March 29, 2009

Before Family Guy, Before South Park, Before The Simpsons...

Before Family Guy, before South Park, before The Simpsons, the very first primetime animated series was The Flintstones, which ran from 1960 to 1966 on ABC. I watched the reruns every day after school for years. Then suddenly, about ten years ago, I couldn't find the show anywhere on the dial. (A guy I work with told me it still runs on Boomerang, but I don't get that channel.)

The Flinstones was groundbreaking in many ways. Among other things, it was the first cartoon series to include a laugh track and story arcs. The show was also revolutionary for its regular inclusion of guest star voices (Tony Curtis, Elizabeth Montgomery, and James Darren, among others) and for its acknowledgement and spoofs of pop culture icons and personalities. These included individuals like Alfred Hitchcock ("Alvin Brickrock") and Ed Sullivan ("Ed Sullystone") and TV and movie characters like James Bond ("James Bondrock") and Perry Mason ("Perry Masonary".) The Flintstones also recognized contemporary phenomena like the British Invasion ("The Way Outs", "Bug Music"), surfing culture, and even "The Twist" dance craze.

One of the most unforgettable things about The Flinstones is its music, which incorporated everything from vaudeville tunes, to commercial jingles, to modern pop music. Around the time the first Flinstones movie was released in 1994 (and by the way, how badly did they miss the mark on that one? Thirty-two different writers and that's the best they could do?) I wandered into a long since defunct music store called The Wall and picked up The Flintstones: Modern Stone Age Melodies, which featured many of the most memorable songs from the show's six year run. My personal faves include "Rockin' Bird" (from the episode where Fred becomes singing idol "Hi-Fye") and "Open Up Your Heart and Let the Sunshine In" (which was later covered by the band Frente.) As a bonus, the album also includes lots of dialog from the show and extra tracks consisting of instrumentals used for the show's transition scenes, chase scenes, and background music.

I only wish Modern Stage Age Melodies included the two songs Ann Margret performed when she appeared on the show in 1963 (the same year her breakthrough movie Bye Bye Birdie was released) -- "I Ain't Gonna Be Your Fool No More" and "The Littlest Lamb". (I remember Margret was on Phil Donahue's show many years ago and she fondly recalled her appearance on the The Flintstones. A woman in the studio audience then remarked on what a beautiful song "The Littlest Lamb" was and asked Margret to sing it, but she declined.)

You can download Modern Stone Age Melodies here.

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