I was going through my vinyls and came across the strangest album I own. It is a 1967 pressing of ‘Snoopy and his friends the Royal Guardsmen’. The album tells the story of Snoopy and the Red Baron in both verse and in song. Why this album is in my possession I have no idea. I don’t know which of my brothers or sisters had this album originally or if it was one of my parents albums.
First, who are the Royal Guardsman? Are they a real band? They actually are a real band. They were based out of Ocala, Florida and came up with their name during the British Invasion of the 60’s when bands like the Beatles were blowing up the charts. I guess they felt it sounded British. There is an extensive interview and article on the band at Popretrorama.com called The True Story of the Royal Guardsmen. Click on the link if you want to learn more.
The inspiration for the songs came from watching Peanuts and the clips of Snoopy imagining himself fighting the Red Baron. The song “Snoopy Vs The Red Baron” was born. These are actually some of my favorite Peanut comic strips, so I get why they were inspired by them.
Of course, Charles Schulz and United Feature Syndicate did not give them permission to use the name Snoopy and they sued and won. The Royal Guardsmen had to pay all publishing revenues to the company. Later, Schulz did give them permission to write and perform more songs which resulted in “The Return of the Red Baron” and “Snoopy’s Christmas”.
Side I of the album tells the story of Snoopy and his battles with the Red Baron. The track listing is as follows:
1a. “The Story of Snoopy vs the Red Baron”
1b. “Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron”
2a. “The Story of the Return of the Red Baron”
2b. “The Return of the Red Baron”
3a. “The Story of Snoopy’s Christmas”
3b. “Snoopy’s Christmas”
For each track, the “a” is a dramatization of the battles between Snoopy and the Red Baron. The voice sounds like it is coming from a radio and broadcasting out the events. All the voices are done by Larry Foster and it is obvious only one person was doing the voices. The battle between Snoopy and the Red Baron is the battle between good and evil. A classic battle used in most stories. The “b” tracks are the actual songs and are not bad at all. The songs are actually great and quite entertaining. I remember listening to them when I was a kid so, so, so long ago.
Not only were the songs a hit with me, they were hits on the charts as well. “Snoopy vs the Red Baron” was released in 1966 and reached #2 in the US and #8 in the UK. “The Return of the Red Baron” reached #15 in the US and only #37 in the UK. “Snoopy’s Christmas” actually went to #1 in the US, but failed to chart in the UK.
Side II of the album is more traditional. It is made up of 6 songs and a couple were actually written by the band. The “Airplane Song (My Airplane)” was the only one of this group of songs to chart and it is actually a decent song. It reached #42 in the US, but it did go to #2 in New Zealand.
- “I Say Love”
- “Down Behind the Lines”
- “It’s Sopwith Camel Time”
- “So Right (To Be In Love)”
- “Airplane Song (My Airplane)”
- “It Kinda Looks Like Christmas”
The songs on Side II are definitely dated and in the same style you would expect from the 60’s. They were imitating the Beatles’ sound and even reminded me of some of the very early Bee Gees albums. They aren’t up to the standards of the Beatles or the Bee Gees, but they aren’t bad. Typical for the time, the songs are only around 2 to 3 minutes long.
They were fascinated with airplanes as a lot of the songs are airplane related. The Snoopy songs obviously as the Red Baron was a fighter pilot back in World War I. The song “It’s Sopwith Camel Time” is about the flying the Sopwith Camel airplane. This airplane is a British single seat biplane fighter plane from World War I and introduced in 1917.
It still baffles me as to why I have this album, but I think I will keep it as it is now around 50 years old. Maybe someday it will be worth something, but highly unlikely. I saw it on Amazon for $50 and eBay for $5-$25 starting bids. I could part for at least $50, but otherwise I will keep because who doesn’t love Snoopy.