2007   SEPTEMBER 16   #259

The Caroleers / Frankie Stein and his ghouls - Peter Pan Records: Themed Compilation 45s

   The Caroleers - Repeat After Me (1:27)
   The Caroleers - Nobody Here Eats Candy (1:41)
   The Caroleers - Candy Everywhere (1:21)
   The Caroleers - Dipsy Doodle Dragon (3:09)
   The Caroleers - Tale of Dickie Dragon (3:20)
   The Caroleers - Dragon With a Cold in the Nose (2:06)
   Frankie Stein and his ghouls - Swinging Head (2:25)
   Frankie Stein and his ghouls - Saturday Evening Ghost (2:04)
   Frankie Stein and his ghouls - Be Careful, It's My Throat (1:57)
   The Caroleers - I Want an Elephant For Christmas (2:15)
   The Caroleers - Who's That Up On The Roof? (1:59)
   The Caroleers - Icicles, Holly, Red Berries and Snow (2:34)

I apologize in advance for the scratchiness and occasional skippiness of some of these tracks, but they're (mostly) worth it.

At some point in the early to mid 70s, famed budget children's label Peter Pan Records issued a series of themed compilation 45s with four songs on each, two to a side. The title track was always a cheapo cover version of some recognizable song; the other three were original songs on the same basic theme - usually scrounged from Peter Pan's back catalogue. The cover tunes were nothing special, and I haven't included them here. However, some of the original songs were quite delightful. Most of the songs in this selection seem to be the work of an uncredited group known as The Caroleers.

So far as I can tell from what limited information is online, The Caroleers (or "The Peter Pan Caroleers") is just a name that Peter Pan would occasionally slap onto whatever in-house group they were using at the moment. Usually, as on this recent re-issue of Christmas standards, the Caroleers were a bog-standard group of choral singers. Lovely voices, competent but uninspired performances, nothing to write home about. But the particular incarnation of The Caroleers we're looking at today often evinced a wit, imagination and playfulness beyond what you might expect from such cheapie origins. Some of these songs have deeply burrowed into the heads of those who first heard them as children (including myself), and there are several message board threads online in which people are looking for these and other Caroleer songs, to no avail. I am here to answer their call!

We start with candy-themed songs from the "Candy Man" 45. The first song, "Repeat After Me," is the skippiest of the lot, which is a shame, but you can hear enough to get the idea. The Candy Man cheers up a "Princess Prunella" simply by getting her to say the names of various sweets. "Prunella"'s performance is a joy, as her Brooklyn-tinged pouty voice becomes increasingly manic and deranged over the thought of all that sugared goodness. "Nobody Here Eats Candy," which sounds like it comes from some (justly) forgotten piece of epic musical theater, is a personal favorite. Muhammad Ali needed a whole album to fight Mr. Tooth Decay; The Caroleers push the benefits of onions over candy in a mere and memorable 1:41.

The songs on "Puff the Magic Dragon" aren't as inspired, but "Dragon With a Cold in the Nose" is a lot of fun, especially the tortured-sounding sneezing sounds.

We briefly leave the Caroleers behind for Halloween, as "Monster Mash" (the cover tune is surprisingly faithful) brings us the legendary Frankie Stein and his ghouls. This record, with its bright-fuschia label (Fuschia. The new color of horror.), stood out from the bright-yellow Peter Pan pack for sheer weirdness. Various instrumental tracks - sometimes jauntier than was expected, or, indeed, appropriate - are accompanied by a stock series of "horror" sound effects. Screams, evil cackles, and cranking sounds that resemble nothing so much as an over-amped Purim grogger abound. The fictional "Stein" and his crew recorded these and many more similar tracks in the early 1960s, which were originally released on the Power label (another imprint of the same company responsible for Peter Pan). Their full discography used to be available online in much cleaner versions, but is no longer, so here are three tracks to whet your appetite for this appealing strangeness, including the delightfully-titled "Be Careful, It's My Throat."

Back to the Caroleers for Christmas on "Frosty the Snowman" for a great collection of various Christmas-themed originals. "Icicles, Holly, Red Berries and Snow" is the only track meant to be sincere rather than silly, and it actually succeeds - it's a lovely original Christmas carol.

Side note: I had always seen the Peter Pan portrayed in their logo as being rather mischievous-looking, due to that upward-curving unibrow. Scanning in the labels, I've only just realized that that supposed to be his hair, and he's meant to be smiling cherubically. I'm a tad disappointed.

- Contributed by: Corey K.

Candy Man: label (front), label (back)
Puff the Magic Dragon: label (front), label (back)
Monster Mash: cover, label (front), label (back)
Frosty the Snowman: label (back)

Media: 45rpm 7" Singles
Albums: Candy Man, Puff the Magic Dragon, Monster Mash, Frosty the Snowman
Label: Peter Pan Records
Catalog: F1257 A & B, F1202 A & B, F 1280 A & B, X-52 A & B
Credits: The Caroleers, Frankie Stein and his ghouls