Zippy and the Edsels

Today’s Zippy, a little poem in three panels:

Or: Zipama Drama King Kong.

The model is the song “Rama Lama Ding Dong”, as sung originally by the Edsels (and then covered by many others). From Wikipedia:

The Edsels were an American doo-wop group active during the late 1950s and early 1960s. The name of the group was originally The Essos, after the oil company, but was changed to match the then-new Ford automobile, the Edsel. They recorded over 25 songs and had multiple performances on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. The Edsels were one of the few doo-wop groups to sign with a major record label, as most groups of that era found success with small independent labels; before their national hit “Rama Lama Ding Dong”, songs like “What Brought Us Together”, “Bone Shaker Joe” and “Do You Love Me” helped the group land a major recording contract with Capitol Records in 1961.

Today the group is known almost exclusively for “Rama Lama Ding Dong”, written by lead singer George “Wydell” Jones Jr. The song was recorded in 1957 and released, under the erroneous title “Lama Rama Ding Dong”, in 1958. It did not become popular until 1961, after a disc jockey in New York City began to play it as a segue from the Marcels’ doo-wop version of “Blue Moon”.

The lyrics are bare-bones male doo-wop; the first verse:

I got a girl named Rama Lama, Rama Lama Ding Dong
She’s everything to me
Rama Lama, Rama Lama Ding Dong
I’ll never set her free
For she’s mine, all mine

You can listen to the whole thing here.

The title was played on in Animal House, but with a different tune and different lyrics. From Wikipedia:

“Shama Lama Ding Dong” is a song written by Mark Davis … and William Peace and performed by fictional band Otis Day and the Knights in the 1978 film National Lampoon’s Animal House. Although Otis Day was portrayed by DeWayne Jessie in the film, the vocals were actually performed by Lloyd Williams.

You can listen to it here.

An earlier Zippy strips playing with the title: on 12/27/08. “Nuclear obama-lama-ding-dong”. And a Zippy on Ding Dong: on 4/27/16, “Ding Dong Dell”.

The expression ding-dong started as imitative of a bell ringing (first English attestation in the 16th century), but then in North American slang picked up the additional meaning ‘a silly or foolish person’ (NOAD2) or ‘a stupid, dull person’ (Green’s Dictionary of Slang), first attested in 1929 — what we see in the cartoon — possibly through the mediation of ding-dong ‘penis’ (attested in the U.S. at least from the beginning of the 20th century, and the probable source of dong ‘penis’ (according to Green’s)) used for insulting reference to a man, or possibly (my speculation) just from the image of a bell as heavy (compare dumb as a box of rocks).

One Response to “Zippy and the Edsels”

  1. FF1993: Griffith Observatory – Random Thoughts Says:

    […] is Zippy the Pinhead, of course, which is still running today. These days, I mostly read them via Arnold Zwicky’s blog, where he explains all the references. (They can be pretty […]

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