Fresh off their Grammy-winning triumphant Beatles cover album, The Chipmunks set their sights on pop, country and surrealism, without a peep out of Dave.
Liberty Records LST-7424 (Stereo) LRP-3424 (Mono) (12” 33 1/3 RPM)
LP Reissue: LN-10178 (1982)
CD Reissue: EMI 7-950-2 (1990)
Available on iTunes and amazon
Released in 1965. Producer: Dave Pell. Vocalist: Ross Bagdasarian. Engineer: Ted Keep. Cover Design: Pate, Francis and Associates. Running Time: 29 minutes.
Songs: “What’s New, Pussycat?” by Burt Bacharach, Hal David; “This Diamond Ring” by Al Kooper, Bob Brass, Irwin Levine; “Mr. Tambourine Man” by Bob Dylan; “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” by Trevor Peacock; “I’m a Fool” by Red West, Joey Cooper; “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows” by Marvin Hamlisch, Howard Leibling; “The Race is On” by Don Rollins; “King of the Road” by Roger Miller; “Downtown” by Tony Hatch; “California Girls” by Brian Wilson, Mike Love; “The In Crowd” Billy Page; “I’m Henry VIII, I Am” by Fred Murray, H. P. Weston.
Chipmunks a Go-Go is a transitional album in the astonishing career of the high-trilling trio. While they occasionally dipped into a form of “rock and roll” in their early days, this album is the answer to the Grammy-winning success of The Chipmunks Sing the Beatles Hits (1964) and the forerunner to almost every Chipmunk recording made during and after their late ‘70s comeback.
It’s also a time capsule for a period of musical glory when one could turn on the AM radio and hear Dean Martin, The Beatles, Louis Armstrong, The Dave Clark Five, The Rolling Stones, The Ray Conniff Singers and Petula Clark and not have to change stations. The songs on this album, if heard today, would be “targeted” into splintered audiences in the way that programming and segmentation have, year after year, separated us musically (unless we make the effort ourselves to embrace variety and share all kinds of music with future generations).
With such a mixed bag of styles, the Chipmunks were never more versatile. The band has its work cut out for it, though, because with so much variety, it would take great expense to replicate a fully orchestrated arrangement like that of “Downtown” as well as provide instrumentation for country and rock. The album’s arrangements are cleverly designed to work well within the confines of its modest group of instruments, so that some songs might sound “bigger” than they really are.
This is the only album produced during the Ross Bagdasarian, Sr. days of the Chipmunks in which David Seville never speaks. He is seen on cover, playing the drums, and it says “Alvin, Simon and Theodore with David Seville,” but there is no banter between the three characters and Dave at all. Of course, any fan knows that Bagdasarian is doing all three Chipmunk voices, but this album is unique in that way—all music, no talk.
It’s also more sophisticated than earlier albums. Some lyrics are different—in “King of the Road,” for instance, “rolled stogies” become “roast peanuts.” Alvin sings about “Pussycat” being “delicious” and bemoans the “heartaches a-goin’ to the inside” in “The Race is On.” And depending on the various interpretations of Bob Dylan’s surreal “Mr. Tambourine Man,” the Chipmunks might really be goin’ far out, man (though not as far as Shatner).
Who could have known back in 1953, when Lucille Ball made TV history by giving birth to Little Ricky on I Love Lucy and Desi Jr. in real life, that it would eventually lead to Desi being in a pop band called “Dino, Desi and Billy”—whose biggest hit, “I’m a Fool” would be recorded by The Chipmunks? Life’s funny that way.
By 1965, the audience for rock and roll was getting younger. The Beatles were very popular with kids, thanks in no small part to the TV cartoon, which was helping them learn the words to the songs every Saturday morning, and The Monkees and bubblegum pop were on the horizon. Children’s records were skewing even younger. The Chipmunks were marketed as a children’s property by then, so doing Chipmunks á Go-Go seemed a great way to have the best of both musical worlds.
But it was the last time Ross Sr. would go the pop route. The success of big musicals like Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music had set Hollywood in motion to make several more like them. Doctor Dolittle, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Oliver! were among those in the pipeline, and that’s the course Bagdasarian set for his last two Chipmunk albums, The Chipmunks See Doctor Dolittle and The Chipmunks Go to the Movies, both of which can be explored here.
One historic footnote: When this author interviewed Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits a few years back, of course the subject of Chipmunks á Go-Go came up and the fact that Alvin, Simon and Theodore had offered their interpretations of “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” and “I’m Henry VIII, I Am.” It turned out that he had never heard the album, so this was corrected by purchasing a new CD for thus all the legends were united, at least through audio.
With this post, Animation Spin will have covered every Chipmunk album from the Ross Sr. days. Three are mentioned in the article above. Here are the others:
• Let’s All Sing with The Chipmunks (1959)
• Sing Again with The Chipmunks (1960)
• Around the World with The Chipmunks (1960)
• The Alvin Show (1961)
• The Chipmunk Songbook (1962)
• Christmas with the Chipmunks, Volumes I and II (1962, 1963)
• The Chipmunks Sing with Children (1965)