October 17, 2009

Comet Shuki-Levy

Although I rarely turn on the television these days, I watched a shitpotload of TV as a kid. A lot of Nickelodeon (Mr. Wizard, You Can't Do That On Television, Dennis the Menace), PBS (Square One, 3-2-1 Contact), and anything on HBO (Hey, Beastmaster's On). Oh, and What's Happening!! reruns (with Rerun).

Of course there were a bunch of cartoons that I was infatuated with as well, and my favorites were the ones with the most awesome theme songs: M.A.S.K., He-Man, and Heathcliff. These mighty jingles were all composed by Shuki Levy. This dude did so many amazing cartoon theme songs that I will never forget, even for shows that I didn't watch: Pole Position, Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors, Dinosaucers, Inspector Gadget, Mr. T, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. His contributions to television helped build the foundation for my obsession with music. I didn't really listen to much popular music as a kid (except Weird Al, of course), but I was constantly inundated with TV theme songs, commercial jingles, and wrestling entrance music. The challenge of these genres was that so many musical elements, hooks, and lyrical exposition would need to be introduced in just 30-60 seconds. Despite competing against children's attention spans, Levy was able to drill tunes into my head that I've never forgotten.

I've purchased many of the Television's Greatest Hits discs over the years, but none of the volumes feature any Levy-produced tracks.* For some reason, his cartoon music is not commercially available independent from the shows themselves. Fortunately, his website features many full theme songs available for free listening. While listening back to one of my favorites, Heathcliff and the Cadillac Cats, I realized that I never quite knew all the lyrics. While searching for them online today, I stumbled on someone else that had the same problem. And now I'm going to blatantly rip off SydLexia and compare my interpretation to the real lyrics:

Heathcliff, Heathcliff, no one should
Terrify the neighborhood
But Heathcliff just won't be undone
Playing pranks on everyone

The first section is fine, and I think that's really all that matters. Most of Heathcliff's character has already been summed up correctly, minus the vandalism, fish eating and pussy slaying.

There's a race to be on top
The competition doesn't stop
Fixing with the ladies' fan
Me and Johnny never laugh

The last two lines were always muddy to me. Turns out it they are supposed to be "Mixing with the ladies' fair, being charming, debonair." I don't think English is the singer's first language. I didn't know what debonair was in 2nd grade anyway. Who's Johnny? I don't know, but I'm sure SydLexia would agree that it has something to do with a Short Circuit in our mid-80's brains.

The gang will raise a brick
And no one can deny-y-y-y
They make up history
And always have an out of time

I'm close here regarding the violent nature of cat gang wars, but not so much in the lyrics:

The gang will reign supreme
And no one can deny
They'll make some history
And always have an alibi

I can hear "alibi" pretty clearly now, but in 2nd grade the word just didn't exist to me. By the way, an "out of time" is an "out of sight time" for blind people that don't proofread.

Social in the jubilee
The cats are great, they'll all agree
Finding each calamity
The cats have fear E.O.F.D.

What the fuck is E.O.F.D.? I don't know. I always assumed they were trying to say D-O-G but knew that cats couldn't really spell. Equal Opportunity Fighters of Dogs is no Mobile Armored Strike Kommand, but it will do in a pinch. Turns out the real lyrics are just more feline master race propaganda:

So join in the jubilee
The cats are great, they'll all agree
You'll find in each calamity
The cat's superiority

The rest I've got right, proving that songs only need a solid beginning and end to be effective:

Heathcliff, Heathcliff no one should
Terrify the neighborhood
But Heathcliff just won't be undone
You should realize he could win it with you.

While listening to this song a thousand times today, I remembered being on the bus in grade school looking out the window innocently singing the melody to myself. Michael, an older kid that lived down the street, stopped me with disgust and said "Are you singing the Heathcliff song?!" I sort of looked up to Mike--he used to do fun things like set his GI Joe plane on fire and yell "Suck my cock!" at the bus driver. I quickly and shamefully denied singing the song. Had I not learned anything from Heathcliff, the most badass cartoon character of the 80? I should've raised a brick!

Twenty-three years later I can proudly say, yes, despite not knowing the words, I was, in fact, singing the Heathcliff song. Suck my cock!

PS - Here's the rare extended version of the M.A.S.K. theme song!

* - I'm wrong here. "Inspector Gadget" is on Volume 3.

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