to keep hinting these clips in releases like The Chipmunk Adventure (ironically they could’ve gave us a slew of those music segments where they’re visiting different countries and it would still water our mouths the same).

  • Don’t forget – that Chipmunk revival had a 1980 jumpstart with the release of Chipmunk Punk on Excelsior Records. More New Wave than punk, it was good for a laugh or two when it came out. Can’t tell if Good Girls Don’t has the naughty original lyrics or not…

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0D8mEByNBk0

    • My copy has the edited lyrics like the Knack single version. This is ironic, because a few weeks ago, I just found a good copy of the Chipmunks Beatles lp at a record store real cheap.

  • The Chipmunks were a part of my childhood, but the ’80s revival hasn’t aged well in spite of it being one of the only Ruby-Spears shows that I enjoyed. (Their adaptation of Capcom’s Mega Man that had Ian Corlett as the Blue Bomber and Scott McNeil as Dr. Wily and Protoman was the other.) I heard from John Kricfalusi that Ralph Bakshi liked what Ross Bagdasarian, Sr. did in the 1960s. Hopefully, the original series will get a DVD/Blu-ray release soon.

    • I heard from John Kricfalusi that Ralph Bakshi liked what Ross Bagdasarian, Sr. did in the 1960s.

      That wouldn’t surprise me given what they did in “Mighty’s Benefit Plan”. There’s a really good story related to that and The Chipmunk Adventure if you can Google for that anecdote. I’m still amused to learn Bill Plympton had anything to do with that film, at least it gave me an idea what the system was like and why he didn’t want to be dragged with it.

      Hopefully, the original series will get a DVD/Blu-ray release soon.

      We all hope Ross Jr. can get a clue soon.

  • Getting the correct enunciation for an altered pitch vocal or dialogue isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Actually, I’ve never listened to the dialogues from the original 1960′s cartoon. Maybe if I had, I would know more just how to do it myself, and I used to experiment since I once had a recorder with two speeds. Ross Bagdasarian, Sr. seemed to know quite well how to allow us to understand what the chip munks were saying, even when they’re singing, but, when you’re talking about rock music, the style of singing is different. There were other musicians of the 1960′s who toyed around with pitch on singing voices–Frank Zappa is one–but being able to understand what the actual lyrics were wasn’t all that easy. In the animation field, I bring up the chip munks parody in the final “BEANY & CECIL SHOW” cartoon, “DJ, THE DJ”, when the dog chorus was dealt a dose of high voltage which sped up their singing; I’ve always wanted to slow that track down, too.

  • Had to listen to that main title theme of The Chipmunk Adventure again and as always, it keeps reminding me of what I miss from the 80′s movie aesthetic of having that optimistic, adventurous look-ahead feel I can’t get anymore going to films these days. Not sure why that is (of course main title themes seem to be a thing of the past as well now that they allocate all those opening credits to the end of the film because we’ve already wasted at least 10 minutes of people’s time that was taken up by those previews before the main show and all).

  • The technique, as far as records go, was the same one used by songeeiter Stuart Hamblin on “The Cowboy Church Choir”‘s 1954 hit song, “Let the Sunshyine In” [You know, the one featured in the 1st episode of the final "Flintstones" season, already, as sung by Pebbles and Bamm Bamm, and I'll point out, whether she liked it or not, Rosemary Clooney is a link here with her OWN recordings of both Bagsdasarian and Hamblin songs, and just to complete the kiddie record jigsaw puzzle..Mitch Miller produced those Golden records AND Columbia Records.:)].

    It’s tape recorders, isn’t it, for the Chimpunks..they had those speeds separated by 2X:
    15/16
    1-7/8
    3-3/4
    7-1/2
    even 15 I(nches)p(er)s(econd)!!!!!(try to imagine a chipmunk or squirrell voice cresated with that by starting at 15/16..1-7/8 is said to be the cassette and eight-track tape speed…CD’s go the same speed as the old 10 inchers of the 1920s-50sa, 78 rpm..

    • Professional studio tape recorders of the 60′s (the era of both the Beatles and the Chipmunks) usually ran at 15 inches per second, using tape one inch wide; later, as producers and engineers required more space for recording multiple tracks, two-inch tape became the norm. Running speeds also doubled to 30 i.p.s. to improve fidelity. Slower speeds were usually found only on consumer/”amateur” recorders. The original “Chipmunk Song” and probably some of its follow-ups were recorded on multiple rolls of 35mm magnetic film (90 feet per minute, or roughly the same as 30 i.p.s.), which provided excellent fidelity and made synchronizing the various tracks easier at a time when multi-track tape recording was rare. According to what I’ve been able to find out, CDS spin at 200 rpm at the center, with an effective speed of 500 rpm at the edge (they play from the center outward.) I knew they were faster than 78 rpm, but am still amazed at how much faster!

  • I grew up (if I ever really did) with the original Chipmunk records of Ross Bagdasarian Sr./David Seville. Our family phonograph had the rarely-used 16 2/3 rpm speed, which de-mystified his technique but did not lessen my appreciation for his talent. (In fact, when you realize he was singing those notes twice as long as you hear them; the guy had breath and pitch control even Sinatra might have envied. David Seville was really one hell of a singer!) His arranging, with its “walking” saxophone counter-melodies, mandolins and undistorted electric guitars, was both highly individual and perfect for the kind of records he made; hoping to attract both children and adult listeners. The Beatles album was his least “typical” in that regard. Throughout his career, Ross Bagdasarian Sr./David Seville also made numerous instrumental and choral records which would now fall under the “lounge music” heading and make for some very pleasant listening (if you can find them!)

  • FYI,the Chipmunk/Beatles album had a more recent reissue:2008 and was made available to BMG’s record club.Strange that this title was in general release,but a 3CD box released at the same time was only via Wal-mart’s Sam’s Club(uggh!).Two Beatle tracks made it to the Greatest Hits(Still Squeaky After All These Years) album,which has excellent liner notes by Ross Jr.Two Beatle tracks appear on a 1992 Pair compilation
    And besides the original Alvin Show,many a Bagdasarian fan would have loved to see a disc of the instrumental B-sides on early Chipmunk 45s as well as some other examples of Ross Sr.’s’ audio adventures,like The Mixed Up World of Bagdasarian album.Agood fiend instantly recognized many of the tracks as background music for the Alvin Show.

  • I hate to bring this up, but suppose I should mention that RB Jr. is producing a new CGI Alvin TV series to be released next year, and that Alvin has been redesigned to look as much as possible like Justin Bieber.

  • It’s maybe a good thing they probably didn’t know about it; but around the same time as the Beatles LP, Ross Bagdasarian Sr. also created a fairly nasty spoof of the Fab Four titled “Yeah, Yeah!” and credited to “The Bedbugs!” The 45 rpm single portrays an ego-ridden no-talent Brit rock band who get their long hair caught in their guitar strings, ending with RB cooing “They doooo love us here, don’t they, boys?” as a cash register goes cha-ching, cha-ching, cha-ching in sync with the background singers’ “Yeah-Yeah”s. The song, minus its spoken intro and running under two minutes without it, also appeared on the “Mixed-Up World of Bagdasarian” LP.

  • I wanted Beatles records when I was 5 and 6 and they’d just hit it big, but(Except for a 45 of MATCHBOX that I got for nothing)I was only given the Chipmunk version(My favorite Grandmother gave it to me, I liked it, and she meant well). I finally got a real one-Magical Mystery Tour-when I was about 11 and they’d already broken up.

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