The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)
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|"The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)"|
Picture sleeve of 1958 reissue by Liberty Records (F-55250)
|Single by The Chipmunks and David Seville|
|from the album Let's All Sing with The Chipmunks|
"Almost Good" (David Seville)|
November 17, 1958 (U.S.)|
December 22, 1958
|Recorded||October 31, 1958|
|Songwriter(s)||Ross Bagdasarian Sr.|
|Producer(s)||Ross Bagdasarian Sr.|
|The Chipmunks and David Seville singles chronology|
"The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)" is a novelty Christmas song written by Ross Bagdasarian Sr. (a.k.a. David Seville) in 1958. Bagdasarian sang and recorded the song, varying the tape speeds to produce high-pitched "chipmunk" voices, but the recording credits the vocals to The Chipmunks, Bagdasarian's fictitious singing group of chipmunks named Alvin, Simon, and Theodore. The song won three Grammy Awards in 1958, for Best Comedy Performance, Best Children's Recording, and Best Engineered Record (non-classical).
In the recording, Dave asks the Chipmunks if they are ready to sing. Simon and Theodore immediately answer "Okay", but Alvin hesitates, causing Dave to yell "ALVIN!!!", to which Alvin responds emphatically, "Okay!"
In the vocal performance, the Chipmunks sing about the presents they want for Christmas; Alvin wants a hula hoop. An instrumental interlude follows, which repeats the musical accompaniment to the Chipmunks' singing. Near the end of the interlude, Dave tells the Chipmunks to get ready to sing again, compliments Simon and Theodore for singing well, and scolds Alvin for singing a little flat. Alvin again hesitates to respond, so Dave yells at him again, and Alvin again answers, "Okay!"
The Chipmunks reprise the last four lines of the vocal, followed by another instrumental performance of the music. At the end, Dave compliments the Chipmunks for their performance. However, the Chipmunks want to sing the song again. Dave tells them not to overdo it. The Chipmunks and Dave argue as the instrumental music fades out.
The song was very successful, reaching No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Pop Singles chart, becoming The Chipmunks' first (and only), as well as David Seville's second and final, No. 1 single. It has the distinction of being the only Christmas record to reach No. 1 on the same chart. The single sold 4.5 million copies in seven weeks, according to Ross Bagdasarian, Jr. Before the song's success, "The Chipmunk Song" was featured on American Bandstand's "Rate-A-Record" segment and received the lowest possible rating of 35 across the board.
Between 1958 and 1962, the single managed to re-enter the Hot 100, peaking at No. 41 in 1958, No. 45 in 1960, and No. 39 in 1962. (Starting in 1963, Billboard would list recurrent Christmas songs on a separate chart.) The song managed to chart on the Hot Digital Songs for the first time in 2005, peaking at No. 35 on that chart.
"The Chipmunk Song" is the last Christmas/holiday song to reach No. 1 on any US singles record chart totaling performance of all available records.
With the release and popularity of the film Alvin and the Chipmunks in December 2007, "The Chipmunk Song" re-entered the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 70. At the same time, a remixed version of the song that appears on the Chipmunks' 2007 album (and soundtrack to the film) Alvin and the Chipmunks: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, peaked at No. 66 and was credited as "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late) (2007 Version)".
As of December 25, 2011, Nielsen SoundScan estimated total sales of two versions of the digital track by The Chipmunks at 867,000 downloads, placing it third on the list of all-time best-selling Christmas/holiday digital singles in SoundScan history (behind Mariah Carey's 1994 hit single "All I Want for Christmas Is You" and Trans-Siberian Orchestra's 1996 track "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24").
Adaptation in other media
The song has been adapted in The Alvin Show as one of its musical segments. The short depicts Alvin looking through various presents to find a hula hoop, even as he reluctantly sings along with the other Chipmunks. At the end of the song, Seville rewards Simon and Theodore with toy planes and Alvin with his hula hoop. The subsequent argument about singing the song again ends abruptly with their Christmas tree falling over, and Seville and the Chipmunks emerge from the mess to wish the viewers a merry Christmas.
The song was featured in A Chipmunk Christmas. A depressed Alvin sings along flatly at first (much like the 1958 original), but then leaves the studio to give away his harmonica to a sick boy. As Seville starts to resume recording the song without Alvin, Alvin returns in the nick of time to sing the song with the others.
The song was featured in the 1980s and 1990s version of Alvin and the Chipmunks, in the episode "Merry Christmas, Mr. Carroll." In that version, Alvin is taken by Dave (as the Spirit of Christmas Past) to his old house, a cabin lodge where he saw Dave and younger versions of himself, Simon and Theodore. There, it was revealed that Dave wrote the song (called "The Christmas Song" in this episode), because it was inspired by the gifts that the young Chipmunks gave him (which was an eraser, a pencil and a piece of paper).
The song was featured in the film Alvin and the Chipmunks. A scene similar to that of the original segment on "The Alvin Show" appears with Jason Lee portraying Dave Seville. The film also features the original track by Ross Bagdasarian, Sr. and a new rock mix, both of which appear on the film's soundtrack. The original track is played briefly during a flashback in Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip.
The song is recited by a fan of the band, Misty, in the ALVINNN!!! and the Chipmunks episode, "Mojo Missing".
The original recording has been used in the feature films, Rocky IV (1985), Look Who's Talking Now (1993), Donnie Brasco (1997), Almost Famous (2000), Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (2016) and The Fate of the Furious (2017).
The Chipmunks performed a smooth jazz version of the song with Kenny G on the saxophone for their 1994 album A Very Merry Chipmunk. They also performed a duet version with Jaci Velasquez for her 2001 album Christmas in which Alvin tries to flirt with Jaci in Spanish and changes the lyric "I want a hula hoop" to "I want a date with you."
On a Christmas episode of The King of Queens, the character Doug Heffernan says it's his favorite Christmas song, but his father-in-law Arthur Spooner despises it, chastising Alvin for his delays in the song, saying it "throws the other chipmunks off". However, Arthur soon takes a great liking to the song and continually plays it throughout the episode, much to Doug and his wife Carrie's annoyance.
In the 2009 film Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, the song is briefly sung by Crash and Eddie in a high pitch voice of both helium and gas.
- O'Neil, Tom (4 May 2009). "Today in 1959: First Grammy Awards handed out". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 29 Nov 2009.
- http://www.chipmunks.com/ History section
- Clark, Dick; Robinson, Richard (1976). Rock, Roll and Remember. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company.
- Grein, Paul (2011-12-28). "Week Ending Dec. 25, 2011. Songs: Bringing "Sexy" Back". Yahoo! Music. Nielsen Business Media. Retrieved 2011-12-29.
- "Christmas Don't Be Late (Original)—Alvin and the Chipmunks". YouTube: Original recording accompanied by still images