Flashback: The 'Ninja Turtles' (Briefly) Become Rock Stars - Rolling Stone
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Flashback: The ‘Ninja Turtles’ (Briefly) Become Arena Rock Stars In 1990

Who could forget such amazing TMNT songs as ‘Pizza Power’ and ‘Cowabunga?’

There’s a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie coming out this weekend, but it’s clear that no matter how hard they market this thing they’ll never come close to replicating the madness surrounding all things TMNT back in 1990. That was back when action figures were flying off the shelves, the cartoon series was a ratings juggernaut and the original movie earned over $200 million on a scant $13.5 million budget, making it one of the highest-grossing independent film of all time.

Not content to merely bask in the unimaginable fortune created by an off-kilter series about pizza-eating ninja turtles, the good people behind the phenomenon decided to turn the characters into rock stars. That summer they hit the road for the “Coming Out Of Their Shells” tour, complete with songs like “Cowabunga,” “Count On Us,” “Tubin'” and “April’s Ballad.” In a bizarre irony, their arch nemesis Shredder sang a song called “I Hate Music.”

The tour went all around the country, even hitting Larry King Live, The Oprah Winfrey Show and Live! With Regis & Kathie Lee. Here’s their performance of “Pizza Power” from their pay-per-view broadcast. For those wondering, Donatello plays keys, Michelangelo plays guitar and sings lead, Leonardo is on bass and Raphael handles drums and the sax. In reality, of course, they were miming to pre-recorded tracks. There was also a thin plot where Shredder attempted to shut down the show. As always, his plan failed. That guy is about zero for 2,000 when it comes to evil plans, but he never gives up.

The Coming Out Of Their Shells tour wasn’t the most successful TMNT endeavor of the 1990s, and when it came time for the second movie in 1991 they wisely let Vanilla Ice handle the music. It was a smart choice and, strangely enough, his song “Ninja Rap” has become had one of the most enduring legacies of anything related to the Turtles.


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