The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down

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"The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down"
Song
Published 1937
Writer Cliff Friend
Dave Franklin
Composer Carl Stalling, Milt Franklyn and Bill Lava

"The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down" is a song written in 1937 by Cliff Friend and Dave Franklin. It is best known as the theme tune for the Looney Tunes cartoon series produced by Warner Bros. Cartoons, used from 1937 to 1969.

The original version contains an introductory verse that leads up to the main part of the song, as a young man tells of his date with a young woman, in which they go to an amusement park and find time to "spark" while riding the malfunctioning carousel. The name was a play on "breakdown" and the tune is similar to the traditional "Chinese Breakdown" as well as the children's rhyme "Miss Susie had a steamboat".

Looney Tunes[edit]

An adapted instrumental version of the song's main tune became the staple opening and closing credits theme for the Looney Tunes series, most memorably featuring Porky Pig stuttering "Th-th-that's all, folks!" over the tune at each cartoon's end. A different vocal version, sung by Daffy Duck (voice of Mel Blanc), was heard in Daffy Duck and Egghead, a 1938 entry in the Merrie Melodies series, a sister series to the Looney Tunes, at about five minutes into the cartoon. Daffy also sang a specially-modified version of the song in the 1950 Looney Tunes short Boobs in the Woods. The tune made a "cameo" appearance in the 1941 Merrie Melodies cartoon Aviation Vacation. The Three Stooges recorded a version in 1959 for their musical album The Nonsense Songbook.

In 1962, a more modern, atonal variation of the theme was arranged by William Lava for use with the updated opening sequences of new Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies shorts. In 1967, a remix of the Lava's version was used in the opening sequences of new Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies shorts.

The song was revived for the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), an animation/live-action blend based upon the cartoons of the 1940s. "The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down" is performed twice in the film: first by cartoon character Roger Rabbit (voice of Charles Fleischer), as he's being assisted by his human partner Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) in hiding out from Judge Doom's weasel henchmen, and later by Valiant himself in Marvin Acme's gag factory, as he's trying to force the same cartoon weasels (after they capture Roger and Jessica) to laugh themselves to death. The lyrics in both sequences were written specifically for the film. An instrumental version of the tune also appears in Gremlins 2: The New Batch, which opens and closes with Looney Tunes cartoons characters interacting with each other, and at the end of Space Jam (1996) and Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003). It is also used as the main theme to The Looney Tunes Show.

Other usage[edit]

The song made a rare appearance in a live-action film, A Slight Case of Murder (Warner Bros., 1938), in which party guests sing a verse while standing around a piano.

During the late 1960s and early 70s, The Grateful Dead—signed to Warner Bros. Records during that time—occasionally used this piece as filler material while one or several members of the band were tuning up. On the expanded edition of Wake of the Flood, the track "China Doll" concludes with a brief jam on the piece.

The song appeared as amusement park music in the 1979 Wonder Woman episode "Phantom of the Roller Coaster".

In 1983, the song was recorded by the British folk band Pyewackett with vocal by Rosie Cross, on the LP The Man in the Moon Drinks Claret. The liner notes read, "Finding love for only a dime" and describe the song as "A 'Looney Tune' based on a Roy Fox recording from the 1930s".

In the South Park episode, "Something You Can Do with Your Finger", Wendy Testaburger sings a variation of this song using a set of rather profane lyrics.

References[edit]

  • The TV Theme Song Sing-Along Book, Volume 2, by John Javna, St. Martin's, 1985, ISBN 0-312-78218-7

See also[edit]