Thursday, August 1, 2013

"The Thing" - Phil Harris (1950)


This goes along with so many of the songs I listened to as a kid. My parents listened to everything from big band to classical recordings, along with a bunch of what I suppose was called “pop” music back then. And then there were some of the novelty records, which, even if I didn't understand them fully at the age of 4, were funny to me. Records such as “She Had to Go and Lose It at the Astor” by Harry Brown are a perfect example. I didn’t have to know exactly what she might have “lost” at the Astor to know the record was funny.

Phil Harris may sound familiar to your ear, even if you have never deliberately sought out one of his many recordings; that’s because he was the voice behind Baloo the Bear in the Disney film “The Jungle Book.” His voice is unmistakable, and even if you did miss it the first time around when we were kids, then I know you have listened to it with your own, or possibly even your grand-kids since then.


“The Thing" was composed by Charles Randolph Grean, who wrote several of these novelty songs in the late 40’s and early 50’s. This is one of the most successful, having reached Number 1 on the Billboard Charts in November of 1950. The song was actually recorded on October 13th, which shows how quickly the record got played and became a hit. It remained on the charts for 14 weeks.

Arthur Godfrey, Danny Kaye, Ray Charles, Teresa Brewer and Les Welch are amonst those who have covered this song, but Phil Harris was the first to record it and release it. Arthur Godfrey and Danny Kaye both recorded their versions within a few weeks of Mr. Harris, but Phil Harris’ timing was spot on, and so he had the hit with the song. Ray Charles didn’t get around to recording it himself until July of 1963, which is an early example of the songs durability. It has even been released recently as a rap song!

Although Mr. Grean never tells us just what is in the mysterious box he finds on the beach, we all have a pretty good idea of what it is, pertaining to the verse in which he uses it. If you have never heard this record, give it a whirl. Pops and all, it’s worth a spin. (That’s a pun.) Here are the lyrics; and below them is the actual recorded version of the song which I used to listen to back around 1957 when I was 3 years old.

"The Thing" by Charles Grean

I saw a great big wooden box a-floatin’ in the bay
I pulled it in and opened it up and much to my surprise
Ooh, I discovered a boom-boom-boom, right before my eyes
Oh, I discovered a boom-boom-boom, right before my eyes

I picked it up and ran to town as happy as a king
I took it to a guy I knew who’d buy most any thing
But this is what he hollered at me as I walked in his shop
Oh, get outta here with that boom-boom-boom, before I call a cop
Oh, get outta here with that boom-boom-boom before I call a cop

I turned around and got right out, a-runnin’ for my life
And then I took it home with me to give it to my wife
But this is what she hollered at me as I walked in the door
Oh, get outta here with that boom-boom-boom, and don’t come back no more
Oh, get outta here with that boom-boom-boom, and don’t come back no more

I wandered all around the town until I chanced to meet
A hobo who was looking for a hand-out on the street
He said he’d take most any old thing, he was a desperate man
But when I showed him the boom-boom-boom, he turned around and ran
Oh, when I showed him the boom-boom-boom, he turned around and ran

I wandered on for many years, a victim of my fate
Until one day I came upon St. Peter at the gate
And when I tried to take it inside, he told me where to go
Get outta here with that boom-boom-boom and take it down below
Oh, get outta here with that boom-boom-boom and take it down below

The moral of this story is if you’re out on the beach
And you should see a great big box and it’s within your reach
Don’t ever stop and open it up, that’s my advice to you
‘Cause you’ll never get rid of the boom-boom-boom, no matter what you do
Oh, you’ll never get rid of the boom-boom-boom, no matter what you do.


4 comments:

  1. Not only do I remember this song, but at the age of 4, I SANG IT at the birthday party of a young neighborhood friend, amazing and amusing all the adults! (Yeah, I was a precocious little brat...LOL!) What was "it"? I've given it some thought. The word "Octopus" makes a bit of logical sense, given the beach location -- and it scans perfectly. Think also of the Beatles' "Octopus's Garden" -- which makes us smile. It's clearly a whimsical critter. I'm also thinking of a "Shrunken Head" -- which would definitely scare the bejeezus out of everyone who saw the "Thing", but it doesn't scan very well when you stick it into the lyrics. Anyway, as Iris Dement sings in her most popular song, I guess we should just "Let The Mystery Be"! Thanks for the memories -- you must be exactly my age!

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    1. Very cool comment and I hope that you come back and see this. I have great memories of so many songs from my childhood. I am 61. The aearliest records were the old 78's- She Had to Go and Lose it at the Astor- Lovely Bunch of Coconuts- Wheel of Fortune- Tennessee Waltz- Lucky Old Sun. So many more. Thanks again for the comment! Robert at Rooftop 12-3-15 7:50 PM

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    2. PS I always thought it was a gun due to the boom boom boom plus I lived in Brooklyn- near the beach - but the gun made more sense to me then. However- at age 61 the Octopus sounds just fine...

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