Ross Bagdasharian


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- Ross Bagdasarian (aka David Seville) (RIP 1972) -- vocals,

   keyboards

 

 

 

 

 

- Alvin and the Chipmunks

- The Bedbugs

- David Seville

 

 


 

Genre: pop

Rating: 1 star *

Title:  The Mixed Up World of Bagdasarian

Company: Liberty

Catalog:  LST 7451
Year:
 1966

Country/State: Fresno, California

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 1

Price: $20.00

Not having made the connection between Ross Bagdsarian and David Seville, I grabbed this album at a yard sale for a buck.  I remember wondering whether it was a comedy album, or one of those mid-'60s collections that sought to capitalize on the audience's growing interest in Indian music.  Even though the cover looked like a swami enjoying the results of popular success, it turned out Bagdsarian was actually born and raised in Fresno, California, though he came from Albanian decent. Regardless of my initial reasons for buying the LPI can't begin to tell you how much I enjoy this album.  Not that most of these songs are any good, rather the enjoyment factor comes from listening to the songs; forming opinions on them and the reading the hysterically inept liner notes from Richard Oliver.  I have no idea who Oliver was, but every time I listen to "The Mixed-Up World of Bagdasarian" and read his fawning song-by-song descriptions, I have to laugh and wonder whether the two of us were listening to the same collection of tunes.

 

There's a ton of online bibliographical information on Bagdsarian so I won't go into details.  Enough to say that by the mid-'60s, under the alias David Seville, he'd become a major profit center for Liberty Records via a series of comedy/children's albums credited to Alvin & the Chipmunks.  Nothing more than speculation on my part, but I'm guessing that Bagdsarian wanted to show he was more than a one trick pony by releasing an album under his given name.  Released in 1966, in spite of the hip cover art and title, "The Mixed-Up World of Bagdasarian" was essentially a compilation of previously recorded singles and shelved studio tunes.  I'm no Bagdasarian scholar, but by my count, the collection included a series six "A" sides he'd recorded under various guises for Liberty.  Chronologically, the oldest tune was 1962's 'Armen's Theme'.  The newest was a 1966 remake of 'Come On-a My House'.  Musically most of this stuff was completely forgettable '50s styled, white bread pop.  In fact the only truly memorable performances were a horrible Beatles parody credited to The Bedbugs ('Yeah Yeah') and the revved up remake of 'Come On-a My House' - which served as the album's highlight.  The funny thing is, that in spite of how bad most of this stuff was, underneath it all, Bagdasarian seemed to actually have a nice voice and a decent sense of melody.  Under different circumstances it isn't hard to imagine him having been able to record an interesting rock-oriented collection.

 

Unfortunately that never happened.  Only 53, Bagdasarian suffered a fatal heart attack in January, 1972.

 

"The Mixed-Up World of Bagdasarian" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Gotta Get To Your House   (Ross Bagdasarian) - 1:32  rating: * star

Pulling a trick out of his Alvin and the Chipmunks catalog, probably the most interesting thing on 'Gotta Get To Your House' was the slightly sped-up barrelhouse piano accompaniment.  Other than that, the opener didn't have a great deal going for it, unless you wanted to hear Bagdashian mouth the title over and over.  From the liner notes: "The humor, warmth, and confusion of a flustered young boy in love is presented in a lilting melody, with just the right amount of dialogue of the boy talking to himself,  On this recording Ross is half the orchestra."   Hum, I wonder if I was listening to the same song ...

Liberty had previously released the song as a single:

- 1963's 'Gotta Get To Your House' b/w 'Cecillia' (Liberty catalog number 55557)

2.) Russian Roulette (Dark Eyes) (instrumental)   (adapted by Ross Bagdasarian)  - 1:40   rating: * star

Faceless MOR tune that sounded like a bunch of deaf Russian back-up singers trying to panhandle enough money for a pack of cigarettes.   The liner notes description of this one: "From the lyricisms of the first selection, Ross sweeps you into the excitement if a popular Russian folk song enhanced by exciting banjo playing an a tremendous chorus, gradually building to a gigantic crescendo."  Seriously ???  Am I not listening to the right album ?

3.) The Prom   (Ross Bagdasarian) - 2:28   rating: * star

'The Prom' sounded like something Bagdasarian might have written for Alvin and the Chipmunks, but decided not to use the sped-up studio effects.  I still can't figure out if it was meant to be funny, sappy, or just plain irritating.  And now to the liner notes: "Returning to the simplicity and warmth of boy meets girl, this selection begins as a slow waltz, and that first dance between a boy and a girl who have admired each other from afar.  As the song progresses, notice how the instrumentation changes with the excitement of each new little discovery the couple makes.  Even the slight touch of humor is there.  This selection is a near perfect example of Ross' insight into human feelings."  In practical terms you got to hear two and a half minutes of inane chatter between Badhasharian and an anonymous woman.  It was about as charming as emptying the kitchen garbage can.

4.) Navel Maneuver (instrumental)   (Ross Bagdasarian) - 1:55   rating: *** star

I'm not going to try to con you into believing 'Navel Maneuver' was a great song, but compared to what had gone before it, the song reflected a massive improvement in quality.  The best description I've ever seen of this one is "middle eastern flavored titty shaker.  Certainly not a politically correct description, but it does a good job of nailing the song's pseudo-exotic feel.   Imagine an Egyptian surf rock band ...  Bagdasharian apparently played most of the instruments.  Liberty also tapped it as an instantly obscure single:

- 1965's 'Navel Maneuver' (instrumental) b/w 'La Noche' (Liberty catalog number 55810)  And the liner note description: "Now transport your mind to a local club in Ankara.  The room is hot and sticky, but contains an exotic excitement.  On the stage you see various musical instruments, including 8 different drums.  The drummers all look like Bagdasarian.  In fact all of them are Ross as he sets the beat, mixed with a jazz flavor, for music guaranteed to inspire many belly dancers."

5.) Yeah, Yeah   (Ross Bagdasarian) - 1:54   rating: *** star

One of the sadder Beatles parodies you'll ever hear, 'Yeah, Yeah' had previously seen the light of day in 1964 as a single credited to The Bedbugs.  The combination of Bagdasarian's fake British accent; throwaway lyrics; the cash register sound effects were clearly meant to be funny, but weren't.  In fact, his rather obvious disdain for rock made it one of those tunes that was soooooooo bad, it's actually worth hearing.

- 1864's 'Yeah, Yeah' b/w 'Lucy Lucy' (Liberty catalog number 55679)  "Ross dedicates this to all the band rock 'n roll writing that has emerged in the past few years.  It's all here, nonsensical lyrics, sounds you've never heard before and - a cash register solo."

6.) Armen's Theme (instrumental)  (Ross Bagdasarian) - 2:22   rating: * star

Dedicated to Bagdasarian's wife, 'Armen's Theme' was another older track.  The instrumental had been released in 1956 as the first single credited to David Seville and His Orchestra.  Musically it was nothing more than a bland slice of MOR-pop with nothing going for it.  Under the title 'Yesterday and You' Bobby Vee had a hit with the tune.

- 1962's 'Armen's Theme' (instrumental) b/w 'Russian Roulette (Dark Eyes)' (instrumental) (Liberty catalog number 55462)  # 42 pop  "When first released, this immediately became a top international hit.  The feeling is very light and happy.  The lifting beginning with one guitar and Ross' special piano us gradually joined by various members of the band and chorus, until akk unite for a resounding finale."

 

(side 2)

1.) Lucy, Lucy  (Ross Bagdasarian) - 1:45   rating: * star

Well, the saccharine pop tune 'Lucy, Lucy sounded like something a young Pat Boone might have recorded.  Giving credit where due, it at least demonstrated Bagdasarian could sing and hold a melody.  Too bad the song was so forgettable.  This was another previously issued single.  In fact, with a different mix, it had also been released as "B" side on The Bedbugs' 1964 'Yeah, Yeah' single.

- 1963's 'Lucy, Lucy' b/w 'Scalliwags and Sinners' (Liberty catalog number 55619)  "Country music is not about to be ignored by Mr. Bagdasarian.  Here's a no-nonsense, simply-but-catchy melody of a country boy finding his girl with another guy.  But he valiantly stands by.  Incidentally, this is one of those endings I warned you about."  Another track where you had to wonder what the hell Oliver was talking about.  Vomit inducing.  By the way, Lucy should have kicked this loser's ass   LOL

2.) Maria from Madrid (instrumental)  (Ross Bagdasarian) - 2:01  rating: * star

Kicked along by what sounded like a harpsichord, 'Maria from Madrid' (the poor guy seemed to have a real problem coming up with clever song titles), has always reminded me of something that might have been lifted from The Adams Family television show.  "Not to be limited to the exotic East, Ross has invaded Madrid ad cine up with a rousing, hurdy-gurdy sound with instruments you've never heard before, because they don't exist!  He invented the sounds and leads them through to a pompous ending with what should be known as the Bagdasarian piano."  Well, I'd agree with the adjective pompous ...

3.) Scallywags and Sinners  (Ross Bagdasarian) - 2:10  rating: * star

Ever wondered what Jerry Lewis would have sounded like singing a cheesy, '50s pop tune with backing from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir?   Probably not, but it wouldn't be any worse than this tune !   "All right everyone, the meeting is ready to begin!  We're at the plantation, the showboat had docked and the singers are here to join in.  Start the hand clappin', the toe tappin', and everyone join in."    My suggestion; skip to the next song.

4.) Bagdad Express (instrumental)  (Ross Bagdasarian) - 2:08  rating: * star

I'm guessing he didn't realize Baghdad was spelled with a silent "H".  For once I actually agree with Oliver's comments since this was nothing more than throwaway film music.   "This is truly a story in sound and by rights should be a movie theme! As the train crosses the desert you can look out and see the spreading white sand and occasionally wandering tribes in the distances.  You'll hear their chants, but suddenly be distracted as the train shifts gears for the climb up the hill and then success as it pulls into the station."

5.) Freddy, Freddy  (Ross Bagdasarian) - 1:45  rating: * star

'Freddy, Freddy' sounds like a precursor to Bagdasarian's work with Alvin & the Chipmunks.  No idea who the you female singers were, but he seems to have played around, speeding up their vocals and adding some way-too-cute studio arrangements to the song.  Not sure why the background vocal at the end of the tune says "my name's Leonard".  "Freddy should be nominated as the most sought after man of the year with all the women nagging him to make his choice, even the trumpets are clawing!  The rhyming of the lyrics add to the fund.  I wonder what his secret is?  Obviously Freddy is a pretty popular guy, but ..."

6.) Come On-a My House  (Ross Bagdasarian - William Saroyen) - 2:06  rating: **** stars

Credited to Bagdsarian and his cousin William Saroyan (the lyrics and concept inspired by Saroyan's novel The Human Comedy), 'Come On-a My House' was written in 1939 and served as Bagdasarian's 1951 recording debut: The tune's probably best know for Rosemary Clooney's sizzling 1951 cover.  Inspired by Clooney's success Bagdasarian and Saroyen recorded their own version with Saroyen handling the spoken word sections and Bagdasarian the vocals.  Fourteen years later Bagdasarian recorded an updated version of the song.  Ditching the original's complex jazzy and spoken word arrangement, the update sported an updated, streamlined and rock-ish arrangement.  And here's a major surprise, showcasing Bagdsarian on lead vocals, some Beach Boys-styled backing vocals, and a blazing hot arrangement, the remake was a killer performance.  Easily the standout performance on the album.  Easily the only song on the album likely to have any attraction for a rock and roll audience.  And the liner notes: "Pardon the cliche, but this song needs no introduction.  Aside from being a gigantic success, it is probably one of the most recorded songs ever written, and a lot of well known stars have had this song to thank for their careers.  Written while traveling in a car again, Ross uses the unheard of total of a 45-piece orchestra and chorus on this version.  As with all the songs, he is the featured soloist.  It serves as a rousing finale to what is now understood as the Mixed-Up World of Ross Bagdasarian."

  credited to William Saroyan and Ross Bagdasarian

- 1951's 'Come On-a My House' b/w 'Oh! Beauty!' (Coral catalog 9 60544)

  credited to Ross Bagdasarian

- 1955's 'Come On-a My House' b/w 'Gotta Get To Your House' (Liberty catalog number 55837)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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