item 1 >>> Only a little over a month after the the Red Baron Peanuts strips were published, the Royal Guardsmen released “Snoopy vs. The Red Baron.” This was possible because the song already existed, written by singer-songwriter Dick Holler. In fact, he had already recorded a demo of his song “The Red Baron.” Snoopy and other Peanuts references were added to the lyrics to cash in, and naturally Charles Schulz sued. They agreed to a monetary settlement, and Sparkly even illustrated the cover of one of their albums, with a drawing of Snoopy, his doghouse, and cartoon versions of the Royal Guardsmen band members. He never showed the Red Baron in the strip, and the below album was drawn by someone else. Dick Holler also wrote the band’s other Snoopy songs…”Snoopy’s Christmas,” “Return of the Red Baron,” and “Snoopy for President,” as well as several of their non-Snoopy songs. And in an entirely different vein, he wrote Dion’s “Abraham, Martin and John.”
item 2 >>> The bizarre “Squeaky vs. the Black Knight” was released in Canada, to general derision all around, and the regular version became the hit there, as everywhere else, which is why the Laurie 45 is so rare. I don’t know precisely what was going on…its clear this was not a possible replacement for the American version, since Squeaky is a “buck-toothed beaver with a gleam in his eye.” Also, in the spoken German intro, “schweinköpfigen Hund” is replaced by “schweinköpfigen Americano,” so it would seem they were poking fun at a ban that never happened. Other changes…the Black Knight could not be Baron Von Richthofen, so he is Field Marshal Dummkopf…and the Great Leader, not the Great Pumpkin, gives Snoopy his new battle plan.
item 3 >>> Truth & misconceptions about the real Red Baron…(1) His name was Manfred Albrecht Richthofen, and his title was Freiherr, the German equivalent of Baron. (2) His squadron was indeed called the Flying Circus, and his 80 kill total is considered accurate by historians. (3) He died as he lived, shot down in his plane. The interesting thing is that he was not shot down by an enemy plane, but by anti-aircraft ground fire…and it is not known precisely who got the honors. (4) He didn’t have a mustache…in fact, he died a young man, just 2 weeks shy of his 26th birthday…yes, that flying ace deal was a young man’s game.
item 4 >>> But the Christmas Truce that forms the basis for “Snoopy’s Christmas” was a real occurrence, altho it had nothing to do with the Red Baron. It was called the “Miracle of Flanders,” as French and British troops got together with their German counterparts on Christmas Eve 1914, to sing carols and even play impromptu soccer games. The Germans started it, singing and lighting candles…the British sang back, and eventually the 2 sides met in No-Man’s Land. They exchanged gifts, shared a drink, talked to each other as best they could about their families, and yes, took the opportunity to retrieve and bury their dead.
item 5 >>> For a long time, this story was considered mythical, but it has been well-documented by historians. Actually, there was no single “Truce”…they happened all along the Western Front, sporadically during the week before Christmas, then en masse in many places on Christmas Eve, but not everywhere…in some places the fighting raged thru the holiday. Despite orders on both sides against fraternization, this type of get-together grew out of the periodic cease-fires called to retrieve casualties, at which time cooperation between enemies was inevitable.
item 6 >>> The American Robin (left) you know…but what they call a Robin in UK (right) is a completely different bird, a species of flycatcher. Likewise, the American Blackbird usually refers to the Red-Winged Blackbird (left) or the Grackle…the UK Blackbird (right) is a kind of Thrush.
item 7 >>> Christmas Myth #5…So what is a partridge doing in a pear-tree anyhow? Nothing, actually. There is no pear-tree, sorry. It’s believed the original line was “a partridge, un perdrix,” French for partridge, pronounced pear-dree. Partridges may perch in a tree occasionally, but they are primarily ground-dwelling fowl, and that’s where they build there nests. And if you do the math, you’ll discover the total number of gifts given, thru all 12 days of the song, is 364…one for every day except Christmas? Weird…
item 8 >>> One Yuletide TV tradition that’s long gone is Bing Crosby movies…well, sometimes they show “White Christmas” or “Holiday Inn,” but not “Going My Way” or “The Bells of St. Mary’s.” Those Father O’Malley flicks were once standard holiday fare, which is why Phil Spector choose Bells for his “A Christmas Gift to You” album. (Father Flanagan was Spencer Tracy in “Boys Town.”) Another forgotten perennial was the opera “Amahl and the Night Visitors,” broadcast on NBC every year from 1951-1965. Except for the first 2 years, they were in color…and were live until 1964 and 1965, when a recording of the 1963 performance was aired. This angered the composer Gian Carlo Menotti…and when copyright reverted to him in 1966, he refused to let it appear again until 1978.
item 9 >>> I mentioned finding Diet Moxie in the store earlier in the week. I’ve only drunk diet sodas for decades…regular just tastes too sweet to me. Diet Moxie is better than the regular Moxie I found at another store, but still doesn’t have the bitter bite I remember. Took a can over for friends my age to try…he liked it, said it tasted like nothing he could compare it with…she hated it. Still, I wonder if over the years they’ve de-Moxified Moxie, well maybe just a smidge…any comments?
item 10 >>> Here’s a true story I got out of Reader’s Digest a few years ago, back when it was still good. A lady from Brookline took her 6-year-old granddaughter to see “The Nutcracker” at the Wang Theatre in Boston. During intermission, she bought her a chocolate nutcracker at the concession stand, which the girl nibbled on thru the 2nd act. On the way home, the lady asked her what part of “The Nutcracker” she liked best…she thought for a moment and said: “The head…”
Did you remember to get the tonic?
walking in a shameless pluggerland…
Resume and audio samples at http://home.rr.com/mastolfi