Wednesday, September 19, 2012

ALFI and HARRY - "The Trouble with Harry"

Last month, Happy Pierre (Mark McIntyre) finally got his due at the Illfolks blog…but it naturally raised a question: "what about his brief teaming with Alfi (David Seville)?"

For those who asked for it…download and satisfy your very morbid curiosity!

David Seville (Ross Bagdasarian) is today best known for his speeded-up vocals on all those Chipmunks songs and "The Witch Doctor." Another, more perverse style of comedy he enjoyed was the long running joke of ever-increasing exasperation and frustration. Some of this was on the original "Chipmunks Song," where Seville is constantly irked by Alvin coming in late, or singing flat, etc.

Here, the gag is Alfi (Seville, Bagdasarian) complaining again and again that Harry (Happy Pierre, Mark McIntyre) keeps playing the same seasick and monotonous melody. But, "that's the trouble with Harry!" Ha ha.

The Liberty single, which credits three people for authoring the song (McIntyre is one of them, but not Bagdasarian) bears the note: "Inspired by the Paramount Picture Alfred Hitchcock's "The Trouble with Harry."

The 45 came out in 1956, (b/w "A Little Beauty") and it meandered near enough to the Top 40 to encourage Liberty to let the guys try again and again: "Closing Time" b/w "Safari," and "Persian on Excursion" b/w "Word Game Song." Liberty had better luck that year with another duo. McIntyre's daughters Patience and Prudence hit the Top 10 with "Tonight You Belong To Me."

As for papa, he was allowed to become "Happy Pierre" and stuck an instrumental version of "The Trouble with Harry" on his one and only solo album. (Parenthetically, band leader Les Elgart also seemed to think the song had potential and released his own 45 of "The Trouble with Harry" for Columbia. It also included that peculiar credit of "inspired by the Paramount Picture…" Elgart's big band arrangement merely had a horrible male chorus cry out "That's the trouble with Harry!" after each repetition of the melody.)

The movie is not about an idiot pianist playing the same melody over and over, it's a black comedy about a corpse named Harry that needs to be buried. And so the illustration depicts a scene from the film, now starring Bagdasarian and McIntyre, alias David Seville and Happy Pierre, alias Alfi and Harry, trying to resuscitate a Liberty Records executive.

And Bagdasarian? Yes, he made a fortune off The Chipmunks, but he also tried to get attention under his own name. And so among the downloads below, a sample from his solo album "The Mixed Up World of Bagdasarian." It was released in 1966, and includes several cutesy monologues with music (with ragtime piano that may have been supplied by Harry/Pierre). Typical is the opening track, "Gotta Get To Your House," where he plays a Spoonerizing kid rushing to meet his date on time: Pretty brown hair, pretty pink dress! Pretty pink eyes, pretty brown dress!

Sapristi! Trouble with Harry, by Alfi and Harry

Sapristi! Trouble with Harry, Happy Pierre version

Sapristi! Bagdasarian: Gotta Get to Your House!


Ted Hering said...

Wow! I wondered years ago if there was a Happy Pierre / David Seville tie-in, but could find nothing at the time. Thanks for the story!

BTW, The "Mixed-up World of..." contains many tracks recorded in the 1950s on a pre-Chipmunks LP, "The Music of David Seville." You'll notice the "Mixed-Up" album is remastered from mono.

Ill Folks said...

Thanks Ted, a true scholar (Lehrer, and more!) Thanks for the info on the Seville album...that would explain the odd CD some eBay dealer has, a Bagdasarian compilation that has about 25 tracks, half mono and half stereo.

Yes, had to research Happy Pierre and get to the bottom of it. Not knowing about Happy Pierre was driving me crazy. Whereas I know all about a guy named Crazy Pierre, which makes me happy.