Denise – Denis

In my earlier post, The Mysteries Five, I speculated about the possible influence of a song on the choice of name for the popular cartoon character Scooby Doo.  I was recently contacted by one of the contributors to a part of the Scooby Doo page on Wikipedia (see update and comment to the original post for details).  An interesting piece of information to come out of our communication was the fact that a well known writer on many animation series, including Scooby Doo, Mark Evanier, has also expressed an opinion that a song may have inspired the name Scooby Doo.

In an item on his own news website, POVONLINE – NEWS from ME, on June 10th 2002, he suggested that the song Denise by Randy and the Rainbows (1963), which has a repeated phrase, “scooby doo”, rather than the more common doobee-doo, may have been the inspiration for the name of the well known and much loved cartoon character!  I think that the idea has good reason to be taken seriously, as Denise is from six years before The Archies song I suggested.  Also Mark Evanier is an experienced and knowledgeable writer, with a great deal of insider insight of the the animation world.  His website has a wealth of background information on a whole range of people and events that he had direct contact with – for more details see his about m.e.

Randy-and-the-RainbowsAnyway, before I become distracted with the wonderful and fascinating details on Mark Evanier’s website, back to the song he mentioned, Denise, by Randy and the Rainbows.  I looked it up on YouTube and found several copies.  It is a traditional doo-wop song and it was one of the last big hits of the doo-wop era, which died soon after the arrival of The Beatles in America, when music tastes changed dramatically.  For a few more details of the song and Randy and the Rainbows see the post on Joe Troiano’s blog which has a great collection of almost forgotten music information, including a recent interview with Randy Safuto from the related JoeT’s Soda Shop radio show on Oldiesplus.net

Amazingly some of the original Randy and the Rainbows are still singing – here are two websites dedicated to keeping their fans updated of their news:  http://www.randyandtherainbows.com/index.html  and http://www.randyandtherainbowssafuto.com/

I used to listen to a lot of songs from this era from the mid- 1970s until the early 1980s, when radio shows dedicated to playing songs like this became popular on the BBC and local commercial stations too.  For many years I also collected original singles from that era too.  I enjoyed listening to much of the music from that generation just before my own, from simpler times and more innocent days.

Listening to the original version of Denise I immediate recognised the tune and lyrics, but the first time I had heard that song it was in an adapted and updated form.  The version I heard in 1978, when it was released as a single in the UK, had the title Denis (pronounced Denee), and the singer was a woman.  Debbie Harry, the lead singer of the pop/punk band Blondie, burst onto the UK pop scene with her unique raunchy, slightly aggressive style, that soon become very popular.

This version of the song, with her improvised lyrics in pidgin-French were excitingly different at the time.   Blondie performing this on Top of the Pops certainly got a lot of attention, and the even more raunchy video wasn’t shown on UK TV screens until much later.  They were prevented from having a blockbuster no.1 record with their first European single, by the equally sensational Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush and then the massively popular Matchstalkmen and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs by Brian & Michael.

Denis topped out at no.2 in the charts for four weeks, before falling back down, but it had successfully launched Blondie onto the UK music scene, where they enjoyed much success in the following years.  The contrast between the two versions of essentially the same song is a great example of how much music and attitudes changed between 1963 and 1977, when the two songs were recorded, and yet I enjoy both versions, which I suppose says something about the quality of the original songwriting by Neil Levenson, as well as my eclectic taste in music.

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Memory

In preparing my next post I thought of the title without any problem at all, as memories and cats are forever linked in my mind, by this song.  I believe I first heard it sung by Elaine Paige on a late night preview of the musical Cats on BBC2 in 1981.  It was many years before I saw the musical performed on stage, but it was just as magical as when I first heard it 30 years before.  A mixture of poignant, melancholy and hope combine to make it timeless and wonderful – Elaine Paige singing this, incomparable!

The ‘cat man’ from Logan’s Run

This is a clip of one of my favourite eccentric characters in a film. (Logan’s Run 1976)  Peter Ustinov plays an old man who lives in what appears to be an old derelict court-house, with dozens of cats.  In this dystopian future world young people from a nearby closed city society have a very limited lifespan so the couple have never seen an old man with wrinkled skin before.  They also have no pets in their society so have never seen cats.  In telling them about his cats the old man mixes in quotes from T S Elliot’s Old Possum’s Book Of Practical Cats.

The Mysteries Five

Whilst watching the video of the song, Sugar, Sugar by the Archies from 1969, I noticed that there was something about some of the movements of the large white dog and the sound effects that reminded me of a even more popular and much loved cartoon series made around the same time.  I  wondered if there was any connection between the two cartoon series.  Investigating a mystery is something that appeals to most of us and so with the help of the internet I  delved into the origins of The Mysteries Five.

The background to the creation of the The Archie Show was my starting point.   It was commissioned by CBS for a Saturday morning TV slot, to replace one of several shows removed from the schedule after protests from parents.  They had complained that the content of many popular shows had become too violent and related to war.  The protests became organised with the formation of Action for Children’s Televison which was similar to the National Viewers and Listeners Association in the UK.  In 1968 public opinion in America was becoming polarised over involvement in the Vietnam War and protests were mounting about that too.  Shows like Jonny Quest, Space Ghost and The Herculoids by animators Hanna & Barbera were all removed from the Saturday morning schedules and more family friendly and acceptable series were commissioned by the big networks like CBS.  One of the first of those new shows was The Archie Show.

archie-show_L02

A still from The Archie Show courtesy of The Cartoon Scrapbook

Created by the animation studio Filmation in 1968, The Archie Show was a popular success within the first few weeks and throughout the series run that year and it continued to be made in various adaptions until 1977.  The success in the UK of the single Sugar, Sugar, in 1969 was really all I can recall of the Archies, as I don’t think the TV show was ever shown in full here.  But the show that came along a year later remains popular even now!

In 1968, Fred Silverman, director of  daytime programming for CBS, began to develop new ideas for a show to build on the success of The Archie Show.  He asked the animation studio Hanna & Barbera, to begin story, character and animation development.  The working title for the new project was The Mysteries Five.

Story writers Joe Ruby & Ken Spears began work on the project, with animator Iwao Takamoto joining them.  They began planning a series based around a group of five teenagers and a dog.  At first, like The Archies, the teenagers were all in a band and it was intended that they would perform songs in each show.  They also added another element to the show, inspired by the popular radio show of the 1940s I Love a Mystery  and the plan was to have the group investigate mysteries involving ghosts, zombies and things that go bump in the night!

The original names for the characters in The Mysteries Five were: Geoff, Mike, Kelly, Linda, and Linda’s brother “W.W.” and their dog was called Too Much.  They switched between ideas for the dog, but put forward their first proposals with Too Much as a large sheepdog, like Hot Dog from The Archies.   However, when Fred Silverman reviewed the first set of proposals he rejected a lot of the ideas.  Whilst he liked the idea of the mystery stories, he didn’t like much else.  They discussed their other ideas, including changing the dog to a Great Dane, but this raised a possible problem with the dog being too similar to the popular newspaper comic strip dog Marmaduke, who had been around since 1954.  After Joseph Barbera was consulted it was agreed to create the dog as a Great Dane, but they retained the name Too Much.

The second set of proposals the writers prepared was based around the TV sit-com The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, that had run on CBS from 1959-63.  With this set of ideas they moved away from The Archie show as the basis and dropped the number of teenagers from 5 to 4, loosing the Mike character, but keeping the dog, Too Much.  Whilst these ideas took shape the animator Iwao Takamoto began to create the dog character in drawings.  He asked an old friend with expertise regarding Great Danes for the pedigree standards of the breed and then broke the rules designing Too Much with bowed legs, a sloped back and a double chin.

By the time the team put their second set of proposals for The Mysteries Five to Fred Silverman, they had also renamed all the characters to Ronnie, Daphne, Velma and Shaggy.  Fred Silverman liked the new proposals, but still felt that more changes were needed.  He changed the proposed title to Who’s S-S-Scared?  The show was progressed to the centre-piece of the 1969-70 season and plans were made for making the series.  It has been suggested by some that the president of CBS, Frank Stanton, still felt that the material was too scary for children and that the idea almost never made it to the TV screens.  According to Ruby and Spears, some misunderstanding may have been due to the emphasis of the mystery elements over the humour in the storyboards that Joe Barbera used to sell the show.   Storyboards of the first three episodes also record the late change of the character name Ronnie to Fred – those storyboards were once available on the Cartoon Network website, but are now archived at Internet Archive (web.archive.org)

Hurried further development led to the comedy element being increased, which resulted in the focus of the stories being Shaggy and the dog, Too Much.  The rock band element was also dropped at this late stage and a final name change for the series was made.  Ruby and Spears, the writers, have claimed that Fred Silverman told them he was inspired by the closing words of Frank Sinatra’s recording of Strangers in the Night, when Frank sings “doo-be-doo-be-doo” and that it led him to rename the dog Scooby Doo.  As a result the show title became Scooby Doo, Where Are You?  Whilst that does sound possible, I can’t help wonder if The Archies had one last, but important influence on the successor to their Saturday morning slot on CBS – their hit song Feeling So Good (S.K.O.O.B.Y.  D.O.O.) from 1968 (click here to go to a copy of the video on this blog).  Perhaps the mystery of what really inspired the name Scooby Doo may never be solved. (See update at end of this post for another suggestion too!)

Who's_Afraid_Of_The_Big_Bad_Werewolf_title_card

So that is the brief outline of how the Mystery Inc team were assembled – those loveable characters that have scared and entertained so many children and adults over the last 44 years.  Who could have known when those first few episodes were shown that they would go on to be such a huge global success, inspiring many sequels and similar style shows by both Hanna & Barbera as well as many by their competitors like Filmation too.  More recently there were live action Hollywood movies and the original shows, as well as the later rearrangements, are still shown on TV networks all over the world.

The very first intro sequence for Scooby Doo Where Are You? appears in the previous post, along with the more familiar version with a title song added.  The song version is the one that I know from watching the series for the first time, around 1972, when I believe it was first shown in the UK.  If I am browsing TV channels and happen to come across an old episode I find it very hard not to sit back and enjoy the simple scares, jokes and fun of Scooby Doo and the gang!

This article was written with a lot of background detail coming from Wikipedia and their sources.  Throughout the article I have given links to the source articles for the various facts I discovered.  If you want to check the details or learn more then follow those blue links to the original.  Most of that material has been compiled by those dedicated collectors of information who are responsible for the wealth of information that is available to us all.

Update

On 19th June I received a comment from the author of most (not all) of the Development section of the Wikipedia article about Scooby Doo.  He wishes to be acknowledged just as FF.  Before approving the comment I emailed him to clarify how best to correct a few unintentional errors that had crept into my post, by me misinterpreting some of the details of his original work on Wikipedia.  I have now amended my post so that is in line with his comment below.  It was also interesting in our email exchange that he mentioned that animation writer Mark Evanier also felt that song lyrics may have suggested the name Scooby Doo.  Mark proposed Denise, by Randy and the Rainbows (1963) as the possible inspiration (see News from ME June 10th, 2002).  They really do sing scooby doo repeatedly throughout the song, in the way that doo-wop singers often used made up phrases between the rest of the lyrics.  I have been informed that although Mark didn’t work on Scooby Doo in the development stage he did later, so perhaps he has a good point.  It seems very likely that Denise influenced the later song by The Archies that started my research for this post.  If you check out the Denise link you may find the song familiar as it was covered by Blondie in 1977, but changed to be about a man called Denis (pronounced Denee).

Scooby Doo, Where Are You?

This is the original intro for the first episode of the first series of Scooby Doo shown on the CBS network in the USA in 1969.  They introduced the song theme on the end of the debut episode and at the beginning of the rest of the series.  (I had read that this theme without a song was deemed too scary, but it seems that was another of the ‘too scary’ rumours that surround the development of Scooby Doo.  (See comment below from a contributor to the Wikipedia article on Scooby Doo.)

This is the early intro for Scooby Doo, Where Are You? with full song.  It wasn’t the only version as later series altered the clips used and there were many later reinventions of the show as each generation of children have discovered Scooby Doo, in this and other forms.  Just don’t mention Scrappy to fans of the original series!