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 Archies – Feeling So Good (S.K.O.O.B.Y D.O.O.)

This was another big hit for The Archies, particularly in the USA.   But did it influence the choice of name of the famous TV show Scooby Doo?  Mark Evanier, a writer on many animations series, including Scooby Doo, has commented, on June 10th, 2002, that Denise by Randy and the Rainbows(1963) might have influenced the choice of name.  It seems likely that at minimum it influenced this song by The Archies.  For more details on the origins of a Scooby Doo see my post The Mysteries Five.

Two Songs of 1969

marmalade - ob la di ob la da correctedTaking a break from photography, my thoughts turned to music and in particular the music of 1969.

Ob la di – Ob la da was No.1 in January of 1969, but I seem to remember it throughout the year and for many years after that too.  Kids at school would suddenly burst into song with the chorus and it was often played on the radio.  It was a huge hit for The Marmalade, who soon after shortened their name to just Marmalade.  It was not until a few years ago that I discovered that the song was written by Paul McCartney, as I was too young to be into The Beatles at the height of their fame.

This song was originally recorded by The Beatles on their White Album, 1968, and they went on to release it as a single and had a hit with it in many countries, but not in the UK or the USA.  This left the way open for The Marmalade to release their version.  When they topped the charts in January 1969, they became the first Scottish band to do so and celebrated by appearing on Top of the Pops that week wearing kilts – not that I personally remember it!  The video below is from another appearance on TOTP – no kilts in this version!

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At the other end of the year, in November 1969, the top selling single was by The Archies, and the song was Sugar, Sugar.  Again it is a song I knew very well from the radio, and I have often heard it in the years since then too, but I knew nothing about the ‘band’ at the time.  The Archies were actually a fictional band in a cartoon series.  The song was recorded by session musicians and singers Ron Dante and Toni Wine.  The two singers were the regular male and female singing voices of the characters in The Archie Show, a Saturday morning cartoon show produced by the animation company Filmation for the CBS TV network in America.

The show, very loosely based on the 1940s Archie comic books, only lasted for one season on CBS, in 1968.  The teenage characters, along with their large white dog, formed a band, performing songs in the show each week.  The video below is the full song Sugar, Sugar, as it was featured in one of the TV shows.  If something about the video reminds you of another cartoon series, then you may be interested in my next post – The Mysteries Five?