It’s hard to believe there was a time when a telephone was mainly a communications device, and when it “rang”, it actually made a ringing sound, but it’s true. What’s perhaps even harder to believe is that someone could make an industry out of selling “ringtones”. Okay, fair enough. You have this fancy new mobile communication doodad, so to impress people, you’ll pay a buck to have it make some weird sound when a call comes in, mostly to announce to everyone that you have this fancy wireless doodad in your pocket. But what’s even stranger than all of these things are two other things: 1) That people would choose “Crazy Frog” as their custom sound, and 2) That this annoying sound would be the “hook” in an international pop hit .
Meet Crazy Frog
If you live in the states, you may not be as familiar with this little fellow, who was the visual representation of the sound that was later to become the internationally popular ringtone and pop song. Originally, the sound and the character were aptly called “The Annoying Thing”. The song was a remix of the “deng deng” sound (details below) and the 1985 hit Axel F, from the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack. For some reason the song – which was a massive hit worldwide – barely made a (ahem) ding in the US market.
Crazy Frog’s Penis
There was originally a bit of a flap over Crazy Frog’s penis, but in the UK, they finally let it him keep it. Not so in the US, where iTunes immediately had the offensive appendage removed. There is some seriously Freudian stuff going on here; the image for the American release suddenly has Crazy Frog astride a huge rocket:
How Did This All Happen?
In 1997, a 17-year-old Swede named Daniel Malmedahl recorded himself imitating the noises produced by internal combustion engines. He posted them on a website and later caught the attention of a Swedish television researcher, who convinced Daniel to perform the sound live on air. After it debuted on television, recordings of his performance began appearing on file sharing networks and various websites under the filename “2TAKTARE.MP3″ (allegedly, Tvåtaktare” is Swedish for “two stroker”).
In late 2003, another Swede, Erik Wernquist, encountered the sound effect and, was inspired to create the 3D animated character he named “The Annoying Thing” to accompany it. The animation was a popular attraction at Erik’s website, but the sound was credited to “Anonymous”. Eventually, word reached Malmedahl that his impressions had been used in a now well-known animation. He contacted Wernquist, apparently giving an impromptu performance to confirm his claims. Wernquist was convinced, and gave credit to Malmedahl for his creation.
The animation received attention through filesharing and word of mouth, and Ringtone Europe and Jamster België (now both merged into Jamba!) capitalized on the underground cult-status of the sound, and licensed the rights to it, renaming it “Crazy Frog” and starting to market it in mid-2004. Wernquist expressed his displeasure at the choice of name, saying: “If I had known that this was going to be such a big thing I would not have allowed them to use that stupid name. It has nothing to do with the character. It’s not a frog and it’s not particularly crazy either.”
Crazy Frog Axel F Remix
Here’s the video for the international hit
Crazy Frog’s Greatest Hits?
Cleverly, the song was marketed on an album called Crazy Frog Presents Crazy Hits, presumably banking on people’s general ignorance of how big the character really was internationally. They later rolled out creepy videos like this one, which remixed the Knight Rider theme with Chacarron . They generally bombed: