Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Our friend, Mister Comma

The other day, I purchased---as the Japanese call them---a "doughnut" (i.e. 45 rpm single) by a favorite singer of mine, one whom I tend to get all completist about. It's from the mid-50s; I paid 94 cents for it; and I had a pretty good hunch from the title of one of the songs alone that the repertoire contained in its grooves wasn't exactly Rodgers and Hart.

One side was written by Ross Bagdasarian, the co-composer, along with William Saroyan (!), of "Come-on-a-My-House", and also of that major cultural touchstone of the late 1950s, "The Chimpmunk Song." (An aside: I sat next to Saroyan on a plane one time. Suddenly, it began to look like we might be going into the drink, and he commenced to laugh his fool head off. I seem to recall that I was somehow perversely impressed by the action. . .as in "if your name is on the bullet." But I digress as is my wont.)

That song in question is "The Touch of Love" from the motion picture, The Devil's Hairpin, which starred----I'm fairly certain---Cornell Wilde (I swear I didn't look that up in the "Maltin"). But it's the flip (so to speak) side of the disc that I want to focus on here; a little ditty entitled "You're Gonna Flip Mom." Because the title as printed on the record label (Decca) lacks a comma between flip and mom, and due to the fact that punctuation errors were somewhat uncommon in the pre-illiterate 1950s, when I first looked at the label I honestly thought the number was about exacting potential physical harm upon one's mother, i.e. "be careful or you will cause mom to take a tumble." (Punctuation is soooo important!) But when I got home and listened to the production, that's not what it's about at all. Instead, the narrator is predicting to her mother that she is soon going to, in the parlance of the era, FLIP (i.e. have a highly positive response) when she meets the singer's new beau.

The song (if you care to call it that) is by the team of Dave Coleman and Dick Sherman. In all likelihood, the latter member of the team is the selfsame Richard Sherman who is half-responsible, along with his brother, Robert, for writing such questionably enduring works as (lazily and blatantly pasted from their internet fan site....those Sherman boys are so cutting edge) "MARY POPPINS, CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG, THE ARISTOCATS, SNOOPY COME HOME, TOM SAWYER, THE SLIPPER AND THE ROSE (slap her in the nose), THE TIGGER MOVIE (WINNIE THE POOH), CHARLOTTE'S WEB and LITTLE NEMO (ADVENTURES IN SLUMBERLAND) and famous songs including: Annette Funicello's 'Tall Paul' and Ringo Starr's 'You're Sixteen' and (eek) 'It's A Small World.'"

As for Flip's co-writer, I just now Googled "Dave Coleman", and it appears that he is also---among his many other accomplishments: a baseball player, member of the www.photo.net community, hockey referee, sloop racer, author of "Making Relationships Matter," snowmobile salesman, microbial ecologist, and member of the Naperville, Ilinois City Council since 1997. No disrespect intended, but I hope that Mister Coleman is more gifted at these other callings than he is as a songwriter. To whit:

You're gonna flip mom
When you meet him
He's just the coolest boy in town
In his Levis and his ducktail
He's gonna get you off the ground

You're gonna flip mom
When you see him
So please forgive me if I boast
He's the greatest, he's the gonest
You're gonna dig this boy the most

You oughta see the way the girls all look up
When we're cruisin' in his crazy set of wheels
And everytime he looks at me I get all shook up
Now you know the way your daughter feels

He's comin' over tonight at seven
And when he says hello to you
You're gonna flip mom
Then you'll be hip mom
To why he flips me, too

This release was clearly a desperate attempt to sell one of the most soigne, sophisticated and gifted jazz chanteueses of the era to the teen set; or, to put it another way, think "Homer and Jethro Sing Noel Coward."

Seldom has a better singer been required to wrap his or her larynx around a more substandard piece of effluvia than "You're Gonna Flip COMMA Mom." Give up on who our unlucky song interpreter might be? The answer is here.

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