Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Joey Levine

Dragon Tales has to be one of the most odious children's programs ever produced. My four-year-old son runs screaming from the room whenever it comes on. I assume this is because he is as turned off by the show's inane moralizing and poor animation as I am. I am convinced that this sort of sanctimonious, politically correct kid's programming is what turns children into hard-hearted conservatives when they grow up.

So anyway, the show basically blows, and mercifully my son doesn't want to watch it. So why the heck can't I get its damned theme song out of my head? Simple: It's because it was written by Joey Levine, and the guy is some kind of evil genius who can put things in your head that never, ever come out. If you need proof of this look no further than the fact that he wrote the music for the "sometimes you feel like a nut" Almond Joy/Mounds commercial. You probably haven't heard that in a quarter century, but it's running through your head right now, isn't it? Yeah, I thought so. Levine wrote dozens of other commercial jingles that are permanently lodged in your subconscious as well, but I won't tell you what they are because you'll start to go crazy.

More importantly, Joey Levine was also a prime mover in the bubblegum revolution of the late sixties. "Yummy, Yummy, Yummy," "Chewy, Chewy," and dozens of other bubblegum hits flowed from Joey's pen, and his nasal, proto-punk vocals were featured on many of the smashes from the Buddha Records hit factory. Bubblegum got zero critical respect at the time, but in retrospect it was an important simplification/reduction of rock music at a time when it was starting to become pretentious. Punk was a later such simplification that owed much to bubblegum music (the late Jeffrey Hyman claimed he re-named himself "Joey Ramone" in tribute to Levine, and the Talking Heads, Dickies, Ramones and others covered bubblegum hits).

Here is a sampling of some of Levine's less-known handiwork, "I Enjoy Being A Boy In Love With You" was performed by The Banana Splits, but written by Levine (I hate to burst anyone's bubble, but Bingo, Fleagal, Drooper and Snork combined wrote less than 25% of The Banana Splits material, and most of that was album filler). "Quick Joey Small" was featured on a Buddha Records Bubblegum sampler called The Kazenetz-Katz Super Circus. Why haven't more bands covered "Quick Joey Small"?


Road Cat said...

For the best book on the Ramones read,
"On The Road With The Ramones"

This is a MUST-HAVE book for all Ramones fans. It's an inside look from the people who were actually there witnessing and experiencing all the extreme highs and lows of one of rock's greatest bands. The Ramones' music has influenced nearly every power pop, punk, alternative, and metal band. Monte A. Melnick served as The Ramones tour manager from their early New York club days at CBGB's in the '70s to their farewell gigs in 1996. Filled with memorabilia including photographs and interviews collected along the way, this is his view of life on the road with the band as "baby-sitter to psychiatrist, booking agent to travel agent, paymaster to van driver." It's such a fascinating read, you'll have a hard time putting it down. Buy it, read it, and then revisit their albums. You'll never look at the Ramones in the same light.

Pete Bilderback said...

Thanks for stopping by. Obviously I am a big fan of the Ramones. The book does look interesting. The Ramones personal relationships were--how do I put this delicately?--complicated. It looks like this book gives you a "fly on the wall" perspective to a lot of things it would have been interesting to witness firsthand.