27 February 2015

Mama Can't Buy You Love: Part Five


MY NAME IS NINJABookScanStation-2014-09-15-09-47-37-AM

Sabrina + The New Archies
Mama Can't Buy You Love
Cartoons + Castanets presents yet another
bawdy cartoon burlesque featuring
fan art images based on
Archie Comics Characters
starring
Sabrina the Sorceress
Salem the Cat     Nero the Dog
Sir Ambrose Nixon
The Abominable Miss Fang
Lyle Jason Blossom
presenting
The New Archies:
Donna Dante . . . vocals, bass
Mal Hypster . . . vocals, drums, percussion
Toby Maxx . . . saxophone
Rikki Ninja . . . vocals, keyboards
Ramsay Khalid Sharma . . . rhythm guitar
Lana Suzuki . . . lead guitar
members of the original Archies
and introducing
Carmen Serna
The Wicked Witch Of New Jersey
with cameo appearances by celebrities including
Trace Adkins, Justin Bieber, Anderson Cooper, Ron Dante,
Bruce Frey (Professor Bubblegum), Drake Jensen,
Angelo Restivo and "Flo"
in adorable cartoon form
Burlesque written, directed and staged by
Donny Hampton Jacobs
for The Pop Culture Cantina

The story so far . . . The New Archies, a band formed in 2037 to carry forward the legacy of The Archies, weather numerous internal conflicts and defections. They also score triumphs: Several Platinum albums, three successful concert tours, and a hit Broadway musical! Throughout its existence, the group is plagued by Carmen Serna, a vengeful singing witch who was rejected for membership.  In the year 2050, Carmen and her husband, former New Archies drummer Frankie Fujiyama (Fuji), are caught in an accidental explosion and presumed dead. As of 2051, the members are Mal Hypster (Chi), drums, percussion and vocals; Toby Maxx (Toto), saxophone; Rikki Ninja, keyboards and vocals; and Lana Suzuki (Susu), lead guitar. Susu no longer tours with the band; she cares for an Alzheimer’s-stricken mother. Former guitarist Delia García (Garcy) Briseño is now a chart-topping female vocalist; former bassist Donna Dante (Dee Dee) is an up-and-coming actress. For two years, the band members have kept busy playing on other people’s recording sessions. Will they ever cut another studio album, or has too much water passed under the bridge?

Part Five:
Resurrection Shuffle
The Years 2051-2
Producer Tara Nation Faws’ aborted dance mix album is re-imagined, downsized, and marketed as an extended-play disc. The most unique of all New Archies releases, Vatos is also destined to become their rarest and most coveted. It features six Spanish-language translations of songs originally recorded by Lesley Gore. “We became familiar with Lesley’s music around the time we cut ‘That’s The Boy’,” Rikki Ninja tells Latin music chronicle Salsa y Bembe. “I immediately recognized her as a great Habanera Rock artist. Those songs were demos for a proposed album tribute to Lesley, all en español! That’s why I’m singing most of the leads.” (Ninja didn’t sing lead on a New Archies album until 2041’s Bubblegum Blitz; the material on Vatos was cut in early 2039.)

At the demo session, the multi-instrumentalist sang and overdubbed himself playing keyboards, bass, percussion and Spanish guitar. Mal Hypster also sang and provided additional percussion; Frankie Fujiyama was on drums; and Toby Maxx was a one-man brass section on sax, trumpet and flugelhorn. “It was an all-dudes date,” Ninja recalls. “Garcy Briseño and Donna Dante weren’t in the studio that day, so calling the record Vatos makes sense.”

For her first official job as New Archies producer, Lana Suzuki remixes the tracks and adds some tasty flamenco guitar licks to “Cochinadas”. She jokes: “I was a female vato long before I joined this band!” However, Susu's added production values don't stop Ninja's boasting.  "I practically produced this record myself," he claims. “I wrote the Spanish lyrics, too. See the name ‘Fonseca’ in the song credits? ¡Soy yo! It would’ve been a bitchin’ album, but the project never got past demo stage! Bree Spellman didn’t think we could crack the Latin market.”

VATOS0001

Sabrina may have been right! Much to everyone’s disappointment, Vatos doesn’t chart Latin and barely charts Pop. Susu blames Republic USA for interfering in the creative process. “The record company insisted that I imitate Tara Nation Faws’ production style,” she complains. “I pitched a bloody fit, but all in vain: They still fancied her naff ‘Tarnation Falls’ sound!”

TNF favored a heavy Goth ambiance that incorporated bat squeals, zombie shuffles, ghastly moans and werewolf howls! She recorded these and other sinister noises during midnight sessions at Witch Queen Studios; Sabrina let Tara capture her “children of the night” on tape whenever there was a full moon out!  Susu continues: “I had to re-create those haunted house clichés in the Mad Groovy echo chamber, and then overdub. Synchronizing them with salsa rhythms nearly drove me mad! It was absolutely a b*tch to do.”

People found it absolutely a b*tch to listen to as well! “Vatos sounds like The Addams Family suffering from dengue fever,” sneers New Musical Express. “A totally f*cked-up fusion record,” growls Hit Parader. Goth music devotees balk at the Latin dance elements; Latin music lovers gag on the Goth trappings. “No matter how I mixed the tracks,” Susu admits, “they still sounded like sh*t.” Yet the EP everybody loves to hate on will prove to be 20 years ahead of its time:  In the 2070s, Latin Goth Grunge records will rule Pop radio.  Artists from that era will hail The New Archies as genre pioneers, and original copies of their unique Lesley Gore tribute will command upwards of $500.00 each on eBay/Craigslist!

Republic EP 11745
Cochinadas/The Bubble Broke
(Brown, Bloodworth, Crewe, Fonseca)
Vato/Boys (Anka, Fonseca)/
No Jugar Así/No Foolin’, I’m Coolin’ (Fonseca, Gore, Shaw)/
¡Ay! Cariño Mío/It’s Gotta Be You (Barkan, Fonseca, Ogermann)*/
Luz de Mi Vida/All Of My Life (Fonseca, Miller, Powers)*/
¡Escándaloso, No!/No Matter What You Do
(Fonseca, Post, St. John)
Vatos
The New Archies
Canta Rikki Ninja     *Canta Mal Hypster
Realizado por Bree Spellman
Realización y Remezcla Adicional por Lana Suzuki
#108 Pop

The failure of Vatos aside, Toto and Ninja’s new arrangement with Lana Suzuki works out well. She produces demos for their Jazz, Latin and Hip-Hop acts, often with her mother sitting right by her side. Everyone in the office helps care for Mama Shelly; Hornytoad is particularly attentive, catering to her every need. However, Mad Groovy Studios’ former chief engineer gets increasingly restless. Repeatedly, she pleads: “I want to go home to Japan! My family is waiting for me there.” Often, when Shelly Suzuki reminisces about her life before immigrating to the West, she starts to wail and cry; her daughter is unable to comfort her.

Finally, Susu asks to meet with Toby Maxx.  “She’s begging to go home,” she confides. “I can’t bear to see Mum unhappy! I’m so sorry, but we’ll be leaving you after all.” He consoles her: “Don’t feel bad, Susu. I’d do the same for my mother or father. Besides, Mama Shelly may just want to visit Japan for a little while; both of you could be back here in few months.” In response to Susu's suggestion that Mal Hypster replace her in the studio, Toto shakes his head and responds firmly: “You are still producer for The New Archies! You’re going to helm our next album, no matter what. If you can’t be where we are, then we’ll come to you!”

After bidding emotional farewells to Toto, Ninja, Corky Clayton and Hornytoad, mother and daughter climb aboard an international flight out of Boston. Looking out the window as their plane departs, Lana Suzuki struggles to hold back her tears; she has a gut feeling that Mama Shelly will never return to the USA! Babe despairs that her music career may be over for good . . . time will tell.

Three months' time, to be exact! In April, Rikki Ninja announces that he is pregnant. The father is Lyle Jason Blossom, manager for The New Archies; both parents are Transsexual (Lyle, secretly so). In her hidden sanctum, Carmen Serna takes note of this news when it surfaces on music industry blogs! “I intend to work through this pregnancy,” Ninja promises. “Right up to the end! And isn’t it about time we got busy working on our new studio album?”

The all-male trio that is now The New Archies meets up in Tokyo with Lana Suzuki for a joyous reunion! Sound engineer Corky Clayton flies over from Boston with Toto + Ninja, and Mal Hypster arrives from Nashville the same day. That evening, the band assembles at Vox Populi Studios in the bustling Kabukicho district.

Wanting to concentrate on producing vocal tracks, Susu calls in an old friend to conduct the band. “Lads, meet Ramsay Khalid Sharma! He’s amazing: This bloke can play any instrument you want to name! And he can sing, too. Ram’s going to be my music director at the sessions.” At first sight of the tall, dark and handsome Sikh musician, Mal Hypster pops an instant boner! However, everything about Ram screams Conservative and Straight, so Chi reluctantly decides not to flirt. As it turns out, the new music director isn’t so very conservative: Friendly and fun, RKS smooths over the rough edges of Lana’s patchwork production style. He’s a welcome addition to the record dates.

KITSCHANNETTE PROMO0001

Chi and Toto have not spoken in over a year. As soon as they lay eyes on one another, they both turn an icy cold shoulder. “Uh-oh,” Ninja thinks. ”It’s gonna be just like Bette Davis and Joan Crawford!” Their interactions are so chilly, the working atmosphere quickly becomes uncomfortable for everybody. Lana Suzuki decides it’s time to put her foot down!

Pulling the ex-lovers aside, she gives them an ultimatum: “No more of this, lads! I got enough group friction in Donna + The Motherf*ckers to last me a lifetime. (Susu came to the The New Archies from Donna Dante's short-lived Punk Rock trio.)  I’m locking both of you up in the studio lounge for half an hour. Get whatever it is out of your systems: Fight each other! Bust a nut! I don’t care what you do. Just make it right! When you come back, leave the bullsh*t behind and be ready to play music together . . . or else!” “Or else, what?” they want to know. She arches an amused eyebrow at them: “Don’t make me resort to karate, lads! I can knock you both cold and have Ram overdub your instruments. And you know as well as I do Ninja won’t object to singing all the leads!”

The estranged lovers can’t help but burst out laughing after Susu leaves. “Well! I guess she read us out good and proper!” Toto chuckles. There’s an awkward moment of staring nervously at one another. Then Mal Hypster spreads his arms open wide. “It’s Hug-A-Slut Day,” he smiles. “Ya wanna, cowboy?” There’s a manly clinch. There are tears! There’s a steamy kiss. Then there are gasps, moans, clothing flung on the floor, and a naked scramble on the studio lounge couch! Exactly twenty-nine minutes later, the breathless lovers separate. “We’ve got so much to talk about,” Toby Maxx sighs, buttoning up his shirt. “But it’ll have to wait. Susu is right: We’ve totally been acting like assh*les!” Mal Hypster nods as he zips up his jeans. “It’s time to get to work!”

The New Archies have decided to record a tribute to British Soul man Tom Jones. Rikki Ninja, a huge fan of “The Voice”, is the main cheerleader for this album concept. Lana Suzuki is against it from the start! “Those overwrought ballads of his,” she warns, “are not a good fit for us.” “Bullsh*t!”, the keyboard wizard counters. “Our ballad album sold great! Besides, I’ve been singing Tom Jones songs for years. I did “Without Love” at one of our shows in England, and it went down large!” Susu is firm: “I’m not saying your renditions aren’t good enough, Ninja. I’m saying that isn’t the sort of record our fans want to hear. We were lucky to catch the tail end of that big ballad trend, but it’s all over now. Radio is rocking out again!”

Predictably, Ninja won’t budge; but after a few botched attempts at cutting Tom Jones covers, first Toby Maxx and then Mal Hypster side with the new producer. “It’s time we got back to that youth-oriented Pop sound that made our Bubblegum Blitz album such a big hit,” Chi believes. “Who do you suggest we cover instead?” an exasperated Ninja wants to know. “Annette Funicello, maybe?” His sarcasm is completely lost on Lana Suzuki; babe loves the idea!

“Rather!” she enthuses. “Rockabilly; surf and hot rod music; frothy 1960s Girlpop; foreign-language love ballads and straight-up goon songs, all filtered through a ten-year-old’s sensibility. Exquisite idea, Ninja! Combine my Punk Rock aesthetic with the zany kind of humor you and Chi displayed singing ‘Don’t Mention My Name’, and we have a totally fresh sound for The New Archies.” Toto is quick to get on board: “It’s about time Annette Funicello’s music got recognized. She was making Bubblegum Rock long before The Ohio Express, The 1910 Fruitgum Company or The Archies! I see her as the Queen Mother of that whole genre.” Susu nods excitedly. “Let’s go for it, lads!”

Mal Hypster doesn't take much convincing, but Rikki Ninja is almost in shock; it takes dude a whole day to realize that they’re serious! Only after downloading and listening to a copy of the 90-year-old Dance Annette album can he envision how such a project will come together. “Bueno, I’m game for anything,” he decides, “as long as it’s danceable.” Ninja buckles down to the challenge of interpreting the song catalog of Walt Disney’s most famous mouseketeer!

The new album will be called KitschANNETTE! It features Mal Hypster and Rikki Ninja singing lyrics written for and originally sung by a girl. Their decision to keep gender pronouns intact will upset some people. When asked about it later, Chi is matter-of-fact in his reply: “We are a (mostly) male group paying tribute to a female artist. It would be sexist for us to change the gender orientation of her song repertoire, not to mention a huge pain in the ass! Besides, Toto, Ninja and I are all same-gender-loving men. It’s only natural for us to do love songs about boys!” Ninja concurs. “If people want to say this is a Gay record,” he shrugs, “it’s fine with me. What’s wrong with that?”

With no women singing lead vocals, Lana Suzuki jokes that KitschANNETTE is “the most bloodcurdlingly masculine album The New Archies have ever released!” However, there are female singers on the new record: Three of them! Chi, Toto and Ninja get vocal support from Clitoris Club, one of the most popular girl groups in Japan. Hearing their name for the first time, Chi exclaims: “WTF? Are they a Lesbian consciousness-raising group?”

Susu explains: “May, Kay and Fay didn’t speak English very well when they named themselves. They had no idea what a clitoris was! They just loved the sound of the word, so much so that they took it for a professional surname.” “I know what a clitoris is,” Ninja smirks. “After all, I’ve got one! I know how they taste, too.  ¡Me gusta!  Salem Saberhagen said it best, back when he was still Sabrina’s cat: A little p*ssy won’t hurt you!” Lana playfully tugs his ear. “Hands off, you randy bastard!” she scolds. “They’re still teenagers!  But you’ll really enjoy working with them. Those chipmunk voices of theirs are just adorable!”

Republic 51-198
Hey, Mama!/Canzone D’Amore
(Paul Anka)/(Bob + Dick Sherman)
The New Archies featuring Mal Hypster and Rikki Ninja/
The New Archies featuring Rikki Ninja
Produced by Lana Suzuki
#39 Pop

She puts those voices to good use on a Rockabilly track from La Funicello’s 1960 Annette Sings Anka album. Released as a DVD single, “Hey, Mama!” is unlike anything else in The New Archies’ catalog! Lana Suzuki gives the song a slammin’ Punk Rock makeover: The cacophony of overdubbed sound includes school bells ringing; glass breaking; police sirens blaring; her own lead guitar roaring away; Ramsay Khalid Sharma’s blistering bass licks; Mal Hypster’s pounding tom-toms; a truly demented Toby Maxx sax solo; and shrieking background vocals by Clitoris Club! Holding their own in the raucous mix, Chi and Ninja sing decidedly belligerent duet vocals. “Hey, Mama!” rises to #39 on the Pop charts; not a huge hit, but an encouraging sign that there’s an audience for what promises to be a very off-the-wall music project.

KITSCHANNETTE SLEEVE0001

Unfortunately, the Annette tribute album sinks like a stone in the ocean when released. “My second failed New Archies production!” Susu groans. “I’m batting zero for two!” Aimed squarely at the preteen market, the disc gets very mixed reviews; fans and critics either love it or loathe it. However, those who love it are simply ecstatic in their praise! One of the disc’s biggest boosters turns out to be Sabrina’s rich and eccentric cousin, Sir Ambrose Nixon.  A veteran Broadway director, Sir Ambrose worked with The New Archies on Don't Touch My Guitar, a hit Broadway musical.  He's remained close to the band members, especially Toto and Chi (with whom he occasionally has three-way sex)!  He contacts the group to congratulate them: “Lads, you’ve scored an artistic coup! Never have I heard such a brilliant blend of music and comedy.”

Toby Maxx is grateful: “I’m glad you think so, Bro, but the new album isn’t selling at all. Our fans don’t seem to know what to make of it!  KitschANNETTE is a complete commercial washout for us.” The director/sorceror bristles with outrage at the news! “A washout? Not if I can help it!” he snaps. “This record is a f*cking camp classic just waiting to be discovered; and I’ve got an idea that will make that discovery happen sooner rather than later!  Just leave it to me.”

Sir Ambrose is as good as his word: In three months' time, he conceives, stages and choreographs a stage show to showcase the sixteen songs. He also finances the elaborate production largely out of his own pocket after Republic Records balks at doing so. Seemingly overnight, props are constructed, costumes are rented, lighting displays are designed, an audio sysem is customized, 3-D animated sequences are programmed, and dozens of singing and dancing extras are hired. The New Archies’ subsequent kitschANNETTE tour is a super-campy combination of Bette Midler-style burlesque (toned down to a family-friendly level), Mickey Mouse Club hijinks and Cirque du Soleil dazzle. Touring North America and selected venues in Europe, it becomes an international sensation!

Over-the-top performances tumble one after the other: Mal Hypster emerges from a giant can of fruit cocktail to sing "Pineapple Princess"! “Dance Annette” is staged inside a surreal malt shop amidst breakdancing spoons and giant bottles of syrup spurting their contents everywhere. For "Walkin' And Talkin'", Toby Maxx matches choreography with a quartet of elderly men on candy-striped walkers! A chorus line of life-sized dashboard hula dolls shake and shimmy to “The Strummin’ Song.” Rikki Ninja brings down the house impersonating Groucho Marx while a klezmer band in drag plays “Rock-A-Polka”!

Sir Ambrose texts Lana Suzuki back in Tokyo with an urgent message: “Get ‘Rock-A-Polka’ released as a single!  That song has them prancing up and down the aisles every night.” Corky Clayton’s subsequent single mix of the Tejano-flavored dance number goes Top Five in seven countries! By then, KitschANNETTE has zoomed up the North American charts, landing in the Top spot for two weeks!

Republic USA-5138
Dance Annette (Bob + Dick Sherman)*
Walkin’ And Talkin’ (Manning, Twomey)*
Hey, Mama! (Paul Anka)***
Promise Me Anything (Hemric, Styner)***
First Name Initial (Kalmanoff, Schroeder)*
Pineapple Princess (Bob + Dick Sherman)*
Draggin’ USA (Christian, Usher)***
Jo-Jo, The Dog-Faced Boy (Roberts, Sherman)*
The Strummin’ Song (Bob + Dick Sherman)*
Train Of Love (Paul Anka)*
O Dio Mio (Hoffman, Manning)**
He’s My Ideal (Camarata, Dunham)**
Tall Paul (Roberts, Sherman)***
Surfer’s Holiday (Christian, Usher, Wilson)**
Dreamin’ About You (Goffin, King)*
Annette’s Rockin’ Medley:
Rock-A-Cha/Rock-A-Polka (Bob + Dick Sherman)*
KitschAnnette!
A Toast to Annette Funicello-Holt
The New Archies
with Clitoris Club
*Lead Vocals by Mal Hypster
**Lead Vocals by Rikki Ninja
***Duet Vocals by Mal Hypster and Rikki Ninja
Music Supervision:
Lyle Jason Blossom
A New Archies Production
Arranged by The New Archies
Conducted by Ramsay Khalid Sharma
Produced by Lana Suzuki
Recorded @ Vox Populi Studios, Tokyo
Sound Engineer: Corky Clayton
#1 Top Albums

Republic 51-496
Rock-A-Polka/Blue Muu Muu
(Bob + Dick Sherman)/(Jack Pitman)
The New Archies featuring Rikki Ninja/
The New Archies featuring Mal Hypster
Produced by Lana Suzuki
#2 Pop/#109 Pop

Although pleased by the album’s belated success, Rikki Ninja and Toby Maxx have mixed feelings about it. Will this campy repertoire and stage presentation pigeonhole the band? Will The New Archies be transformed into a kids’ novelty act? Will they lose their older fans? Instead of their usual 14-35 demographic, concert appearances are drawing mostly toddlers and their parents. There’s also a larger and much more flamboyant Gay contingent than usual. Surveying the SRO crowd one night, a roadie exclaims: “Sh*t! It looks just like a Village People concert!”

Mal Hypster has no such reservations about the music or the audience. Whether in the studio or a live setting, he gets a thrill out of performing songs like “Tall Paul”, “Pineapple Princess”, “First Name Initial” and “Jo-Jo, The Dog-Faced Boy”!  His high tenor voice fits novelty tunes like sky fits Heaven.  What’s more, the positive response he gets from children in the audience fills him with an elation he’s never known before.

Ninja is usually the one generating hysteria on stage, and "Rock-A-Polka" is definitely a show-stopper; but during most of the show, Chi has thousands of screaming kids eating from the palm of his hand! Many begin sporting mini-me versions of the goofy pineapple hat he wears on stage. Halfway through the tour, dude experiences an epiphany: He’s found his musical niche at last! “I’ve got a natural affinity for children’s music!” Chi gasps. “After all this time trying to be a Country music star. Who knew?”

KITSCHANNETTE CONCERT TOURBookScanStation-2014-08-25-09-56-10-AM

And that’s not all Mal Hypster has to be happy about: One night near the end of the tour, Toby Maxx drops to one knee and proposes marriage onstage. “I want to be your Tall Paul," he pleads.  "Will you be my Pineapple Princess forever?” The crowd goes nutso!  Watching from the wings, Sir Ambrose Nixon is overjoyed that his longtime “friends with benefits” are finally getting hitched. He celebrates their engagement the best way he knows how: By having ménage à trois sex with Chi and Toto one last time!

This questionable encounter initiates a series of backstage orgies which reach fever pitch as the tour winds down; soon, there are hot-and-cold-running male groupies for Chi, Toto, Sir Ambrose and Hornytoad to take their pick of! The Pansexual Sir Ambrose gets serviced by a few female groupies, too. “I’m a bangers and mash man most of the time,” he snickers, “but I do fancy a bite of fish ‘n’ chips every now and then!”

The very worldly (and just as Chi discerned, very heterosexual) Ramsay Khalid Sharma finds himself shocked at the libidinous goings-on. Touring with the show as music director and lead guitarist, Ram has a hard time keeping his eyes in their sockets! "The atmosphere during the show is never less than G-rated,” he reports to Lana Suzuki, “but after the show is over, it’s XXX all the way! I see people doing their Nasty on benches, chairs, tabletops, even amplifier cases! You don’t dare bend over. Those dudes act like a herd of rutting stags! Would you believe they’re even shagging the security guards?" "Well, one can never be too secure, can one?" she quips.

Although Toby Maxx takes part in most of the debauchery, his heart isn’t in it. Watching his fiancé pig out on sex with other men makes him feel miserable!  When alone, Toto often falls off the Alcoholics Anonymous wagon.  One morning, Hornytoad catches him on the tour bus drowning his sorrows in shot glasses of Southern Comfort.  "I could see this coming a mile off," Toad sighs.

Sensibly, pregnant Rikki Ninja steers clear of orgies and concentrates on his prenatal health: Wolfing down folic acid tabs, eating a strict vegetarian diet, and retiring to his bunk no more than one hour after each concert.  In Kansas City, on the last night of the tour, dude goes into labor! “Ladies and gentlemen,” Mal Hypster announces from the stage, “I have good news and bad news: Rikki Ninja won’t be performing tonight. Don’t worry, he’s fine! It’s just that he’s busy welcoming his first child into the world.” Hearty cheers and applause erupt from every corner of Sprint Center!

But not everyone shares the joy. After the keyboard wizard is rushed to St. Luke’s Northland Hospital, Carmen Serna materializes on the maternity unit's roof. The Wicked Witch of New Jersey has been monitoring Ninja’s pregnancy from afar; now she means to terminate it! With her ebony curls whipping wildly in the wind and her coal eyes blazing fury, the evil sorceress screams a rasping curse into the night: The child must die!

Ten agonizing hours later, a tear drops slowly down the maternity nurse's cheek as she looks at a lifeless fetus lying on the gurney. "It's so sad when they're stillborn like this," Nurse Flo sobs. "It would've been twice as sad if we'd lost the mother," Doctor Angelo Restivo reminds her, "but he was able to pull through, thank God. Snap out of it, nurse! You've got to keep a stiff upper lip for when you break the bad news to Mr. Fonseca." The nurse nods, wipes her eyes and turns back to the birthing chair where Rikki Ninja lies unconscious. The labor was so difficult that, even with an epidural, dude fainted from the excruciating pain!

Glancing over in the corner of the room, the nurse is startled to see a short, platinum blonde woman in a long black dress, with a poodle standing next to her! She starts to cry out, but a burst of rainbow colors flashes before her eyes! She is momentarily blinded. When her vision returns, all the lights have gone out in the birthing room. Doctor Restivo’s voice rings out in the darkness: "A fuse must have blown! The back-up generator should kick in soon."

Suddenly, the whining cry of a baby cuts through the air! In the next second, lights are restored. Nurse Flo rushes over to the gurney; she can't believe her eyes! The fetus’s skin, tinged blue just moments ago, is now a bright, rosy pink. It is in the act of yelling its tiny lungs out, and its legs are pumping furiously! "Doctor!" the nurse cries. "It's a miracle! This baby is alive!"

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Five days later, Rikki Ninja lies happily in a hospital bed, cradling his newborn son. Surrounding the proud father are Mal Hypster, Toby Maxx, Ramsay Khalid Sharma, Hornytoad and “baby mama” Lyle Jason Blossom. Also in the room is The New Archies’ close friend and former producer, Bree Spellman. "Why, he's as cute as a poodle puppy," Bree coos with a twinkle in her eye. "I don't know why, Sabrina," Rikki says, "but I have the strangest feeling that I've seen this child before somewhere . . . somehow! I guess that’s just how you feel after having a baby."

Checking on the new father and child, Nurse Flo walks into the room. When her eyes spy Bree, she suppresses a gasp! "It's the same woman I saw in the birthing room!" she thinks. Sabrina smiles broadly at her, and gestures toward the bed. Flo Koop will tell this story for years to come: "I looked at the Blossom baby, and it was gazing directly at me. I swear, it winked one of its little eyes, waved its tiny hand and grinned! I was so shocked, I didn't know what to say . . ." Bree gives Ninja a nappy emblazoned with the name Nero. Over time, it becomes a (very appropriate!) nickname for little Fender Carlyle Blossom.

Republic 51-711
Promise Me Anything/Waikiki
(Hemric, Styner)/(Christian, Usher)
The New Archies featuring Rikki Ninja and Mal Hypster/
The New Archies featuring Rikki Ninja
Produced by Lana Suzuki
#10 Pop/#79 Pop

KitschANNETTE is nominated Best Rock Album! It loses to Crackhead Mama’s Cocaine Insane, but The New Archies still manage to turn the 2052 Grammy Awards inside-out: They perform an unhinged live version of “Hey, Mama!” accompanied by a troupe of slamdancing Disney characters! Their consolation prize is a second Top Ten single culled from the Annette tribute. More adult-oriented than the other selections, “Promise Me Anything” is a jazzy finger-popper that drips Rat Pack-era cool! Rikki Ninja swings the lead vocal hard while Mal Hypster be-bops prominently in the background.

Jazz band veteran Toby Maxx is justifiably proud of the arrangement he wrote, and its success makes him breathe a sigh of relief. “This hit reminds our fans that we’re not a kiddie act”, he believes. “Waikiki”, the non-album flipside, isn't children's music, either: The New Archies present this ‘60s surf rocker in a traditional Hawaiian arrangement, complete with ipu gourds and steel guitars. Ninja sings lead on this number, too, a whole octave higher than his normal range! “The baby was kicking,” he later reveals. “I never could have hit those notes otherwise!”

In the fall of 2052, Sabrina and her wife Heather are called away from the earthly dimension. Mandated to live in the Sorcerer’s Realm, they’ll remain there for the duration of Bree’s Witch Queen tenure. Salem Saberhagen breaks the news to all her friends, as there was no time to say goodbye. “I’m going to miss Bree so much,” Donna Dante sighs. “She’s like the mother I never had!”

On Sabrina’s behalf, Salem announces her sudden retirement from the music business: “After pursuing a stellar career, Bree Spellman is ready to enjoy the fruits of her labor. She and Heather plan to enjoy the rest of their lives in a remote locale, far from the stresses and strains of the world!” Some of those stresses are sure to fall on his shoulders: Sabrina has left Salem in charge of Witch Queen Recording Studios.

2053
Given Mal Hypster’s insatiable sexual appetite, another break-up with Toby Maxx is inevitable!  “Why shouldn’t I shag other guys?” Chi demands during one of their more heated arguments. “Lately, you’re so drunk, you can’t even get it up!  Where's the damn beef?  I need a stud, not a bottle baby!" Enraged curses send Chi running from the Mad Groovy Pad in tears!  Almost immediately, Toto regrets his hurtful words: “Come back, Malachi!  I didn’t mean it!” But both Mal Hypster and his Groove-A-Cycle are far down the road. Upset, depressed, and weary of constant bickering, Chi decides to pay an extended visit to his older brother in Riverdale.

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Jesse Hipp is the longtime president of Riverdale Music Academy, founded in 2017 by Veronica and Archie Andrews. One afternoon, he takes Chi on a tour of the Academy archives. They stumble upon a long-forgotten cache of song demos, all written and sung by songwriter Neil Brian Goldberg. “This is children’s music,” Jess notes. “I remember Veronica telling me about it. The Archies performed these tunes live for the third season of their cartoon series.” “Why don’t I know any of them?” Chi asks. “I’ve heard all of their TV soundtrack albums, but these titles aren’t familiar.”

His brother places the demos next to an old turntable sitting in the corner of the archive room. “There are no studio versions of these songs, and only four of The Archies' live versions ever got released on CD,” he replies. “There's a hard-to-find fan club LP that contains some of them, but they never did get a proper commercial release.  I’m not sure why! There may have been contractual issues involved. You see, Jeff Barry got too busy to write for The Archies, and he brought in Neil Brian Goldberg as his replacement. It was an ideal choice, because Neil’s lyrics were tailor-made for kids! But most of his Archies songs were heard on TV and nowhere else.”

Chi switches the turntable on and plays a Goldberg tune called “Love Vibrations.” Then another called “(I’m Just) Your Puppet On A String”. After that, “Fallin’ In Love Is Fun”. He falls hard for “The Big Boat”, a quasi-Gospel number. Dude spins eighteen songs in a row! Finally, he turns to Jess. “Man, I really dig this music! In fact, I want to record some of it.” Mal Hypster returns to Boston with a taped demo of his own, along with a concept for his first solo album.

Eagerly, he videophones Lana Suzuki in Tokyo and requests that she produce it. “I’m sorry, but Mum’s health has taken a turn for the worse!” she informs him. “I’m spending nearly all my time with her now."  They discuss Mama Shelly's condition at some length.  Just before signing off, Susu has a suggestion:  "Why don’t you produce the album yourself, Chi? You have as much production skill as Toto + Ninja, if not more.” Dude isn't thrilled with the idea, but she urges him to reconsider.  “I know you can do it, lad!" she insists.  "If you want to cut the sessions at Vox Populi Studios, let me know when you’re ready. I’ll book them for you and get Clitoris Club to sing background, too.”

One week after Chi’s phone call, Shelly Suzuki suffers a massive stroke! Surrounded by family, she dies peacefully at her ancestral home. When they hear the sad news, The New Archies and all of Toby Maxx’s Mad Groovy staff are heartbroken. After the private funeral ceremony, her daughter feels alone and depressed. Consoling Susu over the phone, Toto urges: “Return to the USA! Why stay in Japan? That was never your home. We love you and we want you back here.”

Lana Suzuki does return to Boston, but not to Toto + Ninja Productions.  She finds a brand new job waiting: Salem Saberhagen wants her to take over operations of Witch Queen Studios! She accepts the position, and in turn hires Corky Clayton to replace Yvonne Remy as chief engineer. The daughter of Republic Records' former CEO Alexandra Cabot and producer Alan Mayberry is leaving Boston. “Yvie has worked on so many award-winning film soundtracks, Disney Studios wants her to take over their music division,” Susu explains to her former bosses. “After 20 years of cutting sessions for Sabrina and Salem, she’s finally ready to move on.” They harbor no hard feelings. "Corky is a f*cking awesome engineer, and he deserves that gig," Ninja says. Jon Tackett takes Corky's place; he’s a young neo-Hip-Hop artist that Toto and Ninja have been mentoring.

Mal Hypster approaches Susu a second time, but she again declines to produce him. “Sabrina left a huge backlog of clients,” she reveals. “My schedule is booked up for two years! As it happens, I’m producing a record for Dee Dee right now.” Before leaving The New Archies to pursue acting in 2049, Donna Dante had asked Lana Suzuki to supervise her first solo album. "I can't say just when I'll get around to cutting it," she speculated. "Hopefully, within the next five years!"

 The year turns out to be 2053, and the album turns out to be All Grown Up!  It's a celebration of Phil Spector’s forgotten diva, La La Brooks. Sixties Rock aficionados frequently liken Dee Dee’s singing voice to La La's. “There is a similarity,” she admits.  "Let's see if I can do justice to ‘Da Doo Ron Ron’, ‘Then He Kissed Me’ and those other Crystals hits La La sang lead on.” There’s much paparazzi on hand when the strawberry-blond starlet falls up at Witch Queen Studios to cut her solo tracks!

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Delighted to learn that their ex-bandmate is back in Boston, Rikki Ninja and Toby Maxx text her: We want to work on your album, too! “We’ll shuffle some Crackhead Mama studio dates to accommodate you,” Ninja promises. When Dee Dee walks into the Mad Groovy Pad, she immediately misses Mal Hypster’s giant Afro hairstyle. “Where’s Chi?” she wants to know. “We’re not living together anymore,” Toto mumbles, “but I hear he’s in town.” “You'd better find him and get his country ass over here!” she demands. “I need his help with my vocal arrangements.”  A warm, Donna Dante wraparound hug greets Chi when he arrives. “Even when I ride solo,” she grins, “I want all my posse with me! Let’s go blend some harmony, dude.” So Mal Hypster ends up working on Dee Dee’s album instead of his own, and her second solo outing is a full New Archies production, just like her first one was (the 2041 single “SOS! Heart In Distress”).

Hollywood’s newest rising star has just finished filming the lead role in Get Christie Love! It’s the big screen version of a cult TV series from the mid-1970s. Ramsay Khalid Sharma is a fan of both the show and Donna Dante! He begs Lana Suzuki to let him take part in the recording sessions: “I love the old Phil Spector hits, especially with La La Brooks.  What's more, I know how to arrange music in that Wall of Sound style.”

When Ram and Dee Dee meet, fireworks go off for both of them! “OMG! He’s just gorgeous,” she thinks. “Does he eat p*ssy? He can eat mine right now!” Similarly spicy thoughts are running through his mind. When Dee Dee’s lustrous long hair brushes his shoulder, Ram spontaneously creams in his jeans! “Excuse me,” he stammers, rushing off to the men’s room in embarrassment. Later, singer and conductor spend beaucoup time huddled in a corner, supposedly fine-tuning music arrangements. “You two can’t fool me,” Susu scolds. “Stop mucking about! Studio time’s being wasted.”

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Before the record is even finished, celebrity gossip websites are chattering about a new romantic item called Sharmante! Much to Ram’s embarrassment, the sites also post a nude selfie of him, taken several years ago by an ex-girlfriend. “What was I thinking?” he groans. Mal Hypster teases him: “I used to be a Toy Boy model. You want I should hook you up with their talent scout? Prince Albert piercings are hella trendy this year!” Ram’s revealing faux pas brings out the imp in Donna Dante, too; she downloads his spicy pin-up shot and posts it on her videophone desktop!

The couple’s subsequent dates are 10% giddy conversation, 10% lovesick gazing into each other's eyes, 30% animal lust and 50% mutual love of music. After having sex, they often sing together in bed! Ram’s gravelly voice blends nicely with Dee Dee’s sturdy alto. “We sound so great together,” Ram notes, “we should form a duet act!” She agrees: “Naturally, we’ll name it Sharmante! They’ll call us the new Sonny and Cher.” The notion is quickly forgotten as Ram turns his full attention to Dee Dee's hungry clit!  Even so, the seed of a musical partnership has been sown.  In time, they will appear on stage together.

Philles 00194
Love Rush/Then He Kissed Me
(Paul Sabu)/(Barry, Greenwich, Spector)
Donna Dante
Produced by The New Archies
#11 Pop/#21 Pop

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I Wonder (Barry, Greenwich, Spector)
I Got A Man (Linzer, Randell)
Girls Can Tell (Barry, Greenwich, Spector)
My Place (DeCouteaux, Kusik)
All Grown Up (Barry, Greenwich, Spector)
Baby, In The Morning (Paul Tannen)
Then He Kissed Me (Barry, Greenwich, Spector)
Please Be My Boyfriend (Barry, Greenwich, Spector)
Hip Shaker (Barry, Greenwich, Spector)
When The Right Boy Comes Along (Venet, Wine)
Little Boy (Barry, Greenwich, Spector)
Are You Tryin’ To Get Rid Of Me, Baby?
(Armstead, Ashford, Simpson)
A Woman In Love (Mann, Spector, Weil)
You Can’t Tie A Good Girl Down (Tannen, Trimachi)
Da Doo Ron Ron (Barry, Greenwich, Spector)
All Grown Up!
Donna Dante
with Clitoris Club
Music Supervision: Donna Dante
A New Archies Production
Vocal Arrangements by Mal Hypster
Arranged and Conducted by
Ramsay Khalid Sharma
Produced by Lana Suzuki with Toto + Ninja
Recorded @ Witch Queen Studios, Boston
and The Mad Groovy Pad, Cambridge
Sound Engineers:
Corky Clayton and Jon Tackett
#29 Top Albums

Transition is proving very difficult for Lyle Jason Blossom.  Numerous times, he's tried to embrace his true gender identity.  At the last minute, he always backs down: The prospect of life without his male façade is just too frightening!  After three frustrating years of counseling, he despairs: "It feels like I'm caught between a rock and a hard place!"  Boyfriend Rikki Ninja counsels patience: “Don’t push yourself too hard, mamacita. You’ll know when you’re ready to make the change.”

The New Archies’ aborted Tom Jones project morphs into a solo project for Ninja: Toby Maxx produces an album that strikes a balance between soulful uptempo numbers and the “overwrought ballads” Lana Suzuki cautioned against recording. Standout tracks include “A Minute Of Your Time”, “Daughter Of Darkness”, “Resurrection Shuffle” and “Can’t Stop Loving You.” Mal Hypster writes all the vocal arrangements, and comes up with a bitchin’ album title: Ninja . . . in a Tom Jones Groove! “I’ve got an idea for promoting this record,” the singer/keyboardist tells Chi, “that’s a little bit unorthodox.”

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Dude isn’t kidding: He scandalizes the entertainment industry with a nude promo shot that exposes his intersex anatomy! Ninja conceives the photo and its accompanying plea for Transsexual rights as a combined political and artistic statement. “Since joining The New Archies, I’ve led a charmed life; but the same isn’t true for most other Transpersons in this bigoted world of ours,” he explains to the press. “I want to do what I can to raise consciousness. Subtlety has its place, but so does the naked truth!”

Long a role model for Transsexual musicians, Ninja’s activist stance now elevates his status to worldwide LGBT icon!  Close to home, Lyle Jason Blossom takes courage from his lover's bold declaration:  "You've shown me how to be brave!  And I promise you, I'm going to be."  Sales of his solo album lag stateside, but both it and the nude promo cause a sensation across the Atlantic.  Ninja . . . goes Top Ten in France, Spain, Germany, Belgium and Switzerland! As a single, “Resurrection Shuffle” burns up the Pan-European charts; refitted with a neo-Hip Hop arrangement, the song will open his first solo tour.

Republic 54-1006
Resurrection Shuffle/A Minute Of Your Time
(Tony Ashton)/(Clive Westlake)
Ninja
Arranged and Conducted by Ninja
Produced by Toby Maxx
#67 Pop/#103 Bubbling Under

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Once Upon A Time (Gordon Mills)
With These Hands (Davis, Silver)
Help Yourself! (Donida, Fishman, Rapetti)
It’s Not Unusual (Mills, Reed)
A Minute Of Your Time (Clive Westlake)
(Looks Like) I’ll Never Fall In Love Again (Currie, Donegan)
Resurrection Shuffle (Tony Ashton)
Daughter Of Darkness (Reed, Stephens)
Green, Green Grass Of Home (Curly Putnam)
I’m Not Responsible (Gordon Mills)
Key To My Heart (Gordon Mills)
Can’t Stop Loving You! (Bickerton, Waddington)
Love Me Tonight (Mason, Pace, Panzeri, Pilat)
Til (Danvers, Gaiano, Sigman)
Ninja
. . . in a Tom Jones Groove!
Music Supervision: 
Lyle Jason Blossom
A Toto + Ninja Production
Vocal Arrangements by Mal Hypster
Arranged and Conducted by Ninja
Produced by Toby Maxx
Recorded @ The Mad Groovy Pad, Cambridge
Sound Engineer: Jon Tackett
#82 Top Albums

In late 2053, The New Archies’ recording contract with Republic USA comes up for renewal. Chi, Toto, Ninja and Susu opt not to re-sign. “They’re calling it quits”, their attorney tells Republic CEO Drake Jensen. “They feel lucky to be able to go out while they’re still on top.” Ninja moves to Paris to properly launch a European solo career; Lana Suzuki devotes her full time to running Witch Queen Studios; Mal Hypster has decided to record children’s music exclusively; and Toby Maxx is simply deluged with outside projects! Dude is now one of America's top record producers.

Unfortunately, alcoholism has begun taking a toll on his work. In October, he supervises several Latin Jazz sessions barely able to stand up!  Halfway through the last date, dude slumps over the mixing board in a drunken stupor.  "We ended up having to produce the tracks our damn selves!" the musicians grumble.  Rumors of Toto's unreliability start circulating; superstar Garcy Briseño gets wind of them, and cancels plans to have him produce her next album!

Three weeks after the group breaks up, LaDiva Garland invites The New Archies to sing at the Grand Ole Opry. The Transsexual honky-tonk diva has been a member of the venerated institution since 2045. Naturally, she extends the invitation via her brother, Mal Hypster. “Talk about a missed opportunity!” Chi groans. “I always wanted to play the Opry; but there’s no group anymore! Didn’t you hear? We disbanded.” LaDiva urges him to talk to his ex-bandmates anyway: “Not everybody gets asked, you know! I had to pull more than a few strings. Don’t you dare embarrass me!”

Predictably, Lana Suzuki is in the studio with a hot new boy band and can’t make the date. Donna Dante, an in-demand leading lady since starring as policewoman Christy Love, is busy shooting another action film. “I’d get away if I could, Chi,” she apologizies. However, Toby Maxx is available, and just as excited about appearing on the Grand Ole Opry as his estranged fiancé is. Rikki Ninja happens to be back in North America, visiting family in Puerto Rico. He assures Chi: “A herd of wild cabrones couldn’t keep me away!” Dude takes a red-eye flight to Nashville in order to make the concert.

Toto, Ninja and Chi appear together on an Opry tribute to 91-year-old Country legend Trace Adkins.  Two hours before showtime, Chi finds himself in a daring mood.  "Let's give Music City something to talk about!" he urges.  "After all, we're actors as well as musicians.  If we approach this performance like storytellers, the way Bro taught us to do ("Bro" is Chi and Toto's pet name for Sir Ambrose Nixon), we can make it memorable."  Toto + Ninja take up his challenge; together they conceive a musical vignette set in the 1860s.  No one who sees their dramatic pantomime will ever forget it!

 As Ninja begins to sing Adkins’ 2005 war hero tribute “Arlington”, Mal Hypster enters from stage left; he’s wearing a vintage Union soldier’s uniform. From stage right, Toby Maxx walks on sporting Confederate grays! As Ninja’s voice pulses with emotion, the faux Civil War combatants embrace and begin dancing a slow waltz. Their poignant dance ends with both soldiers saluting a tattered American flag. When the last note of “Arlington” fades, there’s barely a dry eye in the New Ryman Auditorium. Trace Adkins hobbles out on stage and doffs his cowboy hat to the group. “That’s the finest tribute to our Civil War dead I’ve ever seen”, he tells them. “Y’all made me feel mighty proud to have introduced that song.” The applause seems to go on forever!

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That night, Chi and Toto’s love is on display for all of Opryland to see; military gear and solemn faces can't disguise their strong feelings for each other. After taking bows, they reconcile and discuss setting a date to marry. Unfortunately, that same night, a closeted Country star flirts with Mal Hypster in the backstage area. “Aren’t you a vocal arranger?” the hunky guitar picker inquires, casually rubbing his crotch. “I hear you give good throat! Come out to the ranch next week, and we’ll do a session at my home studio.” The record date ends up taking place in his Jacuzzi; very little music gets made, but the singing cowboy damn sure does!

Two weeks later, Nashville’s biggest closet case flies up to Boston for another secret tryst with Chi. Toby Maxx catches them together in flagrante delicto! “Looks like somebody’s got friends in low places,” he fumes. “Sh*t’s about to hit the fan,” cowboy gulps, stuffing a rapidly shrinking erection into his jock briefs. “I am so outta here!”  Mal Hypster's serial infidelity continues to trigger clash after clash with his fiancé!  Afterwards, Toto is sure to reach for his liquid crutch. These days, Mr. Maxwell keeps company with other men, too: Among them, Johnnie Walker Red, Old Grand-Dad and Jack Daniels! Chi and Toto's engagement holds (just barely), but their wedding plans are in limbo.

Rikki Ninja and Lyle Jason Blossom become estranged, too, but not because of infidelity. It's all about Nero! The baby has survived several close calls: A frightening tumble; a near-drowning in his bathtub; a nasty stroller accident! There are other alarming incidents as well. They all have a common feature: LJB is either present or close by.  Ninja is forced to think the unthinkable, and matters come to a head during a painful, screaming confrontation between father and mother!  “Stay away from my child,” Ninja demands. “¡Llamaré a la policía!  You're trying to kill your own son!” Thunderstruck, Lyle collapses into a chair. "Surely, you can't believe that?" he gasps. "I don't want to believe it, mamacita," his lover sobs, "but what choice do I have? All the evidence points to you."

Ninja recounts all the freak accidents, and systematically eliminates every other suspect. Hurt and confused, Lyle has no recollection of trying to harm the boy!  “The stress of gender transition may be affecting me in ways I don’t realize," he wails, holding clenched fists to his forehead.  "God forbid that I ever harm a hair on my precious little man’s head!” Tearfully, LJB agrees to return to Boston and seek additional therapy while Nero remains in Paris with his father. The once-happy Transsexual family is ripped apart!  This unlikely turn of events shocks everyone in their circle.  Donna Dante queries her ex-boyfriend Ninja: "WTF happened?" But neither he nor Lyle will talk about the split.

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Nero in danger!  Gender transition!  
Weddings and a funeral! 
A farewell album!  A tragic accident! 
Say goodbye to Sabrina and The New Archies
in the fateful conclusion of 

“Mama Can’t Buy You Love”!