In celebration of the 60th year of Alvin, Simon, Theodore with David Seville, we take a look at the debut LP combining three hit singles with new tunes and old favorites.
LET’S ALL SING WITH THE CHIPMUNKS
Alvin, Simon and Theodore with David Seville
Liberty Records LST-7132 (Stereo) LRP-3132 (Mono) (12” 33 1/3 RPM / 1959)
Also on EP, CD and Download
Released in 1959; reissued in 1961 with revised Chipmunk character designs. Producer/Voice Artist: Ross Bagdasarian. Engineer: Ted Keep. Special Film Editors: Byron Chudnow, George Brand. Cover Design: Pate, Francis and Associates. Running Time: 24 minutes.
Songs: “Chipmunk Fun,” “Alvin’s Harmonica,” “The Chipmunk Song” by Ross Bagdasarian; “Whistle While You Work” by Frank Churchill, Larry Morey; “Ragtime Cowboy Joe” by Maurice Abrahams, Lewis F. Muir; “Yankee Doodle,” The Little Dog,” “Old Mac Donald Cha Cha Cha,” “Three Blind (Folded) Mice,” “Good Morning Song,” “If You Love Me (Alouette),” “Pop Goes the Weasel,” (Traditional with Arrangements and Special Lyrics by Ross Bagdasarian).
The explosive success of 1958’s “The Chipmunk Song,” the best-selling novelty record of its time and still a holiday standard, inevitably led to an album. Released the following year, Let’s All Sing With The Chipmunks included not only that #1 hit but two other 1959 singles, “Alvin’s Harmonica” (which reached #3 on the charts) and “Ragtime Cowboy Joe” (peaking at #16). This was one special release indeed.
As David Seville and all three Chipmunks, Ross Bagdasarian made appearances on such TV shows as Ed Sullivan with three Chipmunk puppets resembling the animal-like creatures pictured on the 1959 album cover.
The approach was somewhat juvenile but could arguably appeal to adult fans of novelty records. Overall though, it is a children’s record containing a classic Disney tune and several public domain songs that often fall into the category of “nursery” or “Mother Goose.” There’s one big difference at work here, however, and it sets the pattern for all future Chipmunk projects: an edge.
It’s among the elements of Bagdasarian’s peculiar genius in combining a very simple technique of merely speeding up three voices with a lead voice. One is giving each a distinct personality: you can read whatever you want into that—the id, the ego, the superego, or the Kirk, Spock and McCoy. Two is the wonderful silliness of these voices in the setting of the songs themselves, especially when the songs are popular or iconic. The third is the rebellious nature of Alvin, which varies from throwing a note to blowing the budget. Dave can be mildly irritated or driven to madness. Even a first-time listener can get the premise immediately within two minutes.
Let’s All Sing With the Chipmunks was released during the “hi-fi” stereo craze, so even though it was available for play on mono equipment, listening to it with stereo speakers was as close to a Disneyland attraction at home as kids could get in the late ’50/early ’60s. Alvin rode a horse across the room! The “old MacDonald’s come from the left side and the “cha-cha-cha’s” came from the right! You could even take Dave’s directions and sing the missing words to be part of the whole thing. Take that, futuristic interactive digital stuff!
Both the 1959 and 1961 covers (redesigned with the Alvin Show character images) were released with nifty foil surfaces. Even though it took special care to keep these looking good, they were very attractive. Later non-foil releases had pink backgrounds. Some CDs used the foil look, too.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Good Morning Song”
A nice little song with a melody similar to “Happy Birthday” that gets very little notice in the midst of so many other Chipmunk treasures.
NEXT WEEK: Sing AGAIN With The Chipmunks