Let's see. How did the Silhouettes phrase it in "Get a Job"? Oh, yeah:

Dip dip dip dip dip dip dip dip dip . . .Sha-la-la-la, sha-la-la-la-la, bah doo. Sha-la-la-la, sha-la-la-la-la, bah doo. Sha-la-la-la, sha-la-la-la-la, bah doo.

Sha-la-la-la, sha-la-la-la-la, bah dehp dehp dehp dehp dehp dehp dehp dehp, mbuhm mbuhm mbuhm mbuhm mbuhm mbuhm mbuhm mbuhm, doo-doo, dah.

Sha-la-la-la, sha-la-la-la-la.

No, it doesn't mean much of anything in everyday English, but those sounds, rumbled by a booming bass abetted by a couple of buddies, sort of capture much of what doo wop is all about.

Fun; a little aural nonsense; a lost teen world.

Doo wop (a term belatedly bestowed upon this pop-R&B form in the '70s) was a major element of early rock 'n' roll, first among blacks, then among interracial groups and, thanks largely to Dion & the Belmonts, a craze among Italian lads circa 1960.

The vocal groups were often named for birds (the Orioles, the Flamingos); for cars (the Impalas, the Edsels); for youth itself (Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers, the Schoolboys); even, it seems, for hairdos (the Marcels). They sang and were discovered on street corners, in subways and public toilets (where echoes and resonance were to be found), on boardwalks, in a candy store.

The music - at first occasionally recorded in a garage, a church basement or even a hotel room - ranged from the angelic ("Crying in the Chapel," "I Only Have Eyes for You") to the instructional ("Book of Love," "Ten Commandments of Love") and novelty-silly ("Pizza Pie," "Rockin' in the Jungle.")

And though the British Invasion dealt a serious blow, as a genre it has a devoted following to this day, as attested to by this wonderfully encyclopaedic four-disc, 101-song "Doo Wop Box" from Rhino, compiled and excellently annotated by Bob Hyde, with additional essays by singer-historian-fan Billy Vera and others.

The collection begins in 1948 with the Orioles' "It's Too Soon to Know" and basically winds down by 1963's "Denise," entertaining with songs by the Platters, Little Anthony & the Imperials, the Dell-Vikings and a single female group, the Chantels, along the way.

What is doo wop?

"Most often cited is the combination of a rumbling, prominent bass voice, a secondary, lyrical soprano or falsetto voice in the background, and some form of three-or-more-part complementary harmony from the rest of the group," Hyde explains. "The lyrics are often juvenile, or jaw-droppingly innocent, and often a portion of those lyrics are nothing more than nonsense syllables (e.g., `oodly-poppa-cow') used to take the place of one or more instruments."

"Sh-boom, sh-boom," sang the Chords. "Ratta tadda tadda do-oo-oo," sang the Elegants. "Bomp ba-ba bomp," sang the Monotones.

But perhaps the Earls said it best: