ANIMATION SPIN
February 9, 2016 posted by

Alvin the Chipmunk’s Presidential Campaign Record

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Fictional characters have been running for President for ages, but when Alvin threw his hat in the ring—and cut this record–even John F. Kennedy took notice.


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ALVIN FOR PRESIDENT
David Seville and the Chipmunks
Liberty Records 55277 (45 RPM LP / Mono / Side One)

Released in 1960. Writer/Producer/Voices: Ross Bagdasarian.

Alvin-president-comicbookAccording to Newsweek, when John F. Kennedy learned that Alvin the Chipmunk was running for Commander-in-Chief, he said, “I’m glad to know that I have at least one worthy opponent.”

Animated characters have been the subject of Presidential campaigns, from Howdy Doody to Daffy Duck. During Alvin’s 1960 run, Ross Bagdasarian released a single in which David Seville tried to record a song called something like “Perfect Harmony” (the actual title is really not stated), while Alvin makes speeches and changes the lyrics.

The record, which appeared on Disney’s Buena Vista LP Solid Gold Chipmunks 22 years later, was actually a reworded version of another Chipmunk tune, “I Wish I Could Speak French” from the album Around the World with the Chipmunks. To those familiar with that song—and the animated version created for the 1961 The Alvin Show series, it can be a little strange to hear what was designed to be a “typical” French-sounding arrangement in a different context.

Alvin for President was also released on a flexi-disc and included with the Alvin and the Chipmunks touring van playset that was sold in connection with the 1980’s Saturday morning animated version.

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Alvin for President”
This particular track is from the CD, Still Squeaky After All These Years, which is especially worth noting for the interesting liner notes by Ross Bagdasarian, Jr.


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AROUND THE WORLD WITH THE CHIPMUNKS
David Seville and the Chipmunks
Liberty Records LST-7170 (Stereo) LRP-3170 (12” 33 1/3 RPM LP / Stereo)
Reissued on CD in 2088; also available for Download

Released in 1960. Producer/Writer/Voices: Ross Bagdasarian. Engineer: Ted Keep. Cover Design: Pate/Francis & Associates. Running Time: 28 minutes.

Songs:
MEXICO: “The Brave Chipmunks”
JAPAN: “Japanese Banana”
FRANCE: “I Wish I Could Speak French”
ARABIA: “Stuck in Arabia”
GERMANY: “August Dear”
NORTH POLE: “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer”
HAWAII: “The Pidgin English Hula”
ITALY: “Oh, Gondaliero”
SPAIN: “Spain”
SCOTLAND: “Comin’ Thru the Rye”
SWITZERLAND: “The Magic Mountain”
ENGLAND: “Lily of Laguna”

Original Around the World CoverThe Sgt. Pepper album aside, “concept albums” were a staple of records throughout the 20th century, especially albums for children. Each of these songs, a mini-comedy in itself, were expanded and animated for The Alvin Show.

This is the second of three Chipmunk LPs released before the TV series, so along with the other two (Let’s All Sing with the Chipmunks and Sing Again with the Chipmunks), it had a different cover in its first issue.

The 1960 cover (at right – click to enlarge) depicts the more realistic-looking rodents with a more furious-looking David Seville and a jumbo jet, while the reissue features the animated designs and a camel. And to the delight of collectors, the early LP covers were foil-printed.

Several songs on the album are relatively well-known, especially Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, which turned up on the perennial favorite Christmas with the Chipmunks (Volume 1) and “Japanese Banana” (a Dr. Demento favorite), there are several gems that deserve more attention.

“Oh, Gondaliero” a parody of “O Sole Mio,” is a fun little sketch pitting Alvin against a gondolier who doesn’t appreciate his fame (with Bagdasarian himself in both roles). In “Spain,” Alvin gets a rare taste of his own medicine when the musicians keep cutting him off. It’s a wonderfully timed comic performance.

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GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“I Wish I Could Speak French”
This is the version as it appeared on the Around the World LP. It was later heard on The Alvin Show soundtrack with additional narration based on the animated version.

13 Comments

  • Several cartoon characters jumped on the Presidential bandwagon via records. I can think of a few others besides Alvin–Yogi Bear, Magilla Gorilla, and Winnie-the-Pooh. Those were short records, essentially campaign songs for the characters–but the Pooh record also had a short story on one side. And there was a full-length LP devoted to “Huckleberry Hound for President” (sans the original TV voices, alas). Huck, Yogi, and Magilla ran for President in comic books as well.

    Any chance we might get to revisit any of those records in the upcoming months?

    Thanks for the fun!

    • Very astute, Frederick. That is the plan…

    • Let’s not forget that BETTY BOOP was the first cartoon character to run for President. MICKY MOUSE didn’t even try. OLIVE OYL AND POPEYE did later.

    • Why would Mickey want to run when he was already king?

    • I recall returning from Eugene Oregon visiting my brother who was attending The University of Oregon back in Thanksgiving 1976 on Amtrak’s Coast Stralight, I recall while stopping at San Luis Obispo a northbound Amtrak Coast Starlight pulled up at the station and one of its consist a baggage car still had the Winnie the Pooh for President decal on the baggage car.

  • Are you forecasting the CD reissue of “Around The World with the Chipmunks?” 😉

    • I wish! There should be a complete vinyl album set too, just like the recent set for The Monkees.

    • I wish! There should be a complete vinyl album set too, just like the recent set for The Monkees.

      There’s a lot of things they could be doing. I would think reissuing The Chipmunks on vinyl is a no-brainer if there is a genuine need for it.

  • The marching-band “Boola Boola” ending to “Alvin For President” was, to use today’s term, sampled from another Liberty Records album, “Half Time,” by the “University Brass Band” (studio group?) conducted by Russ Garcia. Ross Bagdasarian, Senior was no stranger to the idea of reusing his own melodies; for example, a song he first recorded as a choral number titled “Starlight, Star Bright” later turned up as an instrumental called “The One-Finger Waltz.” He recorded one song “Lucy, Lucy” in no fewer than three versions, one longer version (just under 3 minutes) in his normal voice, another with a Cockney accent, and a short version (only about 95 seconds) in normal voice that tossed away the song’s original melancholy ending for a “gag” finish!

    • Boola Boola is know as the fight song for Yale University and as Boomer Sooner,the fight song for The University of Oklahoma at Norman. What’s neat is in the Warner Brothers cartoon Freddy the Freshman Boola Boola/Boomer Sooner was used as well as Fight On the fight song for The University of Southern California and Rambling Wreck from Georgia Tech from Georgia Tech University during the scene where everyone was heading to The Big Game.

  • Greg, ah, now there’s an idea, only I’d go further and beg for a DVD set of the complete recorded works of Ross Bagdasarian, including the novelty songs that he’d done before the Chip Munks were even an item. Vinyl is a good idea, but (sigh), I just cannot store ’em anymore. I’d consider it grandly if I hadn’t bowed to laserdisks (and I’m glad I did, because there are still animated cartoons in that format that haven’t shown up the same way or at all on DVD…ah, but I don’t want to bore you with that. I like the idea of getting all these goodies out so we all can enjoy ’em fully restored. By the way, I cannot enjoy these posts lately, because the drop-down links to the music don’t read on my screenreader, but I like reading the history here all the same.

  • To be honest, I was kind of hoping that Today’s post was going to be a tribute to Alaskay.

  • By the way, Greg, though I disagreed before, I now agree that Bill Lee was doing some of the Chipmunk voices, probably Simon’s, at least on “The Alvin Show.” I read somewhere years ago that Ross Bagdasarian was having a difficult time completing soundtracks for the cartoons on schedule. (He was “all over” that show, producing, writing music, supervising scripts, and acting too.) Whether RB decided on his own or CBS decided for him, it would seem logical that having someone else in the studio to exchange dialogue and sing harmonies with would speed up production accordingly, by cutting down on time spent editing and overdubbing. Lee’s name appears in the show’s credits. I do think though that RB went back to doing all the Chipmunk voices on the later albums; without the added pressures of TV. Also, “Sack Time,” the David Seville instrumental on the B-side of “Alvin For President” was later rearranged and “repurposed” as Clyde Crashcup’s “at-work music” in “The Alvin Show.”

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