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Nerdstalgia: My Toddler Self’s Favorite Album

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.

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12 comments

  • My favorite was a record (yes, an actual record, played with a little needle on a stick in a box that looked like it was handcrafted by the 70′s) with Puff the Magic Dragon on one side, and Nikki Nikki Tembo on the other side. Thinking back, I think I’m lucky I’m not a super racist pot head…

  • FarleyK I used to listen to that same record. As a kid I always thought it was so cool that her dress was made out of whipped cream!

    I used to listen to a cassette of Wendy Fine’s “There’s an Orchestra in my Kitchen.” I still know every song!

  • I had a chipmunks record too, but it was from the early 80′s. I also remember a McD’s promo 45. I was a progressive child though, for my 9th birthday my aunt and uncle brought me to Rick Springfield.

  • My siblings and I used to love to play an LP by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, “Whipped Cream and Other Delights”. Apparently I had a fascination with the brass instruments. Also, never ones to shy away from a horrible pun, we giggled our little heads off asking for “pee on the grass”.
    It was years later that I realized, hey, that’s a *really* pretty woman on that cover.

  • There was a time when I wouldn’t go to sleep without listening to a cassette of Sonny and Cher’s Greatest Hits. I also treasured several vinyl LPs such as Walt Disney’s Christmas Carols, Aesop’s Fables, and Winnie the Pooh and the blustery day. The real horror item (I didn’t know at that age!!) is my copy of Brer Rabbit aka The Song of the South.

  • I had a 45 with the Robin Hood song on it (“Robin Hood, Robin Hood with his band of men…”) That I listened to constantly. Also had a “C is for Cookie” record that -while it was no “Me Want Cookie – so Share it Maybe” – was just the best!!!

  • The one CD that will always stick into my head will be “Yu-Gi-Oh!: Music to Duel By”. I played that CD endlessly and sang along with every track. I found the disc about a year ago, aync it up to my iPod and listened to it, and thought “I should’ve just kept this a memory.”

    I also remember going through a huge Aaron Carter phase.

  • “Spider-Man: Rock Reflections of A Superhero.” I got it from a fella dressed as Spider-Man at a Sears in the 1970′s. Great stuff. I wore out the vinyl. A lost gem, it was released on CD a few years back.

  • Oh man, I remember the OG Chipmunks. And Disco Duck, and Pac-Man fever. SchoolHouse Rock was awesome – I did a school project on “I’m just a Bill” in 9th grade or so. Non-kid focused music was that of the 1970′s South – Donnie and Marie, Sha Na Na, and whatever was playing on the country station at the time. I think I was 8 before I realized there was other types of music out there – just in time for 1980′s pop and Michael Jackson’s Thriller (which my mom bought for me at Sear’s).