March 26th, 2007
Are you ready to freak out? After the 1960s, both cartoons and live-action children's shows began including rock bands. They left a generation baffled by poseurs who said "groovy" alot — but somewhere there were subversives running wild in the programming department, and Saturday morning would never be the same.
These six videos remind us of that forgotten moment in time when the counter-culture came for our children.
1. The Secret Chimpanzee's Other Ball
Yes, it's a band composed entirely of monkeys. One year after Woodstock, and four months after Kent State, the airwaves were seized by a band of radical chimpanzees. ("C'mon baby, let your hair hang low. Let the revolution show you all you got to know...")
Each week after being introduced by a fake Ed Sullivan monkey, the "Evolution Revolution" indoctrinated a room full of pogo-ing monkeys as part of Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp. The camera zooms with rock star excitement, providing an unintentional satire of the entire pop music industry. (Alternate name: "Monkey Vanilli.") Editing can make a rock band out of anybody — including chimpanzees who look agitated, bored, and occassionally itchy.
Of course, in real life, the monkey Lancelot Link wasn't a rock musician. He was a secret agent for the Agency to Prevent Evil. (Or "APE.") But his band rocked the Nixon era for two years, until network TV executives decided it was frightening to both children and adults
2. Yabba Dabba Doobie
In 1971 Pebbles and Bam-Bam grew into trendy teenagers with their own awful rock band. They lasted exactly one season, doomed the moment a studio executive decided the perfect voice for teenaged Pebbles would be Sally Struthers.
Their band played instruments made out of domesticated animals, until "The Bedrock Rockers" were absorbed into the equally short-lived Flintstones Comedy Show. (It's slogan? "We'll have a groovy time.")
The only surviving relic is an unloved DVD and these surreal animated music videos for songs like Sunshine Man, Yabba Dabba Doosie, and one about the Zodiac. But it's better than that commercial Fred Flintstone did for Winston cigarettes.
"Winston is the one-filter cigarette that delivers flavor — twenty times a pack!"
3. The Bugaloo Experience
Flying bug people form a rock band and flee from "Benita Bizarre" and her sidekick, Funky Rat.
The Bugaloos all had hippy names like Joy and Harmony, and lived in a place called "The Tranquility Forest" with their sidekick — "Sparky". They also presuambly had unspeakable crushes on their female singer Joy, who wore a mini-skirt with pink wings, since even their birthday songs to her were creepy. ("Older woman — you're a little prettier today...")
The singing bug people all wore antennas, and continued freaking out Saturday morning viewers until 1972. Their song Fly Away With Us "sounds like the perky pests are trying to lure kids into an LSD trip," writes one web critic, "or some Eastern-inspired cult." After listening to "The Senses of Our World", he added: "This is what Prozac sounds like."
Amazingly, over 5,000 people had auditioned to be in the bug band — including Phil Collins.
4. Krofft Gets Funky
There's no evidence eight year olds dropped acid for The Krofft Super Show, but its theme song promised it "will blow your mind away."
Its hallucinogenic lyrics about "a crazy world...where most of what appears isn't true..." ended up in the hands of Captain Kool and the Kongs, a children's version of KISS with faces decorated in glitter and makeup. The "land of dreams" they introduced were live-action segments from Sid and Marty Krofft — which means they were low-budget and disturbing. There was Wonderbug, Dr. Shrinker, and Electra Woman and Dyna Girl.
Were they disturbing? Let's just say the actor playing Dr. Shrinker had also played Caligula, and served a year in prison for methadone possession.
5. Josie's Groovin' in Outer Space
A stoner reading Heavy Metal magazine decided the cartoon band Josie and the Pussycats would be even better if they lived in outer space with an alien named Gleep. He drew a phallic rocket which quivers on the launch pad, then blasted them eight miles high.
Two years later a competing stoner reading Heavy Metal launched the Partridge Family into space, stranding them in a cartoon continuum 230 years in the future, where they "showed us how it's gonna be." In 1982 the desperate cast of Gilligan's Island tried blasting themselves into outer space, but unfortunately, no one noticed. Soon even Fonzie and the other characters from Happy Days found themselves blasted out of the 1950s and into the future — and outer space.
None of these shows lasted more than a season — except Josie and the Pussycats In Outer Space, which lasted two. But when future generations build moon colonies, maybe they'll draw inspiration from the fact that they were preceded into space by an all-girl band in kitty costumes.
6. Sympathy for the Misfits
Jem and the Holograms were the 80s equivalent of The Pussycats — but with one difference. They had their own Nietszchean doppelgangers trying to destroy them.
Jem's animated rock band competed against a warpaint-wearing rival group with bizarre coked-up "metal" hair and a weirdly negative vibe. The Misfits' videos included giant spiders, lightning surfboards, guitar-shaped motorcycles, and even planet-swallowing darkness.
Alas, Glenn Danzig's punk band — also called The Misfits — was nowhere to be seen, and cheery MTV synth-pop ultimately conquered Saturday morning, bringing with it a line of tie-in toys from Hasbro. The bitter Jem-haters were our last line of resistance against a big media beachhead of beautiful people, and though the Misfits were as vindictive as they were doomed, they did teach impressionable youngsters an important and affirming truth.
That a world without freaks would be even worse.
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