Witch Doctor (song)
|Single by Ross Bagdasarian|
|from the album The Alvin Show|
|B-side||"Don't Whistle at Me, Baby"|
|Ross Bagdasarian singles chronology|
"Witch Doctor" is a 1958 American novelty song written and performed by Ross Bagdasarian, under his stage name David Seville. It became a number one hit and rescued Liberty Records from near-bankruptcy. In the song, the singer asks a witch doctor for romantic advice, the witch doctor responds with a nonsense incantation which creates an earworm.
Composition and recording
Seville wrote the song, inspired by a book titled Duel with the Witch Doctor on his bookshelf. In the song, the narrator asks a witch doctor for advice on what to do because he has fallen in love with a girl, and the witch doctor replies with a gibberish line: "Oo-ee, oo-ah-ah, ting-tang, walla-walla bing-bang".
Seville had spent 200 dollars, a significant sum at that time, on a tape recorder, and he conceived of the idea of recording himself at different speed to create a dialogue between him and the witch doctor. He sang in his own voice as normal, and then overdubbed the song with the voice of the "witch doctor", which is in fact Seville's own voice sung slowly but recorded at half speed on the tape recorder, then played back at normal speed (the voice was therefore speeded up to become a high pitched squeaky one). Seville experimented with the process for a period of time before recording it in the studio, although it was said that when the executives from the financially-troubled Liberty label heard the resulting song, they released it to reach the shops within 24 hours.
The same technique used for creating the voice of the witch doctor was used in Seville's next song "The Bird on My Head", and then more significantly the highly successful Chipmunks (also known as Alvin and the Chipmunks) beginning with "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)" released for the Christmas of 1958. Initially released under David Seville alone, "Witch Doctor" was also released under the name of David Seville and the Chipmunks, and re-recorded under the name Alvin and the Chipmunks. The technique was also imitated by other recording artist such as Sheb Wooley in "The Purple People Eater", and The Big Bopper, who parodied both song on "The Purple People Eater Meets The Witch Doctor", which was originally released as a single but it was its flip-side "Chantilly Lace" that became the hit.
Discover more about Composition and recording related topics
The song peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 100, the predecessor to the Billboard Hot 100. The single was considered a major surprise hit on the chart, where it became Seville and Liberty Records' first No. 1 single, and stayed in the position for three weeks. The single also peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard R&B chart even though it is not a R&B song – this is due to R&B chart being a trade category at the time, reflecting the popularity of the song with black radio stations and customers. The single had sold 1.4 million copies in the United States by December 1958. Billboard ranked it as the No. 4 song for 1958.
|Canada (CHUM Hit Parade)||1|
|Netherlands (Single Top 100)||11|
|UK Singles (OCC)||11|
|US Top 100 Sides (Billboard)||1|
|US Cash Box Top 100||1|
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Alvin and the Chipmunks versions
The song has gained further popularity due to multiple covers performed by Alvin and the Chipmunks. The first was for their 1960 album Sing Again with The Chipmunks, which would later be adapted into a musical segment on The Alvin Show. In 1983, they would perform this song on the Alvin and the Chipmunks episode "The Chipmunk Story" and the soundtrack Songs From Our TV Shows. The Chipmunk Adventure (1987) featured the song when sung by Mrs. Miller. The song was used for the opening of the 1990 TV special Rockin' Through the Decades in the style of various artists. In 1996, a dance mix cover was recorded for the album Club Chipmunk: The Dance Mixes.
In 2007, a DeeTown remix cover featuring Chris Classic was recorded for the live-action/CGI Alvin and the Chipmunks movie. This version reached No. 62 on Billboard Hot 100 in January 2008. In 2012, they released a duet cover with the Chipettes entitled "Witch Doctor 2.0" available for digital download on the iTunes Store (although iTunes only credits the Chipmunks).
Discover more about Alvin and the Chipmunks versions related topics
Danish band Cartoons covered "Witch Doctor" for their 1998 debut album, Toonage. Released on October 26, 1998, their version charted well in Europe, reaching the top 40 in several countries, including peaking at No. 2 on the UK Singles Chart in March 1999. A Spanish version and an Italian version both appear on the album Toontastic, while an Italian version also appears on the album More Toonage.
|1.||"Witch Doctor" (radio mix)||3:05|
|2.||"Witch Doctor" (extended mix)||4:14|
|3.||"Witch Doctor" (Out of Africa remix)||5:09|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Platinum||600,000|
Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.
|Denmark||26 October 1998||CD|||
|United Kingdom||22 March 1999||
Discover more about Cartoons version related topics
- Don Lang recorded a version similar to David Saville's recording. This version reached No. 5 on the UK chart in June 1958.
- The new wave band DEVO recorded a version for the soundtrack of The Rugrats Movie. Although the title, chorus and tune are the same, the verses were changed to be about how monkeys have more fun than humans, a fitting theme for both the film's monkey characters and DEVO itself.
- Melinda Marx performed the song on her father Groucho Marx' television program You Bet Your Life.
Discover more about Other versions related topics
Alvin and the Chipmunks
Only You (And You Alone)
Chantilly Lace (song)
Achy Breaky Heart
Hangin' Tough (song)
The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)
Sing Again with The Chipmunks
Ragtime Cowboy Joe
Good Luck Charm
Alvin and the Chipmunks (film)
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- Bronson, Fred (1997). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits. Billboard Books. p. 36. ISBN 9780823076413.
- Kelly, Michael Bryan (1993). Liberty Records: A History of the Recording Company and Its Stars, 1955-1971. McFarland. p. 44. ISBN 9780899507408.
- The Oxford Handbook of Music and Virtuality. Oxford University Press. 2016. p. 132. ISBN 9780199321285.
- Tyler, Don (2008). Music of the postwar era. Greenwood Press. p. 99–100. ISBN 9780313341915.
- Cotten, Lee (1995). Reelin' and Rockin': The Golden Age of American Rock 'N Roll 1956-1959. Pierian Press. p. 274. ISBN 9781560750390.
- Cooper, B. Lee; Haney, Wayne S. (1995). Rock Music in American Popular Culture: Rock 'n' Roll Resources. Vol. 1. Haworth Press. p. 258. ISBN 9781560248613.
- Ripani, Richard J. (2009). The New Blue Music: Changes in Rhythm & Blues, 1950–1999. University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 9781496801289.
- "Chipmunk: Lighting Can Strike Twice". Billboard. December 1, 1958. p. 11.
- "Number One Song of the Year: 1946–2014". Bob Borst's Home of Pop Culture.
- "CHUM Hit Parade, week of April 28, 1958".
- "David Seville & The Chipmunks – Witch Doctor" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
- "David Seville: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company.
- "Top 100 Sides". Billboard. May 12, 1958. p. 36.
- "Cash Box Top 100 Singles, May 10, 1958".
- "Alvin and the Chipmunks (2007) - Witch Doctor Scene (5/5)". Movieclips – via Youtube.
- "Billboard Hot 100". Billboard. January 12, 2008. p. 46.
- "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved November 8, 2021.
- "Cartoons – Witch Doctor" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
- "Eurochart Hot 100 Singles" (PDF). Music & Media. Vol. 16, no. 15. April 11, 1999. p. 8. Retrieved May 1, 2020.
- "Cartoons – Witch Doctor" (in French). Les classement single.
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- "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 25, 1999" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40.
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- "Cartoons – Witch Doctor". Top 40 Singles.
- "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved November 8, 2021.
- "Cartoons – Witch Doctor". Singles Top 100.
- "Jaaroverzichten 1999" (in Dutch). Ultratop. Retrieved March 12, 2020.
- "Eurochart Hot 100 Singles 1999" (PDF). Music & Media. Retrieved September 13, 2022.
- "Top 100–Jaaroverzicht van 1999". Dutch Top 40. Retrieved March 12, 2020.
- "Jaaroverzichten – Single 1999" (in Dutch). MegaCharts. Retrieved March 12, 2020.
- "Yearly Best Selling Singles" (PDF). British Phonographic Industry. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 24, 2010. Retrieved February 28, 2021.
- "Best Sellers of 1999: Singles Top 100". Music Week. London, England: United Business Media. January 22, 2000. p. 27.
- "British single certifications – Cartoons – Witch Doctor". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved May 1, 2020.
- "Cartoons – Witch Doctor (1998)". Maniadb.com. Retrieved April 27, 2021.
- "New Releases – For Week Starting 22 March, 1999" (PDF). Music Week. March 20, 1999. p. 27. Retrieved July 19, 2021.
- "Don Lang". The Official Charts Company.
- "The Rugrats soundtrack to receive first ever vinyl release". November 27, 2018.
- "You Bet Your Life #57-38 Melinda Marx sings "Witch Doctor" (Secret word 'Walk', Jun 12, 1958)". YouTube.
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