CSOTD 12/29/2015: Christmas for the birds

We are in the midst of the traditional 12 Days of Christmas, which used to start on December 25 and continue until January 6. This celebration, of course, inspired a song that we all know.  That same song also has inspired countless parodies. My Christmas Song of the Day for December 29 is one of the least known, but one of the funniest.

Alexander “Sascha” Burland (born 1927) made his name writing jingles for radio and television ads. In 1959, he and a friend, Don Elliott, capitalized on the fad for fictional groups of rodents with squeaky voices by creating The Nutty Squirrels; they promptly had a top 20 single called “Uh! Oh! Part 2.” Unlike the pop-oriented Chpmunks, the Nutty Squirrels were rooted in jazz. They also made it to television before Alvin, Theodore and Simon, but The Nutty Squirrels Present, which aired in 1960-61, was not a success.

As happens with most novelties, the Nutty Squirrels soon became dated. Burland went back to his mostly behind-the-scenes work; he was the credited composer on the T-Bones’ 1966 Top 10 single “No Matter What Shape (Your Stomach’s In),” which originated as an Alka-Seltzer jingle.

In between, Burland, with help from The Skipjack Choir and Mason Adams, recorded one of the great lost Christmas novelty records.

Imagine that you are the conductor of a small choir that is in the midst of singing “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” Now imagine that one of the choir members starts receiving the gifts in the song from her overeager boyfriend. The various birds get loose, interfere with the singers and the instruments, and chaos ensues. Finally, as the choir is finally trying to run down the entire list of gifts, the exasperated director shouts the line that became the title of this parody – “The chickens are in the chimes!”

Released in 1963 as a 45 on the RCA Victor label, it’s never been released on CD as far as I know, but people in the Christmas-music community love to share the song because it’s both rare and unusual.

Cluck along with “The Chickens Are In the Chimes!”


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