“I Wanna Be a Flintstone”
Screaming Blue Messiahs
1987

No critical deconstruction of The Flintstones can commence without first mentioning my sister, who was born the same night as Pebbles. Although I was 7, I sensed that this was a teachable moment, and I told my brother, who was 4, that when Mommy came home from the hospital, she’d bring with her our new sibling – a cartoon. My brother couldn’t decide if he was thrilled or terrified, so he spent that evening at my grandparents’ house being both. Because I’m a natural teacher, I also showed him how to set all the clocks in the house to ring sometime after midnight. Being little children, no one noticed us, and being little children, we slept through the resulting Flintstone-like chaos. The adults were all crabby the next day.

Today I’d much rather refer to The Flintstones than watch them. (Same with the Stooges. Would you rather imitate a lamebrain or spend half an hour watching three of them slap each other?) Every year I call my parents on their anniversary and sing them Fred’s “Happy Anniversary” song (to the tune of the William Tell Overture):

Happy anniversary
Happy anniversary
Happy anniversary
HAPPPPPY anniversary!

We enjoy that, but I doubt we’d enjoy sitting through the entire episode where Fred buys Wilma a hot piano from 88 Fingers Louie and barely has time to sing “Happy Anniversary” before being hauled off to the hoosegow. Though I still think it’s funny that Fred was such a dope that he only remembered their anniversary because that year it fell on trash day.

In our house, whenever a deadline is looming and we’re almost out of time, we announce, “This is Operation Red Light. Repeat. Red Light!” But I’m not interested in rewatching that episode, in which Fred dressed up like Wilma and made meatballs out of golf balls to try to fool…oh forget it.

How did they make everything out of rocks?
There were many original songs on The Flintstones, including the Miss Water Buffalo theme (“O we’ve searched high and low/for Miss Water Buffalo”) and the opening number from Wilma’s Martha Stewart-style show, The Happy Housewife (this was about 10 years before The Happy Hooker): “Make your hubby happy/keep your hubby happy/when he’s a little chubby/he’s a happy pappy…”

And who can forget Wilma and Betty’s immortal car-hop jingle:

Here we come on the run
With a burger on a bun
And a dab of slaw on the side,
Oh your taste we will tickle
With a great dill pickle
And all of our potatoes are french fried, fried, fried,
Our burgers can’t be beat,
’Cause we grind our own meat,
Grind, grind, grind, grind, grind!

And when you’re on your way,
A tip upon our tray
We hope to find, find, find, find, find!
We hope to find, find, find, find, find!

Two Neolithic women in short skirts singing “grind, grind, grind, grind, grind” isn’t the same as The Commitmentettes pleading “Take me, take me, take me,” but it’s not bad for a prime-time cartoon circa 1961.

Fred worked in a gravel pit as a dino operator. Why did he always wear a tie?
Scholars agree that The Flintstones jumped the shark with Pebbles’ birth. A new baby is pretty much the end of any successful sitcom. Après Pebbles, The Flintstones went downhill like a load of rocks (Exhibits A and B: Bamm-Bamm and The Great Gazoo). Repeated attempts to build on The Flintstones‘ legacy have failed. Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm as teenagers? That’s not writing, that’s typing. Live-action movies? Torture. Fruity Pebbles cereal? Gross!

The Screaming Blue Messiahs are another example of Flintstones fail, only weirder. The Messiahs were a British punk outfit with hillbilly leanings. They were led by Bill Carter, who shaved his head at a time when that was still scary, or at least strange. He also played his electric guitar without a pick. He must’ve had adamantine claws for fingers.

The Messiahs remind me at times of their English predecessors, The Clash, and at other times of their Scottish contemporaries, Big Country. They were an intense trio of noisemakers for their era, but even their best album, Bikini Red (1987), has dimmed with age. And it wasn’t all that illuminated to start with. (I do like “Big Brother Muscle,” probably because it sounds like The Clash covering The Rolling Stones.)

“I Wanna Be a Flintstone” (“Dino is my dinosaur/His tail’s in the kitchen and his head’s out the door”) is nothing like the rest of the Messiahs’ catalog. It’s more like a crude copy of The B-52s’ “Private Idaho” as played by The Stray Cats. Naturally, this was the closest the Messiahs ever got to a hit and the only reason they’re remembered today. The song is funny the first few spins, and I admit I once used it at a party to repel boarders, but in true Flintstone fashion it soon becomes something you refer to rather than play. I either lost the record or gave it away as a door prize.

Someday maybe Fred will win what fight? And what happened to that cat?
When Fred was accidentally promoted to the executive suite (a trick every sitcom has used, including The Simpsons), an old hand told him that he could succeed in any business situation by using the following lines:

“What’s your angle?”
“Whose baby is that?”
“I’ll buy that.”

It worked for Fred and with a few variations it’s worked for me. I owe The Flintstones…but I’m not going to watch them. Not even if I was offered the director’s cut of the episode where Fred was cloned by invading aliens into Fred-like automatons who broke into people’s houses and stole their food while monotonously chanting “Yabba. Dabba. Do.” The next day in Bedrock the adults were all crabby. OK, now I’m laughing.

Comments
  1. Michael Eichner says:

    The Screaming Blue Messiahs are another example of Flintstones fail, only weirder.

    Speaking of “weirder,” where does Weird Al’s “Bedrock Anthem” fit into your “theory”?

    • Run-DMSteve says:

      It “fits” “perfectly,” Mr. Screaming Blue Former Horse Owner. “Bedrock” anthem can’t compete with Weird Al’s assaults on Madonna, Michael Jackson, Nirvana, Huey Lewis & The Snooze, Greg Kihn, Queen, and the many polka mash-ups, particularly the one from the alternative ’90s. NIN never sounded better than on an accordion!

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