The Doodletown Pipers were one of the primary purveyors of sanitary choral pop singing and dancing for television during my childhood. They specialized in the familiar, already-sanitary hits of the day, dressed up in perky matching outfits provided by Mister Marty Of California. They were very flexible: professional, but in a loose, green kind of way. Their stock in trade was enthusiasm, not precision. And you can bet that if a tight deadline was looming, they'd get their parts learned and be ready to hit their marks when the cameras were set to roll. They served a vital function to producers of light broadcast variety entertainment back then. There is no need in the world to burden them with critical assessment that takes their work out of the context it was created to inhabit. "Functional" sums them up well. In fact, if you were to say that the Doodletown Pipers put the "fun" back in "functional," you might reasonably expect to emerge with only a mild rebuke.
But back then in the sixties when I was a kid, I seriously didn't get it. To see these automatons on television performing the hits of other artists with such seemingly empty-headed giddiness, I just assumed they were doing the originals a great disservice. Now I know better: having one's material performed before any national audience would make even Bob Dylan giddy, or at least his accountant. I also know now that a cheerfully choreographed and costumed lip-sync is a mode of promotion far more forgiving of the audience than, say, herding them like cattle into vast mud-filled stadiums, or crowding them into fire traps devoid of breathable air in order to overcharge them for the pleasure of sustaining measurable hearing damage.
But hey, I was young then. I could be forgiven for my underappreciation of such great renditions of "The Rhythm Of Life" and "Don't Rain On My Parade," or for missing the pleasure found in their medley of Roger Miller hits, or their proprietary reading of such songs as "Hard Days Night" or "A Lover's Concerto." Also hidden in their repertoire are some terrific nuggets of sunshine pop. For me, one song stands out high above all the rest, one where dreams of of world where "cares are behind me" and "nothing reminds me of you" give way to scenes of Neptune's kingdom and indigo blue. "Under The Sea" (not the "Little Mermaid" version) is as satisfying an anthem to suicide as you'll find in any genre.
The DTP are no strangers to the blogosphere either. Their version of "Spanish Flea," replete with lyrics, is a popular kitsch standout. They've also infested YouTube, if only peripherally, supplying dayglow human wallpaper to a clip from the Carpenters summer replacement series from 1971, "Make Your Own Kind Of Music." Happily, I was able to find one additional clipof them, from an ASCAP broadcast in support of the March Of Dimes. But if that's not enough for you, there's always their recorded works: