Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Jingle bells, Batman smells...

Me as Robin

Okay, young whippersnappers! When did the words of this famous 1960s Christmas carol parody get perverted? (Well, even more perverted than from its "Jingle Bells" origin?)

Every kid I knew in 1968 knew it as:

"Jingle bells, Batman smells,
Robin flew away.
The Batmobile lost one wheel,
All on Christmas Day."

I'm sure that is the version that ended up in one of those June Factor & Peter Viska collections of Australian school rhymes and chants ("All right, Vegemite!", "Far out, brussel sprout!" and "Unreal, banana peel!", etc). In fact, in 1968 - or '67?, definitely around the time of the Adam West/Burt Ward "Batman" TV series - my Batfriends and I were not only singing it, we thought we'd invented it!

Imagine my surprise when someone at TrekBBS had, as their current sig line:

"Jingle bells, Batman smells,
Robin laid an egg.
The Batmobile lost a wheel,
And the Joker got away."

"Ummm," I told them gently, "You've remembered some lines incorrectly..." Now, even allowing for Chinese whispers-like variations, and numerous regional variations, "egg" doesn't even rhyme with "away"!?

"That's the point," I was reminded.

And, from someone dismissing mine as "the Australian version" (which it obviously is!), who boasted, "I know it doesn't rhyme, but we Americans don't need no stinkin' rhyming."

Then, yesterday, someone offered this 1992 clip, from "Batman: The Animated Series":

Mmmmmm. 1992? As if that's somehow definitive? But do I really want to pick a fight with the Joker? I don't think my Robin outfit (see top of entry) even fits me any more. Certainly not as well as it did in the 1980s.

Someone even offered other line variations: Batgirl broke a leg...; Mr Freeze cut the cheese...; and agreed that there were "lots of arguments about the correct lyrics". Even Wikipedia wasn't definitive. Not that it ever is, but then that's the point of Wikipedia. A disturbing number of uninformed youngsters on the Internet attribute the song's origins... to Bart Simpson!

Our guess, over on the bbs, was that the song was inspired by the Adam West "Batman" series, which premiered in the US in 1966 - but how schoolchildren circulated the, ah, "Jingle" jingle so quickly around the whole planet is a testament to pre-Internet communications.

In those days, a TV show which premiered in the USA in September didn't reach Australia until the next February, so the time lag was extremely useful for marketing departments, not to mention toy manufacturers, TV tie-in books, and their distributors - and most of the kids were oblivious to what they'd been missing out on for all those months.

The Internet is the great equalizer, since I'm usually as current for "Star Trek" and "Batman" goss as the rest of the world - and even ahead of the USA sometimes, when the International Date Line works in my favour, such as the upcoming premiere of JJ Abrams' upcoming "Star Trek" movie!


Killraven said...


The following is the first version I heard, when I was a kid living in the Illawarra during the late '70s:

Jingle bells, Batman smells
Robin flew away
Wonder Woman lost her bosom
Flying TAA


Therin of Andor said...

That's cool. See? Aussies know how to rhyme.

Of course, "Wonder Woman" was big in the 70s (well, bits of her were very big). I didn't know TAA had invisible planes, although I guess they do now.

And thanks for reminding me you were a little kid in the 70s. ;)

Therin of Andor said...

And thanks to to my GTC pal, Peter, for revamping my old Robin pic in Fireworks.

Anonymous said...

strangly when i was a kid it was sung like this :-
jingle bells batman smells
robin laid an egg
uncle billy lost his willy
on the motorway :S