Monday, September 30, 2013

Earworm Italliano

On Sundays the Classic FM station in my town offers an hour of Italian music with two local hosts.

This past Sunday they featured a song I hadn't heard in maybe 40 years: "Eh, Cumpari!"

It was written by Julius LaRosa and Archie Bleyer and recorded by LaRosa in 1953. My family had a copy of the recording, and I seem to remember that we played it a lot.

Or maybe we didn't play it all that much, but I kept imagining we were.

I say this because "Eh, Cumpari!" is what we now call an "earworm" -- the kind of song you can't get out of your head after you've heard it, to the point where it seems that nothing short of dynamite will dislodge it.

The '50s seemed to provide a bumper crop of earworms. Anyone remember Rosemary Clooney singing "Come On-a My House"?

Anyone want to forget Rosemary Clooney singing "Come On-a My House"?

Ms. Clooney reportedly wanted to forget it. In later years, she said her boss at Columbia Records, Mitch Miller, made her do it. Yes, that Mitch Miller.

"Come On-a My House" is probably the only hit song ever co-written by a Pulitzer winner (William Saroyan) and a purveyor of chipmunk tunes (Ross Bagdasarian, alias David Seville, who gave us Alvin and the Chipmunks, who, to be fair, had a pretty decent cartoon show in the '60s).

And let's not forget "If I Knew You Were Comin', I'd've Baked a Cake" and "How Much Is That Doggie in the Window." (As though we could forget them, and isn't that dynamite starting to look pretty good right now?)

I just found out through a Slate article, written by Mark Steyn, that both songs were written by the same guy, Bob Merrill, who also wrote that "People ... who need people ... are the luckiest people in the world." (Especially if they can also manage to forget "If I Knew You Were Comin', I'd've Baked a Cake" and "How Much Is That Doggie in the Window.")

But back to "Eh, Cumpari!" (You knew I'd get back to it eventually. Sorry, but it's my job here.)

The lyrics to "Eh, Cumpari!" are in Italian, but in English they are something like: "Hey, pal, music is playing! What is playing? The whistle! And what does the whistle sound like?" (Cue sound effect, then go over the same routine again with a saxophone, mandolin, violin, trumpet and trombone.)

I don't think the lyrics lose anything in translation because there was nothing there to be lost in the first place.

If you haven't heard "Eh, Cumpari!" and have a desperate need to do so, you can click here.

But don't say I didn't warn you.