Chicago Did Hip Hop?!

Oh hell yeah, Chicago did Hip Hop!

The Stone of Sisyphus Rolls On…

Returning to roots is not always a bad thing. However, if you’re Chicago, and your record label doesn’t like change, then, well…your album gets shelved.

I received the Chicago album Stone of Sisyphus as a birthday present. When I received it, I only knew “The Pull,” and “Bigger Than Elvis.” As you know, that’s because I wrote previous articles for both songs. Needless to say, I was excited about this gift. As a nostalgia archaeologist (or “Digital Indiana Jones“), I was fully prepared to immerse myself in deeper meanings and unreleased 1990s glory in a 2000s world.

What I found was the cooler, better-sounding 1990s answer to 1979’s “Street Player,” “Sleeping in the Middle of the Bed.” And guess what, they tried disco, so why not…Hip Hop.

That’s right, Chicago did Hip Hop!

Chicago Did Hip Hop?!

Much of Stone of Sisyphus feels like an experimentation of formats. The album departs from the power ballad rabbit hole of the late 1980s. While some of that is represented here, Chicago isn’t beating us over the head with it. They’re embracing the ability to stretch their creative muscles, hence, “Sleeping in the Middle of the Bed.”

According to Robert Lamm:

When John McCurry and I were cutting the demo, I had the lyrics written, we had the track, and I never really sang a melody. I was just kind of riffing. The rhythm of the words was there, but the melody wasn’t. I went out into the studio to do a rough vocal, and McCurry pushed the talkback button and said, “Why don’t you rap it?” And we both started laughing: OK, let’s try that.

According to Bill Champlin:

I think the record company heard that [“Sleeping in the Middle of the Bed”] and went, ‘Wait a minute – white guys don’t do this.’ Simple as that. I told Robert I thought it was an awesome piece, but you’re running up against racial lines here. I think that’s the first time Robert’s crossed any of those lines in a good long while.

Of course, in 1993, Bill was experimenting with something far more epic than music…Hair, Party of one!

“Sleeping in the Middle of the Bed” combines the sound of then-contemporary Hip Hop music (commonly referred to as Rap during that time), with the sound of Chicago’s “rock with horns.” I haven’t heard anything quite like this since Tom Jones rapped his heart out. And hey, his career was on a resurgence, so it had to work for Chicago, right?

Having alleged sex appeal probably didn’t hurt either.

Looking for the Big Hit…

It matters if I like it, right?

Because I do!

Unlike the aforementioned Disco Disaster known as “Street Player,” this song actually works! It is fun, funky, and experimental to the hilt! The obvious “we’re having fun” vibe is present throughout. And this grouping of lyrics?

I read somewhere that religion is for people
Who want to stay out of hell
I was praying for a sign or a vision or a message
Till you been there you won’t get well
I was sitting in a room I’d never recognize it
With a picture before my eyes
I’ve been sleeping in the middle of the bed again
I’m not sure this qualifies

I’d say a helluva good drug was available when Robert Lamm wrote this song, but he was clean for quite a few years at this point.

That Chicago Hip Hop Song…

Robert Lamm co-penned “Sleeping in the Middle of the Bed” with songwriter John McCurry, who has also worked with Cyndi Lauper, Billy Joel, David Bowie, Alice Cooper, John Waite, Belinda Carlisle, Julian Lennon, Joss Stone, Katy Perry, The Jonas Brothers, and Elliott Yamin. Robert Lamm is responsible for the vocals.

Someone that is quite possibly even more white than Robert Lamm. And Tom Jones.

Walter Parazaider discussed the exploration of this untapped genre:

Robert was just exploring another genre, which we’d been doing since Day One. I hink the only things we haven’t covered are Dixieland and polkas, and give us long enough we’ll probably do that too.

 

Because when you’ve done Disco, Hip Hop, Rock, and Power Ballads, this is naturally the course you must take.

Naturally!

I have to give Lamm kudos – on an album that already was quite the experimental mix, this song definitely stands out. And while “standing out” isn’t always a good thing, this was A Good Thing. I’ll give that it sounds bizarre for someone who had never rapped before (read: a 40-something-year-old white guy who sang in Italian on “Saturday in the Park”) to attempt it, but Tom Jones did it, so why not Lamm? Credit where credit is due, this song was creative in its efforts.

The disco album, on the other hand, was selling out.

“Sleeping in the Middle of the Bed”

And now, the part of the article where I unleash the song on you!

Ladies and gentlemen, Chicago rapping about religion, love storms, and lying dormant in a selected spot on a specified sleeping area.

Upload via Chicago – Topic

So now, you can tell everyone about that time that Chicago did Hip Hop…and prove it to them!

Not that this comes up in those bar/pub quiz nights, but if it does…

Do YOU Remember Hi-Tops Video?

Prepare thyself! By the end of this article, you will not only remember Hi-Tops Video, logos IN SPACE will be burned into your conscious memory!

All The Production Logos

Anyway…

If you grew up in the 1980s and early 1990s, you’re familiar with the “mainstream” production company/distributor logos. Think Universal, 20th Century Fox, and Warner Bros. You’ll also likely remember some of the not-so-mainstream “budget” production company/distributor logos. For this argument, think Key Video, 1980s aerobic/exercise videos, and (shudder) Vestron.

The commonality that most of these bigger groups (and moreso the budget groups) is their family-friendly/children’s sublabels.

Focusing On Sublabels…

The 1980s brought about quite a few sublabels of larger companies – Playhouse Video (20th Century Fox), Children’s Video Library (Vestron Home Video),  and this all-too-memorable logo…

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That jingle, the lacing up shoe. This is a logo that ’80s kids could easily identify. This was Hi-Tops Video, and it was a company that released (almost) everything kid-friendly.

“Almost” was because they had stiff competition from those other distributors…and not all of them were splashy and high-quality.

Hi-Tops Video

Hi-Tops Video was a sublabel of Media Home Entertainment, itself a division of Heron Communications, and their childrens’ distribution and production arm. The company actively released thirty-five different productions as a distributor, and ten as a production company between 1986 and 1992.

Their releases ranged from toy tie-in cartoons of the time (The Adventures of Teddy Ruxpin, Captain Power, Lady Lovelylocks, and even two Barbie specials), and television shows (Long Ago and Far Away, Pee-Wee’s Playhouse), to imports, a guide to home safety for children, and a “profile video” about actor Chris Young.

Which I can’t find video proof of, folks. But I found the home safety video!

Hi-Tops and Logos…IN SPACE!

In order to know Hi-Tops Video and how it started, we have to go back a few years…eight years, to be exact.

Media Home Entertainment was founded in 1978 by Charles Band, with three sublabels – The Nostalgia Merchant (very old or classic films), Fox Hills Video (special interest and obscure B-movies), and the aforementioned Hi-Tops Video. After a rocky start due to ABKCO Records suing Media for releasing The Rolling Stones’ Hyde Park concert, and then for their releasing of Beatles material, Media became one of the largest independent video distributors in the United States.

If you ask me, I think there was more cause to sue them for this ugly logo…

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…and blatant (though intentional) misuse of proper spelling!

But they redeemed themselves…IN SPACE!

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And then they changed their music…IN SPACE!

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Though they associated with Cannon.

Anyways…

Hi-Tops Video Releases

Hi-Tops Video released the majority of the earliest Peanuts specials as part of “Snoopy’s Home Video Library.” When I worked in the video store, we had the Hi-Tops prints of A Charlie Brown Christmas and It’s The Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown. The store even had It’s Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown (with She’s A Good Skate, Charlie Brown on the same tape), but released by Media Home Entertainment. Imagine that surprise when I rented the video! I had never seen the Media logo prior to that!

While most of their product were imports and programs based on established series and toylines, Little Schoolhouse was an original release (as were the aforementioned home safety video and profile on actor Chris Young).

Behold, original material!!!!

Uploads via UncleSporkums (and his awesome YouTube Channel!) and CringeVision

The Adventures of Teddy Ruxpin In the Land of Hi-Top Video!

And I didn’t even know this – The Adventures of Teddy Ruxpin releases were designed to be compatible with Teddy Ruxpin himself. They also dug out that man-sized Teddy Ruxpin suit to ensure that live-action Teddy Ruxpin never quite went away. His purpose? Ppening and closing segments on the videocassettes…

Behold, EXHIBIT A!

Upload via redilliop

Of course, I’m still shuddering over Come Dream With Me Tonight (the video, not the song itself!).

It’s all fun, games, and lacing up your sneakers, until your company goes under, taking you with them.

Such was the case with…

The Great Unlacing: The End of Hi-Tops Video

As fate would (unfortunately) have it, the early 1990s meant the end of an era in children’s home video distribution and production. In 1990, Media began downsizing its staff and selling its assets in the wake of Gerald Ronson’s (part of the family that established Heron International) in the Guinness share-trading fraud in Great Britain.

Media ceased operations in 1993, with Hi-Tops Video inactive the previous year (though Wikipedia cites that they were active until 1996). The Peanuts specials were acquired by Paramount in 1994, with Warner Bros. acquiring them in 2008. Most of their catalog is effectively out of print, but alas, You Tube is an amazing treasure trove for the Hi-Tops Video library.

So um, wow. Not short, sweet, and too the point, but still quite the composition in words and visuals. I, for one, love this logo – always have. Hi-Tops Video is a part of the childhood experience of video renting in the 1980s. I smile when I see this logo show up, even moreso if I see a Hi-Tops videocassette somewhere. The catchy jingle, shoe lacing up and bouncing into the background? All the makings of the 1980s nostalgic childhood experience, my friends.

So how about one more for the road?

Upload via Watcher3223

Ba-da-daaaaaaaaaaa!

Related Reading

Hi-Tops Builds Muscle in KidVid Wars – Billboard (Vol. 98, No. 40 – October 4, 1986 – Home Video, page 17)

 

Have You Seen the ACTUAL Version of “The Devil’s Gift”?

Spoiler Alert: “The Devil’s Gift” is terrible regardless of the version.

But first, on a semi-related note…

It’s my BIRTHDAY!!!!

I’ll give you all the pertinents:

  1. I’m thirty-five.
  2. I’m aware I don’t look it.
  3. This post is relevant to birthdays.

All of that said…

The Devil’s Gift…Is A Hell Of A Birthday Present!

Let’s face it, we all get that one gift we don’t like. We suck it up and thank the giver for their efforts…then focus our time and undivided attention on something else. I’ve never had that experience (honest!), as rumor has it I’m easy to shop for.

However…

Someone needs to tell the kid in this movie that he should have played with his other birthday gifts. Because this movie would have been over faster!

The Devil’s Gift is a 1984 feature film directed by Kenneth J. Berton, he of the stinker Merlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders, which is only watchable with riffing and Ernest Borgnine.

For me, that’s probably because my Uncle Sam looked just like him. This is actually Borgnine, not my Uncle Sam.

The Devil’s Gift is infamously known in its heavily-edited, child-friendly form (as seen on Mystery Science Theater 3000), and until recently, this was the only version I knew about. I figured, “oh, it’s a short film and it was needed to pad out the runtime of this longer film.” It was version I saw as a sixteen-year-old MSTie in 1999, and several times years later.

Nope.

…and the DVD cover that makes me scream B.S.!

The Devil’s Gift is an actual living, breathing representation of what a truly terrible movie one can make (that doesn’t involve Tommy Wiseau), and how it can absolutely feel disjointed even without heavy editing. Again, not involving Tommy Wiseau.

The original version is darker and more “violent,” but just as cheap, ugly, poorly-plotted and clunky as the version seen on MST3K.

Again, I’m absolutely certain Tommy Wiseau’s name does not appear anywhere in the credits.

Oh, the “Plot…”

Michael Andrews receives a cymbal-banging monkey as a birthday present, purchased by his father David’s girlfriend, Susan. The toy monkey was found among the ruins of a burned-down house, untouched by the damage surrounding it, and brought to an antiques shop, where Susan later decides this monkey is a Great Gift Idea.

And that’s where the fun begins!

*Cymbals Banging*

Each time the monkey bangs his cymbals of his own accord (the first clue this “toy” could not possibly be safe to play with), something happens. And by “something,” I mean death. Houseplants, the family dog, a housefly. And if it isn’t death, it is near-misses involving Michael: a near hit-and-run, attempting smothering, and attempted drowning. The monkey wants this kid dead, and two out of three times, it wants Susan to be the killer. The other time, it wants a car to kill him.

This is a terrible, horrible, ugly, schlock-filled, low-rent film that tries to be horror/thriller, and comes up comedy/Not Thriller. And the ending…let’s just say Merlin doesn’t arrive to retrieve his monkey.

The plot of the film is similar to Stephen King’s short story The Monkey, which is obviously an insult to King’s genius, since this movie is far from the caliber of Stephen King’s genius (it is alleged that the movie is plagiarized from that story). I’ve used “clunky,” “ugly,” “cheap,” and “poorly-plotted” to describe this movie, all of which is accurate. The acting is ugly, the people are ugly, the general look of the film is ugly, and I swear that 1970s couch every grandparent had is prominent in this house. I recall laughing at the riff “Hello, 1970s house” hysterically as a teenager, acting like I totally got why it was so funny.  As an adult, I get the joke…this is a 1970s house. This is 1976 trying to masquerade as 1984.

The runner up for laughs? This scene with riffing…

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If the guys from RiffTrax ever get their hands on it, I will be proudly claim firsties forking over the cost to see it in the theater. I have no shame.

The Devil’s Gift

Behold, the gift you don’t want, in its original form, complete with home video logos and trailers at the end.

For me, the real “gift” is that it is the 1985 Vestron Video print, complete with that screeching logo.

Anyway, celebrate my birthday with me over a movie about a possessed toy, and that toy’s determination to kill. It’s a helluva gift that you might just say the devil had something to do with…

Admit it, you giggled a little.

Anyway, here’s the ugly truth of a film…

Upload via m1lkm4n

But, if you prefer the equally awkward, heavily edited, family-friendly B-story of a Z-grade film, then by all means, watch the original, if only for Ernest Borgnine.

Come for the laughs, stay for the Borgnine!

“Found Footage” Gameplay – “Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour”

Of course, this is if you consider gameplay footage you made in 2007 “found footage.”

2007: The Year of the “Yellow DVD”

2007 was two years before I started watching James Rolfe’s “Angry Video Game Nerd,” videos, and at least four years before I started watching any kind of gameplay-related videos. So when I did my own unintentional gameplay video in 2007, it was only because I was recording something for the sake of recording something.

Because, why not?

Last year, I was transferring recorded DVDs I made in the mid-2000s to my Passport drive, and created a file for one of my DVDs, “Yellow DVD.” I didn’t think anything of what I recorded on the DVD until I was looking for a specific commercial for one of my blog posts, and spotted a gameplay video I’d made.

Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour

Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour is the sequel to the 1999 Nintendo 64 game Mario Golf. Published by Nintendo (with development by Camelot Software Planning), Toadstool Tour was released on July 28, 2003, with a Player’s Choice label version released in 2004.

Toadstool Tour has sixteen playable characters, tournaments to obtain new features, trainings, and variations on the “traditional” golf format. There are seven different courses with varying degrees of difficulty featuring various elements common to all Super Mario games. The controls are smooth for even the casual gamer (read: they’re easy for me to master).

The only issue I’ve ever found with control is the short putt (which was a common issue among reviewers). The game was well-received, and as of December 2007, sold 1.03 million units in North America. The game also was the last Mario golf-related game to release to a home console (the most recent Mario Golf game, World Tour, was released for the Nintendo 3DS in 2014).

This was a frequent rental at the video store I worked at (I started there in 2003). I got this game as a birthday present in 2006, and it is one of my favorites to this day. And since my Nintendo Wii works again (not sure how that happened, but it reads discs again!), I’m definitely going to be swinging a club sometime soon!

Of course, that brings me to the real reason you’re here.

Do you like gameplay videos? Because I’ve got gameplay for you!

Gloriously Found Footage – Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour

As I said, I found this eighteen-minute video I randomly recorded to a DVD-R in 2007. I can’t give you any reason for why I recorded this, but after working on a massive commercial archive for the last ten years, I see the appeal of finding this video.

I didn’t record any commentary for this, since it’s golf, and well, there isn’t much to say, I’m just going to let you enjoy the video. I’m aware this game isn’t overly retro, Mario and all of his cohorts are classics.

Being a classic character in a slightly more modern time qualifies as retro by association, right?

I guess?

Enough yammering, click play below and watch the glory of luscious green golf courses and video game characters come together for something awesome!

Upload via Allison Venezio / Allison’s Written Words

Do You Remember The Proposed 1984 “My Little Pony” Pilot?

I remember a whole other time in the world of My Little Pony.  It was pre-brony, but just as colorful and cheesy.

Didn’t They Make This My Little Pony Movie Already?

So there’s this movie out this weekend, you’ve probably seen at least one movie poster for it on your way to the bathroom in your local movie theater…

*Snort* I wish.

It’s more like this…

If you type in the exact title My Little Pony: The Movie, you’re going to see two very different posters.  And depending what era MLP you like, you’ll likely react with nostalgic awe toward one, and revulsion toward the other.

Can you imagine that dividing line, moms versus their daughters?

Just Like Her Aunt…

I have a 2 1/2 year old niece.  Right now, she’s not watching My Little Pony in any way, shape, or form, but she has a sippy cup (courtesy of my mom), a MLP figure (also courtesy of my mom), a Ty Beanie Plushie (courtesy of me), and a t-shirt (again, courtesy of me).  The sippy cup was kept at my parents’ house, and my niece loved it so much, she took it home.  My sister-in-law told my mom on the phone a week later that all my niece wanted to drink from was her “pony cup” and she would yell “PONY CUP!  PONY CUP!” constantly.  Kid loves that cup.

Of course, I loved my cup when I was three years old, but mine had a spinning pony attached to the straw! I’ve tried to find pictures of that cup, to no avail.

Me with my brother (my niece’s daddy) at four years old (1986). That’s also the same year I started watching and collecting My Little Pony stuff.

I have my doubts that my niece will see the current (and same titled) My Little Pony: The Movie right now, but when I was slightly older than her, I saw the original 1986 movie, albeit not in the movie theater.  I know I liked it at the time, but time has made it look kinda cheesy, and well, the Cinema Snob made it look downright terrible.  I’m sure in 30 years, this new release will look just as bad.  And of course, the 1986 version will flat out look ancient.

In the Beginning…There Were Ponies!

35 years ago, My Little Pony took the toy world by storm, and it was only a matter of time before the toys became primetime specials, a movie, and then two TV series during Generation 1 (I should note that the original TV series actually came after the movie).  The toy series has gone through several generations’ worth of changes from that point to now, and my mom decided to tell me in a store that the newer generation (G4) is much cuter than the ones I played with 30 years ago (G1). I always knew that she believed they were ugly, but to say these new ones are cute…um, no.

Over on You Tube, I was looking (like my search for the cup, completely to no avail) for the 1984 special which was pre-movie and pre-orginal series, and I came across a promo for it (which was the proposed pilot)..including the special.  And as you know with anything nostalgia, I’m in my glory.

My Little Pony: Rescue at Midnight Castle Promo

This obvious end-of-another-video trailer is for the 1984 primetime special known as “Rescue from Midnight Castle,” and omits the scary part where the ponies get turned into dragons.  Good lord, that scared me when I was little!

If you need something to compare it to, I recommend that scene in The Care Bears In the Land Without Feelings where Professor Coldheart turns the little boy, Kevin, into one of his green servants.  That’s just scary now because the animation is terrible, but the dragons in this special are well-animated and terrifying.

This looks like a marketing trailer for retailers, based on the narration.  In fact, on a Vestron/Children’s Video Library video, this trailer and Rainbow Brite: Peril in the Pits (that show’s pilot) come complete with prices should you want to buy it…

Seriously?!  It’s not like Vestron was this amazing film company. People were buying these for their children – do you know how many kids watched videos until the tape eventually broke?  $29.95 USD in 1986 equals…$66.16 today.

WHAT?!

And don’t get me started on the Canadian price!

Now I understand why I didn’t own any videos that weren’t destined to become timeless classics.  Because this price!

Anyway…

My Little Specifics

Marvel (yes, THAT Marvel), Hasbro, Sunbow, and Toei produced the special, with Claster Television distributing it. The pilot originally aired on April 14, 1984, and was followed by “Escape from Catrina.” The feature film opened in theaters in the spring of 1986, was a box office disappointment, and combined with the disappointing box office returns on Transformers: The Movie (why, I have no idea), resulted in a proposed Jem movie’s cancellation, and GI Joe: The Movie releasing direct-to-video in 1987.

But don’t weep for the ponies! They had another chance when they got their own series! My Little Pony ‘n Friends. The “friends” were a B-side cartoon featuring either GloFriends, MoonDreamers, or Mr. Potato Head, his wife, and their children (the cartoon centered around the Potato Head Kids). The series ran in first-run syndication on weekdays from September 15, 1986 until September 23, 1987, spanning two seasons and 65 episodes. The GloFriends had 27 segments, Potato Head Kids 23 segments, and the MoonDreamers had 16 segments.

Fun fact: The first ten episodes of that series, “The End of Flutter Valley,” (airing September 15-26, 1986) served as the sequel of sorts to the feature film.

Of course, something had to come first, and after quite the search, I found the original special in its entirety!

I also made this. Because I can. :-)

Reaction

Um…

That’s just as freaky as I remember. And the songs are terrible! I remember this plot like I just saw it (especially that Sea Ponies song, which sounds like a commercial jingle), and it has been at least 9-10 years since I’ve seen it on You Tube. Like everything else we loved growing up, this hasn’t aged well in terms of the actual dialogue, but the animation is pretty.

I remember in the original cut, an overly excited voiceover informs us that Sandy Duncan and Tony Randall are the stars of this show! And no, they didn’t make it to the actual TV series, though Randall did play the Moochick in the feature film. As an adult, this feels dark.

And Tirek the Centaur…*shudder*. As for Scorpan, you could feel his humanity trying to surface when he helps Megan and the ponies escape Tirek’s Rainbow of Darkness. And if you can last until the end, you’ll understand why.

As a plot, it works, but the uncut version is the better version. For some reason, the cut version that aired within the TV series feels disjointed when split up. Plus, one of those terrible songs was part of that cut. I hate to say it, but if that was the reason it felt disjointed, then maybe it was worth it?

And of course, there’s a happy ending. Because why not? Tirek is destroyed, his dragons are once again the innocent creatures they originally were…and Ember is allergic to butterflies. And giggling…lots of giggling to go around.

Oh, and bonus points if you remember which of the ponies you had.

Ten extra bonus points if you had the Megan and Baby Spike dolls (I did!).

Of course, if you’d like to see the special, you can! Just click play below!

My Little Pony: Rescue At Midnight Castle

From Daily Motion, Upload via Ponyrokkusu Pony

 

My Little Pony, My Little Pony…Now It’s Time To Say Goodbye

I have no doubt in my mind that today’s kids will have no clue there was originally a My Little Pony movie some ancient time 31 years ago, or how the whole animated world began with a pilot episode involving turning ponies into dragons. They were dark times indeed.

Do me a favor. If a little MLP-loving kid really needs to be shown the dark side of the Ponies, show them this special. If they question it, tell them this is all we had in the Dark Ages.

Get it? Dark cartoons, dark ages?

It sounded funnier in my head.