This week, we look at the first five out of my personal ten best cartoon-related 78 and 45 RPM singles of all time. Feel free to differ with the subjective musings of your humble Animation Spinner.
Please know that my bobbleheaded opinions are my own and do not reflect those of Jerry Beck and much of the rest of the world. And with that peppy disclaimer in mind, enjoy the first five picks!
HERB ALPERT’S “CASINO ROYALE”
May 27, 1967
Peaked at #27
This is actually a three-way tie with two other Alpert hits, “Spanish Flea” and “Tijuana Taxi,” distinguished by the fine animation (by Richard Williams) that accompanied them in the 1960s. Williams created the titles for the 1967 James Bond spoof Casino Royale, a lavish widescreen romp starring David Niven, Woody Allen and many other “A” listers of the day.
Alpert’s version is golden ‘60s grooviness with a tambourine section that could just as easily have been wacky background music for an I Dream of Jeannie episode. The Alpert sound is part of the atmosphere of the’60s and was extremely popular with young and old alike, before the style became too widely imitated, spoofed and ultimately associated with Chuck Barris TV game shows. Fortunately, Alpert’s music has a freshness that resounds again today, now that time has faded some of those connections.
These is how Williams animated it for the main titles:
And this is the full stereo version of the song as released on records:
MIGHTY MOUSE’S “HERE I COME TO SAVE THE DAY!”
This is one of those songs that became so well known, it’s hard to know whether folks knew it from the cartoons or from the signature Golden record version. Andy Kaufman started his very first Saturday Night Live appearance by lip-synching to this record, gaining a new comic identity. Golden’s version was even used in the Kaufman biopic, Man on the Moon.
In addition to Roy Halee, the singers you hear are Mike Stewart, Ralph Nyland and Bob Miller and Dick Byron, they formed the Sandpipers. They were “The Men of Texaco” on Milton Berle’s Texaco Star Theater, and are often mistaken for the ’60s vocal group of the same name that came over a decade after them—whose biggest hit, “Guantamera,” by the way, featured a solo by the lovely Robie Lester.
The Sandpiper quartet appears on nearly all the early Golden 78’s, usually with Anne Lloyd, a New York vocalist. Jimmy Carroll did the arrangements and Mitch Miller directed, and when the two made records for Columbia, members of the quartet, most notably Mike Stewart, sang on the popular “Sing Along with Mitch” records and TV show that The Flintstones spoofed as “Hum Along with Herman.”
HENRY MANCINI’S “THE PINK PANTHER THEME”
May 9, 1964
Peaked at #31
Even though theatrical shorts were dwindling in the ’60s, animated titles often upstaged the movies that followed them. (Perhaps such titles might have served as surrogates for the shorts that many of us had enjoyed seeing on a regular basis.) To a lot of kids, an animated title was the best part of any ehhhh grownup live-action movie.
DePatie-Freleng’s Pink Panther titles, set to gave the little studio a few more years to breathe than they might have had otherwise. They never had a breakout character to match the Pink Panther’s success, but without him, there would not have been so many delightful TV specials and series stretching far into the ’70s.
February 7, 1970
Peaked at #10
“Sugar, Sugar” was The Archies’ biggest hit (besting The Beatles at #1 for the year of 1969), but their second biggest song is the true pinnacle of their power (and yes, they were a powerful pop culture phenomenon). A studio group of New York’s finest musicians under the direction of Jeff Barry, The Archies consisted primarily of Ron Dante and Toni Wine on the vocals. The mix is a masterpiece, creating a sonic mass of such pure elation that even the bitterest detractor must admit it’s impressive. No amount of subsequent technological advancement could duplicate it.
Like “Sugar, Sugar,” “Jingle Jangle” was featured in a CBS prime time special called Archie and His New Pals, introducing Sabrina, the Teen-Age Witch and a few other characters. It was rerun as Archie’s Sugar Sugar Jingle Jangle Special, in case anyone had any doubts about what the songs were going to be when they watched.
The animated version:
The stereo record version:
“WHAT’S A NICE KID LIKE YOU DOING IN A PLACE LIKE THIS?”
April 21, 1966
Sammy Davis, Jr. sang this unforgettable song in the soundtrack of Hanna-Barbera’s 1966 ABC special, Alice in Wonderland, or “What’s a Nice Kid Like You Doing in a Place Like This?”. Perhaps his contract with Reprise Records precluded his recording it for Hanna-Barbera, but the animation company’s fledgling record label released it as a single and also on the cast album.
Crothers’ version employs arrangements based on the Marty Paich charts, with a smaller orchestra re-arranged by Al Capps. Even with the smaller sound, it’s a great piece. Best of all, Crothers’ interpretation of the Cheshire Cat led to more roles with Hanna-Barbera, particularly as Meadowlark on The Harlem Globetrotters and the lead in Hong Kong Phooey.
Scatman Crothers’ single version:
Sammy Davis, Jr.’s version from the film:
NEXT WEEK: What will be the five records at the very top?