Matt Baker – With 2013 marking the beloved Fraggle Rock’s 30th anniversary, the series has so far received a level of awareness unseen in years. The most recent development has been the Jim Henson Company’s new anniversary website FraggleRock30.com, which reveals new or upcoming items. While Henson most often markets the Fraggles as contemporary, this year looks to hopefully be different in at least two respects: a previously-announced coffee table book is in the works for publication with partner Insight Editions, and a just-announced “Classic Music Collection” is apparently coming soon!
Regular readers of The Muppet Mindset have likely seen the “Vote to bring Fraggle Rock music toCD!” link. It sends you to Ryan’s article detailing our collaboration in starting a poll aimed at gauging fan interest in a collection of songs. It has revealed that the core fan-base longs for more music than that offered by the three existing albums. For example, among more than 1,000 respondents, the various questions reveal that about 97% would buy unreleased music. Almost 94% welcome CDs (only 6% prefer downloads) while more than 84% would welcome a single set of the complete library; nearly 70% are willing to spend at least $50 for such a set and over 40% would be willing to pay $100 or more.
These numbers are telling. If a Classic Music Collection is released, would it be targeted to this consumer base? Would it be released on CD? If so, would it be complete? What is “complete” anyway? While I don’t know the answers, I can provide some suggestions: yes, it should be targeted to the hardcore fans; yes, it should be on CD; and yes, it should be complete! As for what “complete” could mean, here are some thoughts:
According to Chris Vaughn’s Fraggle Rock website (researched from the show’s bible, “The Encyclopedia Fragglia,” and now sadly defunct) the original series had 232 songs spread over the course of its 96 episode run. A complete collection would be, of course, incomplete without all 232.
– International music/Traveling Matt
– versions of the international theme songs
– a selection of songs sung in various languages
– “All Around the World”
Extras for a collector’s set wouldn’t be complete without material from the international shows. Album or TV versions (or both) of all the international theme songs would be a great addition, and a selection of re-dubbed songs could serve as a nice complement (the more accessible ones, such as those found on the three albums, might work best).
Essential to the international flavor of Fraggle Rock is, without question, Traveling Matt’s “All Around the World.” The song holds a special place in the hearts of longtime fans and should be released in all its forms. Though the song was issued as a vocal and instrumental on a 45 RPM single in the UK, the Season 3 and 4 postcard segments of the show itself feature a different instrumental recording. This version should certainly be included along with any other alternate versions that may exist.
Philip Balsam theme demos
Prominent in the Season 4 DVD bonus features, Philip Balsam’s numerous–and often very wacky–demos for the Fraggle Rock Theme clearly survive and should be included not only for fun but for historical reasons (especially since they aren’t playable as individual tracks on the DVD).
Philip Balsam song demosThe Down at Fraggle Rock documentary revealed the recording process for Fraggle music: after writing the music and applying Dennis Lee’s lyrics, Philip Balsam would lay down a full recording of each song to serve as a guide for the performers. If Philip’s theme demos survive, it’s logical to conclude his other tapes may as well. How fun would it be to hear him sing some of the show’s famous songs? I know I’d love to hear his take on “Dixie Wailin'”!
Don Gillis underscore musicIt’s hard to imagine a transition to or from Doc’s Workshop without Don Gillis. Despite the attention the songs receive, Fraggle Rock’s musical landscape would be quite different without him; many of the most powerful episodes shine even brighter with just a bar or two of Gillis music. Though much of his work was a few seconds here and there, a selection of highlights–or even a lengthy suite if possible–would really add flavor just as the composer did to the episodes.
The wrap party/Fraggles Look for Jobs version of “Children of Tomorrow”What was unfortunately missing from the Season 4 DVD bonus features was the “Fraggles Look for Jobs” video portion of the wrap party. The next best thing would be to include the video’s concluding song, a modified version of “Children of Tomorrow,” so fans may enjoy an alternate recording of one of Fraggle Rock‘s finest.
The Jerry Juhl tribute version of “Follow Me”One of the best of all the DVD bonus features was Season 2’s warm and poignant tribute to head writer Jerry Juhl. The segment ends with another modified version of a Fraggle classic, “Follow Me,” performed beautifully by Philip Balsam. Its inclusion would be delightful.
Inside Fraggle RockAccording to Muppet Wiki, this release is “a 1993 book-and-tape set, which includes six songs from the show.” Though the songs would already be part of a complete set, it would still be fun to have this program. It primarily features new dialog by several Fraggles (chiefly Gobo and Mokey) which serves as bridging material.
The Animated SeriesThough short-lived and probably not everyone’s favorite, there were only 26 songs featured in the series. They, along with the opening and closing themes, would be neat to have.
Outtakes, bloopers or any other extrasAs it says, anything else would be gravy. Muppet Wiki says the UK Fraggle Rock album features an instrumental version of “Workin’.” Cool.
While the three original albums are fantastic in their own right (as is their 2007 re-issue ), their output represents not only just a fraction of the show’s catalog but little beyond the most accessible of songs as well. One of the many magical elements of the show is the uniqueness of the music to the stories being told. What makes tunes such as “Free and High,” “Just a Dream Away” and “Children of Tomorrow” so powerful in context is, unfortunately, exactly what makes them less marketable as a 15-track single CD. The Fraggle Rock library really needs to be fully assembled as a complete collection for the dedicated fan who not only loves the music but is able to appreciate its wonder as a whole body of work.
If a CD can hold 80 minutes, I’d estimate all 232 songs plus the aforementioned extras could fit on six discs. The songs by themselves, with no extras, would need about five (Fraggle Rockin’ was spread over three). Either way, it is certainly feasible as many similar sets have been produced by record companies over the years. With luck, The Jim Henson Company will see it fit to do the Fraggles justice with a complete collection of songs.
If you can think of any extras not on this list that you’d like to see included, please comment below. If you haven’tvoted in our poll yet, please do! And if you’d like to “come and follow me” on Twitter for all things Fraggle, please do @FraggleMusic. Thanks for reading!
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, email@example.com