The Chipmunks, The Alvin Show, Liberty LRP-3200, 1961
The Chipmunks were HOT! With two #1 Hits under their fur and several top 20 records, Ross Bagdasarian, AKA David Seville knew he had a good thing going and created an animation pilot that was picked up by CBS for the Fall 1961 season. This was the first time that Alvin, Simon & Theodore were fleshed out into distinct characters. Before, Chipmunk albums and 45 picture sleeves featured three identical chipmunks that were much more rat like in appearance. A weekly animation schedule required much simpler 1-D forms.
The record’s original owner helpfully wrote in ink the names of each chipmunk on the back. Alvin needed no introduction with his bright “A” on his red jersey, but I never knew that Simon was the tall one with glasses and Theodore was the shorter stout one. David Seville appears in a much thinner appearance than the portly Ross Bagdasarian was in real life. The foil of the show was Clyde Crashcup, a hapless inventor that the “boys” annoy and/or save in every episode. With the public now able to put a face to The Chipmunks, Liberty Records re-released all previous Chipmunk records with new covers that featured the new animation.
The record must have been very easy to prepare. The show had seven minute animation segments, and two of them are on the soundtrack album. Throw in the show’s theme song and incidental music, re-record the 1958 #1 hit Witch Doctor, and get it in stores! So it’s not a very musical record, but the classic animation voices of June Foray and Shepard Menken are really fun to listen to. I had this record growing up, I’m not sure why, but my copy had a massive scratch that made most of side two unplayable. Because I only had about two records, I came to know the stories on here without some crucial elements that the skips prevented me from hearing. It’s nice to finally hear the full version of Crashcup Invents The Bathtub!
Cost: $5, $318 Remaining
Jan & Dean, The Little Old Lady From Pasadena, Liberty LRP-3377, 1964
Say what you want about Jan & Dean, but they made some great pop records. This was one of the last great ones of their career, but it came about seven years in from Jennie Lee in 1958. That’s a heck of a run for a duo whose music today sounds very much like a novelty act’s. They cranked out 3-4 albums a year for Liberty between 1961 and Jan’s near fatal accident in 1966, and they all sold fairly well. Their records will never compare favorably with, say, Simon & Garfunkel’s, and it seems like they pop up in sale bins all the time. It seems like everyone who wants a Jan & Dean album already has it.
I don’t think that was as true at the time. “The little old lady from Pasadena” was a take on something a stereotypical used car salesman would have said, meaning it was already in the popular lingo. The “lady” in this case was actually the old lady from an actual Dodge advertisement. Jan & Dean were commercial “artists” more than all of their contemporaries were put together, so tying a record in to a current commercial wasn’t much of a stretch. After all, car songs were huge in the summer of 1964, and this album was perfectly timed to take advantage of that.
Aside from the car songs, there’s a whole lot about skateboarding. With The Beach Boys sort of “owning” the actual surfing sound, Jan came up with the idea for Sidewalk Surfin’. The song is really nothing more than a re-write of The Beach Boys’ Catch A Wave. In true Jan & Dean style though, the album has a reminder to “be sure to get your Jan & Dean skateboard at your favorite shop”. Unfortunately, my favorite shop must have run out.
Cost: $2, $412 Remaining
The Chipmunks, the Chipmunks Sing The Beatles Hits, Liberty LRP-3388, 1964
I promise. No More Chipmunks. I’m only featuring this flood damaged record as a testament to how deeply the mania surrounding The Beatles became. When I Want To Hold Your Hand hit the US charts in January, 1964, the music business changed. But not everyone knew what the change meant.
When The Twist changed everything, the imitation record thrived. There were a million twist records that came out and sold well. Other dance records came out like the mashed potatoes did phenomenally well. Records came out about dances that didn’t exist like The Locomotion and went to number one.
So, sure, if you’re Ross Bagdasarian and doing a good business selling Chipmunk records, why not jump on the latest “craze” to hit the business? Except that the craze was a moving away from the way the music business was done before and toward a genuine and artist based concept that made records like this immediately irrelevant. Not to say that this is the worst of the Beatles tribute records I’ve collected. Finding this gem on my shelf lead me to search out others. Even I can’t believe how many schlocky knock off records I have! So yes, while I many have owned this record for a few years without listening to it, this could be the best of the records I’m about to feature.
Cost: $6, $601 Remaining
Alvin Simon & Theodore with David Seville, Let’s All Sing With The Chipmunks, Liberty LST-7132, 1961
In an uncharacteristic move for me, I went to file yesterday’s Chipmunk album away into the permanent collection, and in its place I found this $2 version that I’ve had for a few years. It was shoved back in the stack, probably when I was re-filing my Chubby Checker records. And since, believe it or not, this isn’t my preferred type of music, I forgot I even had it.
This record is just a complete reissue of the 1959 original, but it was repackaged to cash in (!) on the animated cartoon series “the boys” got in 1961. Called The Alvin Show it was like a 30 minute version of The Chipmunk Song shown every Saturday morning.
So while I usually get rid of duplicates, especially re-issues, in the permanent collection, I think I just keep both. While I’d never knowingly have two, this one does have the new cover, with the cartoon chipmunks on it. Plus, it’s in stereo, and that’s pretty rare. It also happens to be in virtually mint condition, so this is the copy I’ll pull out on those once a decade occasions that I want to hear The Chipmunks.
Cost: $2, $607 Remaining
David Seville & The Chipmunks, Let’s All Sing With The Chipmunks, Liberty 3132, 1959
I think even Ross Bagdasarian, I mean David Seville, knew what a hit he had on his hands when he created The Chipmunks. He was a really prolific pop song writer who experimented with recording voices at one speed and playing them back at a faster speed. In 1958, he sang Witch Doctor with a sped up voice singing the chorus and the record shot to number one. For his next experiment, he played around with sped up voices singing in harmony, and the result was The Chipmunks.
Naming them for the top three executives at Liberty Records, Alvin Simon and Theodore released The Chipmunk Song in December 1958 and their record also shot to number one, where it stayed for a month, long past the Christmas season. Naturally, an album was needed to reach the stores, but it wasn’t ready until early January.
So thankfully, there’s just the one Christmas song. Unfortunately, however, it was such a rush job that the other songs are mostly public domain standards that are just fairly boring to hear even once. The cover has “realistic” chipmunks that needed to be redrawn when the characters moved to an animated television series. So there’s really no need to look for this record, unless you’re lucky enough to find it pressed on red vinyl (those copies are worth hundred of dollars!). But today was the first time this season that I heard The Chipmunk Song, so I had to feature this today.
Cost: $2, $609 Remaining
Jimmy Bryant, Play Country Guitar With Jimmy Bryant, Dolton BST-17505, 1966
Records came out for every possible application. It wasn’t a thing that people said, but there was a record for that. Guitar lessons by record were a natural. When you’re a struggling Seattle based label trying to please your corporate parent Liberty Records, a sale is a sale, and records don’t get much cheaper to produce than this one.
The packaging had to be a bit complicated though. There’s a 10 page instruction booklet with some very simple instructions that may as well be hieroglyphics for all the sense they made to an air guitar player like myself. And, while original owner took pains to bring this records from The Hague, Netherlands, somewhere along the line this record was in a flood, yet managed to keep the booklet intact, mold stains aside.
This is actually just one of a series of instruction records from Dolton Records. The Ventures were the incredibly successful group that attracted Liberty to buy Dolton, so having them release more records for their adoring fans, the better for the company. As an instrumental group that millions of people knew, they probably had a lot of credibility with struggling musicians.
Jimmy Bryant, though, I’m not so sure about. Yes, he had a legitimate Country music resume, but I had to look him up. Wikipedia says he “was difficult to work with”, so maybe after 20 years of being in the business this was the best deal he could get. It’s a little sad, because I think he has something to teach me.
Cost: $1, $772 Remaining
Julie London, Send For Me, Liberty LST-7171, 1961
I love Julie London records. She never sold too many records, yet Liberty cranked out 2-3 a year for close to 15 years. You just know that Don & Megan Draper had a few of them in their record collection. This is music for the 3 Martini Lunch crowd, and the men who bought these records knew what kind of woman they wanted to listen to.
The kind that possibly wear nothing on their front cover, which is confirmed by a sketch of her on the back cover wearing nothing but a trench coat. The songs back up the artwork. Julie uses her sultry low voice to declare that she must have that man, points out how good she is for her baby, and pleads for said baby to come home. Unbelievably, there’s a song with the title Tain’t What You Do.
Liberty released 31 albums in 14 years by Julie London. Collecting them all would be a real feat considering only six of them charted. That won’t stop me from trying!
Cost: $2, $869 Remaining