Tuesday, June 09, 2009


Two reasons to be amused by "Snoopy vs the Red Baron" sung in Italian. First, that it's sung in Italian. Second, that Giorgio Gaber tosses in a fragment of "Hang On Sloopy," (which so many thought was "Hang On Snoopy" when it first crackled through bad transistor radios years ago).

Gaber (January 25, 1939-January 1, 2003) was a frolicsome fellow who gained some fame back in 1958 with a novelty tune that translates as "Don't Hog the Telephone."

He went on to appear at the San Remo Festival several times with straight songs, before returning to the novelty genre with what is technically titled, "Snoopy Contro Il Barone Rosso." A few years later he had his biggest success in Italy in 1969 with another serious tune, "How Beautiful the City Is."

The "Bloody Red Baron" Manfred Richtofen earned his nickname by downing at least three dozen planes. In 1916 he shot down his British rival Major Lanoe Hawker, and the following year was awarded "The Blue Max" for his deadly accuracy. In April of 1917, he went on a rampage, and in less than 30 days was credited with knocking 22 airmen out of the skies.

One Brit, Captain Donald Cunnell, nearly killed The Red Baron, but Richthofen managed to land his plane despite a severe head wound that grounded him for a while, leaving him battling severe headaches and nausea. During his recuperation he published his autobiography, which naturally made himself out to be even greater than he was.

He piloted an awesome Fokker (no cheap jokes, please) but, true to Snoopy's fantasies, was downed by an ace flying the unlikely-named Sopwith Camel. Almost exactly a year after his bloody success in April of 1917, The Red Baron met his end. On the morning of April 21, 1918, he was chasing down a Canadian pilot, Lieutenant "Wop" May when another plane, piloted by another Canadian, Captain Arthur Brown, came to the rescue. Richthofen was shot in the chest, but managed to safely land his plane...in enemy territory. Most reports said he died only minutes after landing. One soldier at the scene claimed The Red Baron gasped out one last word: "Kaput!"

In 1966, "Snoopy vs The Red Baron" became a Top Ten novelty single, focusing on the heroic beagle's imagined Sopwith Camel victory over that German Fokker. The single was such a hit, an entire album was quickly thrown together, and it too reached the Top Ten in January of 1967. Giorgio Gaber's Italian version arrived soon after, adding a bit of "Hang On Sloopy" (if you're keeping score, that tune by The McCoys was a Top 10 in 1965).
SNOOPY VS THE RED BARON, IN ITALIAN. Instant listen on line, or via download. No waiting time. No pop-ups.


Anonymous said...

The "Hang On, Sloopy" bridge was in the original release by The Royal Guardsmen. Listen at Dick Holler's website (one of the songwriters).

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