"Go Go Power Rangers!" and Its Badass Guitar Riff Turn 20 Years Old
Believe it or not, it's now been 20 years since Mighty Morphin Power Rangers premiered, changing the way '90s kids saw the world by combining teen drama with dinosaur robots. It also introduced a generation to the power of electric guitars as the show's immortal "Go Go Power Rangers" theme has become a pop culture staple and irrefutably responsible for the baddest-assest riff in the history of children's television. To commemorate this milestone, we spoke to the series' composer Ron A. Wasserman, who now scores many projects including Hot in Cleveland, about how the theme came together, scoring with rock music and the restrictions of the increasingly politically correct world of '90s children's television. It's Morphin Time!
Saban Entertainment The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers
See also: Top 10 Douchiest Guitarists of All Time
How did you get involved composing for children's television?
Television was nothing I had even thought of. I started playing piano when I was three, and had my first published work at five-and-a-half (a fingering exercise), and after that through school it was pretty obvious that all I was interested in was music. I was in band orchestras, but I wasn't much into reading music and was pretty much politely asked to leave by every music teacher I ever had and told I should think of another career. I played in a band and worked various temp jobs. In 1989 I was brought in to [children's television production company] Saban for a weekend to engineer and mix for their composers who were writing cartoon cues. A horn player blew out three one-minute cues with various endings, and when I asked him how much he made, he told me $150 each. I'm, at that point 30-40-thousand dollars in credit card debt and living in an absolute hellhole. I figured I should learn about this business and get in because if I can pull $450 a night, that would change my life. They hired me full time to engineer and do whatever they needed. The studio had a lot of downtime, and in that downtime I would live and starting composing cues. I offered some to composers to get some notes, and they gave me a lot of direction.
How did you wind up getting the chance to compose the "Power Rangers" theme?
I had been getting the chance from Saban to compose some really primitive direct-to-video [children's programming] that he was buying from somewhere else in the world and re-releasing with a lame score under it. I started cutting my teeth on that stuff, and at the same time he was developing ideas for bigger shows and had been hellbent on this "Power Rangers"-style show. In '91 they brought in footage for a show they were going to call "Metalman" that I banged out a heavy-metal theme for, and that just died. Fast-forward a year later, they bring in the rough-cut opening for this show Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and I remember the difficulty of going "Morphin" and not "Morphine Rangers." One night they came in and said they needed a theme. I asked if they had any suggestions, and they said they had a goldmine with the word "Go" from the "Inspector Gadget" theme 12 years prior. I first came up with that guitar riff, and decided I was going to go, instead of kiddie stuff that I despised since I was a kid, write this for an adult and just do a balls-to-the-wall theme. The whole thing took two-and-a-half hours with my guide vocal, and if you listen hard to that original version, my high harmony is kind of pitchy because I had never sang on anything before. The next day they came to me and said Fox went crazy over the theme. I said "Great, who are we going to have sing it?" And they went "No, Fox went crazy over your theme. You're gonna be the singer on it."
Do you recall first realizing when it was really taking off?
I think Fox, from what I'd heard, had no faith in the show, so they gave it an 8:30 AM timeslot, which is the kiss of death because kids are in school. Within a few weeks, tardy rates were sky-rocketing at schools and somehow someone put it together it was because kids wanted to stay home and watch "Power Rangers." I feel nothing from this other than "Oh, good, this is a really big show." Fox ordered more, and I would score-and-score-and-score and someone said it would be great if we had a song-per-episode, so now songs had to be written. Saban got a ton of fanmail and, while most of it were about the actors, a hell of a lot of them were about the music as well. So, I was the star composer of Saban, but they played it low-key as, which I found out much later, they thought I might go to another network.
Did you hear from any of your heroes regarding the theme?
Valerie Bertinelli and my wife became friends when we were signed to Universal because she became a fan of our band. Every time we would go to their house, Eddie Van Halen would pull me aside where we would be just screwing around. It was a little surreal to hang out with the premiere best guitar player in the world. He actually told me at one point he tried to learn part of [the theme]. He didn't know that I don't play any guitar. Any guitar sound you heard that was impossible to emulate was done on the keyboard. He said his son became a huge fan of "Power Rangers" and said "Dad, you gotta learn this!" He said "It takes me two weeks to figure out how you played that fucking thing, but I got it so Wolfie was happy. So, how did you do it?" I go "You got a piano? It's real easy on the piano." The triplet part I used midi and, I believe, dropped the tempo to play fast.