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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sunday Jukebox - Do The Bartman

In the world of music, have you noticed that certain dance crazes can start up in the blink of an eye?

The Hustle. The Moonwalk. The Macarena. All three of these dances were once the cream of the pop culture crop, and at some point, everyone was trying to learn the dance steps.

Certainly, the Hustle was very popular during the disco-heavy culture of the mid-1970s. Michael Jackson aced the Moonwalk during a 1983 performance which later became his signature move. And I already talked about how the Macarena was the dance craze of 1996.

I'm sure many of you over the years have hustled, moonwalked, and did the Macarena with the best of them?

But, can any of you do the Bartman?

No, I mean, really. Can you?

I am sure that for quite a few of you reading this blog entry, the answer would probably be no. Or, maybe you do know how to do it, and are just too embarrassed to admit it. Or, maybe you've completely forgotten how to do it.

That's okay though. I admit that I never learned how to do the Bartman either. Of course, my dancing skills in general are not exactly what I would call great. Picture a monkey who just downed an entire pitcher of beer trying to go up a down escalator, and you've pretty much seen a perfect dramatization of how well I do on a dance floor.

Oh, I suck. I really do suck. That guy who keeps crashing those auditions for 'So You Think You Can Dance' who goes by the stage name of 'Sex' is probably a better dancer than I am. And, if you've ever seen him in action, that's a pretty bold statement. In fact, here's proof below.

Ah, what can I say? At least the guy refuses to give up on his dream, even though his dream might be somewhat misguided. And besides, I just gave him a compliment as he can dance better than I can!

I used to always hate going to school dances, and whenever possible, I would just skip out on them entirely. Whether it was a typical grade eight dance, or a Muchmusic video dance party, or even my high school prom (which I proudly admit to skipping), I would never make an appearance. And for the few dances that I did attend, unless I was doing a slow dance (the one and only dance I KNOW I can do), I usually warmed one of the benches in the school gym.

I just didn't have any rhythm. There's plenty of us out there. In fact, I hate to admit this, but the only way that I can probably get out on a dance floor is if I down a couple of alcoholic beverages!

Needless to say, the 'liquid courage' comes in handy now. But before I turned 19 (which in Canada is the legal drinking age), all I had was chocolate milk and soda pop...and needless to say, neither of those worked.

I guess in a way, I kind of admire Bart Simpson for being the loud, boisterous, not afraid of anything 10-year-old boy that I knew I wasn't. Sure, he got in a lot of trouble for his actions, but he was fearless. And deep down, I think we all want to be regarded as such when we were kids.

By 1990, the Simpsons had been on the air for one full season and were getting ready to shoot season number two. Around this time, David Geffen, the founder of Geffen Records, had the idea to further capitalize on the popularity of the Simpsons. What if they recorded an album, just in time for the 1990 holiday season?

That's how the album The Simpsons Sing The Blues first came into production. The album, which was recorded just two weeks before the start of the second season was reportedly chaotic, and difficult to produce, but the end result was worth all the hard work. The album was released in stores on December 4, 1990, peaking at #3 on the Billboard Top 200 Album Sales.

And it was decided that the lead-off single from the album would be 'Do The Bartman'.

ARTIST: Bart Simpson (as voiced by Nancy Cartwright)
SONG: Do The Bartman
ALBUM: The Simpsons Sing The Blues
RELEASE DATE: November 20, 1990

You may notice that this isn't the real music video up above. It's because I couldn't find a decent copy to post directly on the blog itself. But, I did some digging around, and if you click HERE, you can watch the animated video that debuted on December 6, 1990, after the airing of the Simpsons episode “Bart The Daredevil”.

Secondly, you may notice that there is no chart info present for how well the song did on the charts. That's because it was never released as a single in the United States (which probably was a key factor in why the album did so well in sales throughout late 1990 and 1991). However, the song was released as a single in other countries, and ended up being a being a number one hit in the UK, Australia, Norway, New Zealand, and Ireland!

It's hard to deny what popularity the song had. Millions of albums were sold, and the video for 'Do The Bartman' became one of MTV's most requested songs of early 1991. The success of the album also prompted other record companies to put a rush with making albums for other animated characters, including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Barbie, and others to...well...lesser success. But the album also prompted the release of the Little Mermaid soundtrack, and this began Disney's success with soundtrack albums based off of their animated movies. Whether you think that it was a good thing or a bad thing, the song did change the face of the music industry, even if for a little while.

The origins of 'Do The Bartman' had an interesting story in itself really. Did you know that Michael Jackson co-wrote the song for the album?

Only, it was meant to have been a surprise, and it would have been if Simpsons creator Matt Groening had his way.

The rumours began circulating about Jackson's involvement with the single right around the time that the announcement of the album was released. The rumours were that Michael Jackson was to write a song specifically for the Bart Simpson character, and that the song 'Do The Bartman' was that song. The producers did attempt to do some damage control though, and long standing producer, James L. Brooks issued a press release in September 1990 stating that the song was actually written by one of Jackson's friends, a songwriter by the name of Bryan Loren.

The truth was eventually released almost a decade later by Groening himself at the World Animation Celebration convention of 1998. He admitted that, yes, Jackson did co-write and co-produce 'Do The Bartman'. The reason why he couldn't get credit for it was because he was already under contract with a competing record label, and it would have caused a conflict of interest if the truth were revealed at that point in time.

Turns out, Michael Jackson was a huge fan of The Simpsons, and that his favourite character was Bart Simpson. He actually called the producers of the show to make a pitch for writing a number one single for Bart, and to appear as a guest voice for an episode. That's how 'Do The Bartman' ended up coming to be.

And during season three, Michael Jackson did get his wish to be a guest voice on The Simpsons, although he was credited as John Jay Smith in the closing credits. If you watch the episode 'Stark Raving Dad', you can see Jackson playing the role of Leon Kompowsky, the fat, bald, guy who is locked up in a mental institution because he thinks he's Michael Jackson. Great episode, you should really check it out.

So there you have it. The story behind 'Do The Bartman'. As well as my own admission that I can't dance to save my life!  

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