Show & Tell
A Stormy Remembrance of TV Theme Songs (Which?)
by Chaz Thorndike
Shall we stagger down Memory Lane a bit? Baby, ya better get zonked outta your skull before ya take this trip. With a sadistic grin and a large stiffy (a drink, that is), I shall be your crypt keeper, the maniacally cackling tour guide through the labyrinth of TV theme show hell. Thirty-five songs, most of ’em under a minute, totaling, um, I dunno (that’s why I went into writing. My math’s not so good.). But it’s a lot of minutes. Listening to Show & Tell is like watching some programming doofus’s idea of a nostalgia joyride while strapped to a La-Z-Boy, A Clockwork Orange-style. But the tape’s running at double-time. And the sound quality is decent at best, pathetic at worst. The oh-so-hummable themes that in themselves are a white-knuckle mind journey that makes Natural Born Killers look likeThe Little Mermaid ,this time ’round the apple cart are performed by punk rockers. That’s right, the kids your mom used to owe two dollars to for delivering the newspaper. But now they’ve gotten real jobs delivering pizzas, and two dollars won’t even buy you a pack of cigarettes anymore. They’re working their way up the food chain, and moonlighting as punk rockers in their spare time. I know, I saw the Sally Struthers-sponsored course offered in an infomercial with a killer soundtrack. But anyway…
Roll credits. It seems some of the more interesting bands on Show & Tell ain’t gonna be showing & telling no more. They’re breaking up, in other words. Brutal Juice (last seen on Interscope, ’nuff said), Butt Trumpet (on EMI, ditto), Thirsty (from Ithica, NY, ibid.) and Tilt (formerly on Lookout! and Fat, who always reminded me of a punk version of the Mamas and the Papas) have all given up The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. To counterbalance this fond farewell, we welcome new punk rock superstar Todd Bridges and his band, The Whatchu Talkin’ ‘Bout Willis Experience. Yup, it’s really him. And nope, the bitch really can’t sing. Aside from that, there ain’t many surprises here. Those you expect to be good are good. Those you expect to be mediocre are mediocre. And those you’ve never heard of before you hope you’ll never hear again. Let’s take a look at the track listing. “Paid Programming” brought to you by Brutal Juice – Awash in distorted psychedelia, these chunky flunkies want to shoot the world up with coke and make us sing in harmony on a twilight hillside by candlelight. When commercial jingles are more inspiring than the fodder on commercial alternative radio, it’s time to flush.
“Green Acres” starring The Meatmen– It’s the place to be, so says Tesco Vee. And you better believe it, buddy. With sassy co-singer Stacey Kaye, The Meatmen prove they’re still vital to the ratings. Raw and nasty, toned down just enough for the censors, these monkeys will be here, season after season.
“Zoom” starring Murphy’s Law – The kids leap around, introduce themselves, and shout “zoom” a lot in unison. This isn’t really all that different from what Murphy’s Law do in their originals. Sing along, kids!
“Where In the World Is Carmen San Diego?” starring Tilt – I never really cared for the show, and this is a waste of a talented cast.
“Roadrunner” staring Boris the Sprinkler – That’s either a kazoo or a piece of wax paper draped over a comb. Either way, Rev. Nørb is the man. A short chase, outsmarting all adversaries, dribbling “Meep-meeps” at random intervals.
“Friends” starring Pink Lincolns – Even destroying this song is a waste of time.
“Mission: Impossible” starring The Meatmen – If the movie used this version of the song, perhaps it wouldn’t have sucked so much. This is action and adventure music.
“Baretta” starring Trick Babys – Lynne Von, not to be confused with Lily von Schtupp (Madaline Kahn’s bawdy bar singer in Blazing Saddles), ought to’ve sung “Wonder Woman” or something. At least it wasn’t “Kate and Allie.” “Diff’rent Strokes” starring Todd Bridges et al – He can’t sing any better than he can act. The song lends itself nicely to punk though. “COPS” starring H20 – That’s right, it’s the bad boys, bad boys song all rocked out with a “fuck tha police” lyric thrown in, ’cause how can ya resist? And the “Go! Go!” adaptation of 7 Seconds’ “Walk Together Rock Together” is ingenious. Don’t miss this all-new episode! “Get Smart” starring Agent Orange – Always was good, always will be good. But this is far from the best they’ve done. “Secret Agent Man” starring The Dickies – Furtive looks and smoke rolling in the corners of the room. Shady characters and tasty floozies, danger lurking around every corner. You can see how this inspired generations of dweebs to live out their spy guy fantasies. “Hawaii Five-O” starring FU – Images of screaming car chases, snappy dressers, and witty outcomes, FU uses lo-fi sound to convey a hi-level crafting of sound. It’s not just the notes, it’s the waves of riffs, the vibrations, and the style with which they crank it out. Very impressive. “Stingray” starring Hi-Fives – Surfs up! We’re gonna party down with these gone guys, boppin’ to the smooth sounds, and shimmy on up to some swingin’ gal to try to suck the salt from her bikini. “Out of Limits” starring Laika and the Cosmonauts – So beautiful, it’ll bring tears to your eyes. “Laverne and Shirley” starring No Use For A Name – First those Rat Pack cats wanted to do it their way and Sid copped it, then L & S wanted to do it together (I think that scene was edited out) and NUFAN copped it. Of course it’s good. It’s an anthem of independence. Sing along with all the other independent thinkers! “Mary Tyler Moore” starring Clowns For Progress – Not as slick as those flared-leg pantsuits, but the sparkling smile is still there. It’s just a little yellower. (The cat’s meow at the end is totally cool.) “The Monkees” starring Furious George – This song shoulda leant itself easily, but it seems too much for the one-hit no-wonder-they-got-Dee-Dee-Ramone-to-play-on-their-album losers. “The Partridge Family” starring Horace Pinker – The season is starting to slump when good ideas like this limp along. Again, this shoulda coasted into punk styling easily, but it’s as insulting as a weak handshake. “Welcome Back, Kotter” starring Squirtgun – Fast, witty, and sarcastic? Imagine that! Too low for Matt Hart’s natural vocal range, the composition saves what otherwise might not’ve worked. “Saved By The Bell” starring The Cretins – This is the kind of energy the others, even the big names, lack. While there are plenty of flubbed vocals, this is dippy, rock-out punk that’s fun to listen to. Now with guitar solos!
“Paid Advertisement” brought to you by Joyride – Short, sweet, and fun for the whole family! The Slinky jingle is so crucial, I’m glad it’s done simply and beautifully. “Cheers” starring Felix Frump – Almost the same as The Cretins, but the straining vocals hurt the effect. Vital and well-executed, but out of the vocalist’s range. “WKRP in Cincinnati” starring Weston – Out of tune guitars and flat, boring vocals really don’t inspire anyone to stay tuned.
“It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” starring Thirsty – It’s only 30 seconds long. It’s very fast. They do the whistling thing. It’s funny.
“Bewitched” starring Brutal Juice – Boy are these guys weird. It barely sounds like the original, but it’s a wild ride.
“The Munsters” starring No Use For A Name – It’s only a 30 second instrumental, but it’s a damn good 30 seconds. Surf punk and Iron Maiden guitar harmonies make for a frightening mix.
“All In The Family” starring The Grabbers – Exactly what you’d expect. “The Jeffersons” starring Latex Generation – With such an energetic original, you’d hope and pray a punk band could pull it off. And Latex does. Barely.
“Gilligan’s Island” starring Manic Hispanic – Surprisingly, they’re the only band who took creative license with lyrics. It makes you have to listen, rather than stupidly sing along, but Manic Hispanic is always worth the stretch.
“Dukes of Hazzard” starring Hot Water – Wait! These guys can really sing and play, what are they doing here?! Ain’t never heard o’ these boys afore, but they stomp and swagger, and if I ever sees ’em live, I’ll saddle on up and buy ’em a whisky.
“Hee-Haw” starring Jesus Christ Superfly – The song’s as goofy and stupid as it oughta be.
“Beverly Hillbillies” starring Butt Trumpet – Remember when your mom used to yell at you for playing with roadkill? It’s the same thing with Butt Trumpet; they’re so sick, raw, twisted, and icky, you just can’t resist liking ’em. And the momentary channel-surfing-segment working in BS’s “Sweet Leaf” is gorgeous, as is the quacking at the end. But what does it mean, Jim? What does it mean? “Good Times” starring The Bollweevils – Quick, fun, goofy, and close enough for punk rock purposes.
“Charles in Charge” starring Corn’Mo – A man, his accordion, and a drum machine. Starting with DLR’s “Yankee Rose” before yanking his way through the song assigned, I must credit the fucker for concept, but wish it’d been executed with just a shred of talent.
Closing Credits. The Bloodhound Gang whupped almost every band’s ass on this record with “Shitty Record Offer” on Use Your Fingers. The trouble with kitsch is it’s not supposed to be a replacement for ingenuity, songsmithing, and playing ability, it’s supposed to be a complement it. In general, short or not, 35 songs is just too many.