I was watching Scooby Doo this afternoon, which is what inspired tonight’s entry. I know all the Scooby Doo cartoons are, frankly, bad. The animation is sub-par, at best and the stories are predictable (no thanks to those meddling kids). But Scooby and I are the same age; I have literally been a devoted fan my entire life. Back in 1995, Saturday Morning Cartoons’ Greatest Hits was released. It was an alternative rock tribute to the themes from the kids shows that Gen X kids grew up watching, and it made songs of questionable quality from cartoons of questionable quality seem brand new. And pretty good.
Okay, no one is ever going to say that the theme from Josie and the Pussycats ought to be enshrined in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. But the songs had pretty good hooks to begin with, they automatically come along with positive associations, and the producers got some high-quality musicians to play. Matthew Sweet, Liz Phair, The Ramones for crying out loud. That line-up had to produce something worth listening to.
There were a lot of surprises on this disc. The biggest one was probably the emotional depth and flirtatiousness these musicians brought out of the music. Sponge’s rendition of “Go Speed Racer Go” creates far more drama than the original Japanimation show ever could have dreamed of. “Sugar Sugar” by Mary Lou Lord and Semisonic absolutely drips with sex, primarily because of Lord’s fantastic singing. Most of the songs had to be extended somehow, what with the originals being about a minute long. But this just gives the musicians a chance to show off their skills with (reasonably short) solos. I even developed an affection for the themes to shows I barely remember, like “Goolie Get-Together”; Groovie Goolies was never on my must-see TV list, but The Toadies make it sound like a great party (I’ll have to track down a couple of episodes and see if they don’t make my brain hurt too much).
I don’t think this is in print anymore; it was trendy, but not exactly a blockbuster. Tribute albums were really hot in the 90s, and I know Saturday Morning Cartoons’ Greatest Hits was riding both that wave and the wave of nostalgia people my age were feeling for their childhoods (and had the disposable income to spend renewing their memories). I’m glad they did. Whenever I listen to these songs, I feel like a kid again. And growing up is overrated, anyway.