Song by Paolo Citarella, Doris Fisher, Milt Kabak, Louis Prima and Allan Roberts; performed by Louis Prima
I think my first hint of cool had to be King Louis from Walt Disney’s Jungle Book. Let’s face it, if you want to boogie when you hear that cool orangutan dig into I Wanna Be Like You (even Prima’s alternative version), then there is hope for your hipness, which was sort of the point.
At some point in early adulthood, I watched the film two or three or more times and found it still worked for me. Weirdly for an aficionado, I had little interest in the voices behind the characters. We seem to expect a certain enthusiasm when a big star lends their voice nowadays (a deal which serves to enhance their all-around character, too), but I hadn’t tuned into that back then.
But the 1980s were a strange time. Retro encompassed swing and Prima was definitely a master in that domain. (The man is credited with Sing, Sing, Sing– lyrics and music.) David Lee Roth wandered away from his bandmates to have a solo hit by covering an old Prima hit.
So, Louis’ music started popping up wherever two or more zoot suits gathered. I have this image in my mind of turning to my future wife and saying something along the lines of, “This sounds an awful lot like that monkey from Jungle Book.” As I mentioned above, I was way cool. Sometimes, you just want to reach into the past and drag your own head out of your backside.
If you’ve been following along,then you know I indulged heavy in pop and rock and soul and all such things, with hardly a glance at anything that was produced prior to Elvis Presley. You might also recall my occasional flirtation with the Columbia Record Club. Probably because of those surrounding influences, I checked that tiny box beside Louis Prima’s greatest hits on the order form and ended up with an outlier in my order.
I have no recollection whatever else I ordered, but Prima found his way onto constant repeat. We have already established that I must be quite the treat when I find a new fascination. What you might not imagine is what it is like inside my head- a place that I can rarely recommend if you’re not used to thinking about a goat juggling cats and Amos Tversky and the complete works of John MacDonald in short order. MacDonald wrote the Travis MacGee books. Tversky worked in behavioral psychology/economics. I can’t explain the goat thing, but it’ll emerge in some story somewhere, I’m sure.
Anyway, I went around mumbling about Angelina and her pasta for weeks. Honestly, I still do whenever it’s angel hair night at home. I like that fact about me, so I’m unlikely to dispense with the tic. Maybe it’s not healthy, but I don;t mind making a little space in my brain for artists where they can live long after they’re gone. Besides, you can only imagine the conversation between MacDonald, Prima and Tversky. I hope Ty Cobb doesn’t show up. And… there he is.
What’s it all about?
You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 23 more to go.
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