Wednesday, May 15, 2013

My Favorite Album - Atomic Sam's Contribution

The California Raisins - The Meet The Raisins: By AtomicSam, Age: 27 and 3/4

The taste I have for popular music solidified when I was a want-be-punk living in the New Jersey suburbs during the first few years of this century.  I thought blue hair qualified me as a true rebel, despite the fact that I was polite and generally didn’t question authority.  I started with pop-punk, like Green Day and Blink 182 before moving on to their predecessors, Bad Religion and Operation Ivy and ska during the waning years of its mainstream popularity.  I made it a mission to get myself to as many shows as I possibly could.  I saw acts like Reel Big Fish and Goldfinger, along with dozens of local bands that have long since faded from existence.  I think I saw The Youth Ahead and The Super Specs, every weekend for two months straight back.  You’ve probably never heard of them.  You really needed to be there.

When I was asked to figure out what album meant the most to me I started pouring over this period of time.  High school.  The time when music had the most prevalence in my everyday life and informed a lot of who I was (or thought I was).  When I started to think about that all I got was static.  Certain songs had an impact (What’s so Funny by Elvis Costello), certain festivals stand out as the most epic (Skate and Surf 03 at the Asbury Park Convention Hall), and certain mix disks spent the most time in my portable CD player (Tribute to Verona High School Class of 2003).

Unable to find an easy answer amongst the jumbled memories of sweaty basement shows, trips down to the Birch Hill Night Club, or the early days of illegal mp3 downloads (before Metalica ruined our fun) I asked myself again, what album was the most important to me?  Ever? In my whole life?

Meet the Raisins by The California Raisins - Atlantic Records, 1988.

Meet the Raisins is the soundtrack to The California Raisins animated special of the same name.  It came out when I was three years old and I loved that cassette tape to death.  I popped that into my Casey Tape Player Robot and I went fucking nuts, personally belting out the repackaged Motown hits to every unfortunate sap who wandered into my grandparents' convenience store in Hoboken.

The California Raisins were a marketing ploy thought up to sell tasteless dried fruit.  It was also how I was first introduced to popular music.  The pun filled animated special stands alone in the genre of kidfriendly food-based musical-mockumentaries.  If you caught it as a kid and it holds a special place in your heart, like it does for me, watch it again.  There are jokes that I am just getting now as I rewatch it as “research” for this post.  It is making me grin like an idiot, too.  Seriously, I hope no one wanders by my desk.

The stop motion band came into existence when an advertising firm working for the California Raisin Advisory Board thought to pair up America’s least favorite Halloween handout with a reworked version of Marvin Gaye’s I Heard it Through the Grapevine that changed the lyrics to be about how good the California Raisin Advisory Board thinks raisins are.  They worked with Will Vintion Studios, now known as Laika, to produce a series of commercials staring the singing fruit.  Side note, Will Vintion Studios were also responsible for the Domino’s Noid, and since changing their name have moved onto feature films.  They produced the ground braking stop motion works Coraline and Paranorman.

The first commercial aired in 1986 and the single reached #84 on Billboard, the highest showing of any cartoon band conceived of by the California Raisin Advisory Board.

In addition to the advertisements, between 1986 and 1990 they put out four albums, two half hour specials, a Saturday morning cartoon and a still collectable toy line.   The movies and cartoon gave The California Raisins names, personalities and a back story.  The combination of characters with attitudes (oh the 80s…) and classic tunes made them a hit with kids whose parents were sick of hearing Baby Beluga over and over again.  They were sort of the Glee of their day.  They were also sort of the Geico Cavemen of their day.  It should be noted that it was around this time that Alvin and the Chipmunkswere seeing their first renaissance.

Meet the Raisins is important to me because it was the first album that I can remember owning and truly loving.  It was the first album that got me to sing and dance and just love music.  Long before I thought that my musical taste needed to place me into some sort of a movement, before I had to pretend I didn’t like top 40 radio because it didn’t fit with an image I had for myself, before I was cognizant enough to be aware that I was buying into a marketing campaign I had a love for those songs. Songs that I love to this day and sing along to whenever their original non-raisin versions come on the radio.

Atomic Sam resides in Boston and is the most ridiculously entertaining human being of all time. He blogs and creates podcasts about popular culture from his city of residence . 

Click here for La Swaynos's Contribution
Click here for Boulezian's Contribution
Click here for HaZmora's Contribution
Click here for The McBee's Contribution
Click here for Le Drgon's Contribution
Click here for The Brannock's Contribution
Click here for The Danny's Contribution
Click here for The Drioux's contribution
Click here for El Reyes's contribution
Click here for My contribtuion

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