Oh yes. It’s that time of year. Time to get all yuletide-y. Time to shake it like a bowl full of jelly. Or perhaps rock the dreidel of love. Or maybe sing about Kwanzaa like you’re Mario Lanza. (I got a million of ’em! But I can sense you’re ready to move on.)
Whatever your holiday proclivities, however, one thing unites us all this December: to varying degrees, we’ll be inundated with a jolly flood of Christmas songs for the next three weeks — in our cars, in our corner stores, at work, at the mall, in commercials, fa-la-la-la-la, et cet-er-a. (At our house we play them in the living room non-stop, as if we live in a hotel elevator, because we’re hardcore like that.)
Anyway, here’s the story behind one of those seasonal tunes:
In early 1958, Ross Bagdasarian was down to his last $200. He proceeded to spend $190 on a 3-speed tape recorder with the intention of trying to regain his financial footing, because hey, you gotta risk it for the biscuit, am I right? He couldn’t have known it at the time, but the investment would soon turn the part-time songwriter slash bit-part actor into a multi-millionaire.
Using his new toy, Bagdasarian quickly wrote and recorded a song called “Witch Doctor” under the name David Seville. By recording his singing at a low speed and then playing it back at normal speed, he produced a high-pitched voice which sounded like he’d been sucking on helium-filled balloons. The single surprised everyone by shooting up to #1.
Immediately thinking of a follow-up, Bagdasarian modified his recorder so it could handle a variety of speeds. This allowed him to create multiple voices, and soon after, The Chipmunks were born. Singing all the parts himself, Bagdasarian introduced the world to three lovable, squeaky siblings by way of a holiday record. He noted that his son started asking if it was Christmas yet before the leaves had even changed color and figured other kids probably did the same. That idea provided the spark.
Released as a single in December of 1958, “The Chipmunk Song” rocketed up the charts, selling millions of copies before Santa even set foot in his sleigh that year, and giving Bagdasarian his second #1 in about seven months. The Chipmunks became a global phenomenon, spawning records, TV shows, movies, and even a spin-off girl group, The Chipettes. It was the last Christmas song to reach #1 on the US pop chart.
So without further ado, here are Simon, Theodore, and Alvin. Alvin?