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Looking for the Beagles
Looking High and Low

An obvious, inevitable attempt to ride the Beatles' coattails, the Beagles were a pair of mid-'60's rock 'n' roll pooches, Stringer and Tubby, who starred in their own eponymously-titled Saturday afternoon cartoon series. Certainly the satirical moniker was their biggest selling point, yet the Beagles parodied the Fab Four in name only, as their voices and actions were more akin to the comedy team of Martin and Lewis. As for content, the musical mutts rocked through various misadventures, often winding up in the doghouse.

The first of their 36 episodes debuted on CBS on September 10, 1966. The series was the final cartoon produced by Total Television, creators of a number of '60s animal-based cartoon shows, including King Leonardo and his Short Subjects (about the leonine monarch of Bongoland), Go-Go Gophers (involving a pair of rodents in the Old West), Tennessee Tuxedo (concerning a penguin), and the cult superhero Underdog. Unfortunately, all of the Beagles original storyboards and master negatives were lost when the series' editor passed away, along with the most of the rest of TTV's editing materials.

About the Beagles' only legacy is a tie-in soundtrack album, Here Come the Beagles (Harmony, 1967). The hounds harmonize through ten folksy/garage numbers penned by a handful of unknowns, kicking off with the killer theme song "Looking for the Beagles." Stringer and Tubby sing about themselves in the third person (er, canine) in this, the record's only self-referential tune. Its hangdog lyrics betray the pups' esteem issues:

Looking for the Beagles/ Looking high and low
High is for the eagles/ Low is where the Beagles go
Looking for the Beagles/ Not where rich men soar
Rich is for the regals/ Woe is all the Beagles know

However, the refrain puts forth their ambitious mission statement:

Right now to bust a bubble to wherever there's some trouble
That's where the Beagles go!

The opening riff is so catchy that it's used again on the very next track, "Sharing Wishes," introducing a tale about washing dishes with some girl (a bitch?). Other cuts feature drums and fifes ("I'd Join the Foreign Legion"), some mid-tempo melodies ("Be the Captain," "I Wanna Capture You," and "You Satisfy"), and a couple of forgettable ballads ("What More Can I Do" and "Thanks to the Man on the Moon"), all with sax, organ, or flute solos.

Infantile, bubblegumesque lyrics run through the album's hardest rocking song, "Humpty Dumpty." Perhaps it is intended to be the tune most identifiable by the kiddies, drawing inspiration from Mother Goose's "The Boy in Blue," "The Old Woman in the Shoe," and of course, Mr. Dumpty. The bridge:

You got me raving over you/ Raving all the time
Like a child alone when his mama's gone/ I call for you in nursery rhyme

The record's best cut, "Indian Love Dance," blasts out a rabid organ solo (sounding as though it was later lifted by the Raiders on "Indian Reservation") and an insistent, on-the-warpath riff, which spars with some stereotypical Native American imagery:

Indian love dance will let you stay free/ Brings you romance from any teepee
Heat sends up signals like smoke from a fire/ Someone receives them and shares your desire
No matter what you do/ It's Indian voodoo

CBS cancelled The Beagles after just one season, although ABC broadcast it in reruns for another. The network already had The Beatles cartoon series in their Saturday lineup, on the air since 1965 and still going strong, thus offering two faunal cartoon rock band shows for a single season. Then, in September 1968, ABC had the doggie duo put to sleep.

In the meantime, the long-out-of-print LP has resurfaced in bootleg form, recently paired on the same CD as We're the Banana Splits. Otherwise, don't bother looking for The Beagles on the Cartoon Network, or anywhere else.

Thanks to Mark Hill and David Smay for their assistance.

Originally appeared in the book Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth (Feral House, 2001). Order it here.

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© 2004-2011 Steve Mandich