Saturday, April 12, 2008


Cavemen and French trapeze artists, you just can’t think of one without thinking of the other. No? Well, me either, truth be told. But they do have something in common. Here’s how this particular daisy chain goes:

Daisy #1 – Let’s begin with our feature song, “Alley Oop” Who from the boomer era doesn’t remember this one? It was definitely a novelty, yet strangely cool, too – c’mon, you can admit to digging it after all these years. According to an unverified Wikipedia article, “Alley Oop” was originally written as a country song by a fellow named Dallas Frazier. According to my notoriously unverified math, this would have to have been in the late ‘50s, if not earlier – “Alley Oop” hit the #1 spot in 1960. And the group was…

Daisy #2 – Nobody. That’s right; there was really no such group as the Hollywood Argyles to begin with. The Wiki article goes on further to quote one Gary S. Paxton, who is famous in part for being half of the 60s duo Skip and Flip - best known for “Cherry Pie” and the oddly-titled but grammatically perfect, “It Was I.” Despite the fact that Paxton makes a big deal publicly out of using his middle initial “S” he was actually Flip, not Skip. Okay, Paxton was roomies (in West L.A.) with music producer Kim Fowley at the time. When they went to record “Alley Oop” Paxton couldn’t use the name Flip for contractual reasons, so they did what any other creative kids would do, they looked out the window and picked something. Their place happened to be located on the corner of…you guessed it…Hollywood Blvd. and Argyle Street. They recorded the song by enlisting some studio musicians on the cheap (Sandy Nelson is the drummer!) and any friends they could snag off the street. And that was it. Before we leave this flower and move on to the next, here’s a couple more trivia gems. Frazier also wrote “Elvira” (hit for the Oak Ridge Boys) and Fowley produced “Popsicles and Icicles” (The Murmaids’ biggie). And, “Alley Oop” was the first song played on WLS-AM in Chicago back in 1960, when they switched over to rock and roll from their previous format …farm programming. I don’t know about you, but I love knowing this kind of stuff! Can’t you just picture some old timer in faded overalls sitting at the kitchen table, picking his ear and tuning in to hear how hog prices are doing, and... getting Alley Oop instead!?

Daisy #3 – Alley Oop, the Man. The song is based on Alley Oop, a long-running syndicated comic strip (since 1932) about a caveman and his fellow cave dwellers, and as such has often been a kind of satire on American life. He’s your stereotypical caveman. It was just as bad for them back in the Stone Age as it is today in the Age of Geico commercials.

Daisy #4 – And here we get down to the real nitty-gritty. The name Alley Oop is derived from “allez hop!” a kind of shoutout used by French gymnasts and trapeze artists when they hoist themselves into the air. In French, allez is pronounced al-LAY. In English, it becomes “alley.” The hop part may actually be of German or German Swiss origin, where hopp means “go!” Or “jump!” So, Alley Oop as a sports term is kind of redundant. But probably the very thing needed to break the bonds of gravity and get your derriere off the floor and grab that bar. It's probably best known today in basketball, to describe when one player passes the ball to a teammate waiting by the hoop who grabs and dunks it.

Ladieeees and Gentlemen....Alley Oop!

One of the great lines of rock and roll: "He's a mean motor-scooter and a bad go-getter"

Poetry in motion

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