The Other McCain

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Who Put the Bomp?

Posted on | October 13, 2022 | Comments Off on Who Put the Bomp?

What does a car made in Wolfsburg, Germany, have to do with a novelty hit from 1961? It’s a strange tale, with musical connections to Dolly Parton, the Mamas and Papas, a children’s cartoon and an iconic scene from a famous 1980s movie. It’s about a boy from Brooklyn.

Last weekend, I had my home office TV tuned to a football game, and a commercial came on that featured a song I remembered fondly from back in the day. “Make Your Own Kind of Music” was a Top 40 hit for “Mama Cass” Elliot in 1969, after she went solo following the breakup of the Mamas and Papas. The lyrics are an optimistic ode to individualism:

Nobody can tell ya
There’s only one song worth singing.
They may try and sell ya,
’Cause it hangs them up
To see someone like you.

But you gotta make your own kind of music,
Sing your own special song.
Make your own kind of music,
Even if nobody else sings along.

You’re gonna be nowhere,
The loneliest kind of lonely.
It may be rough going,
Just to do your thing’s the hardest thing to do.

Pardon the Sixties hipster talk about “hang ups” and “doing your thing,” but I always liked the message of that song and, from a musical perspective, I appreciated the emphatic triplets in the last line of the chorus. Do you want to see Mama Cass introduced by none other than Sammy Davis Jr. as “the most fantastic lady of the now sound”?


Mama Cass (née Ellen Naomi Cohen) was a wonderful entertainer, and that was a wonderful song, so when I heard “Make Your Own Kind of Music” on TV, I was prompted to Google it and learn more. When I began enthusiastically telling my brother Kirby what I’d discovered, he said, “I’m going start calling you Rabbit, ’cause you’re always going down these rabbit holes.” A compulsive researcher — I can’t help myself, folks, I was born that way — I was surprised to learn that this hit for Mama Cass was co-written by the same guy whose only hit record as a performer was “Who Put the Bomp (in the Bomp Bomp Bomp)”:


Who put the bomp in the bomp bah bomp bah bomp?
Who put the ram in the rama lama ding dong?
Who put the bop in the bop shoo bop shoo bop?
Who put the dip in the dip da dip da dip?”
Who was that man?
I’d like to shake his hand.
He made my baby fall in love with me.

It was a humorous ode to doo-wop, as Wikipedia explains:

In this song, Mann sings about the frequent use of nonsense lyrics in doo-wop music, and how his girl fell in love with him after listening to several such songs.
Examples of the type of song referred to include the Marcels’ version of “Blue Moon” (in which they sing “Bomp bomp ba bomp, ba bomp ba bomp bomp” and “dip-de-dip-de-dip”) and The Edsels’ “Rama-Lama-Ding-Dong”, both of which charted earlier the same year.

Brooklyn native Barry Imberman, known professionally as Barry Mann, was just 22 when “Who Put the Bomp” reached No. 7 on the Billboard charts, but he was already a successful composer, having co-written hits with lyricists Mike Anthony, Hank Hunter and Howard Greenfield. The lyrics of “Who Put the Bomp” were written by a guy named Gerry Goffin, who with his wife Carole King became famous as half of the powerhouse Sixties songwriting duo Goffin-King (“Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” “Song Kind of Wonderful,” etc.). Paul McCartney and John Lennon once said their dream as songwriters was to be as big as Goffin-King.

The same year “Who Put the Bomp” was a hit, Barry Mann married lyricist Cynthia Weil (both of them were working in the Brill Building), and from their songwriting partnership came some of the most memorable hits of the next three decades. Remember I told you that this story involved an iconic scene from a famous ’80s movie?


Yes, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” performed by the Righteous Brothers (Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield) was co-written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, along with famed “Wall of Sound” producer Phil Spector. It’s been praised by critics as “one of the best records ever made” and “the ultimate pop record,” and in 1965 became the first No. 1 for the Mann-Weil team. A year later, they repeated the feat with “(You’re My) Soul and Inspiration,” also by the Righteous Brothers. Mann and Weil also wrote hits for the Drifters (“On Broadway”), the Animals (“We Gotta Get Out of This Place”) and Paul Revere and the Raiders (“Kicks”). And, hey, didn’t I tell you Dolly Parton was involved in this story?


Yep — Dolly Parton won a Grammy in 1979 for “Here You Come Again,” written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, who continued making hits into the 1980s. Who could ever forget this classic slow-dance love song featuring James Ingram that made the Top 10 in 1981?


Man, it just doesn’t get any better than that, does it? But wait a minute — remember I told you there was a children’s cartoon involved in this story? You see, a guy named Steven Spielberg found himself as executive producer for an animated feature based on the historic experience of Jewish immigrants to America. This movie about the “Mousekewitz” family was conceived as a musical, because Spielberg “said he wanted a ‘Heigh-Ho’ of his own (referring to the popular song from Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs).” By now I think the reader can guess which songwriting team they brought in to deliver this tune.


Somewhere out there, beneath the pale moonlight,
Someone’s thinking of me and loving me tonight.
Somewhere out there, someone’s saying a prayer,
That we’ll find one another
In that big somewhere out there.

Did I mention that “Somewhere Out There,” from the 1986 animated film An American Tail, won not one but two Grammy Awards? It wasn’t the squeaky-voice mouse version that did it, though. Instead, the producers brought in James Ingram and Linda Ronstadt to sing it as a duet over the final credits. “Somewhere Out There” made it to No. 2 on the charts.


Mann and Weil wrote so many wonderful songs, there’s not enough room to mention all of them, but I can’t omit the tune that producer Rick Beato called “the most complex pop song of all time”:


“Never Going to Let You Go,” which was a hit for Sergio Mendendez in 1983, changes key (from F-sharp to G minor) before the lyrics even begin. “I’d never seen a song that went through so many chord changes,” Beato says of his first effort to learn it. Keep in mind that Beato majored in music in college, got a master’s degree in jazz from the New England Conservatory of Music, and taught music theory for a living. In praising the complexity of “Never Gonna Let You Go,” Beato pays quite a tribute to The Man Who Put the Bomp in the Bomp Bomp Bomp.

Ah, but have you forgotten where this long trip down the musical rabbit hole began? I was watching TV and there was a commercial for a car made in Wolfsburg, Germany — the Volkswagen Tiguan:


That commercial, by the way, was directed by Bryce Dallas Howard, the daughter of Ron “Opie” Howard. Volkswagen is sending royalty checks to Barry Mann for the song he and his wife wrote in 1969. Not a bad deal for the boy from Brooklyn, who has truly made his own kind of music.

Now 83 years old, Barry Mann is still married to his 81-year-old wife and lyricist, Cynthia Weil, and the couple live in Beverly Hills.

Who was that man?
I’d like to shake his hand.
He made my baby fall in love with me.

UPDATE: Welcome, Instapundit readers!



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