Bruce Haack – The Way-Out Record For Children [Dimension 5, 1968]

Bruce Haack - The Way-Out Record For ChildrenA Bruce Haack “True or False” quiz:

Hey Ho Earthlings! Time to check your Bruce Haack Knowledge Quotient (B.H.K.Q).
The following statements are either a) True or b) False.
See how many you can get right.
1. Bruce Haack was born with two left legs.
2. Bruce’s musical partner “Miss Nelson” appeared in porno films under the name “Misty Melons”
3. Bruce Haack once appeared in Mr Rogers’ Neighbourhood.
4. Bruce Haack preferred it if people called him “Dorothy”
5. Bruce Haack had a pet wombat called Boris.

How did you do ?
Amazingly all except number 3 are completely false. I just made them up. In some ways the fact that number 3 is true is the most astonishing of the lot.
After finishing my review of Bruce Haack’s “Listen, compute, rock, home” I decided, in a moment of madness to put his name into the search button on Youtube. I expected to be confronted with a load of “fan” made videos set to his music. Surely, I thought, there can’t be any actual, real footage of a man so neglected by the nation in his own time.

Well, I was wrong! Not only is Bruce there, briefly, but he is accompanied by that great American institution Fred Rogers of Mr Rogers Neighbourhood fame.

Now, being British Mr Rogers was someone I had heard about but not seen. Until, that is a few years back when I first visited the USA and was delighted to find that Fred’s show was still on. No wonder he was a legend. Who else, in the world has a closet comprising entirely of cardigans of different colours to suit his mood? Who else would want me (or you) to be his “neighbour” (I certainly wouldn’t) and who else would sing such amazing songs, songs made to “educate” and inform. According to Fred some of us are “fancy” on the outside and some “fancy” on the inside but, it would seem, everybody, in some way is “fancy”. Well, fancy that.

Anyway, Bruce, in the clip, is demostrating one of his amazing noise making machines to a bemused and somewhat impressed Mr Rogers (“Fred” seems a bit too familiar for such a dapper legend). Swoooosh, it goes, Schwwiiibbble, Screeee… the most amazing Sci-Fi sounds emerge from a thing that looks rather like an air conditioning unit (and may well be one). It really is most impressive.

Here was Bruce Haack with one of his home made machines, before Moog synthesizers were readily available, producing, in real time, the kind of noises you only got on Santa Claus meets the Martians or Lost in Space. It is the sound of the future but, ironically, it’s from the past! For the clip was made in 1968, before man had even, allegedly, set foot on the moon.

There they are. Two of America’s great educators, in their own ways, it is a great moment, a forgotten moment but, thankfully, preserved for posterity.

Yes, education was Bruce Haack’s “big thing”. Throughout the 1960s and 70s he produced, along with faithful sidekick “Miss Nelson”, a series of records and booklets aimed at the education market. I have recently obtained a copy of one of these “Way out Record for Children” and ,once again, it goes to show just what an innovator Bruce was. The music is extraordinary, an exotic blend of fruity juices from all around the world and, rather like Indian film music from the 1960s, likely to lurch from a calypso to funky soul and off to ragaland all in the space of one song.

From an educational point of view, though, I question Bruce’s wisdom. In one song “Miss Nelson’s” children tell a story and ask us to pretend to be caterpillars, then pretend we are in a coccoon. “Fight” they say “to get out”. Well, knowing kids, at the first mention of the word “Fight” there is likely to be scenes of mayhem that would make the battles scenes in “Saving Private Ryan” look like the Teddy Bear’s Picnic. Bad move Bruce.

Then there is the “let’s clap along” game.”We are going to count beats 1, 4, 5 and 7″ says Bruce. Are we? Are we f***! What does he think we are, octopii? Then we are told to imagine we are “The four seasons”. Not, as we may think, of the year but (humour here) SEASONS as in “Seasoning” How fun!. Who would not want to pretend to be salt, pepper or vinegar? And who could resist the challenge of “being” a ketchup bottle and “spreading yourself all over the room”? An activity popular with budding suicide bombers, no doubt.

I urge you, if you have the chance, to seek out Bruce’s work. You may find it on the web or, if you areAmerican, in your school library. You will be amazed that one man (and Miss Nelson) could produce such a varied body of work from what was , basically, a collection of door buzzers.

The Pube

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