The OTHER Rugrats
Left: The members of "The Rugrats", a Toronto-based children's rock group that released a couple of albums in the mid-1980s.
(Art by Dean Motter, from the lyric sheet in the "Rock On" album; ©1985 by Ron-Ron Productions.)
While vacationing in Toronto, ON in May 1999, I visited a neat record store called Peter Dunn's Vinyl Museum (with stores in Toronto & Etobicoke), primarily looking for Mr. Dressup and Air Farce records. While looking at both stores, I came across The Rugrats -- not the familiar 1990s TV series on Nick, but a 1980s children's rock group based in Toronto. Since the Rugrats of today (Tommy, Chuckie, etc.) aren't the first to be called Rugrats in front of millions of people, I thought it would be interesting to tell you about what I call "The Other Rugrats".
The Rugrats released 2 albums in Canada on A&M Records in the mid-1980s, Rugrat Rock (1983) and Rock On (1985). Both albums featured rock-and-roll versions of traditional children's songs, with a few original compositions. Also, The Rugrats are, more or less, a children's version of The Monkees or The Partridge Family -- they just sing; they don't play their own instruments.
The Rugrats have been produced and created by Fred Mollin, Ronney Abramson & Ron Garant (Ron-Ron Productions); on both records, Mollin also plays acoustic guitar, percussion & additional keyboards, while Garant also plays bass. The roles of the Rugrats themselves aren't credited, though various kids are listed (by first name only) under "Special Thanks To...".
The covers to both albums, and the insert illustrations (like the one above) have been designed & illustrated by Dean Motter; Motter is best-known as the creator of Mister X, published by Vortex Comics and later, without Motter's participation, by Caliber Comics, it was a popular independent comic from the 1980s about a detective in a futuristic city. Motter also did a DC / Vertigo comic series, Terminal City, which is kind of a continuation of Mister X. The collected graphic novel included an introduction by Peter Bergman, who, with Phil Proctor ("Howard" in TV's Rugrats), was part of the Firesign Theatre comedy team. For more information on Motter's other projects, including other album covers for other groups, and his line of Canadian Tea Pot Tots dolls, click here.
This theme is sung at the start of both albums. The themes are different on each albums.
The Other Rugrats Theme From "Rugrat Rock" (1983):
©1983 Ron-Ron Music Publishing (CAPAC)
They think that we're sleeping
Like good rugrats really should
Just because we've been singing
Doesn't mean that we're not good.
The Other Rugrats Theme From "Rock On" (1985):
©1985 Almo Music of Canada, Ltd. / Castor Island Music / Guaranteed Music (CAPAC)
They think that we're sleeping
But we're still rockin' on
We call outselves The Rugrats
And we play our favourite songs.
Kind of reminds you of the more familiar Rugrats of today, doesn't it?
Rugrat Rock (1983)
In 1984, this album won a Juno Award (a Canadian version of the Grammys) for Best Children's Album. Awards in that category are voted on by kids, rather than adults, for obvious reasons.
(Left: Jacket from The Rugrats' first album, Rugrat Rock.
(all traditional unless specified)
Rock On (1985)
(Left: From the insert of The Rugrats' second album, Rock On.
(All are traditional
medleys unless specified)
Ron Garant, eventually decided to concentrate on bass playing -- these days, he publishes a magazine for bass players called Bassics.
Ronney Abramson is also still around, and knew about Nickelodeon's Rugrats, years before they arrived in Canada. Here's what he says about it and his "Rugrats":
As you have pointed out, there are a few "coincidences" which have been haunting us for quite a few years. Needless to say, our attempts at tackling Viacom have proven to be too costly, but I feel that something was never quite right, and would still like to do something about it.
We knew about the Rugrats TV show from the beginning, way before it was on the air here in Canada, but since the albums never officially came out in the US, we couldn't do much then either. However, the president of A&M Canada at that time (who signed us to the label), was very excited about the project and had distributed the first album to all the kids of all the employees at A&M in LA (including Herb Alpert's daughter, Aria, [popular trumpeter Herb Alpert is one of the founders of A&M -- SM] who apparently asked when she saw the album jacket: "oh, are they on TV?" ), and they all loved it. It was supposed to be released in the US and press material was prepared etc. But, due to some very bizarre and unfortunate events which were beyond our control, the records never came out there. I think we were a bit before our time, before kids records were considered a viable market.
Winning the Juno award here for Best Children's Album was really great though, mainly because kids (not adults) vote in that category. And what's even better, kids today still love it.
Fred Mollin currently a soundtrack writer for various movies & TV shows; his brother, Larry, was a writer for the NBC cop series, CHiPs (where E.G. daily was a guest star back in 1982).
The Rugrats had 2 albums on A&M Records in the early-1980s. Also during that decade, another artist would have 2 albums at A&M in the mid-1980s. That artist was E.G. Daily, who would go on to be the voice of Tommy on TV's Rugrats.
In another coincidence, Arlene Klasky was doing album covers for A&M Records in the 1970s; eventually, she would create the TV Rugrats.
It comes to show that both "Rugrats" have some kind of indirect connection through A&M.
(Special thanks to Ron Garant, Ronney Abramson and Dean Motter)
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