Way Out Wednesday: “Popeye’s Zoo”

Written by Music, Way Out Wednesday

This week, we have an unusual album featuring Popeye the Sailor Man singing songs and telling stories about his desire to create a zoo. I’m guessing this record came out around 1959, because the back cover mentions that it ties in to the “brand-new series of 208 cartoon films produced especially for television by King Features Syndicate.” Wikipedia dates that to the autumn of 1960. Another indicator of this is that the villain known as Bluto in the old cartoons is referred to here as Brutus. However, in this album, they and Wimpy and Olive Oyl all seem to be best buds trying to catch animals for their zoo.

We start with Popeye singing his theme song “I’m Popeye the Sailor Man” (which is fine because, after all, he is). He also explains how he “and all his comic book friends” decided to put together a zoo for kids to visit.

I’m Popeye the Sailor Man

In this track, he tells how they were able to catch a tiger because it was attracted to Wimpy’s hamburger. Popeye then sings a song about how dangerous the tiger is: “If he escapes just run run run, and tell Mr. Keeper ‘Get your gun gun gun!’” That seems a bit extreme to me, especially considering you’ve got somebody like Popeye who could just down a can of spinach, zoom out to the tiger, swing him around by his tail, and throw him bodily back in his cage. (Or if the tiger really got feisty, he could punch him so hard he’d fly into the air and come down as tiger chops and hot dogs.)

Tiger Tiger

Next, Popeye tells about their adventure in trying to capture a hippopotamus. He explains that he and Brutus were out in the desert in Africa (or “Africky,” as Popeye says) when they spy a river. Brutus gets so excited that he dives into it and then comes up “blowin’ and snortin’.” Little did they know that this would get the attention of a hippo, because it was also the sound a hippo makes “when they want to get acquainted” (if you know what I mean, and I think you do). Brutus scrambled out of the water with the hippo not far behind. As you can see, they seem to catch most of their animals accidentally!

The Hippo Song

It’s really great to have Jack Mercer, the actual voice of Popeye, doing this album. It gives it a sense of authenticity. The bad part is it’s only him, and after a while that voice gets a bit grating. Frankly, it’s amazing he can sing a tune with that froggy gravely voice, but he does. Thankfully, on this last song he uses his smoother mumbly voice, and it makes the song even more enjoyable. There’s also a nice jazzy accompaniment to it that I like.

Don’t Pet the Alligator

If you’d like to hear him sing about the other animals they miraculously caught for the zoo, you can hear the entire album here. And for those of you following the somewhat sporadic reporting on my blog, you’ll be happy to know I’ve got a couple of new things up there, including an album featuring Bob McGrath (from a certain educational street) singing Stevie Wonder songs and (oog!) “Muskrat Love.” It must be heard to be believed!

See you next time!