Sunday, January 13, 2013

40 Years Ago Today: The Debut Of Schoolhouse Rock!

If you're an American of a certain age, surely you remember the series of educational short films that played every Saturday morning on the American Broadcasting Company from 1973 to 1985. Collectively known as "Schoolhouse Rock!", the series made its debut with "Three is a Magic Number" on this day forty years ago.

The series was the brain child of advertizing agent David McCall who was irked that his son knew the words to all the current pop songs but couldn't remember his multiplication tables. He called in Bob Dorough, a jazz pianist and occasional jingle writer, to come up with something. Dorough wrote most of the classic Schoolhouse Rock! jingles, and along with Jack Sheldon, sang many of them.

The series eventually expanded beyond math to include grammar, history, science, computers and economics.

Now, I have to admit that as a kid I was skeptical at first. There had been a move afoot for a couple of years by that point to tame Saturday morning cartoons, transforming them from the pure entertainment of Bullwinkle, Jonny Quest and Looney Tunes into bland nuggets of wholesome goodness—and trust me, kids weren't fooled one bit. As (I think) Shakespeare once said, that which sucks, sucks regardless of whether it's "good" for you or not.

Besides, who's to say that the cynically witty "Fractured Fairytales," for example, didn't serve me better in the long run?

But despite my initial resistance, Schoolhouse Rock quickly won me over and as with many kids my age, became a permanent part of the cultural flotsam and jetsam bobbing around in my brain.

If you don't know Schoolhouse Rock, or even if you do, here are three of the best:

The jazzy "Conjunction Junction":

The classic civics lesson, "I'm Just a Bill":

And a personal favorite, "Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here":

Haven't had enough? You can catch all the Multiplication Rock videos here and Grammar Rock here. And I'll bet the rest are floating around out there, too!


VKMfanHuey said...

...I am a big fan of all, and more importantly, getting my kids into them as well...I have a DVD with, heck, the bulk of them on it...
...Conjunction Junction is of course, the 'Stairway to Heaven' of the franchise, but a few others are part of my 'makeup' as well, like "Naughty Number 9", which unabashedly 'borrowed' from Tom and Jerry in the billiards themed clip... and 'Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla'... whenever I can't think of some dude's name when asked, I say, "Why, that's ol' Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla!" ...the folks that 'get it', do, and the folks who don't...well, are most likely not going to yield a profitable discussion with me anyway...

Thanks for the info, MM! Hope the deadline works out for ya...I'm kinda in the same boat, but should be 'cleared out' in a few days!


Erik Beck said...

I think the first line I might have known from any song is "The shot heard round the world / Was the start of the revolution."

We also have the DVD set and my son enjoys watching them. There's really nothing like it.

Yvette said...

Oooooh, didn't know about a DVD. I'll be wanting to get it for my granddaughter when she's a teeny bit older.

I remember these even though I was a grown woman when they first appeared. I can still remember, "Conjunction Junction, what's your function..." lalalalala. Good stuff.