Monday, March 30, 2015

A very Flintstones mystery.

Fifty-two years ago yesterday the "Swedish Visitors" episode of The Flintstones first aired on TV.

And therein lies a mystery.

Yumpin' Yimminy.
If you remember the episode, you'll recall that the conflict sprang from the fact that Wilma had rented the family home out to Swedish musicians in Bedrock for a music festival. Fred tries to get them to leave, but ultimately everyone becomes friends, and the episode ends with the Swedes serenading the Flintstones as they speed through Bedrock, one of the happiest moments you'll ever see in a cartoon.

That song, "Wilma," was written by Owe Thörnqvist, a genuine Swede, a musician who had been recording since 1953, and apparently the inspiration for the episode. Or so says the generally reliable Mental Floss (which is like Cracked without so many naughty words), in a 2010 article commemorating the series' 50th anniversary. They write:

The episode entitled "The Swedish Visitors" featured a pair of foreign musicians who bunked at the Flintstone home for a short time. The episode was inspired by a record called "Wilma" released in Sweden by Owe Thörnqvist. The chorus "jabadabadooo" sounded suspiciously like Fred's favorite exclamation, and then there was that whole "Wilma" angle... Hanna-Barbera contacted Thörnqvist who insisted that jabadabadooo was a traditional Viking cry, and everything else was strictly coincidental. The matter was resolved by having the singer record an English version of his tune for use on the show.

There were three Swedish musicians, not two---Ole, Ingmar, and Sven---which makes me suspicious about other assertions here. Owe's song was released in 1962, but beyond that it was hard to find more about it. Why do we even HAVE an Internet, if you can't find information on Swedish pop songs from the early 1960s, dammit?!

YouTube posts the song, with this note: "Owe was contacted by the lawyers from Hanna Barbera Hollywood, the makers of the popular TV series The Flinstones, because they think that the name and some of the lyrics was taken from them. They where ready to go to court for copyright issues around this song. Owe answered that the name Wilma was very common in sweden and the 'jabadabadooo' was an old viking sound when you find a woman so there was no copyright in that. The lawyer at Hanna barbera thought that this man (Owe) was wierd or something, but hanna & barbera find this man very funny and speaked to Owe directly and after some talking the asked him to come over to USA and record this song in English for the The Flintstones show. The show is called Fred Flintstone and his Swedish Cousine"

So there's that. Well, I could find the Swedish lyrics to the song "Wilma." I run them here with the song so you can sing along.

Vi hade kåk i Fredhäll, vi hade frid i vårt käll
Vi hade kaffe med doppa och radio med Thore Skogman
Sen fick vi television, då blev det annan fason
Nu är vår tillvaro fylld av en jublande....

Yabe-dabe-dabe-doo
Aj-aj-aj Wilma, här kommer Wilma
Yabe-dabe, hon har ändrat på perspektivet
och möblemanget i själva livet
I Wilma, här kommer Wilma
Yabe-dabe, håll för örona och ge hals uti en stenåldersvals

Hon är en ny favorit, hon är en tjej av granit
Så låt oss alla ta efter och valsa i makadamen
Nu är vi grottfolk, hurra! Så ta din käring och dra
långt in i snåret i håret och sjung falle....

Yabe-dabe-dabe-doo
Aj-aj-aj Wilma, här kommer Wilma
Yabe-dabe, det är toppen av livets grädde
och du är Wilma och jag är Fredde
I Wilma, här kommer Wilma
Yabe-dabe, håll för örona och ge hals uti en stenåldersvals

Min fru har huggit i sten och hon kan ej komma dän
Nu får jag gnejs-gröt och grus-paj och sandkaka med rabarber
Hon bjöd på lunch häromdan. Det var en stendöd fasan
Och gamla ormar och soppa som smakade ....

Yabe-dabe-dabe-doo
Aj-aj-aj Wilma, här kommer Wilma
Yabe-dabe, vi har blivit så primitiva
så det går snart inte att beskriva
I Wilma, här kommer Wilma
Yabe-dabe, håll för örona och ge hals uti en stenåldersvals


Now, through the magic of Google Translate, let's see these lyrics in English:

We had a full house in Fredhäll, we had peace in our source
We had coffee with dipping and radio with Thore Skogman
Then we had television when it became different manners
Now our existence filled with a cheering ....

Yabe-dabe-dabe-doo
Ouch-ouch-ouch Wilma, here comes Wilma
Yabe-dabe, she has changed the perspective
and the furniture of life itself
In Wilma, here comes Wilma
Yabe-dabe, hold the ears and neck uti give a Stone Age roll

She is a new favorite, she is a girl of granite
So let's all take after and roll in metalling
Now we are cave dwellers, hurray! So take your crone and pull
far into the thicket of hair and sing Falle ....

Yabe-dabe-dabe-doo
Ouch-ouch-ouch Wilma, here comes Wilma
Yabe-dabe, it is the peak of life's cream
and you are Wilma and I'm Freddie
In Wilma, here comes Wilma
Yabe-dabe, hold the ears and neck uti give a Stone Age roll

My wife has hewn in stone and she can not get Dan
Now I get gneiss-porridge and gravel-sand pie and cake with rhubarb
She invited to lunch the other day. There was a stone dead pheasant
And the old snakes and soup that tasted ....

Yabe-dabe-dabe-doo
Ouch-ouch-ouch Wilma, here comes Wilma
Yabe-dabe, we have become so primitive
so it is soon not describe
In Wilma, here comes Wilma
Yabe-dabe, hold the ears and neck uti give a Stone Age roll

All righty! So as we can see, this was just a total coincidence, as Owe originally said. Mentions of Fred, primitive living, caves, granite, the Stone Age, television, gravel, gneiss... Pure coincidence. And we do have to agree that Wilma changes the furniture of life itself. But please pull your crone elsewhere.

So I guess it isn't that much of a mystery. But I do have other Flintstone-related questions, such as: 

- Why did it take 27 years for Betty to get a vitamin in the Flintstone vitamins? And why did the Flintstone car have to suffer when she did? 

- Why did Dino talk in one early episode, but never again? 

- Was Bedrock a small town, a big city, a suburb, or what? It seemed to be something different every time. It had an awful lot of TV stations for a small town. And why would Rock Roll write a song about some little nowheresville ("Bedrock Twitch")?

- Why does a grumpy ex-Catholic cartoon-crazed pal of mine get so berserk over mentions of Christ in the comic strip B.C. ("Jesus wasn't born yet in the Stone Age!") while he's never said a peep about Flintstone Christmas episodes and movies?

(Actually, I know the answer to the last one. The thing that bothered him about B.C. was that Johnny Hart meant it. B.C. predated The Flintstones by two years, by the way, if anyone wants to know. Maybe B.C. stood for Before the Cartoon!)
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