As you'll know if you've been watching The Mark Steyn Show the last fortnight or so, every time I mention the March of the Monkeypox I do the responsible thing as recommended by OfCom and promote the Monkeyvax by singing:
Jabber jabber jabber jabber jabber jabber jabber
Said the monkey to the chimp
...accompanied by needle-stabbing motions in my arm. And then I play a clip from the MGM film Two Weeks with Love. And ever since I've been besieged by viewers demanding to know who's the singer and what's the song - including, indeed, from Mark Steyn Club members. Gareth Wigmore, a Steyn Clubber from the English Midlands, asks:
Can anyone tell me who is the girl singing in that 'jabba jabba chimp' clip?
That would be young Debbie Reynolds, Gareth - Princess Leia's mom, among many accomplishments.
I'm always surprised when songs I can't remember ever not knowing turn out to be entirely unknown to everybody else. But, since our mini-clip seems to be proving hugely popular with viewers, I thought we ought to revive this full-length performance from The Mark Steyn Show a few years back. It arose because of the way I concluded my appreciation of the late Miss Reynolds:
On the radio last week, I mentioned one of my favorite Debbie Reynolds moments - from Two Weeks with Love, when she was eighteen and playing the younger sister of Jane Powell. Miss Powell got romanced by Ricardo Montalban; Debbie had lanky, boyish Carleton Carpenter, who was extremely tall while she was petite, and so they looked cute rather than sexy like the leads. Carleton Carpenter, from Bennington, Vermont, is a jack of all trades: actor, songwriter, mystery novelist, and better at most everything he's tried than many exclusive practitioners. For Two Weeks with Love, he and Debbie did 'Aba Daba Honeymoon', an old novelty song by Arthur Fields and Walter Donovan from 1914, right at the end of the Tin Pan Alley craze for jungle numbers:
Aba daba daba daba daba daba dab
Said the chimpy to the monk
Baba daba daba daba daba daba dab
Said the monkey to the chimp...
The gymnast had yet to learn how to dance, but she does her steps with brio and the gymnastics serve her in good stead when she's tossing peanuts to her duettist up a tree or swinging simian-like from the garden gate. 'Aba Daba Honeymoon' became the first soundtrack to sell enough singles to earn a gold record, and suddenly everyone was doing a 40-year-old song - Hoagy Carmichael, Kitty Kallen, Merv Griffin... Its author, Arthur Fields, had retired to Florida and the fillip in royalties made his last two years very comfortable, until he died in a fire at his nursing home in 1953. Thomas Pynchon called 'Aba Daba Honeymoon' 'the nadir of all American expression', but I love that firecracker performance from young Debbie and her gangly swain. Years later, my little girl and I watched it together and took to singing it in the car on long journeys. This week my now teenage daughter said to me, 'I was singing that all last term, and my friends said, "What the hell is that?"'
Well, of course, the minute I wrote that, I promptly spent the rest of the day wandering around the house going:
Aba daba daba daba daba daba dab...
And about three hours later I passed my daughter slumped in a chair trying hard to focus on her homework but instead singing:
Then the big baboon
One night in June
He married them and very soon
They went upon their Aba Daba Honeymoon...
There are thousands of songs that rhyme "moon" and "June", but this is the only pop hit to rhyme "moon" and "June" with "baboon". Which makes it more than qualified to be a Song of the Week. To perform the number on The Mark Steyn Show I asked the great Maria Muldaur - and, as you'll hear, we found a couple of connections between Maria's blockbuster hit "Midnight At The Oasis" and this century-old piece of Tin Pan Alley exotica:
~If you enjoy our Sunday Song of the Week, we now have an audio companion, every Sunday on Serenade Radio in the UK. You can listen to the show from anywhere on the planet by clicking the button in the top right corner here. It airs thrice a week:
5.30pm London Sunday (12.30pm New York)
5.30am London Monday (2.30pm Sydney)
9pm London Thursday (1pm Vancouver)
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