Guitarist Tom Dumont of No Doubt says his band likes to take its time in the studio and get everything just right.
But the Southern California ska-pop act changed its tune when it recorded the Elvis Costello-penned song "I Throw My Toys Around" for the all-star soundtrack to the "Rugrats" feature film based on the television cartoon chronicling the adventures of precocious but endearing toddlers.
Inspiring the band was the fact that songwriting-legend Costello himself was behind the boards.
"He was very much into a very basic live performance. ... We recorded it completely live. ... He was very much into the feel and vibe of everything," Dumont said. "You know, we spent maybe six hours in the studio doing it, where normally we'd go in the studio and spend 12 hours and then we'd be in all day the next day to do one song" (interview excerpt).
Costello's mandated less-precious approach yielded the straightforward-rock-with-Farfisa-organ sound of the track, which features the singer crooning backing vocals to No Doubt singer Gwen Stefani's sultry lead.
Costello -- who recently released Painted From Memory, a collaboration LP with legendary songwriter Burt Bacharach -- set the tone in the studio by telling stories and strumming an acoustic guitar in the control room. Dumont said the layered meanings of "I'll Throw My Toys Around" (RealAudio excerpt), only increased his respect for the singer/songwriter as a lyricist.
"The lyrics are written from the point of view of this little baby character on the show, but the way Elvis wrote them, they have this metaphorical implication that definitely applies to adults," Dumont said.
"It's not just a kid's song. It works on a couple different levels," he added. "I can't speak for Gwen when she writes lyrics but usually they're pretty direct and to the point. He has a more subtle way of going about things" (interview excerpt).
Assembling an all-star eclectic ensemble that includes hip-hop folkie Beck, veteran-punk Iggy Pop, rapper Busta Rhymes, new-wavers Devo and punk-poet Patti Smith was part of executive producer Karyn Rachtman's plan to create a soundtrack that could match the cartoon's broad appeal.
"Every kid loves the Rugrats. Geographically, ethnically, financially everybody loves the Rugrats," Rachtman said.
"They have an edgier side as opposed to something mainstream like Barney. They're kind of hip and edgy and that's why we went after bands like Elvis Costello working with No Doubt, having Rakim and Busta Rhymes from the rap world, with [producer] Danny Saber adding a techno twist on it."
For the piece de resistance, "This World Is Something New To Me," Rachtman gathered together artists as disparate as B-Real from the hip-hop act Cypress Hill, to vocalist Fred Schneider of quirk-pop outfit B-52s, to Pop and Beck to lend their voices to the track.
Penned by Devo frontman Mark Mothersbaugh, "This World Is Something New To Me" (RealAudio excerpt) plays as the character Tommy arrives in the nursery to see his newborn brother, with no less than 15 voices serenading his entrance.
"I wanted it to be eclectic. ... Just because you're in a nursery in some town in America doesn't mean you have anything to do with the person next to you," Rachtman said. "Ethnically it's very diverse. Tommy finds out he's going to have a baby brother and he goes to see his mom and there's all these babies singing their first impression of the world."
Rugrats Track Listing:
"Take Me There" (Blackstreet & Mya, featuring Mase & Blinky Blink), "I Throw My Toys Around" (No Doubt featuring Elvis Costello), "This World Is Something New To Me" (Dawn Robinson, Lisa Loeb, B Real, Patti Smith, Lou Rawls, Laurie Anderson, Gordon Gano, Fred Schneider, Kate Pierson, Cindy Wilson, Phife, Lenny Kravitz, Beck, Jakob Dylan and Iggy Pop), "All Day" (Lisa Loeb), "Dil-A-Bye" (E.G. Daily), "A Baby Is A Gift From A Bob" (Cheryl Chase & Cree Summer), "One Way Or Another" (Cheryl Chase), "Wild Ride" (Kevi of 1000 Clowns featuring Lisa Stone), "On Your Marks, Get Set, Ready, Go!" (Busta Rhymes [The Danny Saber remix]), "Witch Doctor" (Devo), "Take The Train" (Rakim with Danny Saber), "Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Yum" (E.G. Daily, Christine Cavanaugh & Kate Soucie).