Almanac Music: Ooby Dooby Shoop Shoop

 

 

“The Tumultuous Tom-tommy Tortoise” in More Nonsense, Pictures, Rhymes, Botany, etc. (1872) [Wikimedia Commons.]

 

Almanac Music: Ooby Dooby Shoop Shoop

 

This piece is mainly concerned with the importance in popular music of vocalisations that do not make use of actual words. To put it more specifically, the article deals with songs in which vocal sounds and/or deliberate verbal nonsense make up an important component. Everyone has heard this kind of material. Following is a selection, based on my personal knowledge and likes. (The years mentioned relate to the version of the song under discussion.)

 

 

‘Ooby Dooby’, written by Wade Moore and Dick Penner, performed by Roy Orbison and Teen Kings (1956)

 

What does ‘ooby dooby’ mean? In a dictionary sense, nothing – but this combination of nonsense syllables was the foundation of Roy Orbison’s first hit, way back in 1956, for the famous Sun Records label. In the context of this fun rockabilly tune, ‘ooby dooby’ refers to a dance, as in ‘do the ooby dooby’. Why? Just sounded to the songwriters like a good name for a dance, I suppose.

 

 

 

 

 

‘Twist and Shout’, written by Bert Berns and Phil Medley, performed by the Beatles (1963)

 

The most exciting part of this iconic rocker, aside from John Lennon’s electric lead vocal, is the climbing vocal harmonies around the middle and concluding parts of the song – without these wordless contributions, the song would be half-baked. Another interesting fact is that the Beatles version of the song was done in one take – Lennon had a cold when it was recorded, and his voice had just about had it for the day. It was the last song recorded on the single day they took to record the vast majority of the Please Please Me album.

 

 

 

 

 

‘Car Crazy Cutie’, written by Brian Wilson and Roger Christian, performed by the Beach Boys (1963)

 

This neglected early Beach Boys song with the alliterative title, fundamentally about attractive girls who follow drag racing, possesses many vocalisations that are not actual words, such as the often-repeated ‘run a-run a-doo run run’. It also is notable in general for its lovely, typical Beach Boys harmonies.

 

 

 

 

 

‘Chug-a-lug’, written and performed by Roger Miller (1964)

 

 

This comic song with the onomatopoeic title is about drinking exploits and their consequences. Miller wrote a number of humorous songs with offbeat vocalisations, like ‘Dang Me’ and ‘Do Wacka Do’.

 

 

 

 

 

‘Hey Jude’, written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, performed by the Beatles (1968)

 

‘Na na-na na-na-na-nah na-na-na-nah, Hey Jude’ – no more need been said, except that this repeated passage in the song is hypnotic and utterly memorable, and contributed in major way to one of the Beatles’ biggest ever hits.

 

 

 

 

 

‘Hooked on a Feeling’, written by Mark James, performed by Blue Swede (1974)

 

 

This 1974 Blue Swede version of a song recorded in a number of versions in previous years first burned into my mind as a kid, primarily because of the strange, gruff ‘ooga chaka’ chant with which it commences and which occurs again later in the tune. (Apparently, this chant originally came about in an earlier version by Jonathan King where backup singers attempted to imitate a Native American war cry.) Listened to ‘cold’, many years after I first heard it, the Blue Swede version comes across as a profoundly weird combination of cultural appropriation and jejune mainstream cabaret.

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Slice of Heaven’, written by Dave Dobbyn, performed by Dave Dobbyn with Herbs (1986)

 

This fine Dave Dobbyn song can be justifiably called New Zealand’s unofficial national anthem. Featured in the Footrot Flats movie, it is primarily known, I’d argue, for the wonderful work of the male vocal group, Herbs, especially them singing ‘non words’ at one stage (starting at the 2 minute 38 second mark and going for about 15 seconds in the version I’ve provided). These non-words are a point of difference which ‘makes’ the song, I believe.

 

 

 

 

‘The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s in His Kiss)’, written by Rudy Clark, performed by Cher (1990)

 

The first recording of this song occurred in 1963 was performed by Merry Clayton, but did not make it into the charts. Many other versions, some hits like Cher’s, followed.

 

The non-word vocals are of course the ‘shoop shoop shoop …’ backing vocals here. The clip for the rendition of the song I selected is a corny one, based around the film Mermaids, but Cher’s contralto voice is certainly in fine shape.

 

 

 

 

‘This Kiss’, written by Beth Nielsen Chapman, Robin Lerner and Annie Roboff, performed by Faith Hill (1998)

 

This joyful love song (and a very slick, highly literate, professional piece of songwriting at that) is notable for the breathy, emphatic ‘ah’ that Hill inserts near the end of each chorus: ‘ … it’s ah impossible … it’s ah unthinkable … it’s ah subliminal …’. Without the ‘ah’, the impact of the kiss in the context of the song would not be the same, and thus the expression has a highly important role in the song’s overall impact. (Although ‘ah’ is in virtually any dictionary one consults, I view it more as a sound, at least the way Hill does it, in that she basically exhales air.)

 

 

 

 

‘Pompeii’, written by Dan Smith, performed by Bastille (2013)

 

Here’s how this international synth-pop hit by English band Bastille commences:

 

‘Eh-eh-oh, eh-oh
Eh-eh-oh, eh-oh
Eh-eh-oh, eh-oh
Eh-eh-oh, eh-oh
Eh-eh-oh, eh-oh
Eh-eh-oh, eh-oh
Eh-eh-oh, eh-oh
Eh-eh-oh, eh-oh
I was left to my own devices
Many days fell away with nothing to show …’

 

What purpose does the often repeated ‘Eh-eh-oh, eh-oh’ chant serve in the song? To name but two things, the way the chant is sung creates a strong senses of urgency and of events coming to a head, entirely in keeping with a song about the volcano-induced catastrophic fall of Pompeii in AD 79.

 

 

 

As in the case of my Almanac Music pieces in general, readers’ comments relating to the piece are warmly invited. In this instance, Almanackers may wish to add some of their own favourite songs in the category that has just been discussed.

 

 

 

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About

Kevin Densley is a graduate of both Deakin University and The University of Melbourne. He has taught writing and literature in numerous Victorian universities and TAFES. He is a poet and writer-in-general. His fifth book-length poetry collection, Please Feed the Macaws ... I'm Feeling Too Indolent, was published in late 2023 by Ginninderra Press. He is also the co-author of ten play collections for young people, as well as a multi Green Room Award nominated play, Last Chance Gas, which was published by Currency Press. Other writing includes screenplays for educational films.

Comments

  1. Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom. Little Richard was the original raunchy stage performer & Mick Jagger’s first hero. “Tutti Frutti” is euphemistic genius – had to be cleaned up a little for a 1950’s audience to make the object of desire more feminine than the original masculine.

  2. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks, PB. Great example of the kind of song I discussed in this article. Paul McCartney, as you may know, loved Little Richard too – that’s primarily the reason, I suppose, that the Beatles performed live and recorded ‘Long Tall Sally’, as well as Lennon-McCartney writing and recording ‘I’m Down’ in tribute – not sure if they played the latter live, bit this could be readily checked online, I imagine.

  3. excellent article Kev. This sprung to mind from around 2000.
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=k3RzQ1b_c9w

  4. Paul Kelly’s doo doo doo do’s on Adelaide
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=f9ISHgClPQs

  5. Kevin Densley says

    Hi Ian. I enjoyed your two selections, both very much in keeping with the theme du jour.

    I found Kelly’s doo doo doo do’s in ‘Adelaide’ particularly interesting ‘What is the purposes of these sounds in the song?’, I asked myself. ‘Why didn’t Kelly just write some words to replace them?’ I figure that he could have readily written some words in this context, but chose not to because he wanted to emphasize to the listener how ‘ho-hum’ Adelaide was to the singer in the world of the song, the city being a place of unhappy memories and one that therefore he had no particular desire to return to. In other words the singer in the song is basically saying ‘Adelaide … ho-hum, ho-hum’.

  6. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    A dead-heat for the first record I ever owned was Boom-Sha-La-La-Lo by the recently departed Hans Poulsen.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-eEgw5caGAw

    Two Captain Obvious additions to this idea are

    Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da and De Doo Doo Doo De Da Da Da

    I’ll also throw in Surfing Magazines by The Go-Betweens

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBJYP_nfMmg

    Finally, Walk On The Wild Side

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RsVLIiI8Vfo

  7. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks for this excellent bunch of songs, Swish, all spot on, of course, in terms of the topic.

    I’ll single out ‘Surfing Magazines’ by The Go-Betweens for particular mention, mainly because in recent times, I’ve been repeatedly reminded how bloody good this Australian band were.

  8. Ian Hauser says

    ‘Hocus Pocus’ by Focus for me.

  9. Rick Kane says

    There’s a guttural scream Bruce does in his magnificent song Backstreets that sums up the protagonist’s emotional moment and I would argue is the best lyric in the song.

  10. Kevin Densley says

    Classic stuff, IH. I can just imagine you ‘getting down’ to this Dutch band back in the day (circa 1971). What an eccentric, interesting song you’ve selected – a kind of jazz/prog rock number that even includes a fair amount of yodelling!

  11. Kevin Densley says

    Oh yes – fabulous fabulous fabulous, Rick K!

    Just finished listening to ‘Backstreets’ and what an anthemic echoey glorious song it is! Springsteen’s guttural screams and yells are so important in terms of the overall impact of the song – highlighting this kind of thing is just what I wanted to do in today’s piece.

  12. Julian Di Martino says

    I always liked this song https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mairzy_Doats and really like that the song lyrics tell you that, yes the song’s refrain seems meaningless:

    Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey
    A kiddley divey too, wouldn’t you?[4]
    However, the lyrics of the bridge provide a clue:

    If the words sound queer and funny to your ear, a little bit jumbled and jivey,
    Sing “Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy.”[4]

  13. Kevin Densley says

    Many thanks for this contribution, Julian. I know and like the song, too. It’s certainly a witty and interesting piece of work, and definitely fits into the context of the present discussion.

  14. DBalassone says

    Sha la la, dooby wah
    Dum dum dum, yeh yeh
    Sha la la, dooby wah
    Dum dum dum, yeh yeh

  15. Kevin Densley says

    Name that song. (Thanks DB.)

    Anyone?

  16. DBalassone says

    I’ll answer my own question. It’s Blue Angel by the incomparable Roy Orbison – the Big O – or the Lonely One, as I like to call him. His version of Danny Boy is astonishing btw – and I’m not talking about the Philharmonic overdub, but the original version from his album Memphis.

    Great post KD. You could have a whole post of Doo Wop utterances of course, but here’s a few other (Rock) examples that spring to mind:

    John Fogerty’s primal screen at the end of the Pagan Baby.

    The Boss doing a similar thing at the end of the Jungleland.

    Wooly Bully.

  17. Rick Kane says

    Some other suggestions:

    Miss Ohio, Gillian Welch
    The Right Profile, The Clash
    State Trooper, Bruce
    Iron Butterfly, of course
    Onomatopeia, Todd Rundgren

  18. Kevin Densley says

    Hi again DB. In general terms, you’ve done a fabulous follow-up to your first response. Of course, yes, ‘Blue Angel’ by the ‘Caruso of Rock’ was your ‘non-word’ example!

    And your primal scream example was interesting, too, reminding me of what I think is the best primal screaming in rock music, absolutely, by a country mile – from the latter part of John Lennon’s ‘Mother’, on the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (1970) album. Probably no surprise about the Lennon song and performance, given that he’d previously undergone primal therapy with Arthur Janov.

    Finally, something off-beat … in my recent research on early Roy Orbison stuff, I discovered a picture of Roy Orbison and the Teen Kings in which the naturally fair-haired Roy looks uncannily like Australian cricketer Steve Smith! What the!

  19. Kevin Densley says

    Hi again Rick.

    Thanks so much for these – a great playlist to accompany the beer I will soon have. Cheers!

  20. DBalassone says

    I’d like to see that photo.

  21. DBalassone says

    Who put the “bomp” in the bomp bah bomp bah bomp?
    Who put the “ram” in the rama lama ding dong?
    Who put the “bop” in the bop shoo bop shoo bop?
    Who put the “dip” in the dip da dip da dip?

  22. DBalassone says

    Bomp baba bomp, ba bomp ba bomp bomp,
    bbaba bomp baba bomp,
    da dang da dang dang, da ding and dong ding

    Blue moon, moon, moon, blue moon
    Blue moon, moon, blue moon
    Blue moon, moon, blue moon

  23. DBalassone says

    Yip-yip-yip-yip-yip-yip, bmm
    Sha-na-na-na, sha-na-na-na-na, ahh-do
    Sha-na-na-na, sha-na-na-na-na, ahh-do
    Sha-na-na-na, sha-na-na-na-na, ahh-do
    Sha-na-na-na, sha-na-na-na-na
    Ahh, yip-yip-yip-yip-yip-yip-yip-yip
    Mum-mum-mum-mum-mum-mum, get a job
    Sha-na-na-na, sha-na-na-na-na

  24. DBalasson says

    Yip-yip-yip-yip-yip-yip, bmm
    Sha-na-na-na, sha-na-na-na-na, ahh-do
    Sha-na-na-na, sha-na-na-na-na, ahh-do
    Sha-na-na-na, sha-na-na-na-na, ahh-do
    Sha-na-na-na, sha-na-na-na-na
    Ahh, yip-yip-yip-yip-yip-yip-yip-yip
    Mum-mum-mum-mum-mum-mum, get a job
    Sha-na-na-na, sha-na-na-na-na

  25. DBalassone says

    Yip -yip-yip-yip-yip-yip, bmm
    Sha-na-na-na, sha-na-na-na-na, ahh-do
    Sha-na-na-na, sha-na-na-na-na, ahh-do
    Sha-na-na-na, sha-na-na-na-na, ahh-do
    Sha-na-na-na, sha-na-na-na-na
    Ahh, yip-yip-yip-yip-yip-yip-yip-yip
    Mum-mum-mum-mum-mum-mum, get a job
    Sha-na-na-na, sha-na-na-na-na

  26. Kevin Densley says

    DB – thanks for ‘Who Put The Bomp?’ Great stuff!

    Was the ‘Blue Moon’ bit just some personal riffin’?

    And in this clip there’s a couple of images of Roy Orbison photo where he looks like Steve Smith (I reckon): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yg9a14a5OY4

  27. DBalassone says

    Ah! Bowakawa, pousse pousse
    Ah! Bowakawa, pousse pousse
    Ah! Bowakawa, pousse pousse
    Ah! Bowakawa, pousse pousse
    Ah! Bowakawa, pousse pousse
    Ah! Bowakawa, pousse pousse
    Ah! Bowakawa, pousse pousse
    Ah! Bowakawa, pousse pousse
    Ah! Bowakawa, pousse pousse
    Ah! Bowakawa, pousse pousse
    Ah! Bowakawa, pousse pousse
    Ah! Bowakawa, pousse pousse

  28. Kevin Densley says

    DB – in the second last line above, the word ‘photo’ should have been omitted. Oops!

    And what the hell, very much in keeping with our present song theme is ‘Mr Bass Man’ by Johnny Cymbal (1961): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZr8iReEqMQ

  29. DBalassone says

    Sha-na-na-na, sha-na-na-na-na, ahh-do
    Sha-na-na-na, sha-na-na-na-na, ahh-do
    Sha-na-na-na, sha-na-na-na-na, ahh-do
    Sha-na-na-na, sha-na-na-na-na
    Ahh, yip-yip-yip-yip-yip-yip-yip-yip
    Mum-mum-mum-mum-mum-mum, get a job

  30. DBalassone says

    Wow, that’s a dead ringer for Smitty – if he greased his hair, that is.

    The Blue Moon bit was from the doo wop version by the Marcels. Some of the greatest doo-wopping, you could ever wish to hear.

  31. DBalassone says

    Here’s one more:

    Yip-yip-yip-yip-yip-yip, bmm
    Sha-na-na-na, sha-na-na-na-na, ahh-do
    Sha-na-na-na, sha-na-na-na-na, ahh-do
    Sha-na-na-na, sha-na-na-na-na, ahh-do
    Sha-na-na-na, sha-na-na-na-na
    Ahh, yip-yip-yip-yip-yip-yip-yip-yip
    Mum-mum-mum-mum-mum-mum, get a job
    Sha-na-na-na, sha-na-na-na-na

  32. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks again for your comments in connection with this article, DB – I do like it when a piece leads to a highly interesting discussion.

  33. ZZ Top’s La Grange:

    A har har har har.
    They’ve got a lot of nice girls, ahh.

  34. Kevin Densley says

    Thank you, Dips.

    This one’s a beauty!

  35. Liam Hauser says

    Magic, by Ben Folds Five.
    The Dead Heart, by Midnight Oil.
    And don’t forget the last 30 seconds of A Day in the Life (The Beatles).

  36. Kevin Densley says

    Many thanks for these, Liam. You put together a diverse, interesting little collection.

    Mentioning the last thirty seconds of ‘A Day in the Life’ was particularly thought-provoking, in that while it was instrumental and not a vocalisation, it certainly was an important ‘non-word’ contribution to the song.

  37. Tony Forbes says

    KD you obviously have too much time on your side. Can I suggest Na Na Nah Nah Nah, Hey Hey Hey, kiss him goodbye.
    Love you work
    Tony

  38. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks Tony – your suggestion of this Steam (and Bananarama) song is a ripper, in terms of the topic.

    Cheers!

  39. DBalassone says

    Weeheeheehee, dee heeheeheehee, weeoh aweem away
    Weeheeheehee, dee heeheeheehee, weeoh aweem away

    A-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh
    A-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh
    A-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh
    A-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh

  40. Kevin Densley says

    This topic is obviously one close to your heart, DB – it’s the language-play that has a strong appeal, I imagine.

    Thanks for ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’.

    While I’m at it, I might as well put George’s Harrison’s fabulous ‘Wah-Wah’ (1970) into this discussion, a fine song and one that has an onomatopoeic title in its reference to a guitar’s wah wah pedal, as well as meaning ‘headache’ in Harrison’s personal vocabulary.

  41. DBalassone says

    Absolutely, I must confess I always heard the title/chorus of a popular Talking Heads song as ‘Wah-Wah Love’. I loved it. It conjured up all sorts of imagery and feelings for me.

    I was disappointed when I later discovered that the name/chorus of the song was actually ‘Wild Wild Life’.

  42. Patrick O'Brien says

    Great stuff, Kevin.

    A few contributions:

    Ella was always at it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1GUmxnYheK0

    Betty Carter at the Vanguard: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XL-4ANdkeqc

    Shirley Gunter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CuEee-cjxHA

    Jessie Hill produced by Toussaint: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UFnKWUjvdk8

    Madeline Kahn doing Clarence ‘Frogman’ Henry: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kd4LZ5d9j5U

  43. Kevin Densley says

    What a great selection of songs – thanks so much, Patrick.

    To touch upon a couple – what a brilliant improvisatory singer Ella was – she even managed to drop a little Beatles ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ into her wildly, wonderfully rambling number!

    And Madeline Kahn – your selection reminded me of how much of unique, gifted performer she was.

    Thanks again – all songs were rippers, as I indicated at the outset.

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