Ask "Mr. Music"
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: I am addicted to AMC's "Breaking Bad," and not just because it's set and filmed in this area.

In Season 3's cliffhanger, "Full Measure," Gale is in his apartment with a 78 rpm on his turntable, and singing along as it plays.

It only lasts about a minute, but I heard enough to know I must have this recording.

Unfortunately, it is entirely in another language, perhaps Spanish. I didn't understand a single word. Plus, portions of it are sung so fast it bears a resemblance to the Chipmunks.

I checked the ending credits but no mention is made of this or any music used.

How can I obtain this very unusual piece?
—Len Bristow, Albuquerque, N.M.

DEAR LEN: Unusual to the nth degree, yet enjoyable to that same extreme, your mystery song is "Crapa Pelada (Testa Pelata)."

Recorded and issued in Italy in 1945, this was a very popular single (Cetra AA-421) by a foursome named after the record label: Quartetto Cetra (translation: Cithara Quartet). They are the most famous Italian group ever.

Yes, "Crapa Pelada" sounds Spanish, but those words, individually or together, do not translate in any of the world's primary languages, including Spanish and Italian.

What makes more sense is the subtitle, "Testa Pelata," which, in official Italian, means Bald Head.

I learned from my trusty Italian correspondents, Carlo Stevan and Jean-Marc Gargiulo, that "Crapa Pelada" also translates as Bald Head, specifically with the Milanese (Milan) population, where many still use the unauthorized and unofficial Western Lombard dialect.

Besides the title, some of the lyrics are in the Lombard dialect. Other verses are in official Italian.

No matter how you say it, what we have here is a novelty number about a man losing his hair, and planning a mischievous use for his fallen follicles.

"Crapa Pelada (Testa Pelata)" is one of over a thousand songs in the group's repertoire, and is available on "I Successi del Quartetto Cetra," and several other easily available CDs.

David Costabile, who plays Gale in "Breaking Bad," can also sing, and his performance in that scene is live (not lip-sync). Since David does not speak Italian, how he keeps pace with such rapid-fire lyrics is amazing.

Funny thing you should mention the Chipmunks. Read on:

DEAR JERRY: Again this year, I noticed how quickly after December 25th the media quits playing just about everything relating to the Holidays. By January 2nd, they are all put away for about 11 months.

I seem to recall, as a child, hearing Christmas hits played well into January, and sometimes beyond. Is that an accurate recollection?

Which Christmas record remained on the Hit Parade the farthest into the next year?
—Margie Donaldson, North Hollywood, Calif.

MY LITTLE MARGIE: If you remember Christmas hits in January, you probably recall Gale Storm as Margie.

Over the years, numerous Christmas-related hits sold well in early January, and remained on the national charts for a few weeks of the new year.

However, "The Chipmunk Song" wins the Not Fade Away award, standing alone as the only Christmas-themed hit to linger on everyone's Hit Parade until the 1st of March! If this were February 1959, you'd still be hearing those singing Sciuridae for the rest of this month.

"The Chipmunk Song," by the Chipmunks (Alvin-Theodore-Simon) with the Music of David Seville (Liberty 55168), spent 13 weeks in the Top 100 of both Billboard and Cash Box, including four weeks at No. 1.

Having two of those weeks in December 1958, and two in January '59, makes David Seville's novelty brainchild the only Christmas song in nearly 60 years to span two consecutive years.

Finally, not since "The Chipmunk Song" has another Christmas song even reached Billboard's Top 10.

IZ ZAT SO? With their recordings, David Seville and His Chipmunks accomplished some amazing things, but we should focus on more than just "The Chipmunk Song."

Turning to album sales, they have four RIAA-certified Gold, and three Platinum:

Gold: "Chipmunk Punk" (1980); "Urban Chipmunk" (1981) "A Chipmunk Christmas" (1982); and "Alvin and the Chipmunks - The Squeakquel" (2009).

Platinum: "Christmas with the Chipmunks" (1962); "Chipmunks in Low Places" (1992); and "Alvin and the Chipmunks - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack" (2007).

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