A trip with Rick Springfield through the magic door to a land of bubblegum music and colorful ‘70s grooviosity.
Wizard Records ZL-205 (Stereo) (12” 33 1/3 RPM LP / 1974)
CD Reissue: Master Classics MCS-8022-2 (2004)
Producer: Robie Porter for Porter/Binder Productions. Musicians: Jim Keitner, Russ Kunkel, Ray Arnott, Barry Morgan, Carol Kaye, Lee Sklar, Barry Sullivan, Rick Springfield. Recording/Mixing: John Fischbach, Ern Rose. Recorded 1971-1974 at Armstrong’s Recording Studios, Melbourne, Australia and Crystal Studios, Hollywood, CA. LP Running Time: 41 minutes; CD Running Time: 44 minutes.
Songs: “Theme from Mission: Magic,” “We’re Gonna Have a Good Time,” “It’s Driving Me Crazy,” “Free and Easy,” “You Can Really Do It (If You Try),” “On the Other Side,” “You Can’t Judge a Book,” “Love is the Key,” “You’d Better Think Twice,” “Welcome to the Rodeo,” “I Want You,” “Just Gotta Sing,” “We Help One Another,” Starlight, Starbright,” “Catch Me If You Can,” “I Know That It’s Magic,” “Speak to the Sky (CD bonus track)” by Rick Springfield.
Filmation was thriving when this often-overlooking one-season series ran on ABC Saturday mornings. In the manner of early-‘70s kidvid, it weaves pro-social messages (don’t lie, try hard, etc.) into the story lines.
Miss Tickle (voice of Broadway star Lola Fisher) is a schoolteacher who, very much like Ms. Frizzle on The Magic School Bus, takes her class through fantastic adventures. The Friz’s school bus journeys were based on fact; she and her kids went anywhere from outer space to an active colon. Tickle takes her students through a magic door on her blackboard to fantasy worlds populated mostly by over-the-top villains and comic thugs where the social lesson is exemplified.
The Tickle group’s adventures come by way of messages from a magic gramophone. Beckoning them for assistance (and playing himself) is young and not-yet-a-superstar-in-the-U.S. pop singer Rick Springfield. ABC asked Filmation’s Lou Scheimer to find a way to do a series around the young singer, and the resulting premise somehow works fairly well, considering how convoluted it is.
Springfield wrote all the songs for the series (except one that Miss Tickle sings in an episode called “Horse Feathers”). The songs are quite good—each brimming with catchy “hooks”—right in line with the kind of music Filmation featured on The Archies, The Brady Kids and Groovie Goolies. It’s a little bit Beatles, some hand-clapping early Neil Diamond and a whole lot of Ron Dante and The Archies. Though his songs have several musical influences, it is conceivable that Springfield studied a few of the Archies’ albums to capture the general cartoon pop style heard in Filmation shows of the era.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Theme from Mission: Magic”
This is another of those Saturday morning theme songs that takes only a few listens to become planted in grey matter for all time. The TV series never played the theme, or any of the songs, all the way through, including the theme, but the album presented the entire tune.
CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG Song and Picture Book
Lola Fisher and Richard Sherman
Orchestra & Chorus Conducted by LeRoy Holmes
United Artists SLP-108 (Stereo / 12” LP / 27 minutes / 1968)
CD Reissue: Kritzerland KR-20020-5 (Part of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Very Very Special Edition Soundtrack (2011)
Songs: “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” “You Two,” “Hushabye Mountain,” “Toot Sweets,” “Me Ol’ Bamboo,” “Lovely, Lonely Man,” “Posh!” “Doll on a Music Box & Truly Scrumptious,” “Chu-Chi Face,” “The Roses of Success by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman.
A lot of late ‘60s movie musicals were released alongside avalanches of merchandise, including dozens of “studio versions” of the scores—a highly profitable enterprise if the property is a hit. United Artists Records emulated Disneyland Records by issuing their own studio version of the Chitty score with a picture book inside the gatefold cover.
Lola Fisher stands in for the movie’s co-star, Sally Ann Howes. It’s a role Fisher was well suited for, as she understudied Julie Andrews in the original Broadway production of My Fair Lady. Fisher had moved to the West Coast by this time, enjoying a steady career in voice work and supporting roles (she was in three Here’s Lucy episodes and the Bewitched episode in which Tabitha turns her schoolmate into a butterfly).
Fisher sounds very much like Howes, especially in ballads such as “Lovely Lonely Man” and “Hushabye Mountain.” Of course, it’s always a treat to hear Richard Sherman sing the songs he wrote with his brother Bob, especially when the songs are so lavishly orchestrated (most likely in London).
Veteran composer/arranger/conductor LeRoy Holmes was responsible for many United Artists albums in the ‘60s and had a long Hollywood career. His interpretations of the Chitty songs are in the style of British music hall and late ‘60s UK television variety shows—these songs sound as if they could have been performed on The Morecambe and Wise Show.
Kritzerland reissued this album as part of a wonderful two-disc Chitty Chitty Bang Bang soundtrack special edition that also contains demos of songs from the film and some that did not make the cut, as well as the soundtrack mixed as carefully as possible to diminish the overdone reverb of the original disc.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Chu Chi Face”
Critics who derided this song as sappy miss the comedic point. Like a Carol Burnett or Mel Brooks routine, the very sweetness is the comic counterpoint to the fact that Baron and Baroness (whom Fisher and Sherman are portraying in this selection) are trying to kill each other. In the incongruity is the brilliance.