You’ll get square eyes.. How many times did I hear those words as a kid. Probably the same amount of times I heard “You’ll end up with piles if you sit on the cold concrete”. I never did… I should have!! (got square eyes that is, not piles). You see, I was a television addict as a kid. To me, it took me out of the confines of my childhood and into a whole new, glamorous, exciting, world, full of drama, comedy, music mystery, magic and beauty.
There was nothing I wouldn’t watch.. The first recollection I ever have of watching a program was Mighty Mouse. I must have been about 3 and I think, maybe, Mum and Dad had just bought a new TV . It was set up, turned on and voila.. Mighty Mouse appeared. That vision is burned into my memory. I can still see the tornado coming into view then Mighty Mouse appearing, flexing his muscles with energy radiating like electricity waves around him.. then he flew off into the air, one arm outstretched in front of him….. flying down to punch the bad guy with the big black moustache, then zooming off again, in search of other wrongs to right…. Then finally launching a rocket with his bare hands and once it was flying on it’s own, he sat on the tip of it, amongst the twinkling stars saying hi to all the girls and boys.. and telling us to hold onto our seats as we blast off.. Ahhh.. it feels like only yesterday.
If I’m honest, I wasn’t a huge Mighty Mouse fan… but I loved the jingle.. ♫Here I come to save the day.. That means that Mighty Mouse is on the way♫ …How good was that music? It made me excited just to hear it. I think I liked most of the jingles more than I liked the tv shows themselves. I mean, who can forget Kimba the White Lion…. I didn’t actually like the show. I’ve never really been into the talking animal thing.. but he had the best theme song.. and because of it, we all knew that when we got in trouble and were in a fight.. Kimba would never turn and run.. coz who’s the king of animals in Africa???.. That’s right…. Kimba the white lion is the one..
I could recite Superman’s opening word for word…. as well as Divorce Court.. and I used to cry through the opening of The Unloved Ones. Batman bored me as his intro was just music with the occasional Batman doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo thrown in.. pffttt totally uninspiring and unimaginative. I liked words.. and music.. and best of all… words set to music. I could have remembered logarithms and algebra if they were set to music. I still have chunks of french songs in my brain, learned in High School, that I will never understand the translation of…. It’s all about the jingle.
Gilligans Island used to upset me greatly in the early series, when Professor and MaryAnn were written off as “and the rest” in the jingle. In later series, they finally changed “and the rest” to “the Professor and MaryAnn”, which greatly improved my mood. I always knew it would fit…. Petticoat Junction, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, The Partridge Family, Nanny and the Professor, The Brady Bunch, Love American Style, The Patty Duke Show, Gidget, Green Acres, My Mother the Car, It’s About Time, Flipper… Ahhh they all had brilliant opening themes. I could add to the list all day…. and I’ve no doubt you could too.. I found that, the more difficult the opening theme, the better for me.. I liked a challenge. I can still remember all these themes today.
Then there were the cartoons… King Kong, Flukey Luke, Leonardo Lion, The Archies, Josie and the Pussycats, The Flinstones, The Jetsons, Rocky and Bullwinkle (who amongst us didn’t try to guess what Bullwinkle was gonna pull out of his hat… but that trick never worked), Fearless Fly, Hercules, Superchicken, Magilla Gorilla, Top Cat, George of the Jungle and of course, my all time favorite Milton the Monster. What did they all have in common?? No, not just the fact that they were all animated… They all had fantastic opening themes.
Milton was a tiny bit superior to the other shows (in my humble opinion anyway) as he had more than one opening theme to learn.. There was the musical ♫It’s thrilling and chilling and almost shock filling.. the Milton the Monster Show♫ then there was the more popular recitation… On top of old horror hill in a secret laboratory, Professor Weirdo and Count Kook were in their monstrous glory. I have to be honest here, I had a bit of a crush on our Milton.. He might not have been the best looking or smartest monster on the block, but he sure was the sweetest. And his show hosted Fearless Fly.. All that in one half hour program… No wonder it was so popular.
In Australia, we had a completely magical show on every afternoon, called Adventure Island. The show was a massive hit and anyone my age will generally still sigh when you mention the show.. It’s greatest appeal?? You guessed it, the opening theme. It was completely mesmerising and we all wanted to believe that Adventure Island really existed somewhere. It opened with sparkly lights (all in black and white) with a map of Australia, then you walked through vine like fairy lights while a compass appeared on the screen, pointing the way to Adventure Island and the land of Diddly Dum Diddly. The music added to the whole experience, magical, entrancing and captivating. It was without a doubt one of the most exciting shows of my childhood..
Until…… along came HR Pufnstuf…. The story of Jimmy and his magic flute Freddy, who were lured into a beautiful boat while out playing., by a kooky old witch, who had in mind the flute to snitch. The skies grew dark, the sea grew rough and the boat sailed on and on …………….to Living Island.. A magic land where everything was, of course, living… the trees, the rocks, the houses… The mayor of Living Island was a goofball dragon called HR Pufnstuf. There was a myriad of other exotic and enchanting characters. I don’t think there were many girls my age who didn’t have a crush on Jimmy, played by Jack Wild who had made his name as the Artful Dodger in Oliver. Witchipoo, Dr Blinky, Alarm Clock and the rest of the characters excited us all. And the opening song was long, complicated, captivating and completely memorable.
One of my party tricks is to be able to recite all of Milton the Monster and HR Pufnstuf themes, but if encouraged, I could be enticed to sing or recite all of the programs jingles I’ve mentioned, at least partially, if not in their entirety. I can already hear cries of…. You need a life… or … didn’t you ever do anything but watch TV?.. well yes I do …..and yes I did. I would quite often wait for the jingles to play, sing along with them, then when the programs started, I’d go outside and play for half an hour till the next one played its theme. So yes, I had outside time too.. We not only weren’t encouraged to watch TV all day, we didn’t want to.. There were too many adventures outside to be had. A lot of our play revolved around our favorite TV shows but we still used our imagination.
If I turn TV on to kid’s cartoons today, I feel sad as they don’t seem to have the innocence, over the top moral message or the magic we were weaned on. You will often hear me bemoaning the lack of magic in today’s world and this is no exception. I guess when the kids of today look back on their childhoods, they’ll remember their cartoons with the same enthusiasm we do. (I hope) But will they be able to sing along with all the songs? Will they want to spend hours trawling Youtube for a nostalgic walk through time remembering an era where life was easier? Will they want their kids to watch their cartoons so they can share the magic? Possibly..
Perhaps it’s because TV was a relatively young medium when we were growing that our shows seemed so amazing. Perhaps because we didn’t have the internet or video games (up until Space Invaders) and TV was our main entertainment. Perhaps because we didn’t see many special effects anywhere, and when they appeared, we were awe struck. Mmmmm. that could all be the case. Maybe I am being biased but I think our cartoons were better animated, better thought out, had better values, better intros, better humor and overall, were just plain better.
Most importantly, they knew, back then, how to write an impressive opening theme. The song or recitation at the start of a show, introduced the whole concept of the show so no matter where you came in on the series, you listened to the song and understood what the show was about. You often knew all the characters names just by singing the song. I could never ever forget that Juliet Mills’ role in Nanny and the Professor had the quirky name of Phoebe Piccalilly… If ever I hit that question in a trivia competition, I’m a winner.. I could never have remembered that if it weren’t in the song.
I know you’ll all have your favorites too. My kids were Power Rangers, Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fans.. Those shows were part of their pop culture as the shows I watched were part of mine. I hated their shows.. they still love them today. Mind you, sadly, I also know the opening themes to them too.. It’s not my fault…. I heard them repeatedly.. (Pavlov’s dog ring a bell??) I guess the important thing is that kids are still having their imagination inspired. They can still escape to a world that is nicer than the one they live in, even if it isn’t quite as special as the Land of Diddly Dum Diddly.
I just wish the intros were as fantastic as ours were. But then again, I guess I’m just showing my age there. I am not greatly inspired by most of the music put out these days: ads, intros or pop songs. Maybe I’ve just used up all my music space in my brain and it’s too full to fit any more in… I should probably do a defrag of the folder in my head marked music. but what could I possibly get rid of to make room for new stuff. Classic and intelligent yrics like We go together like ramalamalamalamadingdong?? No.. I think I’m doomed to be a 60s and 70s chick, with the occasional 80s song thrown in for good measure. And to think it basically all started with a mouse with super human powers who launched a rocket with his bare hands. I was hooked.. Still am…… and proudly so..
What are the shows that stick out in your mind as the best ever.. and was the theme song part of the attraction? I hope you’ll be able to jog my memory with the ones I’ve forgotten.. Remember.. I’m looking for the ones that made you want to sing along with them.. So get Googling… or Youtubing.. or whatever you use to find treasures… and let me know…
Happy Singing along … Livvy 🙂