ANIMATION SPIN
June 24, 2014 posted by Greg Ehrbar

Popeye on Golden Records

Jack Mercer and Mae Questel, and one of the most popular children’s labels of the baby boom era, combined for a perfect storm of cartoon spinnery: Popeye on Golden Records!

popeye-goldenLP

POPEYE THE SAILORMAN AND HIS FRIENDS
Golden Records LP-56 (12” 33 1/3 RPM / Mono / 1960)
Reissues: Wonderland (Golden) Records LP-56

Producer: Arthur Shimkin. Writer: Bill Kaye. Musical Directors: Jimmy Carroll, Mitch Miller, Jim Timmens. Running Time: 42 minutes.

Performers: Jack Mercer (Popeye, Wimpy, Movie Director, Umpire); Mae Questel (Olive Oyl, Swee’ Pea), The Sandpipers (Mike Stewart, Bob Miller, Ralph Nyland, Dick Byron), Rose Marie Jun.
Songs & Parodies: “I’m Popeye the Sailor Man (Theme Song)” by Sammy Lerner; “Beautiful Lullaby,” “Help! Help! & I Had a Hamburger Dream,” “What’s the Difference?” “Every State is a Great State,” “Why Do You Answer a Question With a Question?” by Bill Kaye and Jimmy Carroll; “Never Pick a Fight,” “Swee’ Pea (Bicycle Built for Two),” “A Fan for Each Woman and Man (Titwillow),” “The Man On the Flying Trapeze,” “Entrance of Mikado and Katisha” from Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Mikado.”

Stories: “Popeye in Cartoon-Land,” “Strolling in the Park” (with the Song), “Home On the Range ” (with the Song), “Television Night,” “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” (with the Song),” “The Emperor of Japan,” “A Game for a Rainy Day.”

Popeye_helpThe year that King Features festooned daytime TV with hundreds of Popeye cartoons supplied by various studios (Paramount Cartoon Studios, Rembrandt Films, Halas and Batchelor, Larry Harmon Pictures, Jack Kinney Productions and Southern Star Productions), Golden Records released this album, graced by the presence of both Jack Mercer and Mae Questel (who didn’t record as many Popeye discs as Mercer).

The album is a delightfully mixed bag of little stories and songs, some previously released on Little Golden Records. Other Golden vocals and music tracks are also included as song excerpts and music beds. Jimmy Carroll is credited, but some music is from the more recent Jim Timmens era of the label.

What a treat to hear these voices, not only Popeye and Olive, but also Swee’ Pea—and especially Wimpy, who shows up in “disguise” in the Old West and at a baseball game. The Popeye heard here is as tough and scrappy as he is subdued and suburban, just as he evolved on TV. Even in his fiercer moments—as in “Never Pick a Fight,”¬—the lyrics remind kids to “Never pick a fight with no one.” Most often Popeye is in a merry frame of mind, even tender when singing Swee’ Pea to sleep on Side One. He’s a sailor man of many moods.

A.A. Records, which became unable to license the Golden name from Western Publishing in 1977, became Wonderland Records and released this album under the same catalog number. A few years later, they became unable to use the character likenesses, so it was reissued under a new catalog number with the same title and a simple drawing of a little boat.

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Popeye in Cartoon Land”
Popeye and Olive arrive on a movie set to film “Popeye the Sailor Man in Havana” (this was at a time when Cuba was a resort destination). Mae Questel gets to sing an original tune called “Beautiful Lullaby” in a pleasant, straightforward way. When Olive says, “This is so exciting!” she sounds a little like Peggy Cass of TV’s To Tell the Truth.



POPEYE THE SAILOR
Golden Records R-60 Side One (7” 45 RPM & 6” 78 RPM / Mono)
(Side Two: “Scuffy the Tugboat”)
Golden Records R-346 Side One (7” 45 RPM & 6” 78 RPM / Mono)
(Side Two: “Scuffy the Tugboat”)

Vinyl Reissues on Golden/Wonderland GLP-27 TV Jamboree; LP-285 Cartoon Favorites
Currently Available on Shout! Factory MicroWerks CD MW-022, The Best of Little Golden Records

Producer: Arthur Shimkin. Musical Director: Mitch Miller, Jimmy Carroll.
Performers: Jack Mercer (Popeye, Wimpy); Mae Questel (Olive Oyl, Swee’ Pea).

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
Jack Mercer and Robin Williams
The interesting thing about Golden’s version of Popeye’s signature tune is that the precise Jimmy Carroll arrangement was redone in stereo by arranger Van Dyke Parks for the 1980 Popeye movie starring Robin Williams and Shelley Duvall. This was not a concealed imitation, but an affectionate acknowledgement of how solid Golden’s version is. They even mixed in some of Jack Mercer’s voice track!



popeye-health600

POPEYE’S SONGS OF HEALTH, SAFETY, FRIENDSHIP & MANNERS
Golden Records LP-73 (12” 33 1/3 RPM LP / Mono / 1961)

Producer: Arthur Shimkin. Writer: Paul Parnes. Musical Director: Jim Timmens. Running Time: 41 minutes.

Performers: Jack Mercer (Popeye, Wimpy); Mae Questel (Olive Oyl, Swee’ Pea).
Songs: “Shake Hands,” “A Friend is Someone You Like,” “I Have a Little Friend,” “A Friendly Town,” “Red and Green,” “When You Ride Your Bicycle,” “Never Play with Matches,” “Lonely Tooth,” “Sleepy Head,” “Scrub and Scrub,” “It Matters If You Have Good Manners” by Paul Parnes; “Swimming,” “Ah-Choo!” by (Richard?) Rosenblatt and Victor Ziskin; “Polite Ways Make Happy Days,” by (Cynthia?) Weil and Jim Timmens; “When You Go to a Show” by Jim Timmens and Paul Parnes;

With Popeye cartoons going strong on TV—and Golden certainly selling lots of single records, EP’s and LP’s of the first album, it was natural to do a follow-up with Mercer and Questel, this time with completely new songs.

Popeye_safety250Things had changed at Golden Records, though. Jimmy Carroll and Mitch Miller had amicably moved over to bigger roles at Columbia Records. The new musical director was Jim Timmens, who was also a sound editor. Producer and Golden Records founder Arthur Shimkin was so fond of his work that Timmens continued to edit, arrange and conduct at Golden through the mid-‘60s, while also composing for commercials and Terrytoons. He later joined Shimkin at the Columbia’s children’s division, which struck gold with the first Sesame Street records; CRA (Children’s Records of America), which reissued Columbia releases; and at Sesame Street Records.

Timmens’ music is easy to identify because of his mellow, light jazz sound, with a very distinctive use of vibraphones, woodwinds and percussion. In some incarnations of TV’s The Woody Woodpecker Show, Timmens’ Golden arrangement of “Cartoon Showtime” was heard.

New York songwriter Paul Parnes, creator of countless commercial jingles like “Snap! Crackle! Pop!” also wrote a number of songs, scripts and background music for Golden Records. His talent for the musical advertising hook was especially helpful when Golden Records were “selling” concepts to their young listeners.

The music tracks of this album were recorded separately from the vocals. Two albums of music were produced, this LP with Popeye, and another with the Golden Singers, which did not appear in stores until over a decade later. The Popeye album was discontinued but five of its songs were available into the 1980’s (with “I’m Popeye the Sailor Man”) on Wonderland Records, as a 45 RPM EP (extended play) record—first with Popeye on the cover and later with the little boat and no character image.

Since two of the songwriters are listed only with their last names, I cannot say with conviction that they may have become big names in pop music in the ensuing years. “Weil” may be Cynthia Weil, who with Barry Mann wrote hit after hit for Don Kirshner’s Aldon Music (“You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’”, “On Broadway”). Richie Rosenblatt may be Richie Cordell, who wrote “Mony Mony” and “I Love Rock and Roll.” Both were writing songs in New York when this album was made (and after all, David Gates of Bread wrote “Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear).

This is probably not Popeye for purists, as he and his friends sing and discuss all things oh-so nice and clean. Popeye recalls his sea faring adventures, but it ties to his appreciation of the world’s cultures. Most of this album could easily be released today (with Popeye’s pipe smoking removed).

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Never Play with Matches”
The weirdest track on the album. Most of the LP is mellow and jaunty. This one is a bit Danny Elfman-like. Dark and forboding. Ironically, with all their talk of health and safety, nobody seems to mind Popeye’s pipe puffing (but this was the early ‘60s). Questel’s Olive sounds a little like Didi Conn here.

10 Comments

  • Greg:
    Another great post! The Popeye in Cartoon Land cut was well done,and that was a good mixing job on the Jack Mercer-Robin Williams Popeye theme (though to be completely honest,even though Robin’s a tremendous talent,Jack’s shadow is too strong to overcome!) And I see what you mean by ‘weird” with Never Play With Matches.I wonder why they took such an off-kilter tack with that one.Nevertheless,I still considered it entertaining!

    • Thanks very much, Andy!

  • “Popeye, Our Sailor Man in Havana” is a poke at the 1960 British production, Our Man in Havana, starring Alec Guiness and Ernie Kovacs.

    • And for a minute there, I sorta giggled at the thought of comparing Cuba to a “cartoon land”. I suppose it could still be one in it’s own snappy way if you don’t think too politically about it. ;-)

  • If you dig Popeye, check out Fandom Planet’s recent audio interview with Bobby London. Bobby was one of the legendary Air Pirates and did the Popeye newspaper strip in the 80′s. He’s a talented, funny cartoonist. IDW has recently released his Popeye strips in a high-quality hardback volume and he spoke with my show to promote the book. It’s an hour of fun, jokes and POPEYE POPEYE POPEYE…

    http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/fandom-planet-audio#aboveBVRRContainer

    (We’ve also had Jerry Beck on the show in the past. We’d love to have him back, too. Check the archives to listen to a great interview with Jerry, too!)

  • ohhhhhhhh, you have brought back a barrage of (good) memories today! I HAVE ‘em still, and even got to lip sync one (or maybe 2) on tv when i was a weee tot! Thank you for this today!!

  • Caveat: My mom bought me a Peter Pan record of “Popeye’s Favorite Sea Shanties” No actual Popeye content; there were instead a bunch of manly voices singing “Nancy Lee”.

  • GREG,dont forget the CABOT AAP Popeye record and the Popeye song folio on Pickwick–I also own an MASTERS
    VOICE Popeye record from Austrailia….

  • Years ago I heard on a local radio station (Ian Whitcomb?) heard Mercer and Questel do a duet of I’m a Little Teacup that was quite chaming.

  • As a kid I had a Peter Pan “Popeye” record called (I think) “Skin Divers;” it was either a 45rpm or a 7-inch 78. It had a fake Popeye “theme song” (“Popeye the sailor man, eats his spinach by the can, no one alive is stronger than, Popeye the sailor man”) and I’m not sure if Jack Mercer was Popeye, but I recall Brutus/Bluto’s voice being very weird, maybe slowed-down (the reverse of the Chipmunk technique.) Anyone else remember this?

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