Thursday, April 26, 2012

the lyrics to the H R Pufnstuf theme song

As a child, naturally enough, I watched a lot of television and it being the early 1970s when I was a child, I watched a lot of what is now known as 70s television. With a bit of 60s thrown in too, probably. There were shows that apparently were just tiny almost unregisterable blips in the television stratosphere which to me were a huge part of what television meant - I was very attached, if memory serves, to a show called The Godfathers and in my recollection this shortlived program has become part of the smorgasbord of what constitutes Television Programs. Evidence of its existence are now barely apparent.

Another show, which still means a lot to people, is H. R. Pufnstuff. Of course it was also made into a film, which makes a big difference. The film in particular registered Mama Cass on my awareness of the world, though I think she was dead by the time the film came out or, at least, by the time I saw it. 

Yesterday, prompted by I can't remember what, I thought through the lyrics to the theme song. There were always bits and pieces of this song I didn't quite understand, and so today I was moved to check out the lyrics online (I'm aware that this is just as likely someone else's interpretation of the songwords after hearing them sung, but even that can be useful).

First up, the suggestion that H. R. Pufnstuf 'Can't do a little cause he can't do enough' always bothered me when I enjoyed the show, and presumably HRP as a character. Looking at it now, I realise that 'he can't do enough' was about HRP's value as a good friend, as in, he can't do enough for the people he cares about. 40 years ago I thought this was an unfair estimation of HRP and his abilities, and that the singers of the theme song were somehow dissing him.

The rest of the song tells a story about Jimmy and the magic flute (even then of course I appreciated the flute represented the call of adult male sexuality). I had forgotten until I looked at the opening credits again (available for your viewing pleasure here)  that the boat was actually very appealing as a playmate, and apparently betrayed Jimmy almost from the outset, though we don't see its face a second time once it goes bad or get any kind of character motivation explanation here (also, I don't know what my 7 year old self would have thought of the fact that, although the song says the beautiful boat 'was gone', actually it's all still very much there, until Jimmy bails). Even the song is contradictory there, because although it says the boat's gone, it then 'sails on and on and on and on.' A more correct line might have been 'the beauty of the boat was gone'. I propose a recall! 

The next verse was the one that really caused me trouble when young. It was the line that 

He saw the witch's boat attack
And as the boy was fighting back 

Actually, I think it's not 'boat attack' but 'bold attack', but the ringtone website where I found the words is still going on about the boat. But the bit that bothered me was the line 'as the boy was fighting back.' First impressions count for a lot and for years and years, well into adulthood, I really saw this as a value judgment. I thought that Pufnstuff only saved Jimmy once he satisfied himself that he was fighting back - that is, 'as (because) the boy was fighting back' HRP figured Jimmy was plucky and deserving. One day it dawned on me that this merely meant, 'while the boy was fighting back', that is, 'as (during the time that) the boy was fighting back'. You can see how the title song really gave me mixed feelings about Pufnstuff - firstly, his theme song singers think he's crap and he can't do enough, and then he himself makes a whole thing out of whether Jimmy is worth saving. Incidentally, in the film accompanying the song, Jimmy is not fighting back at all - unless you count jumping out of the beautiful boat as fighting - and in the song itself they claim he is washed ashore, when we clearly see him swimming ashore. 

No kudos should be accorded to my younger self, as I clearly simply observed these inconsistencies and displayed no curiosity or interest in the discrepancies, unless perhaps I asked adults around me who had no interest in the deeper questions and so I decided it was better to sublimate these problems until middle age, or unless it was all resolved for me at the time and I then forgot, leading me to worry about it again in middle age. Hard to know. 

By the way I can remember the titles and the theme song, but I have absolutely no recollection of any of the storylines of any H. R. Pufnstuff episode. I see there are some on YouTube, I bet I couldn't last a minute trying to watch any of them. 


Wayne said...

I always thought it was "bold attack." I like the soul pop closing credits theme performed by The Boyds

David said...

Thanks Wayne yes the closing theme had a big impact on me too. I followed the link from the person who put up that song on youtube (love the lame graphic on the 11- ELEVEN? - track 7") and found this interesting, stupid, fascinating, bad, fun, wrong. I like the commenter there who mistakes Sid and Marty Krofft for Seals and Crofts. Good interpretation.

Annabel said...

Channel 2 played the HR Pufnstuff movie on Easter Sunday this year. I had, of course, tuned in for Sign of the Cross starring Claudette Colbert and a cameo by the Bugaloos.

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Anonymous said...

Jack wild was as gorgeous as Brian cox but maybe not so brainy

Tween said...

Not as alive either. More like Jack White than Foxy Coxy.

giles said...

Drawn to the flame of your blog (ha!)by my search for a pic of Mighty Moth, I then come across not only Knockout and The Red Crayola but also my favourite dragon in white cowboy boots - via my toddler son, I'm now once again being confronted by Jack Wild's concerned stare and Witchipoo's 'Vaudeville manic' behaviour, revisiting childhood arguments with my younger sister on Witchipoo's gender ("No, Mary, Billie can be a girl's name, too...") and many more pop cultural related issues of great import. Thanks for reawakening a few childhood conundrums. I'll be back!

Bill said...

Hi! I am actually interested in the closing lyrics. It sounds like a takeoff from a gospel song. Do you have any information on it? I'd like to know what the original gospel song it, if, indeed, it was so taken.