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August 27, 2012 5:09 PM   Subscribe

How did an unused 1967 commerical jingle produced by Frank Zappa lead to the Simpsons Theme?
posted by The Whelk (41 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
So, how long until the Mad Men episode where Peggy pitches this ad?
posted by dumbland at 5:13 PM on August 27, 2012 [9 favorites]


Well. I have now learned everything I ever needed to know. I can take it easy now. Maybe move to Montana and start that dental floss business.
posted by Splunge at 5:18 PM on August 27, 2012 [14 favorites]


This FPP poses a question, and after I read it I realized it still didn't answer it.
posted by solarion at 5:23 PM on August 27, 2012 [14 favorites]


Strictly commerical
posted by hal9k at 5:23 PM on August 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'm not sure what's more bizarre: that I can hear the similarity, or the existence of the ad; even if it didn't ever air, it was still produced.
posted by asnider at 5:24 PM on August 27, 2012


When Matt Groening hired Danny Elfman to write the theme for The Simpsons, he gave him a mixed tape of songs that he wanted the music to sound like

I am hearing this in the voice of Paul F. Tompkins's Dame Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber referring to "Ice-d T."
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:24 PM on August 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


Was this razor commercial Phase Zero of Weasels Ripped My Flesh? (RZZZZZ!)
posted by Strange Interlude at 5:34 PM on August 27, 2012


This FPP poses a question, and after I read it I realized it still didn't answer it. -- The answer is "very, very tangentially."
posted by crunchland at 5:36 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


In the words of Herschel Krustofski: "What the hell was that?"
posted by Johnny Assay at 5:42 PM on August 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


At the end, Zappa tells listeners that the Remington electric razor “cleans you, thrills you… may even keep you from getting busted.”

what
posted by DU at 5:46 PM on August 27, 2012


what

Hippies with facial hair being targeted by police, presumably.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:49 PM on August 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


So, I'm assuming that even at the time it would not be plausible that this would have aired? Because that would sell me an electric razor.
posted by cmoj at 5:52 PM on August 27, 2012


Oh, I'm not losing my mind, it's just the 1960's.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 5:53 PM on August 27, 2012


ah yes, the "according to legend' source.
posted by mannequito at 5:53 PM on August 27, 2012


Ok folks, it's a radio commercial not a TV commercial, so please divert your eyes from the ridiculous video of 1980's era Frank saying something unrelated and those two seconds of Linda and that one photo of the razor..
posted by rlk at 5:54 PM on August 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Hippies with facial hair being targeted by police, presumably.

Oh, 1967, not 1976.
posted by DU at 6:00 PM on August 27, 2012


Well, that's stuck in my head, now.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 6:04 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure what's more bizarre: that I can hear the similarity, or the existence of the ad; even if it didn't ever air, it was still produced.

I can hear the similarity too, but I have no idea what I'm hearing. Can someone who understands music show up and explain this please?
posted by yeolcoatl at 6:09 PM on August 27, 2012


The quotation in the article comes from the liner notes to the Simpsons soundtrack CD:
I gave Elfman what I called a 'flavors' tape, featuring the kind of sound I wanted for The Simpsons theme. The tape included The Jetsons theme, selections from Nino Rota's Juliet Of The Spirits, a Remington electric shaver jungle by Frank Zappa, some easy-listening music by Esquivel, and a teach-your-parrot-to-talk-record.

Elfman gave it a listen and said, 'I know exactly what you're looking for.'

A month later we were recording the now-famous Simpsons theme on the 20th Century-Fox lot with a huge orchestra. I think all the producers were a little nervous and fidgety about the untrendy audacity of the music. But then-executive producer James L. Brooks came in, listened a bit, then said, 'My God! This is great! This is lemmings-marching-to-their-death music!'
Matt Groening
posted by Paragon at 6:13 PM on August 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Another Linda Ronstadt favorite of mine from the same era: "No Room for a Spoon"
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 6:16 PM on August 27, 2012


Nerps! For moisture!
posted by NedKoppel at 6:19 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Frank Zappa was my Elvis. His example encouraged me, made me feel it OK to go my own way, to not do things the way the authorities told me to. One of the things that impressed me was that he didn't allow anything to be beyond him, high culture or low culture. As soon as Bart Simpson is able to shave, he'll have a moustache and goatee just like Frank Zappa." (Matt Groening)
posted by NedKoppel at 6:22 PM on August 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


I want that tape.
posted by louche mustachio at 6:24 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


the present day composer refuses to die...
posted by NedKoppel at 6:25 PM on August 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


ah yes, the "according to legend' source

The Jetsons influence was apparent in the early 90s. For 20 years, that was all I needed to know. This is the missing part. I don't feel much richer for knowing it wasn't original.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:25 PM on August 27, 2012


I prefer the inspiration for Futurama's theme song.
posted by unsupervised at 6:41 PM on August 27, 2012 [10 favorites]


Funny, I'd always assumed that Raymond Scott's was the spirit presiding over the composition of the Simpsons' theme, esp. "Powerhouse."

On the more general topic of Zappa, a few days ago I heard a live recording of him ca. 1978 and God damn but that humor hasn't aged well. And I say that as someone who was a big fan, went to his annual Halloween show at the Palladium in NYC for years. All those scatological, borderline-homophobic, barely sophomoric joke-songs. I'll stick with his run from '69 to '71, thanks.
posted by the sobsister at 6:46 PM on August 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


Can someone who understands music show up and explain this please?

I'll take on the "Jetsons theme" section from Groening's 'examples' mix tape to Elfman, as to similarities in what he intended harmonically. The main Jetsons theme, in terms of intervals consists of the pitches 1 - 3 -b5 [flat five] and then 5. The Simpsons does 1 - 3 (lingers) -b5 -6- 5 -3, then down to "1" the fourth lower and a brief return to the b5 before landing again the on the 5th to stabilize the line.

The b5 is an often used device in so many "space-age" themes and music snippets. (the theme from "My Favorite Martian" does the same thing at about 0:35) notably if it is returning to its tonic key (the "1") relatively quickly. Chordally, for example, this would be akin to a Fmaj followed by an Gma/F then back. When used in combination with the whole tone scale, which it suggests musically anyway (where every pitch is one whole step apart- another device used by composers to similar effect), it is quite useful -- though has often been used in a cliched ways, though ).

The other Simpsons - Jetsons similarity is the use of quickly descending sixteenth notes in between certain important melodic phrases. This creates movement and excitement, in both themes and helps keep a low-keyed kind of motion undereneath.

Hope this helps.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 7:11 PM on August 27, 2012 [18 favorites]


Forgot to link to the Jetsons theme. Here ya go.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 7:16 PM on August 27, 2012


FZ: the gift that keeps on giving. (miss you frank)
posted by Mr.Me at 7:26 PM on August 27, 2012


I know what MY next ringtone is going to be!
posted by Golfhaus at 7:57 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


At the bottom of this FPP's link is this, which is quite interesting, too...and I can't help but be reminded of this thread, and in particular this link from a comment within it.
posted by davejay at 9:48 PM on August 27, 2012


Um. That is the weirdest thing I've ever heard or seen. And it's been a very weird day.

So, um, yeah: weird.
posted by trip and a half at 12:25 AM on August 28, 2012


Groening could have saved time by saying 'just make it like The Jetsons'.
posted by colie at 12:30 AM on August 28, 2012


Little wonder Zappa released an album in 1968 entitled: We're only in it for the money.
posted by three blind mice at 1:33 AM on August 28, 2012


Help, I'm a rock!
posted by ersatz at 3:17 AM on August 28, 2012


I haven't listened to the Zappa thing, but the Simpsons' theme is in the acoustic scale (raised fourth, lowered seventh).
posted by malocchio at 7:12 AM on August 28, 2012


I was aware of that, malocchio, but wanted to explain it by intervals rather than getting into scales. It actually can be called Lydian with a b7 as well.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 10:56 AM on August 28, 2012


Also compare to Lost in Space theme (by John Williams! considerably more unhinged/jazzy)
posted by Twang at 4:20 PM on August 28, 2012


BRB: Need to go buy a remmington electric razor.
posted by delmoi at 9:39 PM on August 28, 2012


Zappa sucks. Should have used drugs.
posted by univac at 9:35 AM on August 29, 2012


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