Though I am no great Peanuts fan, I find this single in my collection somewhat adorable because it would have been something my dad purchased as an eleven-year-old. It’s bubblegum in the same way The Monkees were around the same time period, with the band capitalizing on the Beatles’ success by picking a British-themed name.
The Royal Guardsmen were originally from Ocala, Florida — coincidentally, somewhat near where my parents grew up — and they did not have much success until they came up with this Snoopy novelty single. It plays off the ongoing Peanuts storyline where the dog imagines himself as a World War I pilot fighting the “Red Baron,” a top German fighter pilot named Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen. The cause of his death is still under debate, so sure, we can pretend it was Charlie Brown’s dog, right?
“Snoopy vs. The Red Baron” ended up reaching #2 on the Billboard charts and started The Royal Guardsmen on a whole catalog of songs featuring the cartoon beagle. In 2006, they even released a song called “Snoopy vs. Osama,” which is a somewhat weird self-parody of their Red Baron song.
Backing the single is “I Needed You,”a much bluesier tune that I like whole lot more than the A-side. The lyrics aren’t anything special — cliches abound with lines like, “I know you never really cared” — but at least the music itself is more listenable.
I suppose that most novelty singles are aimed at the eleven-year-old crowd. Think of “The Macarena” or that “Crazy Frog” thing that was originally based off a ringtone — kids like these songs. Adults merely endure them. Even if I find “Snoopy vs. The Red Baron” rather mediocre now, it wasn’t meant for me. It lives on in a nostalgic place for a certain group of people who heard it at the right age, at the right time. There are worse legacies to have.
I’m left with just one tangential thought: Why is there a frozen pizza company named after a German fighter pilot?