Nerdstalgia: My Toddler Self’s Favorite Album
by Perry Michael Simon on August 7, 2012
We’d all like to think of ourselves as people who always had great taste in music. Sadly, this is not true.
I was reminded of this the other day, when an acquaintance of mine from radio who shall remain nameless (Little Joe Pittman of the Don Geronimo Show in Sacramento — whoops, not nameless anymore) tweeted his favorite albums of all time. His were mostly classic rock staples, plus Foo Fighters, his favorite band. In my mind, I started to compile my own list, and between the obvious classics (“London Calling,” “Radio City,” “Kind of Blue”) and favorites for more personal reasons (“Marquee Moon”) and more current stuff (hmm, do I go with the Avetts or Arcade Fire or Black Keys… too commercial?), it was an exercise in balancing what I like against what other people will think about what I like. And then… then… I made the fateful mistake of trying to think back at what music I liked when I was REALLY little. And it hit me: My favorite album from my formative, pre-teen, pre-tween years was….
“The Chipmunks Sing The Beatles Hits.”
I kid you not.
Now, these were not the Chipmunks you might remember from their 1980s revival, all streetwise and covering “new wave” hits, nor were these the Chipmunks whose movies have provided David Cross with both income and comedy material. No Chipettes, no Jason Lee. No, these were the original, primitively-animated early ’60′s Alvin, Simon, and Theodore, and they were great for the partially-formed mind of a toddler, because they were exceedingly simple in plot and execution and there were only 26 episodes that repeated in syndication over and over and over and over, and kids do love that repetition. I committed every episode (and the accompanying Clyde Crashcup shorts) to memory, to be mentally replayed when they weren’t actually airing on TV.
“The Chipmunks Sing the Beatles Hits” came out in late 1964 on Liberty Records. It included 12 songs, all the Beatles hits to that date. “She Loves You,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “A Hard Day’s Night”… all rendered with love and high-pitched, sped-up voices. I knew the originals, but damned if I didn’t wear out that Chipmunks album. I LIKED IT BETTER THAN THE ORIGINALS. They’re chipmunks… and they’re singing Beatles songs! Clever AND tuneful! When you’re in your low single digits, that’s as creatively revolutionary as it gets.
In retrospect, I was an idiot.
But we all are when we consider the kind of music we liked as tots. DON’T LIE: You liked Barney. You were a Wiggles fan. You were into, what’s his name, Yanni. Or is that the pan flute guy? No, Yanni’s the new age guy. Who’s the kids’ music one? Oh, right, Raffi. I knew it was one of those one-name-ends-in-”i” guys. Now, more recently, you get more cred in kids’ music with people like They Might Be Giants or Dan Zanes doing it, but when you’re as fascinated with the CD case or the iPod as with the actual music, the artist hardly matters. I’ve confessed to liking indefensibly lame music when I was little; now, it’s your turn, in the comments. Lesser Disney music? Kidz Bop? Schoolhouse Rock (featuring the legendary Jack Sheldon, whose career and life have been pretty amazing, and maybe Schoolhouse Rock wasn’t so lame, come to think of it)? Jimmy Buffett? (Yes, he has kids’ versions of his hits) Don’t try to claim that you were raised as a Pitchforkian, listening only to indie critics’ darlings of whom nobody else (okay, maybe Jonah Ray) has ever heard. What was the soundtrack of your childhood? Spill it here.