Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Comics/Music Connection 2: The Ramones Cover the Spider-Man Theme!

It's always the right time for this classic Ramones cover version of the theme to the Grantray-Lawrence Animation/Ralph Bakshi Spider-Man cartoon from the 1960s. I used to get up very early on Sunday mornings before church to try to catch this show on WTCG out of Atlanta-- you know, the station that later became WTBS and then the whole TBS/CNN Ted Turner media empire before Time-Warner absorbed it.

Unfortunately, I usually didn't wake up in time and would only get to see the closing credits of Spider-Man. Then I'd watch Speed Racer and Ultraman back-to-back, which was some consolation. Spider-Man and the 1980s Mighty Mouse are the only two Bakshi cartoons I can stand; his movies depress me with their overwhelming misogyny and make me feel unclean, so I try to avoid them whenever they air.

Be that as it may, I feel almost the opposite about the Ramones, and when they take on Spidey's most familiar musical theme-- so entrenched in our popular culture Sam Raimi felt the need to include it in each of his Spider-Man movies-- it's pure pop culture magic. Er... Raimi did include this song in some form in Spider-Man 3, right? I seem to have blocked that fiasco from my memory.

My friend Brian and I used to entertain each other with our own rendition while working way past midnight on Thursdays and Fridays trying to complete a certain soul-devouring weekly shopper for its Saturday morning distribution. Only in our version, Spidey used his incredible powers and their weighty responsibilities to complete banal tasks:

Spider-Man, Spider-Man

Does whatever a spider can

Goes to work

Comes back home

Eats dinner

Watches TV

Look out! Here comes the Spider-Man!


Spider-Man, Spider-Man

Does whatever a spider can

Walks the dog

Takes a nap

Calls his mom

Eats a sandwich

Look out! Here comes the Spider-Man!

There were approximately 6,500 verses to this song. Let that be lesson to you graphic design hopefuls: don't work for weekly shoppers or you'll go insane.

Here in Japan, the Blue Hearts are the cultural equivalent of the Ramones, by the way. This connection is acknowledged in 2005's high school comedy Linda Linda Linda starring Bae Doona, Maeda Aki and Kashii Yu. In this low key charmer, four girls attempt to learn some Blue Hearts songs to perform at their school festival, the last they'll attend before heading off to college the following year. Kashii's character has a vivid dream in which she's given a set of larger hands so she can better play rock guitar; the stunned and delighted girl goes off to give a solo performance at the storied Budokan in front of none other than the Ramones. Here's the trailer, which doesn't feature that scene but is still entertaining in its own right:

Who says this isn't the Marvel Age of... Ramones... and other unrelated stuff...



Pete Mullins said...

Something that warmed my heart a couple of years ago was when my (then) 6 year old son was unconsciously singing that very theme song while playing.
(The old sixties show had done a renewed run on TV).

I agree with you about Bakshi...
remember a time when the only screen version of The Lord of the Rings in existence was that horrid thing he did in the seventies.

Joel Bryan said...

If I ever have kids, they're going to be exposed to the good stuff just like that.

On the other hand... Bakshi. I think it was the end of Hey Good Lookin' where the protagonist, now an embittered, middle-aged man of incredibly ugly character design, says, "If there was one thing we learned back then that's still true now, it's that if you turn a woman upside down, they all look alike. So why bother?"

Then he gestures in a way that would be considered obscene in the UK. To me, that sums up Bakshi's view of women, a kind of stunted adolescent, locker room misogyny repeated in Wizards, Cool World and others. As a result, I don't consider his movies "adult." They just seem like something you'd see doodled in the margins of that one creepy junior high kid's notebook and you wish you'd never glanced at it.

The sad thing is, his Lord of the Rings is probably the most palatable of his features, and it's atrociously bad. It makes Middle Earth seem like a dimly-lit singles lounge.

And the rotoscoping? Yeeeeeeessssshhhhh...