Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Underdog: The Hotshots: "Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron"

There is an odd sense of deja vu here; this was a hit (in its original version) when I was born - and now, here it is again, in ska-style.  It's not that different from before - the tempo is slowed down a bit (making the Red Baron's actual name easier to hear) and there's a horn section dutifully puffing along.  I can't claim to know much about this single other than it's definitely by a UK band, and was a #2 hit on the Luxembourg chart. 

What I do know was that for sure the comic strip Peanuts was my favorite growing up - as soon as I found out there was such a thing as a used book store, I would go in and get old paperbacks from the 60s and at some point I also collected the much bigger anthologies - haphazardly coloring them in, getting to know the history of the strip (which had been going well over a decade by the time I was born).  I grew up with Peanuts as a constant marker of time (A Charlie Brown Christmas winter,  It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown* [which has Schroder playing WWI songs "It's A Long Way to Tipperary" and "Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit-Bag" and has Snoopy fighting the Red Baron] for fall).  I am not sure if this latter show was ever broadcast on UK television, but I do know that Peanuts was gaining popularity around this time; and the wildly imaginative Snoopy has more than something to do with that.  Anyone can relate to him and his big heart and innate sense of what is right and wrong.  (I saw Snoopy, Come Home when it came out in 1972 and was traumatized - there are a lot of signifiers in the movie, if you know how to watch it.  Interestingly, it was a failure at the box office - ultimately too emotionally charged for kids like me, who didn't like to see Snoopy suffer so much.) 

Because of all these reasons - and no others, save to have a hit - The Hotshots recorded this and it was a summertime smash, the kind of song kids buy (as they did the original) and might remember, even though I've never heard it on UK radio.  Peanuts and Charles Schulz have passed into history as (I believe) both commercial success and highbrow art immortality**.  That is very hard to do, but Schulz did it; whether he ever heard this, I don't know, but I imagine he would have liked it if he did.  Thanks, old pal.

Next up:  pass the popcorn.  

*Kid Koala immortalized Charlie Brown's misery in this special in "Tricks 'n' Treats" on his Scratchcratchratchatch mixtape.

**Snoopy as the WWI pilot is such a famous image that it's on the cover of one of the lovely Peanuts complete works.

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