Mighty Morph’n Power Rangers – Power Rangers

Released: 5th December 1994

Writers: Kussa Mahchi / Shuki Levy

Peak position: #3

Chart run: 3-4-9-11-20-36-49-57-58-X-73-57-X-X-65-X-74

Capitalising on a ’90s phenomenon, Power Rangers saw Simon Cowell recruit a team of teenagers with attitude well-known producers in an attempt to conquer the charts.

Although Mighty Morphin Power Rangers first reached American and UK screens in 1993, it wasn’t until the following year that the show truly permeated popular culture, becoming a fixture of Saturday morning (and school holiday) kids TV schedules. It blended Saved By The Bell-esque high school antics while burdening the lead characters – Jason, Zack, Trini, Billy, Kimberley and, later, Tommy – with secret identities that had them punching monsters in the face and piloting giant Transformer-like dinosaur machines (Zords). The core gimmick, though, surrounds how the show is made. It’s based on an even longer-running Japanese franchise called Super Sentai, where – fortuitously – the Power Rangers’ costumes obscure the characters’ identities. The original Japanese-filmed sequences are, thus,  dubbed and spliced into the English-language series with an American cast (usually) used for the overarching teen plots.

The arrangement is impressively convoluted, particularly when Power Rangers and Super Sentai often use the same material to tell vastly different stories. Yet, considering the number of episodes created – 60 for the first season of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers – the results were reasonably seamless to a young audience who knew little different. In hindsight, there are a slew of inconsistencies and errors, but most noticeable – even at the time – was the aesthetic disparity between the older Japanese footage (from the Zyuranger series), which looked increasingly grainy and washed-out compared to that filmed in America. Regardless, ratings soared; the show routinely attracted around two million viewers to GMTV and thus came the inevitable slew of merchandise. That’s where Simon Cowell – rebuilding his career at BMG after an earlier attempt at launching a record label ended in near-bankruptcy – spied an opportunity.

Among the (many) products released to complement Mighty Morphin Power Rangers action figures as the must-have toy for Christmas 1994 was a concept album. Ostensibly the official soundtrack – featuring music heard in the show – Mighty Morphin Power Rangers the Album: A Rock Adventure also included spoken dialogue and was structured to tell a storyline that loosely mirrored several key episodes. BMG licensed distribution rights for the UK, and Power Rangers  – credited to Mighty Morph’n Power Rangers, for no clear reason – was tagged onto the end as an exclusive track, also serving as the lead single.

This is not, however, simply a full-length version of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers theme tune. That already existed separately, created by Ron Wasserman as a rock-heavy, electric guitar-laden (although composed entirely on the keyboard) song occasionally heard in the TV show during extended fight scenes (“They’ve got a power and a force that you’ve never seen before, they’ve got the ability to morph and to even up the score…”). Instead, Power Rangers is an impressively resourceful attempt to bring together audio cues synonymous with the show’s first season, produced by Mike Stock and Matt Aitken. The result is a three-and-half-minute snapshot of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers zeitgeist in its purest sense.

Although the track differs from Ron Wasserman’s original, it is still very much based around – and extrapolated from – the distinctive theme tune, which serves as the chorus: “Go, go Power Rangers; go, go Power Rangers; go, go Power Rangers; Mighty Morphin Power Rangers; you Mighty Morphin Power Rangers”. It’s great; a total earworm with a hard-edged production that captures the essence of the show in seven words. Power Rangers takes those elements and ramps them up even more with additional drum kicks and whooshing synths while never moving far from the appeal of the source material (even the Extended Club Mix – which surely wasn’t played in actual nightclubs – is essentially a longer version of the radio edit). 

Mike Stock and Matt Aitken put their own spin on the track elsewhere, with verses that loosely follow the format of a typical episode. The first features a morphing sequence likely indelibly etched in the memory of anyone who encountered the show, regular viewer or not: “We need dinosaur power now! Mastodon! Pterodactyl Triceratops! Sabretooth tiger! Tyrannosaurus! Dragonzord!”. It’s followed by another mainstay of the early episodes, where the team combines their weapons by throwing them in the air: “Power axe! Power bow! Power daggers! Power lance! Power sword!”. Fans of the show will understand precisely what is supposed to be happening, for there’s a sense within the song of an escalating battle, although anyone else will likely be left utterly perplexed.

That is a positive reflection of the way Power Rangers has been crafted. Mike Stock and Matt Aitken pitch it in a way that speaks to a (predominantly) pre-teen, primary-age audience at their level and with the right amount of presumed knowledge. Thus, no context is offered for anything within the song. Zordon – a floating head in a tube who acts as the team’s mentor – delivers the opening line: “Contact the Power Rangers at once”, in a booming voice; Alpha 5 (his robot assistant)’s trademark cry of: “Ay-yi-yi-yi-yi” reverberates around the track, while the show’s antagonist, regular headache sufferer and all-round icon Rita Repulsa is also heard screaming: “I-I-I-I-I-I-I hate the Power Rangers”. More or less, all the major characters are present and behave as they would be expected to.

Considering Mike Stock and Matt Aitken are mainly working with abstract dialogue and sound effects, they do a terrific job giving the track purpose. The middle eight features a sudden shift in tone; a klaxon rings, and Zordon repeatedly warns: “Danger! Danger! Danger! Danger!”. A heart-thumping beat ascends until the music drops with a communicator bleep transition into the final choruses, which delivers a triumphant, exhilarating rush that is utterly euphoric. But there’s more because, after the satisfying pay-off, Power Rangers does something unexpected: it ends with a twist cliffhanger.

As Mighty Morphin Power Rangers entered its second season, there would be several changes to the established dynamic owing to the fact that nearly all the Zyuranger content had been used up. In particular, that affected Tommy Oliver’s Green Ranger, who’d quickly emerged as a fan favourite. His Super Sentai counterpart was killed, but Mighty Morphin Power Rangers had no intention of doing that, and certainly not with their most popular character. Unable to shoot additional Green Ranger footage (a replica costume used in some of the American-shot sequences was noticeably flimsy), they would have Tommy lose his powers and reintroduce him as the White Ranger, using a suit from a later season (Dairanger). Dialogue teasing that was specially recorded for Mighty Morphin Power Rangers the Album: A Rock Adventure and reused here. So, as the chorus fades, the track ends with an ominous conversation between Alpha and Zordon: “Wait, wait, wait, ay-yi-yi-yi-yi, Zordon, what’s that in the viewing globe? That is the future you are seeing, Alpha. That is the White Ranger…”. There’s no real need for it to feature here. But it’s a further example of how much thought went into Power Rangers – which far more people were likely to hear – and delivering what would have been a genuine (pre-spoilers) surprise to most of the audience.

The accompanying music video for Power Rangers is a compilation of clips from the show’s first season. There’s no real effort to do anything that might attract a broader audience to the song as a novelty effort. Still, it is, nonetheless, put together with consideration to ensure everything is neatly edited to fit the tempo and hit the right beats. In a wider sense, the visuals very much capture what it was about Mighty Morphin Power Rangers that enthralled young viewers. It had a chaotic energy that stood out as being quite different from anything at the time; the monster character designs are incredibly varied (while being equally bizarre), and the giant Zord fights never look like people in costumes because they’re shot convincingly to scale. There’s no doubt that selling merchandise was just as – if not more – important than creating a quality television show, but the sheer scale of demand did not happen by coincidence or merely as a result of effective marketing. 

Released several weeks before Christmas, there was never any real threat that Power Rangers would be contesting for the festive #1 (East 17’s Stay Another Day and Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You were already occupying the top two spots and would continue to do so). Nonetheless, the track debuted at #3 and went on to spend 12 weeks in the top 75. Despite being released just a few weeks before the end of the year, Power Rangers was the 46th biggest-selling single of 1994 and achieved an overall total of 308,400 copies.

It would be easy to dismiss Power Rangers as a transparent cash-in, but nobody involved was pretending otherwise. The end product, however, is nowhere near as cynical or calculated as it could’ve been. There is questionable worth here as a pop song because it’s mainly indecipherable to anybody outside of the market at which it was aimed. Yet that, conversely, is also one of the most impressive things about Power Rangers. Fans (or their parents, at least) would buy the track regardless, so it didn’t need to go as hard as it did, much less reward them with a genuinely morphinominal surprise at the end.

Post Author: cantstopthepop