Kieran Moore – I’m going to start this week’s top 10 rundown with a bold statement: I think that Fraggle Rock might actually be my favorite Henson TV show of all-time. I genuinely think that this show just edges it over The Muppet Show for me. Perhaps it’s the fact that I was 5 when it first aired here in the UK so I was the right age for it, perhaps it’s the fact that it’s totally awesome, who knows? So when I was deciding which Muppet performer to feature this week it occurred to me that I’d been a bit Sesame Street heavy over the last few weeks and I decided it was time to feature my favorite show.
As a kid I always latched on to the artistic, soulful or smart character in whatever show I watched (I guess that’s how I saw myself) so naturally my favorite character was Mokey and as it’s my chart and I get to pick, Kathryn Mullen seemed like the obvious choice to feature this week. I also want to give a brief shout out to my second favorite Kathryn Mullen character, Gaffer from The Muppet Show (I once almost owned a ginger cat with an eye patch, but that’s another story!)
As it happens this whole chart is comprised of Fraggle Rock songs, though it wasn’t on purpose, so without further ado let’s “Dance our cares away” and get on with the countdown!
10. Kick a Stone – Mokey
While Mokey is the queen of the soulful ballad (more on that later) this song has a gentle lilting guitar riff that sets it apart. Kathryn’s breathy tones at the start of the song are perfect. I wish this song was longer, it’s got a great lazy day vibe going on that you just get into when it suddenly ends. It does also lose a few points for using the cliché rhyme “change” and “rearrange.” If I had a penny for every song that features that particular couplet I wouldn’t be here right now…
9. The Joy – Mokey
This is Mokey on familiar territory, singing her thoughts about the world and her place within it. This is a beautiful song, once again cut brutally short. I guess that’s the peril of having to fit several songs into such a short running time each week. Kathryn is doing what she does best here, there is so much emotion in this performance and every word is truly meant.
8. I’m on My Own – Cotterpin Doozer
Kathryn’s other signature character from Fraggle Rock is Cotterpin Doozer. Cotterpin is both different from Mokey and yet similar in many ways. She’s feistier and has a little more spunk, but she is also creative and rebellious and is often the only one of her kind to see the wood for the trees and speak out. They are both also great friends with Red Fraggle. “I’m on My Own” shows Cotterpin’s more adventurous side and this song is classic Fraggle Rock. The lyrics could be sung by Gobo Fraggle to the point that this sounds like it could have originally been written with him in mind. Kathryn is clearly having fun here. Mokey didn’t get a lot of up tempo numbers and this clearly shows that Kathryn was more than capable of performing them.
7. Sunlight and Shadow – Mokey
What’s worse than a sad Fraggle? A sad Fraggle in a cage of course. This wistful ballad really encapsulates Mokey’s ethos for me. Even while she’s sad and thinking of her plight she relating it to the world around her and contemplating the role of others within it. I guess that’s not just the ethos of Mokey as a character, but in part, that of the show itself. This is one of those occasions where a song can be taken from its original setting and still work brilliantly. What can I say about Kathryn’s performance here? Simply sublime just about covers it!
6. Show Me – Mokey
I really like this song. If it weren’t for the quality of what’s to come this song would most definitely be higher on the list. “Show me the light in a butterfly’s eye. And show me the dreams of the Earth and the sky.” are just great lyrics. As Mokey is the most poetic Fraggle I wonder if the lyricists of her songs were given slightly freer rein with what they could have her sing. This song has a Kate Bush vibe to me and that’s never a bad thing. Kathryn’s vocal is light and airy and full of wonder and I love it. It’s also not the first time you’ll hear the word “thimble” on this chart…
5. The Way I’ve Got to Go – Cotterpin Doozer
This is another scandalously short song. If the tune seems familiar it’s because it was used in our number 10 entry “Kick a Stone”. This is a slightly quicker arrangement however to reflect the mood of the singer. As with this tune’s previous entry, it is a great folksy guitar led piece that’s perfect for a lazy afternoon, only this time it’s a lazy Sunday afternoon in the car. This totally reminds me of King of The Road by Muppet Show guest star Roger Miller. How cool is it that Kathryn got to perform both versions of this song and make each sound original and unique? Super-cool, that’s how cool!
4. Why? – Mokey (song starts at 3:33)
I actually feel a bit mean putting this song as low as number 4. It kind of feels like Mokey’s unofficial theme song. It’s thoughtful and introspective, yet as with previous entries when Mokey is thoughtful and introspective it’s mostly with regard to her place in the wider universe. I’ve loved this song for years – I guess on a certain level it speaks to me personally. I think at times we’ve probably all asked these kinds of questions so this isn’t just a beautiful song it’s one that is totally relatable. It hasn’t been mentioned yet in this chart, but it blows my mind that what is essentially a kids show can have such thoughtful, poignant moments that ask such grown up questions. I know the hallmark of the best Jim Henson creations is that they can be enjoyed by all ages, but for me this show falls firmly between The Muppet Show and Sesame Street in terms of core audience age. I love that both Fraggle Rock and Sesame Street aren’t afraid to touch on such big subjects. Unlike some of the songs on the chart this is a proper length song coming in at around 3 minutes and Kathryn sounds amazing for every single second. This is a true tour de force.
3. Beetle Song – Mokey, Red & Gobo
I must admit that when I decided to feature Kathryn in this week’s chart this was the first song I thought of. I’ve loved this song since I first owned the Fraggle Rock Songs video back in the 80’s. I say “first owned” as I was given it again recently as a birthday gift (thanks Mum!). I wish I could persuade someone to sing this with me. I actually don’t know where to begin in my praise for this song. I love the instrumental arrangement, I love the spotlight it gives to the Mokey and Red friendship, I love the fun lyrics (did they really say “dirty otters”?), I love the performances by Kathryn and Karen as Mokey is cool, calm and collected and Red gets more and more flustered, I love Red with her hair down, I love the way it starts slowly and builds…. There’s just one thing I don’t like (and it will come up again) and that’s how Gobo “I’ll finish your song for you” Fraggle decides to pop up and join in for the last couple of lines. Why? It’s not needed and is the only minus this song has in my opinion.
2. Sail Away – Mokey, Gobo & Wembley (AKA Moon Lullaby)
Gobo “I’ll finish your song for you” Fraggle strikes again! At least this time he participates in more of the song, but Kathryn sings this song so beautifully that I feel affronted on her behalf that she doesn’t get to finish it. I guess it’s too late to storm The Henson Company with pitchforks to demand they re-shoot it. Oh well, let’s dwell on the positive instead and what a lot of positive there is. This song was so very, very nearly number 1 on the chart and if there wasn’t an iconic Mokey song to come it probably would have been. Kathryn sings this song to perfection. Her vocal style works brilliantly for a lullaby. The harmonies are lush and full and the song’s arrangement with the flute accompaniment is superb. I haven’t yet mentioned Philip Balsam and Dennis Lee who wrote not just this song, but most likely every Fraggle Rock song you’ve ever found yourself humming in the shower (please say it’s not just me). They totally deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Paul Williams and Joe Raposo as Muppet Music Maestros. When my acapella group were looking for a Fraggle Rock song to sing this was a very strong contender (we ultimately chose Dixie Wailin’).
1. Ragtime Queen – Mokey
Mokey’s Funeral is a classic episode of Fraggle Rock and this song in my opinion is also a Fraggle Rock classic. Kathryn sounds great here – again it’s a beautiful vocal that showcases her higher register fantastically, but unlike most other Mokey ballads her fun side comes to the fore here and this allows for a lighter, less serious delivery. This is as much as great vocal performance as an example of Kathryn’s outstanding acting or puppetry. There’s a real subtlety in this song. I know I’ve name checked her before, but if someone told me that this was a Kate Bush song I would believe them. I wish Fraggle Rock had released a few more singles while it was on air as I could totally imagine this as a standalone release. Aside from the actual song it’s interesting that Mokey calls Rags “pretty” when she was made in her own image. What does this say about Mokey’s ego? We know that she can be introspective from earlier entries, but it’s usually in relation to the wider world. Does this statement show another side to her character? Am I reading too much into it? Is she just having fun? Can Batman and The Boy Wonder escape The Joker’s clutches? I just don’t know.
As is now customary I’d like to end by saying a personal thanks to Kathryn for being a part of one of the most amazing TV shows ever made. You helped me find myself (as a child and an adult), you helped me find the good in everything I see, you helped me find my place in the world and you helped me dream of a better one. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.