Original Soundtrack: Multiplication Rock (1973)
Ok, I'll admit I can't really separate the album from the childhood nostalgia, having watched the Multiplication Rock educational video clips when they first rolled out during the Saturday morning cartoons I would immerse myself in as a 7-year-old back in 1973. I can't pretend I'd be gearing up to listen to the musical recitation of multiplication tables, even buried within great pop tunes, absent that whiff of nostalgia.
But face it, these are some killer tunes. And with incredible variety, ranging from pop to R&B to psychedelia. (Yes, psychedelia.) I can't imagine anyone my age, who grew up watching these videos, can't hum at least 2 or 3 of these, if not all of 'em, despite the passage of 45+ years and the corresponding onset of middle age. How many other songs (not by the Beatles) can you say that about?
Of course, there's a secret weapon in the late great Bob Dorough, the jazz musician who wrote the lyrics and music and sang most of the songs. I can't claim to be familiar with Dorough's other work, but the songwriting is top-notch -- can you even imagine the challenge of trying to present multiplication tables within the framework of an otherwise-memorable pop song? -- and his vocals are a delight.
The "hit," of course, is "Three Is A Magic Number," the song the creators of the shorts used to sell the project, which later managed to form the basis of a fantastic hip-hop number by De La Soul.
Here's the original:
Years later, the late singer-songwriter Elliott Smith lent his distinctive, moving vocals to a cover of "Figure 8," a b-side later released on the reissue of an album to which he gave the same name: