Super Snooper and Blabbermouse encounter Gold Pinky, Dr. Oh No and 007 himself (sort of) in a smashingly superb record album from 1965.
Starring SUPER SNOOPER & BLABBERMOUSE
Hanna-Barbera Records Cartoon Series HLP-2036 (12” 33 1/3 RPM / Mono)
Condensed Story Version: Hanna-Barbera CS-7020 (7” 45 RPM)
Songs Only Version: Hanna-Barbera CS-7053 (7” 45 RPM)
Released in 1965. Executive Producers: William Hanna, Joseph Barbera. Producer/Writer/Director: Charles Shows. Music: Hoyt Curtin, Ted Nichols (H-B Stock Library). Song Arrangements: Al Capps, Stan Farber. Editor: Dan Finnerty. Sound Effects and Music Editing: Tony Milch. Engineer: Richard Olsen. Mastering: Dave Diller, Joe Leahy. Art Direction: Harvard Pennington. Hand Lettering: Robert Schaefer. Cover Art: Iwao Takamoto, Paul Julian. Running Time: 33 minutes.
Voices: Daws Butler (Super Snooper, Blabbermouse, Dr Oh No, Killer, LBJ); Don Messick (Gold Pinky, Narrator, Newscaster); Ricky Page, Stan Farber, Al Capps, Ron Hicklin (The Hanna-Barbera Singers).
Songs: “Super Snooper” by Larry Goldberg, Lynn Bryson, Charles & Peggy Shows; “Gold Pinky,” “Dr. Oh No,” “James Bomb” by Stan Farber and Charles & Peggy Shows.
While James Bond battles SPECTRE (Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion), Super Snooper, Blabbermouse and James BOMB must save Washington DC from SQUISH (Society of Uncouth and Quarrelsome Idiots and Secret Horrors). That’s the twist in this clever HBR groove on the Bond craze—putting Snoop and Blab in the clutches of supervillains Dr. Oh No and Gold Pinky.
Even though James Bond movies continue to be big tentpole events today, they’re still not as earth-shaking as they were during the 1960’s Cold War era. Bond mania was at such a fever pitch that–figuratively–you couldn’t throw a rock and not hit something either inspired by, or spoofing, Ian Fleming’s international superspy.
Saturday morning TV was getting into the act with King Features’ Cool McCool and Hanna-Barbera’s Secret Squirrel Show (recently released on DVD by Warner Archive). Super Snooper and Blabbermouse (aka “Blabber Mouse” or just “Blabber”)—the stars of a cartoon segment of “The Quick Draw McGraw Show”—were already private eyes, so it wasn’t as much of a stretch to fit them into a spy caper as it was for Mister Ed and Wilbur (yes, they really did episodes in which the talking horse took on international spies).
One of the first original stories in the Hanna-Barbera Records Cartoon Series (the earlier albums being based on classic stories), “James BOMB” is a winner from start to finish. Even the groovy original songs–which sometimes seemed out of place on other HBR discs–work like charms, especially “Gold Pinky”, which showcases the impressive range of “Bamm-Bamm” singer Ricky Page. (Two previous HBR tunes make a repeat appearance as well: “Monster Shindig”, which always seemed to be on everyone’s radio in a funny gag that ran throughout the albums, and the “Super Snooper” song from the “Shindig” LP.)
Humorous action-adventure was writer Charles Shows’ strength. The James BOMB album builds to an exciting and funny denouement just as it did on Robin Hood Starring Top Cat. Shows’ classic radio comedy/drama formula, which relies on back-and-forth conversation between two characters to fill in plot details and convey the visual aspects, can sometimes pad the dialogue (as it does on Jonny Quest in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, but in the case of “James BOMB”, Shows makes it part of the comedy.
For example, when Dr. Oh No explains his plans to Gold Pinky (but actually to the listeners), what could have been a lot of dry exposition is buoyed by Gold Pinky’s constant nagging, “What about the gold?” Shows breaks up the exposition and gives Gold Pinky (who is otherwise not much more than Oh No’s sidekick) a little more comic dimension.
And let’s face it, how can anyone go wrong with Daws Butler and Don Messick? They do every voice on the album—with Butler carrying on conversations among as many as three characters, yet each personality is separate and distinct. The most nuanced, flesh-and-blood performance by Butler is that of Dr. Oh No, a psychopath with touches of George Sanders (and of course, Joseph Wiseman, who played Dr. No in the first Bond film). The “good doctor” speaks with such a tense, measured calm, it suggests the rage beneath–a level head teetering on the edge of madness. This is the classic Bond villain through and through, interpreted by Butler with complete seriousness in the midst of spoofery. And what is most astonishing is that only a fraction of that personality comes from the script.
For instance, when hitman Killer protests taking Snoop and Blab out of the shark pool, On No says, quietly, “I said…bring them here.” It is with that tone and pause that the listener learns how Killer is intimidated by the consequences of disobeying Oh No. Nearly all of Side One is dominated by the Doctor, with James BOMB picking up the lead on Side Two (another HBR story technique of dividing the story focus between each side of the record).
Don’t tell Action For Children’s Television, but this is a pretty violent children’s record with lots of gunplay, two possible deaths and what would today be considered a terrorist threat. Even the album cover—a tour de force by Iwao Takamoto and Paul Julian—is the sort of thing that would set hands a-wringing by the 1970s. Good gravy Marie! How did we kids survive such corrupt influences?
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“James BOMB’s Flying Rolls-Royce”
A masterwork of comic timing, seemless editing and fine writing that reminds one of Stan Freberg’s immortal “building a sundae in Lake Michigan” radio spot. Note how much of Blabbermouse’s dialogue is descriptive. That kind of exposition can be a challenge to write and perform, because it can so easily be forced and contrived, but in the skilled hands of Shows and Butler, it arises naturally from character and situation.
Theme from the ABC Television Series & Other Favorites
The Laurie Johnson Orchestra
Hanna-Barbera Records (U.S.) HST-9506 (Stereo) HLP-8506 (Mono) (12” LP)
Pye Records (U.K.) LP Release: Pye Records NSPL-30084
U.K. Reissue: Marble Arch Records MAL-695 (1967)
(Also in 45 RPM on Hanna-Barbera and Pye Records)
Released in 1966. Arranger/Conductor: Laurie Johnson. Cover Art (HBR): Fernando Montealegre. Recorded at Landsdowne Studios, London. A Pye U.K. Recording. Running Time: 33 minutes.
Laurie Johnson Music: “Theme from The Avengers”, “Manuela”, “Squaresville”, “It’s a Raggy Waltz”, “Beauty Jungle Theme”, “Minor Bossa Nova”.
Other Selections: “It’s Love,” by Betty Comden, Adolph Green, Leonard Bernstein; “Dear Friend” by Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick; “Call Me Irresponsible” by Sammy Cahn, Jimmy Van Heusen; “I’m Old Fashioned” by Jerome Kern, Johnny Mercer, “Varsity Drag” by Buddy DeSilva, Lew Brown, and Ray Henderson; “Sabre Dance” (Traditional).
One of the all-time greatest 007-inspired creations of the 1960s is the British confection, “The Avengers”, an adventure/fantasy series that predates the Marvel “Avengers” by two years. This “Avengers” began life as a standard crime and espionage series about a doctor (Ian Hendry, spouse of Disney favorite Janet Munro) who finds himself immersed in intrigue with a mysterious partner named John Steed (Patrick Macnee).
When Hendry departed and Macnee became the lead, he was paired with pre-“Goldfinger” co-star Honor Blackman. After Blackman left the TV show for a big screen career, the series was picked up for U.S. broadcast by ABC-TV.
Because ABC picked up half the tab, the series upgraded its format from live/videotape to film, became more lavishly produced in a picture-postcard style (deliberately geared to appeal to American audiences), and caught lightning in a bottle by casting Diana Rigg (now Dame Diana) as Emma Peel–the prototype of every cat-suited, judo-kicking ultrawoman in popular culture. The chemistry between Macnee and Rigg was kinetic, the stories became more fantastic, and a TV cult classic was born (subsequent Macnee patnering with Linda Thorson and Joanna Lumley were quite superb as well).
Promo film for the 1968 season of “The Avengers”:
Laurie Johnson’s crisp, witty musical scores were part of the series’ charm. His iconic theme music perfectly captured the sparkling elegance in musical form. When “The Avengers” became an international hit, the theme traveled around the world on records—first on the PYE label in Britain, then on—guess what?—the fledgling Hanna-Barbera label in the U.S.
Under the A&R supervision of Larry Goldberg (who also co-wrote several songs on the Cartoon Series LP’s), Hanna-Barbera Records was looking to become a mainstream label, signing singers like Earl Gains and Jean King, groups like The Five Americans, and instrumentalists like Gloria Tracy. There was even a beach party movie soundtrack: “A Swingin’ Summer”.
There are quite a few articles on the web chronicling this aspect of the HBR label. Chief among them is this excellent history by Kliph Nesteroff; an account focusing on HBR 45 RPM singles and an interview with Danny Hutton.
The HBR album is identical to the Pye LP. There is no “Avengers”-related material included other than the theme song. As a composer, Johnson was already renowned for such films as “Tiger Bay” (Hayley Mills’ movie debut) and “Dr. Strangelove”. In animation, he’s a latter-day Raymond Scott, as the composer of countless “needle drops”, low-cost production library music used in commercials and films. Several of Johnson’s melodies, such as “Happy Go Lively” are so irresistibly campy that they were used on “The Ren & Stimpy Show”, “Spongebob Squarepants” and other cartoons.H-B artist Harvard Pennington was the Art and Photography Director for the mainstream records as well as most of the Cartoon Series titles. It’s interesting to see how record album covers and single picture sleeves were interpreted by H-B artists, particularly hand letterer Robert Schaefer (though some were also done by freelancers).
Artistically, HBR’s “Avengers” LP is very strange indeed. Although the 45 RPM release featured the likenesses of Rigg and Macnee, the LP displayed a painting of an unclad, pain-stricken body surrounded in web-like strands. A closer glance reveals that this art was created (and signed) in 1964 by H-B background artist Fernando Montealegre. My guess is that Pennington simply used Montealegre’s painting for the cover and there was no other connection between it and “The Avengers”. (I must admit that, in my youth, this image creeped me out, especially as it contrasted to the blithe, playful tone of “The Avengers” TV show.)
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Theme from the TV Series THE AVENGERS”
An expanded version, combining the main and end titles, of the theme. It was most likely recorded by the same orchestra–perhaps at the same session–as the TV soundtrack rendition, since the sound quality is identical. What a joy it is to hear it in full stereo!
This is the actual TV version: