A way for ABC to fulfill its FCC-mandated obligation to show something more than crudely-animated superheroes, toy and cereal ads, and marketing tie-ins (e.g. cartoon series with The Jackson Five, The Osmonds, and Rick Springfield; in ABC's&defense, the earlier Bullwinkle and George of the Jungle were classic. But I digress, no?) on Saturday mornings. Multiplication Rock was first, teaching you your "times tables" with song; later years added grammar and civics.

No Schoolhouse Rock node would be complete without the Schoolhouse Rock theme song:

As your body grows bigger
Your mind grows flowered
It's great to learn
'Cause knowledge is power!

It's Schoolhouse Rocky
That chip off the block
of your favorite schoolhouse
Schoolhouse Rock

Schoolhouse Rock kicks your ass, man. I was still a toddler when they went off the air so I am deprived of memories of most of these songs. But as luck would have it, there is a substantial market for nostalgia and there are lots of Schoolhouse Rock cds and videos for sale all over the place. Yes, I own a copy of Schoolhouse Rock Rocks. It is pretty damn cool.

The Schoolhouse Rock songs:

Multiplication Rock

My Hero, Zero - Multiplying by 0
Elementary, My Dear - x2
Three is a Magic Number - x3
The Four-Legged Zoo - x4
Ready or Not, Here I Come - x5
I Got Six - x6
Lucky Seven Sampson - x7
Figure Eight - x8
Naughty Number Nine - x9
The Good Eleven - x11
Little Twelvetoes - x12

Grammar Rock

Busy Prepositions
Conjunction Junction - "hookin' up words and phrases and clauses"
Interjections! - (Well!) show excitement (Oh!) or emotion (Hey!)
Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here
A Noun is a Person, Place, or Thing
Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla - pronouns
The Tale of Mr. Morton - subject and predicate
Unpack Your Adjectives
Verb: That's What's Happening

American Rock (U.S. History)

Elbow Room - so-called Westward Expansion
Fireworks - The Declaration of Independence
The Great American Melting Pot - immigration
I'm Just a Bill - legislation
Mother Necessity - invention
No More Kings - colonization
Preamble - (to the Constitution)
The Shot Heard Round the World - Revolutionary war
Sufferin' Till Suffrage - female suffrage rights
Three Ring Government - executive, legislative and judiciary branches of the Government

Science Rock

The Body Machine - digestion
Do the Circulation- circulatory system
Electricity Electricity - power and electricity
Energy - energy conservation
Greatest Show on Earth - weather
Interplanet Janet - our solar system
Telegraph Line - human nervous system
Them Not-So-Dry Bones - human skeletal system
Victim of Gravity - Newton's Law of Gravity

Computer Rock

Introduction - Scooter Computer and Mr. Chips
Number Cruncher - a cheesy little song about data processing

Money Rock (U.S. Monetary System, never aired)

The Check is in the Mail! - how checking accounts work
Dollars & Sense - loans
Making $7.50 a Week - budgeting
Tax Man Max - taxes
This for That - bartering
Tyrannosaurus Debt - the national debt
Walkin' on Wall Street - stock market
Where the Money Goes - more budgeting

Some of these lyrics aren't noded yet. I shall be attending to that when I find the time..

The History of Schoolhouse Rock

In 1971, advertising agency executive David McCall, noticed his son was having trouble learning his multiplication tables, but yet seemed to have no problem memorizing pop song lyrics off the radio. McCall had one of those brainstorms that ad men often have, that perhaps math could be set to music to help children learn.

He passed the assignment off to the creative staff at his agency, McCaffrey & McCall. The staff had an advertising jingle house write some music and lyrics, but McCall wasn't happy with the results. Creative director George Newall suggested that instead they go to a jazz or pop composer, and suggested Bob Dorough, a jazz pianist who had toured with Lenny Bruce, written songs for Miles Davis, and had recently produced recordings for Spanky and Our Gang.

Dorough accepted the assignment and came back with "Three Is a Magic Number." McCall liked the song, but more importantly in the advertising world, test audiences did, too.

A record of the song was produced, but when a deal for a workbook to go along with the record fell through, the agency staff decided to set the song to animation, produced by another creative director at the agency, Tom Yohe.

The agency began shopping the completed 3-minute animation around New York and Hollywood, proposing that an entire series of similar cartoons be produced. At the time, the television networks were under a great deal of pressure from politicians and parents over the content of their Saturday morning programming and the amount and content of the commercial breaks during the shows. Michael Eisner, the head of children's programming for ABC, realized that "Schoolhouse Rock" would be a quick and easy way to provide some redeeming social value in between the Hanna-Barbera and Sid and Marty Krofft productions, and bought "Three Is a Magic Number" and the rest of the proposed series, which would cover the rest of the multiplication table up to 12.

McCaffrey & McCall convinced one of their clients, General Foods, to sponsor "Schoolhouse Rock," and Eisner convinced the studios to cut three minutes each from the shows ABC was airing on Saturday mornings. Bob Dorough wrote more songs, which were recorded by him and New York session musicians and animated by Tom Yohe and Phil Kimmelman and Associates.

On January 6, 1973, in between such fine programming as "H.R. Pufnstuf," "The Funky Phantom," and reruns of "Bewitched" and "The Monkees," the first four "Schoolhouse Rock" episodes premiered: "Three Is a Magic Number," "My Hero Zero," "Elementary, My Dear," and "The Four-Legged Zoo."

Also included was a sponsor jingle, sung by Bob Dorough, which didn't make it to the DVD. The lyrics, in their entirety: "Multiplication Rock is brought to you by/Your very favorite general, General Foods."

"Schoolhouse Rock" was a hit with parents, educators, and children, and ABC quickly commissioned a new series, to be called "Grammar Rock," that would deal with parts of speech. Some of the new segments were written by Lynn Ahrens, a former secretary who had been promoted to copywriter at McCaffrey & McCall when George Newall saw her walking down the hall with a guitar and asked her to play for him.

Then, with Bicentennial fervor gripping the nation, another series was produced to give children an overview of both American history and the workings of the United States government. The official title of the series was "America Rock," but ABC called it "History Rock." "America Rock" contained the only "censored" episode, "Three Ring Government." ABC thought the depiction of the three branches of government as a three-ring circus might offend the folks in Washington, the FCC in particular, and didn't air it for several years.

A couple of years later came "Science Rock," and the four basic school subjects (math, English, social studies, and science) were all covered.

In the early 1980s, following the misguided principle that children were afraid of computers, ABC commissioned the "Schoolhouse Rock" team to do a series gently introducing computers to children. It ended up as four segments called "Scooter Computer and Mr. Chips," named for the "stars," the only recurring characters in the "Schoolhouse Rock" universe.

However, meanwhile, ABC was cutting down on the educational interstitials in its Saturday morning programming in favor of "Menudo on ABC" and exercise spots featuring Mary Lou Retton, and by 1985, "Schoolhouse Rock" was off the air. For several years, "Schoolhouse Rock" was only available on a set of videotapes in which each segment was preceded by a pointless introduction featuring Cloris Leachman and a bunch of annoying dancing kids.

Then, following decades of lobbying by various groups, in the early 1990s, the FCC passed regulations requiring all TV stations and networks to limit the amount of commercial time during children's programming, and to provide a certain amount of "educational/informational" programming each week. ABC still owned the rights to "Schoolhouse Rock," and was now owned by a company that was headed by the man who originally bought "Schoolhouse Rock" in the first place, so it was an easy decision to put it back on the Saturday morning schedule in 1992, except for one "Science Rock" segment, "The Weather Show," that was caught up in a legal dispute.

ABC even commissioned new segments, first a couple of additions to the "Grammar Rock" canon ("Busy Prepositions" and "The Tale of Mr. Morton"), and then a new series to teach children about the wonderful world of banking and finance, "Money Rock," which began airing in the spring of 1994.

In the mid-1990s, a new set of videotapes, without Cloris Leachman, was released, as was "Schoolhouse Rock! Rocks," a CD of cover versions of some of the songs, plus a CD box set of the original versions of all of the songs (except "The Weather Show"). And as further proof of "Schoolhouse Rock's" legitimacy, it joined the pantheon of items of pop culture spoofed on "The Simpsons" in 1996, with frequent "Schoolhouse Rock" lead singer Jack Sheldon taking part, singing "The Amendment Song" ("I'm an Amendment to Be"), a parody of the "I'm Just a Bill" segment. ("It's one of those campy '70s throwbacks that appeals to Generation Xers," explained Lisa Simpson.)

The legal dispute surrounding "The Weather Show" was apparently cleared up by 2002 for the release of all the "Schoolhouse Rock" segments on DVD in August, including another new segment, part of the "America Rock" series, "I'm Gonna Send Your Vote to College," a look at the electoral college.

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