Synopsis of Pop Music
“We’re the chipmunks,
Alvin, Simon, Theodore!”
Long before there were The Archies, there were The Chipmunks. Unlike The Archies, however, The Chipmunks were a musical success long before they became popular as cartoons. These animated members of the animal kingdom have entertained several generations of children around the world with their cartoon adventures and unique high-pitched musical stylings. Their one-of-a-kind sound has also earned them several chart hits and sold millions of albums. More importantly, their successful combination of music and television paved the way for future groups like The Monkees.
The Chipmunks were the creation of Ross Bagdasarian, a songwriter whose hits included the Rosemary Clooney classic "Come On-A My House." He was also fascinated by the art of recording and began releasing singles under the name David Seville. He hit big in 1958 with “Witch Doctor,” a novelty number that incorporated a voice that was sped-up through studio trickery singing "Ooh-ee-ooh-ah-ah, ting-tang-walla-walla-bing-bang." It became a #1 hit and inspired Bagdasarian to take the experiment further.
This time, Bagdasarian came up with “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late).” In the song, Bagdasarian used his David Seville persona to direct three chipmunk performers through a holiday-themed song. He named the chipmunks Alvin, Simon, and Theodore after the three heads of Liberty Records, and gave them sped-up voices. “The Chipmunk Song” became a #1 hit at the end of 1958 and led to further late 1950’s hits like “Alvin’s Harmonica” and “Ragtime Cowboy Joe.” The fictional trio also did well on album with outings like Sing Along With The Chipmunks.
As the 1960’s began, The Chipmunks were selling records by the millions. They reached a new level of fame when the decision was made to give the characters their own animated prime-time program, The Alvin Show, in 1961. It soon moved to Saturday mornings and the adventures of David Seville and the Chipmunks became a big hit. The program ran until 1965 and helped spur the sales of Chipmunk records. By this time, Chipmunk albums were built around themes: The Chipmunks Sing The Beatles Hits, The Chipmunks Sing With Children and even The Chipmunks Sing Songs From Dr. Doolittle.
By 1970, The Chipmunks had sold over 30 million records. Bagdasarian retired around this time, and so did his chipmunk creations. However, interest in The Chipmunks’ music continued over the years, and Ross' son Ross Jr. decided to revive the characters on record in 1980. Their first outing was Chipmunk Punk, a modern-pop outing that had Alvin and the gang covering tunes by Blondie, The Knack and The Cars. It was a fast-selling hit in the children’s music market and let to further theme albums like the country-music album Urban Chipmunk.
When The Chipmunks returned to popularity as a music act, it was inevitable that they would also make a comeback on television. An animated special was done in tandem with a new Christmas album in 1981. When it did well, NBC commissioned a new Saturday-morning series called Alvin and the Chipmunks in 1983. It became a hit with Saturday morning viewers and ran for seven years. Of course, each episode featured Alvin, Simon and Theodore showing off their vocal skills by singing the popular hits of the day.
Today, Chipmunk albums continued to be issued on a regular basis. Like the classic Chipmunk albums, they are usually built around themes. Recent examples include Club Chipmunk: The Dance Mixes, which featured Chipmunk-ized versions of “Macarena” and “Vogue,” and The A-Files: Alien Songs, which covered everything from “Men In Black” to “Rocket Man.” Meanwhile, Alvin and the gang’s cartoon adventures are as popular as ever in reruns. Between their music and animated antics, The Chipmunks will be an important part of pop culture for a long time.
Artist Release History1959 - Sing with the Chipmunks
1959 - Let's All Sing with the Chipmunks
1960 - Sing Again with the Chipmunks
1961 - The Alvin Show
1962 - The Chipmunks Songbook
1962 - Christmas with the Chipmunks, Vol. 1
1963 - Christmas with the Chipmunks, Vol. 2
1964 - The Chipmunks Sing the Beatles Hits
1965 - The Chipmunks Sing with Children
1965 - The Chipmunks a Go-Go
1973 - The Chipmunk Songbook (compilation)
1980 - Chipmunk Punk
1981 - A Chipmunk Christmas
1981 - Urban Chipmunks
1982 - Chipmunk Rock
1990 - Rockin' Through the Decades
1992 - Chipmunks in Low Places
1992 - Greatest Hits
1993 - Alvin's Christmas Carol
1993 - Sing-Alongs
1994 - Here's Looking at Me!
1995 - Alvin's Daydreams
1995 - Chipmunk Celebration
1995 - When You Wish upon a Chipmunk
1995 - A Very Merry Chipmunk
1995 - Easter Chipmunk
1995 - The Very Best of the Chipmunks
1996 - The Chipmunks at the Movies (compilation)
1996 - Club Chipmunk: The Dance Mixes
1998 - Chipmunk Adventure
1998 - The A-Files: Alien Songs
1999 - The Chipmunk's Greatest Christmas Hits
1999 - Greatest Hits: Still Squeaky After All These Years
1999 - Chipmunks Greatest Christmas Hits
2000 - Christmas with the Chipmunks
Pop Sub Categoriespop
Essential Music AlbumsGreatest Hits: Still Squeaky After All These Years (Capitol)
Band MembersAlvin vocals