Monday, December 6, 2010

I wanna be Bob Bakker! Professor JONES wishes he was someone just a lil' mo' funky: Let's Listen to "Dinosaur Rock"!

Hey, do you know what time it is?

It's the Holiday Season! So loopity-loo and dickery-dock! And don't forget to hang up your sock!

(Ahem.) In practice, this means that the Sketch/Art/Whatever of the Day will be accompanied by the Festive Holiday Thing of the Day.

Having survived two Christmas Fairs (one of which ruled and one of which was a big disappointment -- but I've got lots of stuff for family and friend gifts and for ebay now) within a few days of each other, it's time to think of things that have almost nothing to do with Christmas! Prehistoric life in general and dinosaurs specifically will rule the first half of December here at the Blog. (Then again, it's not totally off-topic. After all, conifers are overtaking the flower shop, and Christmas does involve turkeys and cardinals and peacocks and doves and partridges in pear trees...)

If you're joining us after meeting me at one of the aforementioned craft fairs, welcome! I'll be sharing one of my artworks (a sketch, painting, or something else) at the end of every post, and writing about things that are related to my art, things that influenced my art, and other fun stuff. There's some cool stuff in the archives. Please enjoy the ride and stand clear of the doors / Por favor mantenganse alejado de las puertas.


So today, I'm reviewing a newer version of an old children's album. When my sister and I were little, we had ourselves a cassette tape collection that... probably wasn't as big as I remember. And I say that because the handful of tapes we had, we pretty much loved to death.

Thank goodness for iTunes then, eh? A quick search uncovers the staples of our childhood record collection: scads of crazy 80's Disney records... and "Dinosaur Rock".

We picked this little gem up in the Museum of Science gift shop and promptly wore it down. I also have vague memories of a live play in the Cahners' Theater that involved giant dinosaur puppets. (Unimpressed modern children: this was in a pre-"Walking With Dinosaurs" world.)

So I recently listened to the album partially out of nostalgia and partially to see if it still holds up. It turns out the creators of "Dinosaur Rock" are still around, and the album available on iTunes is the anniversary remastered edition. "Remastered" actually means "completely re-recorded but with very little altered content". What you'll be listening to is very similar to what I heard way back in 1984-ish, just the voices are different.

"Dinosaur Rock" is a rock opera about dinosaurs. Your mileage may vary on whether or not "Dinosaur Rock" is as awesome as a dinosaur rock opera should be, but the variety of songs is pretty darn impressive for a handful of musicians. The plot: two kids are hanging out on the beach when they hear "The Dinosaur Song" on the radio. Selected hilarious lyrics:

Oh, Dinosaurs were strong and scary! / Big animals who are not very hairy!!!
They run through the land eating leaves off the trees! / Frightening the animals, birds, and bees!"


The song is certainly a magical song, because it summons Professor Jones. Half paleontologist, half wizard, he claims in his nominal song that fossil-finding "is what I used to do". "Used to", probably because he claims that upon finding the remains of long-dead animals, he would kiss them, dance a jig, yodel, and bring drawings of talking dinosaurs to life. The children are naturally skeptical about this last thing, so the good Professor Dumblejones draws Dinah Diplodocus and summons her spirit forth. She sings a song about fossilization.

Oh, the questions this raises. Prof. Jones explains that Dinah's bone was magic, and that he was compelled to draw her in the sand even though, "I'd never drawn before!" So... would he have drawn Dinah with dorsal spines? Because look at paleoart of Diplodocus from the 80's (the one below is from Pamela Carroll in Seymore Simon's
The Largest Dinosaurs) and compare it to this modern reconstruction by T-PEKC:

The Largest Dinosaurs P.25

The old version of the record used vocal effects on Dinah's dialogue (not, oddly, her singing parts) to make her sound huge, and the effect seems more in line with the doofy, rubber-necked tail-dragger seen immediately above. Still, this is thought-provoking.

Anyway, the only other appreciable change between my childhood tape and this CD is that Professor Jones pronounced Diplodocus correctly. It used to be, for some damn and easily-imitated-by-children reason, "Dip-low-DOCK-us". Also, the cover art is considerably less badass. It was originally some crazy-awesome William Stout-looking visual madness; Google image search has failed me, so you'll have to take my word for it.

Important Update: I have found my original copy of this album! Here's the actually crazier than I remember original cover art. Enjoy.

For whatever reason, Dinah can't explain to the children what life was like in the Jurassic Period, so they must summon Stella Stegosaurus. Dinah sings a cute song about how Stella met her untimely end after saying "'Hi,' to a mean Allosaurus" (ah, Carnivore Confusion). Stella sings of the "Sauropod Swing", which sounds like so much fun that the kids start to wish they were born in the Jurassic period. Man, you think the kids today who think we had it better in the 80's are crazy with nostalgia...

Stella and Dinah think these kids are crazy too, as apparently, in-between swing dances, the Jurassic was a time when everything was trying to kill you. Stella helpfully explains that Allosaurus was "like Tyrannosaurus but smaller". Man, poor Allosaurus. He just wasn't appreciated before he got his own movie. Here, he's just a segway to the AWESOME "Tyrannosaurus Rex" song. It needs to be on your iPod. It's one of the best songs off a children's album since this sadly forgotten "Sesame Street" gem.

A discussion of dinosaur eggs and babies prompts the song, "Tiny Little Babies - and the Great, Big Momma", which has since been spun off into it's own play. Dinah mentions that hadrosaurs love babies, so the kids and Professor Jones head to the museum to see a concert by the Hadrosaurus from Hackensack. (My guess is that this whole album takes place on the New Jersey shore.) His song is a lot of fun, though it mentions his crest and webbed feet which is odd (since New Jersey's hadrosaurus lacked a big resonating crest) and badly in need of an update (webbed feet) respectively.

The gang rides a flock of friendly Pteronodons back to the beach (their song is pretty awesome too). Once there, the animals explain that they must leave with the incoming tide, and sing "Where Did Everybody Go?" Definitely the cheeriest song ever about mass extinction. It also dedicates a whole verse to the "eggs eaten by mammals" theory:

"They say that mammals liked the taste of omelets, so they would try to get a great big batch!
The nests of dinosaurs were filled with eggs galore, and so the eggs were snatched before they hatched!"

Naturally, the kids are sad to see their dinosaur friends leave, so they return to the beach later with a crocodile tailbone the professor gave them, and manage to summon the crocodile on their own. He sings "We All Came From the Sea", which is a nice and oddly poignant song about evolution that... does not say the "E"-word even once. Hrmm.

"Dinosaur Rock", the musical, is still touring mostly in the northeast (the show is based in Washington, D.C. and was commissioned by the Smithsonian), and has spawned many many sequels. And one of them practically demands to be our very first...


Festive Thingie of the Day!

A show about dinosaurs and holiday celebrations from around the world. This might just be the Best Thing:

"People all around the world celebrate with lights and ceremonies to warm their souls through the cold winter months... In Egypt and the rest of the Moslem world there’s Ramadan which ends with a Lantern Festival. Sarah the Saharan Suchomimus represents this holiday in our holiday offering. Leboha Lesothosaurus comes from Africa. African Americans invented Kwanza as a tribute to their agrarian ancestors. It stands as the only non religious winter holiday in our show. Shao Shao the Microraptor comes from the Liainong Province of China. Chinese New Year also ends with a lantern festival. Crash Boom Bam Sam the Triceratops demonstrates how the Maccabees overcame their Greek overlords and we bring on the menorah which stands for the miracle of Hannukah."

Hahahahahaha, oh


Sketch of the Day! More holiday dinosaurs!

11.13.10 Sketchbook Page


Albertonykus said...

Holy Alvarezsauridae. I thought I was the only one I knew who'd ever heard of Dinosaur Rock. I still have all three of their CDs. I really wish they'd release more. I hear one of their latest shows even includes an ostrich who explains how birds are dinosaurs.

Trish said...

"I hear one of their latest shows even includes an ostrich who explains how birds are dinosaurs."

Which is odd, because there's no mention of this on their website. In fact, from the descriptions of the shows that are on the site, it appeared as though they go out of their way to skirt the "Birds are dinosaurs (get over it)" issue entirely, which is a shame. Especially since Shao Shao is the cutest thing ever.

Albertonykus said...

It appears to be a new show, so it's not on there. It's called the Dinosaur Radio Hour if I remember right. I once e-mailed them about the show after seeing its name on their schedule, and it appears that during their first run through the Nigersaurus puppet unfortunately refused to "behave". They gave it another chance last year, presumably more successfully.

I agree, I'd love to see that Microraptor puppet in action and listen to its song. It's also in need of an update though, it appears to be based on the earliest Microraptor specimens that have very badly preserved feathers instead the proper four-winged model that's a lot more familiar today.

Anonymous said...

HI Trish,

love the sketch of the day, great movement and characterization!

Trish said...

^ Thank you very much!

JerkyD said...

Out of curiosity, what's Bakker have to do w/this post?

Trish said...

^^ Err... nothing. Except this: (Skip to about the 3 and a half minute mark.)