Nobody else seems to remember the far-out, short-lived General Mills cereal, Melting Sugar Shrieks that hit the market on Halloween, 1970. This odd product was recalled in December, 1970 due to concern over the bright, multi-colored stool produced by the psychedelic dyes.
I remember Melting Sugar Shrieks.
I remember my mother bringing them home and I remember ohwowing at the mind-blowing box for hours. Melting Sugar Shrieks was both the name of the cereal and a cartoon quartet of stoned-looking rabbits with electric guitars, grooving in a giant bowl of cereal, up to their bony knees in rainbow-flavored milk. The rabbits had names: Hap, Krumple, Suze, and Speed. The box was decorated with bright, infinitely-detailed Peter Max-type trippy visuals. The prize was a cardboard record by the fictitious, all-bunny “group” that you had to cut from the back of the package. The name of the single was, Sleep Feather Banana, a mysterious title that triggered my interest to a keen-edged ache. What could that possibly mean? I had to find out.
My mom told me that only after I finished the cereal could I listen to the record.
So, I had a mission.
The next day was Saturday and I woke up early (I got up early anyway to watch cartoons) determined to eat the entire box of Melting Sugar Shrieks in one sitting and then listen to Sleep Feather Banana.
I poured the cereal into a plastic bowl and studied the pieces like an ardent archeologist. As ridiculous as it may sound, I swear every individual piece of cereal was a different shape and color. Hundreds of strange, individual bits: a light blue crescent moon with a smiling profile, a yellow windowpane, an emerald leaf, a white marshmallow cloud, a wilting red rose, an orange jacko-lantern, a brown book with the tiny word, Love etched into the cover; hundreds of others. It was astonishing. A mass-produced masterpiece. I recall an olive-green army helmet with a peace sign – a miniature Vietnam protest. It was all pretty heavy…
I turned the TV on to Sabrina and the Groovie Goolies, and then poured milk over this starch-and-sugar masterwork and began to eat. It was crunchy and had a strange taste, with flavors as varied as the shapes and colors: fruit, chocolate, honey, vanilla, cinnamon, peanut butter – all melting together into an unfamiliar outer-space taste. Some atypical flavors I detected were: banana, root beer, coconut, lemon, peppermint and butterscotch. Other flavors remained mysteries. The overriding experience, though, was sugar. The cereal was sweet almost to the point of migraine. It was like mainlining corn syrup, and after only two bowls my head was zooming, my vision beginning to glisten.
I poured a third bowl.
Then a fourth.
I had to hear that record.
By the time I dumped out the last of the Melting Sugar Shrieks, my heart was hammering, my teeth grinding, and my sight so sparkly I almost missed the extra bonus surprise that tumbled into my bowl – a tiny booklet! The lyrics to Sleep Feather Banana!
I rescued the booklet and then padded into the kitchen for scissors.
I had to keep the volume low on the stereo – my parents were still sleeping in the next room. I placed the cardboard record on the turntable, my hands shaking from the sugar that ran like radioactivity through my system.
I moved the needle over. Sleep Feather Banana began.
A low feedback drone quickly accelerated into a catchy bubblegum song. Lots of wah wah pedal. I remember a tambourine, played by the female bunny, Suze, the only member of The Melting Sugar Shrieks without a guitar. Hap was the singer, with a high, helium voice. I remember thinking that the song was so catchy and succinct that it sounded as sickeningly sugary as the candy-like cereal that spawned it.
But when the song reached what passed for the bridge, all the instruments twisted together like taffy, stretching and ascending into a crescendo that clamped like a perfect, sonic puzzle-piece into the dizzying, sugar-induced headrush sweeping through me. A mosaic of jeweled light pierced the center of my brain with a whirling, razor-edged vortex of reverberation and my mind merged with the revolving cardboard disk for a few seconds, causing multicolored candy galaxies to burst and scatter in my fading peripheral vision. For a few seconds, I thought I was going to faint. A multiverse of flashback flavors tripped off my tastebuds, morphed into sound, and then faded into distant wind.
When the song finally gathered itself together and resumed as before – catchy and crispy – I was left lying on the floor, gasping and spent.
The needle clicked to a stop. I removed the record from the turntable and threw it away with the box. I didn’t want to hear it again. Ever. My hands didn’t stop shaking until Groovie Goolies was over.
I never did figure out what Sleep Feather Banana meant, if anything.
Lyrics to Sleep Feather Banana:
Above the chocolate stairway
The lemon gate is wide
Your taste turns into color
Candy apple anagram
Ghosts of maple syrup
Fig strings are unstrung
Sink into the bowl
Chewy cherry chimpanzee
And gooey-flavored soul
Hank Kirton was born in Arkansas. He is the author of The Membranous
Lounge, Conservatory of Death and Bleak Holiday. He lives and works in