Happy Pasts Preserved on Vintage Children’s Records

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Chipmunks children's records

I’m a big kid at heart. I admit it.

And when it comes to collecting records, there are some touchstones of my childhood that have made cool additions to my archive, some for the vintage art, and others for the actual music contained within. 

It all started with wanting to find a good condition copy of the original Chipmunks LP on Liberty Records, the one on red vinyl with the cover of the critters as actual rodents before they became cutesy TV stars with their own cartoon. Its a record I used to see on the walls of collectors shops going for more than I cared to pay for it. Nowadays, no one really cares about the Chipmunks, as the franchise (if you will) has been ruined by years of cruddy incarnations.  They can do what they want to their character-brands, but the can’t take away my memories of a more fun and innocent time when these simple cartoon characters were actually pretty cool. And it certainly helps that you can find the red vinyl album pretty reasonably these day. I see it around from time to time for around $10.

But, when I happened to find good condition copies of a later Chipmunk album I had as a kid — The Chipmunks Songbook — I had to have it.

Memory lane.

Then I found a CD of The Chipmunks Play The Beatles Hits (which I had on LP as a kid; I have yet to find a good vinyl copy).

Anyhow, for many years it was all quiet on the kidz recordz collecting front: a 78 RPM set of Dr. Seuss’ “The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins” here, a Red Raven Movie Record there.

Gay Purr-eeThen, a couple years ago I found a sealed copy of Gay Purr-ee, the soundtrack to the 1962 Warner Brothers animated classic starring the voice of Judy Garland … for $1!  I have yet to open this thing — it just feels wrong to open it.  One thing leads to another, however, and this put me on a quest (of sorts) for the soundtrack to the equally fine feline flick, The Aristocats.  This was the last Disney film I paid attention to before my ascension to I’m-no-longer-a-little-kid-hood. I really liked The Aristocats, though.  In fact, I liked it so much that my Mom took me to see it in the theater several times.  In retrospect, I think she saw the writing on the wall, since around that time I was playing the quirky strange B-side to The Beatles “Let It Be” single a lot : “You Know My Name (Look Up The Number).” Perhaps she thought some Disney wholesomeness would save me.

Curiously, Wikipedia says, “The film is noted for being the last film project to be approved by Walt Disney himself, as he died in late 1966, before the film was released.”  Coincidence that I lost interest in Disney after this?  Hmmm…  Perhaps it was simply that I discovered Frank Zappa a couple years later.

Anyhow, I’m not sure what is going on out there in the world of record collecting, but in the last six months I’ve found a bunch of excellent condition vintage kids records in the bargain bins, so I’ve been snapping them up.  Maybe there is such a limited market for all things Disney on vinyl these days that even the collectors shops have given up on this stuff?

Disney4x4I dunno. And I don’t care. I’m just happy to have these things at a price that I can justify.

Here are some recent finds:

Pinocchio: This is really a very nice mono pressing of the original soundtrack.  And sure, I have the Blu-ray in DTS-HD Master Audio in 5.1 surround. But for that time when I don’t want to watch through the movie just to hear the original version of “When You Wish Upon A Star,” this is really sweet. And the artwork is really neat.

The Aristocats: I found it! Well, almost. This is a studio retelling  of the movie, and features narration by Sterling Holloway “with members of the original cast.”  Perhaps they didn’t want to pay Eva Gabor any additional royalties for the use of her voice as Duchess on the LP? Whatever. This disc  is worth owning for the beautiful full color booklet inside, and to have the jazzy swing of “Ev’rybody Wants to Be A Cat” at my fingertips, along with some great sounds of other cat voices that sound like a cross between Tom Waits and Scatman Crothers.

Lady and the Tramp: This too is a studio recreation sans the original versions of the songs, but it’s still really nice version of the songs penned by Peggy Lee and Sonny Burke.  It also revealed something very curious to me. The version of “Bella Note” here sounds like a template for the centerpiece ballad to none other than La Cage Aux Folles some 14 years later on Broadway, “Song on the Sand.”   Click on the links and judge for yourself.

Winnie The Pooh: Subtitled “17 Songs From The Pooh Songbook starring Jack Gilford” on Golden Records, finding an old album like this sealed (!) was too much to pass up for $1.  In case you boomers don’t remember Jack Gilford, he had a huge career on Broadway but was more known to many of us as the Cracker Jack man in the old TV commercials back in the day.

Teddy Bear's PicnicTeddy Bear’s Picnic: This was in too good a condition to pass up for 50 cents, and for the artwork, which has the most limp-wristed baby bear on the cover. Maybe I just notice these things ‘cuz its a gay cliche (and I’m gay) but I still find stuff like this quite funny, and it certainly makes me wonder about the back story on that drawing.  We’ll probably never know.  The album also has a version of “Smokey the Bear” on it! I had the song on a 45 as a little kid and played to death on my little record player.This sounds like it could be the one I had.

Magoo in Hi-Fi

Magoo In Hi Fi: This one I bought for the cover.  And after playing it once I’ll probably just enjoy looking at the cover.  I mean, file this one under “What Were They Thinking?”  It is quite literally the voice of Mr. Magoo (Jim Backus) babbling on about the glories of his then conceptually brand new high fidelity sound system as music plays in the background (as if he is playing a record for you. Got it?). Don’t believe me?  Well, someone has digitized this 1956 wonder for your entertainment on YouTube (embedded below) so you can check it out for yourself.

So there, I’ve tied back a piece on children’s records to the world of audiophiles.

As Frank Zappa used to say: “Hotcha!”

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