The Undeniable Greatness of ‘Christmas with the Chipmunks’
Today is Dec. 21, the calendar date depicted on the cover of the seminal 1962 album Christmas with the Chipmunks. This year is also the 55th anniversary of that Chipmunks Christmas album we all grew up with — but that we all grew up with different versions of.
Christmas with the Chipmunks was re-arranged, re-done, and re-released throughout the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and 2000s with a rotating lineup of 24 songs whose cartoonish orchestration made heavy use of xylophones, baritone saxophones, and its signature high-pitch chipmunk voices. Each track was recorded between 1958 and 1963. These same tracks were commercially reissued to five successive generations of parents forced to buy Christmas with the Chipmunks for their children who so demanded to hear it.
It all started with the one song where a chipmunk asks for a hula hoop. ALVIN!!!
THE GREATEST CHRISTMAS SONG OF ALL TIME. OF ALL TIME!
It’s called “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” and it’s actually the third best-selling Christmas song of all time (behind Mariah Carey’s ”All I Want for Christmas Is You” and Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24”).
It was originally recorded as a standalone 7-inch single in 1958 and hit No. 1 with a bullet. It won three Grammy awards that year for Best Comedy Performance, Best Children’s Recording, and Best Engineered Record.
The Chipmunks had not yet been assigned their unique identities or apparel, they simply had the letters “A,” “S,” and “T” on their respective onesies. The character “Dave Seville” was actually Ross Bagdasarian Sr., who also voiced all three chipmunk characters
CHRISTMAS WITH THE CHIPMUNKS
The full album Christmas with the Chipmunks was released in 1962, by which time the chipmunks had evolved into three adolescent rodent characters with unique identities. “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” was included, but it was not Track 1 as it was on many of the reissues we grew up with. Additional Christmas standards like “Here Comes Santa Claus” and “Jingle Bells” rounded out the 12-track release.
CHRISTMAS WITH THE CHIPMUNKS VOL. 2
The album’s success led to the release of Christmas with the Chipmunks Vol. 2, a set of 12 completely different Christmas songs, the following year. That album contained the legendary version on “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth,” and the Chipmunks’ “The Twelve Days of Christmas” that devolves into chaos and hilarity as the Chipmunks rebel against Dave and are unable to recall the lyrics as the song becomes more complex.
The combined 24 songs were reissued year after year, decade after decade, with a rotating roster of which songs were included in each rerelease. Often both albums were packaged into one sleeve.
CHRISTMAS WITH THE CHIPMUNKS (2008)
A remastered 2008 Christmas with the Chipmunks reissue contained 20 of the 24 songs of the previous releases. While the background music was remastered, the songs all contain the original Chipmunk voices from Ross Bagdasarian Sr. as recorded in the 1960s.
That version does, of course, include “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late),” one of the most recognized of all modern Christmas carols. Which is ironic, because most people don’t know the song’s actual name.