Mutant Music: 90s TMNT Albums


My taste in music sucks. I’ve never been a trendsetter for tunes. Over the years, it’s evolved to something more respectable. But, those early years of my youth were dark times. The first cassette I ever owned was Weird Al’s “Bad Hair Day.” Things got worse from there. Bands like 311, Limp Bizkit, and KoRn bookended my stack of CDs. Hip hop lyrics from Ma$e and Mo Thugs Family could be heard from my bedroom. Hits from the 90s weren’t safe either. Sound Garden, Matchbox 20, Third Eye Blind – they all had their moment in my stereo. There was no curation to my bad tastes. If it was trendy and lame, I probably listened to it.

I blame this on TMNT. From my earliest days of childhood, I was singing that catchy theme song from the original cartoon series. “They’re heroes in a half shell, and they’re green!” It’s one of the best cartoon theme songs ever! But, did this have a negative effect? It made me think all TMNT music should be just as good. I ended up listening to more mutant-inspired music – sucked into the Ninja Turtles phenomenon, hoping to find another iconic track. Most of the time I found myself rewinding tapes in disappointment, but it did land me a fun collection of cassettes in The Sewer Den. Check out this batch of tubular tapes from the 90s.

______________________________


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Soundtrack (1990)

Track Listing:
"This Is What We Do" - M.C. Hammer
"Spin That Wheel" - Hi Tek 3
"Family" - Riff
"9.95" - Spunkadelic
"Turtle Power" - Partners in Kryme
"Let The Walls Come Down" - Johnny Kemp
"Every Heart Needs A Home" - St. Paul
"Shredder's Suite" - John Du Prez
"Splinter's Tale I & Splinter's Tale II" - John Du Prez (feat. Kevin Clash)
"Turtle Rhapsody" - Orchestra on the Half Shell

I was a walking cliche after seeing the original TMNT movie in theaters back in 1990. I exited the auditorium jumping around performing ninja moves while shouting "cowabunga" with raw enthusiasm. Moviegoers probably thought I was a freak and maybe I even amused my Mom a little, but I was only 6 years old and this was bliss. Would I ever be this excited from seeing a movie again? Even the end credits seemed celebratory, capping off my perfect cinematic experience. Partners In Kryme's stellar track, "Turtle Power" blasted through the theater's speakers with its strong lyrics and catchy beat. T-U-R-T-L-E POWER.

As much as I wished, my dream of seeing the TMNT movie in theaters everyday wasn't going to come true. But, I could listen to the soundtrack! That acted as fuel to keep my movie enthusiasm burning bright. Even though "Turtle Power" is by far the best track on the album, the other songs also gassed up my passion for the film beyond the theater...and well into my 30s! 
______________________________



Partners in Kryme, Single (1990)

Track Listing:
"Turtle Power" - Partners in Kryme
“Splinters Tale I & Splinter’s Tale II”

There can never be too much "Turtle Power!" Somehow a cassette featuring the single found its way to The Sewer Den. I honestly have no memory of where this came from, but know I didn't have it as a kid. Writing this post seemed like an opportunity to dust off my old stereo and give this cassette the encore it deserves.

The title track is no different from the soundtrack version, but I still listened. It's just too good! The other included song is "Splinters Tale I & Splinter's Tale II." I had never heard this before and wasn't expecting much, but wow, what a surprise treat! The track takes all stories Splinter tells in the film (his origin, the Turtles origin, etc.) and sequentially combines them, playing out in one fluid track. The music beneath ranges from funky beats to semi-emotional, and is all lifted straight from the movie (which I suppose means Partners In Kryme composed parts of the movie's score too). The piece was a refreshing delight after listening to the same soundtrack for decades. Take a listen.
______________________________



Coming Out of Their Shells (1990)

Track Listing:
"Coming Out of Our Shells!" performed by Raphael
"Sing About It" performed by Raphael
"Tubin''" performed by Michelangelo
"Skipping Stones" performed by Master Splinter
"Pizza Power" performed by all four turtles
"Walk Straight" performed by Raphael
"No Treaties" performed by Raphael
"Cowabunga" performed by Michelangelo
"April's Ballad" performed by April O'Neil
"Count On Us" performed by all 4 Turtles

1990...what a year to be alive! Not only did the first ever TMNT movie hit theaters, but the Turtles also hit the road with their very own music tour. Many fans have nostalgic goggles for this, but guys, let's face the facts. The show is a train wreck. If you never had the chance to attend, many might consider that a blessing.



Fans had just witnessed TMNT on the big screen in 1990. Jim Henson's Creature Shop was responsible for bringing the Turtles to life, from cartoon to real life. The movie was grounded in reality and the tone the filmmakers crafted birthed an entire generation of TMNT fans. It was, and still is perfect! With Coming Out of Their Shells, all the strong momentum came crumbling down. Fans were given a cheap, gimmicky imitation. The lifelike movements and special touches of the characters were stripped in favor of more a more family friendly appeal. The brothers were also put in clothes! This wasn't a cool assemble either (like a Turtle in trench coat). These dudes were put on stage in "rock star" gear from the waist up. Denim vests, but no pants!

The Shredder costume is the nail in the coffin. His trademark helmet and mask were redesigned to make the actor's mouth visible (Google it). This way, audiences could see him sing. Did any Turtles fan ever care about seeing Shredder sing? 

Then there's the music - the supposed draw of this debacle. If you grew up listening to these songs, they're harmless fun. There are even a few catchy tracks (I know Splinter's "Skipping Stones" is a fan favorite). But, it's hard to have respect for songs that are performed by fictional characters. On the the track listing, each song is credited to one of the Turtles, Splinter, or April. It's really weird. Did kids believe the TMNT were real? Would seeing human performers getting credit for their work destroy the illusion? I believed in Santa, the Easter Bunny, and Tooth Fairy, but never the Turtles. Maybe I should have! I would've liked the show more...



What Coming Out of Their Shells lacked was justified by its strong marketing campaign. The show's accompanying merchandise and advertisements were 90s TMNT at its finest. A Pizza Hut integration brought a batch of fun goodies for kids (and now adults) to collect. Even if you couldn't see the concert in person, these promotional materials made fans feel like part of the musical celebration. There were plenty of kids who never made it to the show, but clung a Coming Out of Their Shells tour poster from Pizza Hut on their bedroom wall. It was like a trophy for being a proud and wacky TMNT fan.

My favorite slice of Pizza Hut merch is the Official Tour Guide. I still have no idea how my copy remained in such great shape. It's barely wrinkled and grease free. Where are the pizza stains?!



The Official Tour Guide is only a few pages, but man is it loaded. There are music-themed comics, posters, & trivia scattered through. There are a few key pieces of art that should be celebrated for their absurdity (I'm specifically looking at the quote "Raphael plays a hot sax" at the bottom right).



Even the back of the book is awesome. There's a Raphael mask that you can cut out and pretend to be a mutant, prep for Halloween, or terrorize your family (honestly, it's a pretty frightening).
______________________________



Coming Out of Their Shells VHS (1990)

The tour cruised across the land, putting countless shows on for TMNT fans. Parents continued to cry, pony up cash, and sit in dread as their kids jammed to lame songs about ninjas. Some parents thought they bested their kids and succeeded in avoiding the show. But little did they know, they too would be sucked into the sewer drain that was Coming Out of Their Shells. 1990 continued to be the year when TMNT was unstoppable, and the musical tour was released on video cassette for fans to watch at home. Excuses from parents about venues being too far or tickets being too expensive were suddenly moot. For the few without a VCR, the event also became available on Pay-Per-View. The parents had lost. The kids won! From that moment on, TMNT fans could watch this video nonstop, learn the songs, and drive their parents insane. The small victories of an 8 year old.

The VHS mirrored the live performance for the most part, which was captured at Radio City Music Hall in NYC. If choosing that venue was suppose to add panache, it didn't. In addition to the concert there are a few added bits to give the concert context for fans watching at home. A Channel 6 reporter named "Kip" acts as the thread to weave the musical "story" together. Kip is full of cringe-worthy dialogue. It's a beautiful disaster that makes the show uncomfortable entertainment. So there's that.
______________________________



Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Soundtrack (1991)

Track Listing:
"Awesome (You Are My Hero)" by Ya Kid K
"Ninja Rap" by Vanilla Ice
"Find The Key To Your Life" by Cathy Dennis featuring David Morales
"Moov!" by Tribal House
"(That's Your) Consciousness" by Dan Hartman
"This World" by Magnificent VII
"Creatures of Habit" by Spunkadelic
"Back to School" by Fifth Platoon
"Cowabunga" by Orchestra on the Half Shell
"Tokka and Rahzar: Monster Mix" by Orchestra on the Half Shell

There are many opinions about the second TMNT movie. Love it or hate it, after all these years it's been boiled down to one memory everyone shares - Vanilla Ice and his performance of "Ninja Rap." Even the coolest moments of the movie, like Super Shredder, take second stage to the 90s rapper icon. Vanilla Ice was a pop culture king - even in the sewers. So when it came to the movie's soundtrack, what else would you expect? There are other songs on the tape, but no one bought this album for "Back to School" by the Fifth Platoon. The soundtrack was for Vanilla Ice to call his own, and that's why everyone bought it. This tape is the Turtles at their pop culture 90s prime...as embarrassing and catchy as the song might be.
______________________________



Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3: The Soundtrack (1993)

Track Listing:
1. Baltimora - "Tarzan Boy"
2. ZZ Top - "Can't Stop Rockin'"
3. Technotronic featuring Ya Kid K - "Rockin' over the Beat"
4. The Barrio Boyzz - "Conga"
5. Psychedelic Dust featuring Loose Bruce - "Turtle Jam"
6. Definition of Sound - "Fighter"
7. John Du Prez and Ocean Music - "Yoshi's Theme"
8. Partners in Kryme - "Turtle Power"
9. Baltimora - "Tarzan Boy" (Remix)
10. Technotronic featuring Ya Kid K - "Rockin' over the Beat" (Rockin' Over Manchester Hacienda Remix)

Third time is a charm...except when it comes to TMNT movies. Even though I generally enjoyed it, the third installment killed the Turtles' momentum. The film was subpar at best, and spun the franchise into a downward spiral that it never fully recovered from until years later. The soundtrack for the film was no saving grace either. The worst TMNT movie also got the worst soundtrack. I never owned this at its time of release (a recent donation to The Sewer Den), but that was probably a blessing in disguise. The songs aren't necessarily bad, but if you bought the album back in 1993, they would have been a major letdown. Take a peek at this info:
  • "Tarzan Boy" was previously released on Baltimora's 1985 album Living in the Background.
  • At the time of the soundtrack's release, "Tarzan Boy" was being used in a series of commercials for Listerine.
  • "Can't Stop Rockin'" was released eight years prior on ZZ Top's 1985 album Afterburner.
  • "Rockin' over the Beat" was previously released on Technotronic's 1990 album Pump Up the Jam: The Album.
  • "Yoshi's Theme" was the only piece used from the film's score.
Many of the songs were previously released. Except for "Yoshi's Theme," was anything specifically created for the film? The soundtrack is an uninspiring compilation. It's so lackluster that "Turtle Power" by Partners In Kryme is included once again! Even the producers of the album weren't confident in the selection, feeling the need to dip back into the well of past TMNT success. 
______________________________


There you have it, my cowabunga cassette collection. Doesn’t it make you wanna grab a bunch of batteries for your boom box? These plastic pieces are an evolutionary step in my musical journey throughout life. There was a lot of disappointment, but the few gems are bone fide hits. Some classics, some crap - all cowabunga. 

4 comments:

  1. I have all the TMNT movie soundtracks on CD....And I don't listen to them. Nostalgic? Yes. Good? Nope.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ya Kid K and Technotronic, no less? Cool! Those are Belgian acts!

    ReplyDelete

Forgiveness is divine, but never pay full price for late pizza.

Comment here!