Friday, August 07, 2009


I was listening to an album of 1920s music that I found in a thrift store recently, and a song called "I'm Just Wild About Animal Crackers" jumped out at me. It was like something the Bonzo Dog Band would have recorded - a hilarious, high energy, completely wacked-out jazz novelty of absurd lyrics and ludicrous sound effects. Who was this guy?

His name was Irving Aaronson. A New Yorker, he was quite popular for a while in the '20s and 30s, nailing the zeitgeist on the head with a song called "Crazy Words, Crazy Tunes" that introduced the once-ubiquitous phrase "vo-do-de-o." I never knew that phrase actually came from somewhere. I thought it was just something people said at the time, like "yo, whassup?"

Even though heavyweights like Artie Shaw and Gene Krupa played in his band, jazz snobs tend to dismiss him for the same reasons that I like him. Early jazz is full of, to quote Aaronson, crazy words and crazy tunes. When (and why) did jazz lose it's sense of humor?

Unfortunately, Aaronson's music has apparently never been compiled. One or two songs here and there are in print, including, perhaps inevitably, on Woody Allen soundtracks. It's tragic that he's dropped off the planet, not as well-remembered/re-discovered as Spike Jones or Raymond Scott are. Fortunately, nice people in internet land have collected many of his 78s.

Irving Aaronson & His Commanders: "I'm Just Wild About Animal Crackers"

Plenty of his other songs are almost as cracked. I just love that he has a song called "Waffles." "Waffles" is a funny-sounding word, isn't it? The tune lives up to the title.

Irving Aaronson & His Commanders: "Waffles"

As much as I appreciate collectors posting these records on-line, I do think they sometimes go a little overboard with the noise-reduction. A little surface noise is fine by me, especially when the alternative is an un-natural warped sound. These Irving Aaronson collections are generally (though not totally) well-recorded, but I'm still hoping for a proper collection with an info booklet, etc.


L said...

Thanks for these - fun tunes.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful. Thanks also for pointing me in the direction of the nice people in internet land. I think I'll be staying there for awhile.