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Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Velveeta Jukebox, Part IV: Tarzan Boy

I had a few moments of hesitation as I typed the ending of my previous Velveeta Jukebox. I made a claim, you see. I said that, in the following installment, I'd be writing about "...the Greatest 80s song of all time." I wondered as I typed, could I really make that statement about the song I had in mind? Is not cheese in the eye of the beholder? Is there truly a way to prove that one certain pop song is the Alpha and Omega of Cheese Pop? The answer: Oh, yes.

"Tarzan Boy" is the story of a boy who is like Tarzan. That's it. There's no real story. No real point. Nothing beyond a synthesizer and a dream of setting the Tarzan Yell to music. A dream which is boldly realized.

One wonders what might have happened had Jimmy McShane, the singer of Baltimora been more of a Lone Ranger fan than an admirer of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Might we have heard "Tonto's Boy"? I like to think we might have.

This song burst onto the scene in 1985, when I was a freshman in high school and deeply involved in being a geek with no social life. It so happens I had read and re-read the first few books in the Tarzan series, which my dad had in paperback. I'd been a huge fan of the Filmation cartoon series as a kid. A big enough fan that I memorized--and used, often--portions of the apeman's monologue which opened the show:
The Jungle; here I was born. And here my parents died when I was but an infant. I would have soon perished, too, had I not been found by a kindly she-ape named Kala, who adopted me as her own and taught me the ways of the wild. I learned quickly and grew stronger each day. And now I share the friendship and trust of all jungle creatures. The jungle is filled with beauty...and danger. And lost cities filled with good...and evil. This is my domain and I protect those who come here. For I am Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle.
My love of the cartoon translated into love of the books, which translated into love of an insanely cheesy pop song. Watch the video, if you dare. It's just Jimmy McShane, dancing around a sound stage. Really. That's it. Two years after Thriller and the best Baltimora can do is Jimmy McShane dancing by himself.

The song had a second run up the charts, thanks to its inclusion in the soundtrack of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. *shudder* And, a few years after that, the Baltimora legacy was pissed all over as Listerine used the song as accompaniment to an animated bottle swinging through a minty-fresh forest.

Sadly, Jimmy McShane passed away in 1995. So let's help keep his memory alive by treasuring "Tarzan Boy" as the Cheese Pop masterpiece that it was. And is.

Next time, in Velveeta Jukebox, an analysis of an indelible 80s movie song.

I have Tarzan Boy on a 45".

I'll throw it on for you the next time you're over.
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