|Day 186: The Royal Guardsmen (Snoopy vs. The Red Baron)
September 27, 2022
This blog may result in my first lawsuit. If so, I am amazed it took so long. Sorry, Charles Schulz's estate, but I am going to write about Snoopy™©®. I don't know if he should be trademarked, registered or copyrighted, so I am taking no chances.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, I thought there were multiple songs on the radio about Snoopy from Peanuts™©® (more taking no chances). My grandfather's favorite neighborhood dog, who accompanied him on his daily walks, was named Snoopy, so my Snoopy-obsession went well beyond the average 8-year old's. I might have been into my twenties before I caught on that The McCoys' "Hang On Sloopy" was never "Hang On Snoopy," although it should have been, because who the hell was Sloopy? Certainly no cultural icon like our dog wonder.
Thank goodness, I was never wrong about The Royal Guardsmen's "Snoopy vs. The Red Baron" (or, the never-give-up-the-gimmick follow ups of "The Return Of The Red Baron," "Snoopy's Chrismas," "Snoopy For President," and, yes, you are reading this right, "Snoopy vs. Osama"). These guys embraced the lovable pup like no one, maybe even more than Charles Schulz himself. (They also embraced a chord sequence from "Hang On Sloopy" for a brief bit in the song, validating my confusion about The McCoys' song.)
Of course, Schulz sued The Royal Guardsmen for using Snoopy without permission or acquiring the necessary advertising license. Schulz won and basically all publishing revenues went to his company. Wouldn't you think that might discourage you from writing more Snoopy songs? They had removed the lines "Hang On Snoopy" per the McCoys' chord sequence to prevent copyright infringement. Who weren't they liable to be sued by at this point? Von Richtofen's estate? The Schwan Food Company for infringement on their frozen pizza line?
Heck, the Snoopy of the song has no special powers, outside of not dying when shot down as opposed to the 80 men who tried, "who died" and are "buried together on the countryside." When our can't-be-killed hound returns to challenge Red Baron to a dogfight, he's armed only with a "special plan" provided by the "Great Pumpkin." Listen, strange gourds lying in fields, distributing special plans, is no basis for a system of attack.
People need conflict and drama. There's none here, outside of the German narration (and the goose steps in the video clip below). Guardsmen, what are you protecting with your decision to go on with at least 4 more Snoopy songs? Schultz is gobbling up all the publishing rights, and while "Snoopy vs. The Red Baron" making it to #2 in the charts probably helped you sell out shows, "Return of The Red Baron" only made it #15, meaning you probably had lost some of your audience, while the other subsequent Snoopy songs bombed . . . and not in a good way.
According to Ocala Style, the fashionable magazine for Ocala, Florida, the band didn't want to perform the song, did it mostly as a joke, then got so typecast by it that they couldn't escape Snoopy's shadow (or maybe that of the doghouse), leading to members quitting. On the other hand, you let the whole album be called Snoopy And His Friends. You were doomed from the start.
If this doesn't say it all about the music industry, pigeon-holed while dog-eared by a novelty song, then I don't know what does. The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame should have a wing to artists crushed by their novelties: Sheb Wooley, Warren Zevon, Napoleon XIV, C.W. McCall, and Jim Stafford, to name a few. Of course, it might have information about associated lawsuits by Purple People Eaters, Werewolves, People Being Taken Away, Convoy Truckers, or Spiders and Snakes.
You have to feel for The Royal Guardsmen. And understand why The McCoys never considered Snoopy in place of Sloopy. The only infamy they had to deal with is The Ohio State University marching band.
The Royal Guardsmen. "Snoopy vs. The Red Baron." Snoopy And His Friends. Laurie, 1966. Video link here.
Day 185: Greg Hawkes "Block Party"
Day 187: Blink-182 "Ghost On The Dance Floor"
Unfinished list here.