ANIMATION SPIN
January 6, 2015 posted by

The Ultimate “Alvin Show” TV Soundtracks

Only two of five early Chipmunk albums featured material that originated on the classic CBS TV series – with June Foray and other voice greats, too.

chipmunk_songbook600

THE CHIPMUNK SONGBOOK
Liberty Records (Mono LRP-3229 Stereo LST-7229 / 12” 33 1/3 RPM LP / 1962)
CD Reissue: Cema Special Markets 7-2438-19043-2-9

Available as an iTunes download and amazon download

Producers: Ross Bagdasarian. Musical Direction: Ross Bagdasarian, Johnny Mann. Writers: Bob Ogle, Al Bertino, Bill Danch, Jack Cosgriff, Chris Jenkyns, Dick Kinney, Tedd Pierce, Jan Green, Dale Hale, Cal Howard, Bob Kurtz, Ed Nofziger, Leo Salkin, Ross Bagdasarian. Running Time: 42 minutes.

Voices: Ross Bagdasarian (David Seville, Alvin, Simon, Theodore); June Foray (Buffalo Gal, Effie Lou, Daisy Belle); Shep Menken (Buffalo Bill); Bill Lee (Additional Vocals); The Johnny Mann Singers.
Songs: “The Band Played On”, “Buffalo Gal”, “The Alvin Twist”, “Funiculi, Funicula”, “My Wild Irish Rose”, “Down in the Valley”, “Get Along Little Dogies”, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”, “On Top of Old Smokey”, “The Man on the Flying Trapeze”, “While Strolling in the Park One Day”, “Polly Wolly Doodle”, “Bicycle Built for Two”, “America the Beautiful”.

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

Of all Ross Bagdasarian Sr.’s early Chipmunk albums, none was so packed to overflowing with choice cartoon-related material. Fourteen selections with songs and dialogue make The Chipmunk Songbook not only a must-have, but also a frequent source for compilations.

Each song comes from a short song segment of the soundtrack of The Alvin Show series. The first three Chipmunk LP’s (Let’s All Sing With The Chipmunks, Sing Again With The Chipmunks and Around the World With The Chipmunks) were released before the series was produced. They were adapted to work into the animated scenarios constructed around them. In the case of The Chipmunk Songbook tunes, all have a optical film track fidelity to them, right down to a slight hiss. All incorporate soundtrack dialogue to set up their premises except “The Alvin Twist,” “Funiculi, Funicula” and “America the Beautiful.”

1961’s Alvin Show LP (below) is also a soundtrack, but all six of its tracks are augmented with dialogue and narration created specifically for the record. Sadly, 1962’s The Chipmunk Songbook is the last album based on The Alvin Show; there would not be bonafide TV cartoon-related LP’s until 1981’s A Chipmunk Christmas (based on the Chuck Jones special) and 1984’s Songs from Our TV Shows (from the Ruby-Spears Saturday Morning show).

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
The Chipmunks and Chorus Sing “America the Beautiful”
Perhaps the most spectacular Chipmunks recording of all time, this featured a large chorus in one channel and Alvin, Simon and Theodore in the other. In the animated segment, it was done as part of a school report. But in this context, just as a stand-alone song, it’s an example of the genius of Ross Bagdasarian: reverent, mighty and bold on its face, yet wonderfully absurd when you think about it—a full chorus singing with Chipmunks?

THE ALVIN SHOW
Liberty Records (Mono LRP-3209 Stereo LST-7209 / 12” 33 1/3 RPM LP / 1961)
CD Reissue: EMI Records 7 95047 2

Available as an iTunes download and amazon download

TV Series Produced by Format Films. Series Executive Producer: Jules Engel. Series Producers: Herbert Klynn, Leo Salkin. Album Producer: Ross Bagdasarian. Running Time: 24 minutes.
Songs: “The Alvin Show Theme”, “Mrs. Frumpington’s Song”, “I Wish I Could Speak French”, “Chipmunk Fun”, “Witch Doctor”, “Alvin Show End Theme”.
Spoken Word: “The Mrs. Frumpington Story”, “A Trip to Paris”, “TV Interview”,” Crashcup Invents the Bathtub”, “Closing”.

Voices: Ross Bagdasarian (David Seville, Alvin, Simon, Theodore, Leonardo); Lee Patrick (Mrs. Frumpington) June Foray (Singing Voice of Mrs. Frumpington); Shep Menken (Clyde Crashcup, Harry); Bill Lee (Additional Vocals); The Johnny Mann Singers.

Alvin_Show_LPHow could a Chipmunk fan not search high and low for this one? Even the cover is a knockout, capturing the “Alvin-in-the-TV-studio” animation in the main title. The only wish might have been that the album had contained more than one long story, one Crashcup, two short song segments and another made-for-records music segment.

However, all of it is first-class Alvin Show material, clearly selected for their audio potential and—certainly because Bagdasarian was the LP producer—personally chosen as among the best segments. They’re not simply picked up from episode one of the show (Stanley the Eagle, for example, wouldn’t play as well without his adorable visual look).

Bagdasarian just had to include “Mrs. Frumpington,” one of the best-remembered long format cartoons from the series. It epitomizes the sophisticated, anarchic style of the series that, while it was similar to the Jay Ward cartoons, had a dry wit and pace all its own. (But did her song have to fade so soon?) The only segment on the album from episode one is “I Wish I Could Speak French,” which is altered story wise on the record by changing Alvin’s experience into a dream.

The question in the hearts of so many zillions of fans is, why isn’t this great show on DVD or Blu-ray? My guess is that it’s not for lack of trying. Here’s my theory: the Bagdasarians own the characters, cartoons and most of the songs, but EMI might have a financial lock on the actual recordings (sync licenses). Music is so frequently a sticking point with DVD releases; it’s my best guess. However, rumors about a DVD still float around and perhaps The Alvin Show will be a home entertainment treasure in stylish homes throughout the world.

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“The Alvin Show Theme” – Nelson Riddle
None other than Nelson Riddle conducts a dance version of the same theme that Joan Holloway might have played at a Sterling-Cooper office party. You can see the challenge a simple TV theme like this poses to arrangers: it’s really not a complete song per se, so it’s a matter of repeating it a number of times with different orchestrations.

22 Comments

  • “The Chipmunk Songbook” was the first Chipmunk album I ever had. In fact, it was the first LP I ever owned. (I did have the “Alvin’s Harmonica” single earlier.) After that first LP, I hounded my mom for the others in the series. “The Alvin Show” LP was great because it allowed me to experience the TV show whenever I wanted. This was long before home VCRs and DVD were even dreamt about. I’m surprised my mom didn’t go crazy having to listen to the same songs over and over. I could easily lip-sync to every one of the songs. “America the Beautiful” still gives me goose bumps.

  • i am so glad to see this. Every day (on fb), i showcase a different toon-still (and a correlating clip). This month, my theme is “Toons That Play Music!” I have found the AUDIO clip of the tune “Alvin’s Harmonica”….but can NOT find the TOON! Once upon a year, i had found a site that had allllllllll the music-vidds from the show. Why can’t I re-locate that!? This is super. Thank you!!

    • They always get taken down fast. Let alone the one or two guys out there that bother taking footage from “The Alvin Show” and sync it to some modern song I don’t care about. This needs to stop.

      I could supply the world with what I have of the show but I decline to get myself into hot water over that one fast.

  • I’ll confess to never having been a huge fan of the ‘munks, though I do have some of their early albums, which belonged to my dad. Interestingly, the covers of two of the earliest LPs I have depict the chipmunks more or less realistically, rather than in their more familiar designs from the TV series.

  • Perhaps the most spectacular Chipmunks recording of all time, this featured a large chorus in one channel and Alvin, Simon and Theodore in the other. In the animated segment, it was done as part of a school report. But in this context, just as a stand-alone song, it’s an example of the genius of Ross Bagdasarian: reverent, mighty and bold on its face, yet wonderfully absurd when you think about it—a full chorus singing with Chipmunks?

    I remember the episode this was used in. Theodore was giving a report on America in his classroom where he got his brothers to come in to help him on it, basically showing off pictures they drew of “America” while doing the song. It was rather interesting if only for the view of freedom and liberty captured in crayon and a slight hint of equality which otherwise had to wait just a bit longer to be fully realized.

    The only wish might have been that the album had contained more than one long story, one Crashcup, two short song segments and another made-for-records music segment.

    Still for what they could get, The “Mrs. Frumpington” story was a good choice, if only they didn’t cut out her “Baby-Baby-Baby” bit at the end like they did, that needed to play out to the end of the episode!

    They’re not simply picked up from episode one of the show (Stanley the Eagle, for example, wouldn’t play as well without his adorable visual look).

    That’s true. Still I like the idea of Dave being taken away by the cop for “making too many nutty records!”

    Bagdasarian just had to include “Mrs. Frumpington,” one of the best-remembered long format cartoons from the series. It epitomizes the sophisticated, anarchic style of the series that, while it was similar to the Jay Ward cartoons, had a dry wit and pace all its own

    Some of the Clyde Crashcup segments were like that too. It just sorta goes on and on and you don’t know when to stop! The episode where he invents shoes is a good example.

    (But did her song have to fade so soon?)

    I’m sure that’s all of our gripes! They really needed to now narrate the end and just leave it go to the very end with her being placed in the “Home for the Tilted”.

    The only segment on the album from episode one is “I Wish I Could Speak French,” which is altered story wise on the record by changing Alvin’s experience into a dream.

    The way that segment ended, I though Alvin was having a dream anyway, the way he is in the company of Dave and his sibs.

    The question in the hearts of so many zillions of fans is, why isn’t this great show on DVD or Blu-ray? My guess is that it’s not for lack of trying. Here’s my theory: the Bagdasarians own the characters, cartoons and most of the songs, but EMI might have a financial lock on the actual recordings (sync licenses). Music is so frequently a sticking point with DVD releases; it’s my best guess.

    That wouldn’t surprise me the least. I often wonder if that’s the same reason we never got The Beatles cartoons on anything beyond the pirated copies that float around (though I’m sure that’s a different story).

    However, rumors about a DVD still float around and perhaps The Alvin Show will be a home entertainment treasure in stylish homes throughout the world.

    At least they have that one episode that came out some years back. At least they can get some idea of what that was like. Of course I was lucky to see it in the 80’s when I did.

    That Nelson Riddle cover was perfect!

  • “America the Beautiful” proves in particular that Ross Bagdasarian, Senior/David Seville was one hell of a singer. When you realize he was “holding” the Chipmunks’ notes twice as long as you hear them when played back; the guy had breath and pitch control even Sinatra might have envied! I had the “Chipmunk Songbook” LP when I was a kid too, I’ve always suspected my mom got tired of hearing it and “made it disappear” one day. Last year I finally found a reasonably priced copy on ebay, and it was still as much fun as I remembered. (And this time, in “visual sound” stereo!)

    Capitol Records (Liberty’s successors) and RB Junior are locked in something of a death grip over the rights to the original Chipmunk tracks. Capitol can release them as CDS or records, but cannot do anything else with them without RB Junior’s consent. They came to legal blows a few years ago over Capitol licensing the “Chipmunk Song” to be used on a chip (no pun intended, for once…) in a novelty pen. Even though the pen design did not involve the Chipmunk likenesses (which RB Junior unquestionably owns,) the court came down on his side due to clauses in the contract by which his father sold all the Chipmunks master tapes to Liberty (only a couple years before his death.)

    Meanwhile, RB Junior is having Alvin redesigned to look as much as possible like Justin Bieber…

    • Jeff —

      Interesting info about Capitol and the Bagdasarians.
      As to the singing, while most of it was Ross Sr., Bill Lee in mentioned in the credits of The Alvin Show. Lee was one of Hollywood’s top studio singers and if you slow down Simon on “Strolling Through the Park” it’s definitely Lee. So it might be possible that, while Ross Sr. was a fine singer and an all-around genius, getting the recordings perfect (which they were) was paramount and people like Lee were likely pressed into service.

    • That may well be true, especially on tracks where Simon’s voice is noticeably lower than his “brothers.” But on most of the Chipmunks tracks I’ve heard lowered in pitch (some are available on You Tube,) it generally sounds (to me anyway) like RB Senior singing all three parts. Wasn’t Bill Lee a regular (along with fellow Mellomen member Thurl Ravenscroft) in Johnny Mann’s choral groups? And of course, Mann, like RB Senior, was connected with Liberty Records; which might make all the pieces fit together.

    • Meanwhile, RB Junior is having Alvin redesigned to look as much as possible like Justin Bieber…

      Vomit!

  • I’m almost positive that Buffalo Bill (in the “Buffalo Gals”) track/cartoon is Ross Bagdasarian and not Shep Menkin. If you listen to it a couple of times, it’s really David Seville with a southern accent.

    • You’re probably right, Stu. I’ve gone back and forth about it, since Ross Sr. does a southern accent also in “On Top of Old Smokey” and so clearly him, and Buffalo Bill isn’t quite as obvious, at least to me. But you’ve got a better ear.

  • By the way, both the melody itself and the instrumental track of “I Wish I Could Speak French” were reused by RB Senior for a quickie novelty single, “Alvin For President.” The marching-band rendition of “Boola-Boola” which ends that record was lifted from another Liberty album, “Halftime!”, a collection of college football marches by Russ Garcia and his orchestra. (John F. Kennedy enjoyed the Chipmunk record, and wrote Bagdasarian, “I’m glad to know that I have at least ONE worthy opponent!”)

    • Bill Lee was in the MelloMen and almost everywhere else. He was the male “Marni Nixon,” doing tons of ghost singing. He was also on camera in the 1965 CBS “Cinderella” (“Our daugher’s getting dreamy eyed”) and on “Here’s Lucy.”

  • The original Alvin Show had an edge that the later version sorely lacked (Janice Karman is usually blamed, more so than Ross Jr.)

    Re Clyde Crashcup: his shtick of “inventing” what has already been invented could get old but the segments did have their own charm. Especially the interplay with Leonardo.
    I remember realizing the source of the character when I saw the movie “Sitting Pretty” in my youth and Richard Haydn appeared as the eccentric neighbor who pollinated his flowers by hand; I stood and yelled “That’s Clyde Crashcup!” Why Clyde was specifically modeled on Haydn, I never knew. Was Haydn originally considered to do Clyde’s voice?

    • “The original Alvin Show had an edge that the later version sorely lacked (Janice Karman is usually blamed, more so than Ross Jr.)”

      And her little dog too (but that’s another story).

    • I might have a lot of this show from random online copies… and saying “might” is a lie. I’ve shared them in random places, but they haven’t really gotten around. If you want the segments, just send me your email and I can send you links to download the stuff I have. You can’t watch them online (copyright is an evil thing), but you can download them and keep them for as long as you want. I might as well share the cartoons, since they can’t be bought.

  • What’s the matter with you guys that don’t like the Clyde Crashcups? When I was a kid I LOVED the Clyde Crashcups! To me, that was the best part of the Alvin Show! I loved the way he made drawings that came to life, and the way he talked and his whispering assistant, Leonardo. I wish they would revive Clyde Crashcup like they’ve done with the chipmunks but it probably wouldn’t be as good.
    There was definitely an edgier feel to this show I guess because it was shown in prime time where adults might be watching it too.

    • They did bring back Clyde Crashcup for the “Chipmunks Go To The Movies” episode based on Back to the Future. Of course he was the scientist who built a time machine. (He also “invented” the sleeping bag, but I can’t remember what he called it.) No Leonardo though.

  • If anyone wants a place to download some of these cartoons, email me at “rugratsfan44@gmail.com”. If you can’t buy them legally, I might as well share what I have. 🙂

  • I think the story is that CBS actually owns the rights to the early-1960s TV show, so that would mean it’s all engulfed in the miasma of CBS/Paramount/Viacom nowadays. Ross Bagdasarian Jr. was very protective of his rights in the 1980s and 1990s — I worked on the 1980s Ruby-Spears show — and my bet is that he would rather people remember “his” version of the character from the 1980s plus the DIC version from the 1990s. I also suspect the copyrights on the 1961-1962 show are pretty loose from a legal point of view. The shows were transferred in the 1990s and were available for syndication, but I bet the home video rights would be somewhat cloudy.

    I still laugh at the childhood memory of “a-baby-baby-baby! A-daddy-daddy-daddy!” with Mrs. Frumpington. Hysterical bit.

  • Have our walla-walla-bing-bangs been answered?
    http://blogs.indiewire.com/animationscoop/the-alvin-show-coming-to-blu-ray-20150114

  • The Sunset label was strictly for cheap reissues. The original Liberty pressings are preferred!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *