If you’re anything like me you’re currently reeling from the news that Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy have announced they’re splitting up after nearly 40 years together (you’re also reeling because you’ve just shelved the 800+ words you’d written on a different subject so you can capitalize on a piece of Muppet news, but that’s a different story.) Kermiggy (Permit?) is no longer an actual thing (though I’m pretty sure permits still exist) and it seems the whole world has gone into shock. My facebook feed is full of non-Muppet friends talking about The Muppets (way to go Ryan!) and I think we can all agree this is a great time to be a fan. It feels exciting.
Of course this is really just a way to set up the premise of the new ABC TV show and get it some publicity, but boy has it worked! This has shades of the “Pig of the Nineties” campaign that sadly didn’t get off the ground (as mentioned on this very site a few days ago) and I’m hoping that someone really has blown the cobwebs off the idea and we’ll see some of it finally come to fruition. In the meantime while we debate whether any of this is canon, I thought it might be fun to count down the top 10 Muppet break up songs.
I guess this is a slightly different take on a break up song as it seems that in actual fact Gonzo had a lucky escape. This song is a British music hall standard dating from 1895 and, as with several other similar songs, was the UK spot for its episode. It could, however, have been written for Gonzo. Not only does it make reference to his love of our feathered friends, it also works with the more melancholy, put upon side of his nature. It’s sung with just the right amount of emotion by the always excellent Dave Goelz. The bird chorus that joins in for the latter half of the song brings the fun into what could be considered a rather downbeat offering and adds a little levity that makes me smile. It’s a Muppet trademark not to let one emotion be too prevalent for too long and we’ll see lots more examples of this as we go.
Is anyone else a little disappointed that Kermit has fallen for Denise instead of Miss Mousey? This was her last major appearance on The Muppet Show and there have been all kinds of rumors about where she eventually ended up, but it would be cool to see her on the new show in some capacity. This song is a good old rollicking MGM number that is perfect for the Muppets and Jim Henson as Kermit is clearly having fun getting his tongue (and hand) around the quick-fire lyrics. It’s classic Kermit and feels a little like a mix of “Happy Feet” and “Lydia the Tattooed Lady” in style. Jerry Nelson has the singing nailed of course, but what I really like about his performance here are Miss Mousey’s reactions to Kermit’s confessions. The pair (both puppeteers and characters) are born performers and this shows on screen.
Unintentionally these first three songs all have a similar feel. As with the song at number 10, this is an old music hall song, performed as a UK spot. (For those that don’t know, The Muppet Show ran a few minutes longer in the UK as it had less ad breaks so there was always an extra, often Brit-centric, spot in the UK broadcast to bump up the running time.) And in a similar vein to song number 9, this features Kermit admitting to misdemeanours against his female co-star. It does make you wonder whose fault Kermit and Piggy’s break up is… This song is one of my earliest Muppet memories as it was included on “The Muppet Show Music Hall” EP which my family owned. Back before VHS, DVDs and video on demand this was one of my only ways to get a regular Muppet fix. The EP charted at number 19 in the UK in December 1977 and I’m sure Santa gave it to lots of kids that year!
You wait ages for a Miss Mousey song and then two come along at once. I guess she was the go-to-Muppet for love songs in the early years of the show. This was also a UK spot – I guess we must really like a break up song here in Britain. As above, Jerry does a great job as Miss Mousey. His vocal has me kind of mixed up because you can instantly tell that Miss Mousey has Jerry’s twang and yet if you told me it was someone else singing I’d probably believe you. His other soft vocal performances such as in “For What it’s Worth” sound quite different to my ear. The exact opposite of a torch song, this was written by Walt Kelly whose “Pogo” comic strip was cited by Jim as an inspiration for The Muppets so that’s a neat touch. It’s nice to see that Jim was able to pay tribute to Walt with characters that he influenced.
Would you believe this is another UK spot?! This might be one of the ultimate break up songs, but in true Muppet style it’s subverted at the end with Angel admitting that she actually quite likes a bad boy. I’ve said it many times before, but I just love Louise Gold’s powerhouse vocals and when combined with Jerry’s rock voice they just become even better. The pair works so well together it’s almost spooky. This is a big number and in such capable hands it just soars to whole new heights. I love this so much that I’m having trouble justifying to myself just why it is only number six on the chart. It’s making the hairs on the back of my neck stand up! The only thing that really lets it down in my opinion is the generic look of the Angel puppet. The design just doesn’t have much of a hook and the costume looks a bit school nativity, but that’s a very minor quibble.
I can’t listen to Paul Williams sing without thinking of Bugsy Malone. It’s been one of my favorite shows/movies ever since we studied it at school. I played Fat Sam (no jokes, please!) and it’s one of those things that’s stuck with me through the years. I just adore the soundtrack. Paul Williams must be one of the world’s most Muppety non-Muppet people. His ability to write music for the gang is near unparalleled (I would at the very least see Joe Raposo and Balsam & Lee as being on a similar level. With songs like “Rainbow Connection”, “I’m Going to Go Back There Someday” and “One More Sleep ‘Til Christmas” he is able to express through song a wide range of emotions and connect them to Muppet characters perfectly. He also wrote “I Wish I could Be Santa Claus” which is, in my humble opinion, one of the most underrated songs ever, Muppet or otherwise.
Because of its unusual setting, the Loretta Lynn episode of The Muppet Show is arguably one of the best remembered. In contrast to the previous song, this number conveys its sad emotion in a way that is actually quite upbeat and easy to dance to. Its staging is quite different too. There’s the obvious fact that we’re not in the Muppet Theater, but whereas the last setting was dark and moody this is bright and breezy and a lot more cheerful. The choice of having the dogs accompany this song fits nicely with the lyrics as a dog could easily feel this way when left at home by his owner, and it’s that kind of attention to detail that takes the show to the next level. Finally, is it just me that worries about the angle of Rowlf’s eye line in certain places…?
This song previously appeared in the number eight slot on my Jerry Nelson chart – maybe one day it’ll be a number one! It’s interesting to note that this is Jerry’s fifth featured spot on the chart. Obviously over the years Jerry sang an awful lot of songs, but I do feel that somehow his voice in its many incarnations kind of suits a break up song. His soft, gentle performance as Floyd works beautifully here and Richard Hunt’s harmonies as Janice shows exactly why they were often paired together. It’s a neat touch to have this sung by two Muppets who are in a relationship as it adds an extra layer of depth to the performance. We all know that Floyd and Janice are happy together, but in other circumstances it could be considered full of pathos and even a little dark. And that’s why we love the Muppets!
I always thought the choice of giving a solo line in this song to Fozzie was an odd one seeing as both he and Piggy are played by Frank Oz. The line could have easily been sung by Piggy or another character so I’d love to know why that decision was made. I guess I’ll never know. Miss Piggy hams this song up brilliantly dialling it all the way to 11. Although she was still only just bedding in and getting a regular performer, this song shows why Frank really was the perfect choice to play her. She’s feminine, but ballsy – a talented performer and a diva who works the room brilliantly and leads the chorus all at the same time. Seeing the Muppets sing around a piano is something I’ll never get tired of. It reminds me that they are a troupe of performers whose ultimate goal is to entertain. This is entertainment in its purest form. Is it just me that gets a bit weirded out seeing Scooter and Janice in what is insinuated (in this number at least) to be a couple? It feels icky! Oh, and by the way, this is another UK spot!
Thanks to its appearances on various audio releases it could be argued that this is Miss Piggy’s most famous song from The Muppet Show. It’s hard to think of another that has had such a wide release. I’ve always liked the fact that Piggy is a diva with an inflated sense of her own talent, yet actually does have the chops (pardon the pun) to be the star she knows she was born to be. It’s an interesting contradiction. In this song, I feel the vocal gets slightly overshadowed by the comedy elements and for that reason I’ve never really felt that the audio only releases do Frank and Piggy justice. This really should be viewed rather than listened to. This is Piggy’s first big headlining number and really solidifies the character she became. How awesome is the puppetry at the start of this song where Piggy goes from a reclining position to sitting up to standing and then walking away? I’m always amazed by that stuff.
I guess “What now, my love?” is what Piggy is asking Kermit for real at the moment. However, instead of feeling bereft and unable to go on as the character portrayed in the song does, I hope both Kermit and Miss Piggy are able to pick themselves up and carry on. Kermit has Denise and I hear Piggy has a new movie role starring opposite Topher Grace to sink her teeth into so I’m sure she’ll be back to her old self soon (if she isn’t already). Her comment “You know what? Dating moi is like flying close to the sun. It was inevitable that Kermit would drop down to the ground while I stayed in the heavens.” seems to indicate that she is ready to pick up the pieces and move on. I’d like to add my own personal well wishes to both Kermit and Piggy at this difficult time. It can’t be easy going through a break up in the glare of the public eye, especially when random Muppet fans write top 10 lists that keep ramming it down your throat.