Monday, April 20, 2009

Shhhh.....


The other day, in an American Top Forty rebroadcast from April of 1975, Casey Kasem announced that he was about to play the song that had the longest wait between the date of its recording and its debut on the charts. I had no idea what single he was talking about, figuring it was by Johnny Mathis or Louis Armstrong or somebody like that. Casey then said it was by a man named Benny Bell. I still had no clue; I'm not sure I'd ever heard that name before.

Then he played the song, and its tinkling melody was instantly recognizable: "Shaving Cream." I was nine years old in 1975, and "Shaving Cream" was a huge hit with the nine-year-old crowd:

I have a sad story to tell you
It may hurt your feelings a bit
Last night when I walked into my bathroom
I stepped in a big pile of shhhhaving cream
Be nice and clean
Shave everyday and you'll always look keen


Hearing it now, it sounded like something that was cut in 1946 (and released on the Cocktail Party Songs label): scratchy, low fidelity but carefully enunciated lyrics. It never occurred to me in 1975 that the song was that old; I never would have figured that people used (or at least alluded to) language like that back in 1946.

Benny, who was known for his risque records, had a whole basketful of songs with titles like "Without Pants," "I'm Gonna Give My Girl a Goose for Thanksgiving," and "Everybody Loves My Fanny." Dr. Demento began playing "Shaving Cream" at some point on his show in the early 1970s, leading to a re-release of it as a single in 1975, when Benny Bell was already 69 years old. (The vocal on the single, confusingly enough, was by Paul Wynn, although Benny sometimes sang it his ownself, too, and also sometimes performed under the name Paul Wynn. Near as I can tell, the hit single did not feature Benny's own vocal.)

The Benny Bell revival was short-lived; "Shaving Cream" peaked at Number Thirty and stayed on the charts only four weeks. Benny became a Dr. Demento favorite for a while and released several more comedy records before dying in 1999 at the age of 93.

Benny's real name, by the way, was Benjamin Samberg. OPC has contacted the press people for Andy Samberg, the SNL and YouTube star, to see if the two are any relation (although we highly doubt it). The Andy Samberg camp has not, as of yet, chosen to respond.

8 comments:

Mark said...

My 5th grade music teacher brought in that record, at what must have been the height of its popularity, and asked us to sing it. Needless to say we responded with gusto. This was in Mississippi in 1975, the heart of the Bible and "Yes, ma'am" belts. It was such an odd memory that I sometimes wondered if it really happened. I guess it did.

T. Nawrocki said...

Maybe she thought she could train you to use "shaving cream" in place of its more vulgar alternative.

Innocent Bystander said...

When I was a counsellor at a summer camp, one of my 10-year-old campers sang the song during lunch, and instead of "sh...aving cream", he lustily belted out the word alluded to. I don't know why but this struck me as funny in the extreme, and instead of reprimanding him, I burst out laughing.

Rob said...

Casey Kasem turned 76 today, and no doubt celebrated by retreating into his private studio, playing "Shaving Cream" over and over, and screaming about how you can't play that song segeuing into a long-distance dedication about somebody's dog dying.

I wonder if "Shaving Cream" predates the popular 70s girls jumprope rhyme "Miss Lucy Had A Steamboat," which is equally daring ("The steamboat had a bell, Miss Lucy went to heaven and the steamboat went to HELLO operator," etc), or the CCD item "Ten Little Angels" ("they couldn't get to heaven so they all went to NINE little angels..."

MJN said...

There's a discussion about the origins of "Miss Lucy" here:

http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/003795.html

Marshall said...

See, you say Casey Kasim is only 76 and now everyone's repeating it.

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