Kieran Moore – This is a chart I’ve wanted to do for a long time. As regular readers will know, I am a huge fan of Fraggle Rock and the music is a big part of the reason why. I’ve been lucky enough to feature some great Fraggle songs on my Muppeteer charts so far, but it often killed me that such good stuff was left on the “cutting room floor” because it wasn’t a solo or duet. (My own rules stated that songs were only eligible for the chart if the performer sang at least 50% of the lead.) Here, the only restriction I gave myself is that at least three characters must sing in a lead role. One of the strengths of Fraggle Rock was the interplay betweens it characters and species so it’s a joy to be able to present some examples of what made the show so great.
There really is a wealth of material to choose from and because of that I have actually compiled a full top 20. Below is a quick list of the songs that didn’t quite make the top 10. If you have a spare 20 minutes or so, you could do a lot worse than to check out the following:
20 – Turn Your Buttons Down 19 – Fraggle Rock Theme 18 – Without a Hat
17 – The Fireman’s Anthem 16 – Doozer March Song (Set Your Shoulder)
15 – Sleeping and Dreaming (Leaping and Screaming) 14 – Muck and Goo
13 – Lost and Found 12 – Welcome Back Uncle Matt 11 – Eye to Eye
So while we’re all reeling from the fact that the Fraggle Rock theme only made number 19, let’s get on with the top 10!
10 – Workin’
This is a great way to kick off the top 10! Although the Fraggles aren’t particularly defined by their jobs, they do tend to match their personalities meaning this song makes a neat introduction the main “Fraggle Five”. It feels like a little microcosm of all the best Fraggle songs – it has a Gobo guitar intro, some nice harmonies, fun lyrics, a jaunty tune and a Fraggle choir that joins in at the end. It even manages to feature the Doozers doing what they do best and in an oblique way shows how the two species aren’t so different. It’s interesting to read that the episode this song comes from was the first produced and was the original pilot as it goes someway to explain just why this song feels like it’s running on essence of Fraggle.
Fraggle Rock has always had a way with a sad song and this is definitely one of the saddest in its canon. There’s some brilliant voice acting from the Gorg’s main performers, Richard Hunt, Jerry Nelson and Cheryl Wagner, as they each go through their emotions on losing the farm. Pa is practical and lists all of the things wrong with the building, perhaps in a bid to shield his family from his real feelings. Ma sings about her heart and appears distraught, while Junior sings of his memories growing up on the farm and what he’ll miss. Those of us old enough to have left their childhood home will know exactly how he feels. There’s a wide range of musical styles used in Fraggle Rock and I love that the Gorgs often get something a little more historical. I’m not sure if it’s a zither or auto-harp that’s being used, but it really makes this song stand out.
8 – Pass it On
This song is probably as well known for being in “Muppet Family Christmas” as it is for Fraggle Rock. That special is probably my favorite Henson thing ever and a must-watch each December, but I have to confess I prefer this original version of Pass it On. It has a lighter touch. Perhaps it’s not feeling the weight of having to be an ambassador for the Fraggle Universe and can therefore be a little more casual. Steve Whitmire is great (as always) with Wembley’s “squeetily-boinks” and he seems to be relishing every word and noise that he makes. It also has some neat touches like the moment Mokey gets a shock and drops her rollie! The musical accompaniment flutters around the song like a butterfly, resting here and there before taking off on another flight of fancy; and the choir perform the incredible feat of somehow making the song sound bigger and yet less dense. Amazing!
7 – Perfect Harmony (Video not currently available)
I must admit that when I was putting the top 10 songs in order I slightly surprised myself that this song fell as low as it did, but every song in the top 10 is a classic so I guess I can justify it. This number features four of my favorite Muppet singers – Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, Kathryn Mullen and Steve Whitmire. The Muppeteers are such a talented pool to pick from, but these guys would be right up there if I were forced to choose. Perfect Harmony pretty much sums up the whole ethos of Fraggle Rock. All of the featured species are interconnected and depend on each other and this song and episode are two of the most explicit examples of that dependency. It’s a fun twist that this is all in Marjory’s head. Fraggle Rock do a great line in slightly silly lyrics, but the fact that this is imagined makes lines about babies in their underwear all the more interesting. We’re seeing Marjory’s mixed up mind in action!
What a great name for a song! Every Fraggle fan loves The Minstrels, don’t they? I’m happy to admit that this is one of my favorite ever Fraggle songs. I guess the musician in me can appreciate the sentiments behind it. Music is something that is felt rather than learned; and for The Minstrels is a calling, not just a job. Whether it is music, sports or belly dancing we all have something that we were born to do and I think that’s a great lesson for kids and adults alike. The lyrics here are great fun as each minstrel explains where they are on their journey of discovery. I like that this song is a little more complex than some other Fraggle tunes and that each minstrel is free to do something slightly different with their lines. The melody played on Cantus’ pipe is a nice call back to his previous number “Let Me Be Your Song” and the two songs make nice thematic companion pieces.
5 – Voodoo Spell (Video not available)
Every so often on my charts a song flies in under the radar and steals a place from nowhere. This is one of those songs. As I researched this list it really stood out. Now I listen to them together, parts of this song actually sound remarkably like the previous track so it has that going for it. However, I think one of the main reasons it’s this high up is that it takes lots of constituent parts and makes a massively successful whole. The dramatic opening with Mokey, Boober and Wembley singing in round style is really effective and leads nicely into the spirited verses – I love it when Mokey breaks loose. Then from nowhere we get a complete 360 degree turn with a poppy interlude that reminds me of some of The Beatles more unusual moments. Then finally we’re back in full-on drama mode for the closing few bars. It’s eclectic and fast-paced and more than a little bit random, but I love the mix of styles that each feel like movements within a musical masterpiece.
4 – Our Melody
This song really is amazing and would have surprised no one had it taken the top-spot I’m sure. I’ve been waiting until this song to mention Philip Balsam and Dennis Lee as it’s probably the most musical on the chart. Balsam and Lee wrote the vast majority of the songs in Fraggle Rock and I think they are geniuses. Their knowledge and use of different musical styles is evident all over this chart and yet every song is distinctly Fraggle Rock. They are one of my favorite song writing partnerships and every bit as good as the better-known Paul Williams and Joe Raposo (and just as significant to The Muppets in my opinion). In this song I like that each Fraggle gets an individual tune that is distinctly “them” yet when sung together they combine to make something glorious. This song really encapsulates the whole concept of the show. It makes my heart happy that Boober gets to join in for a bar or two; this is pre-Sidebottom so these are baby-steps we’re seeing here.
Speaking of which, this next song is from “Boober’s Dream” where we first meet Sidebottom, his fun alter-ego. This song could really be summed up in one word – harmonies. Or better yet, two words – incredible harmonies. Oh my! How incredible are these harmonies? As someone who sings in a vocal group I can attest that not only are these harmonies stunning, they are also complex. So much so that even after singing along to this song for years, I still get caught out. There are moments were the harmonies just don’t go where you expect. Forgetting that the first line sounds just like the start of “Shine On, Shine On Me” (though this song came first), this is a beautiful song that just soars. Along with “Sail Away” I think this must be the ultimate Fraggle lullaby.
2 – Dixie Wailin’
Despite being in second place, in terms of significance to me personally this song really should be number one. This is one of three Muppet songs I want at my funeral. The other two are “Let Me Be Your Song” and “I’m Going to Go Back There Someday”. Also, this is one of two Muppet songs that I’ve managed to sneak into the repertoire of my a cappella group. (The other one is “Ladybug Picnic”). And – “STOP THE PRESSES” – we actually recorded it for our upcoming album at the weekend so I’ll be able to add my version to the others on YouTube. And that I guess shows just how great this song is.
This is one of a handful of Fraggle songs that regularly gets covered, but considering the original was never deemed noteworthy enough to get an official audio release it shows just how well-loved and remembered it is. I haven’t yet name-checked Karen Prell or Dave Goelz in this article and this is the perfect chance to do so. Dave as Boober is particularly strong here. From the “sad, maudlin” introduction to its evolution into a “funeral dirge you can dance to”, this song is pitch-perfect in every way.
Any song that topped this chart had to be something special and this really is just that. I love how this song brings together the various worlds of the show; from the Gorg’s garden (sadly missing Marjory) to Sprocket in “Outer Space”, we get to see the whole Fraggle Universe united by song. Even Uncle Travelling Matt is present. The song itself is fairly simple, with understated verses that build to a huge anthemic chorus. Wembley and Cotterpin have voices that really complement each other and I wish they had done more together. A clip of this song was used in “The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson” and also featured in the “Fraggles Look for Jobs” wrap video (now available on YouTube) so it’s pretty significant for lots of reasons. For me, this song perfectly sums up just why I love the show. It’s about, peace, harmony, friendship, aspirations, believing in oneself and standing up for what’s right. Those are all things that we need to strive for. We truly are the “Children of Tomorrow”.
Fraggle Rock was an awesome show that might one day be an awesome movie. Whether that will happen I don’t know, but one thing I do know is that they’d better get the music right. What the 10 songs featured here demonstrate is that music has an important role to play in explaining what Fraggle Rock stands for and that’s as crucial today as it was 30 years ago. So a big thank you goes out to everyone whose talents are on display in this chart and an extra-specially large one goes to Don Gillis (the show’s musical director) and Philip Balsam and Dennis Lee, who actually wrote every single one of the songs on this chart. After all without them there’d be no one to “Let the music play, down in Fraggle Rock”.