Kieran Moore – 2009 was a good year to be a Muppet fan. The Muppets were on an upward trajectory that saw them go in just 12 short months from releasing bad TV shows like Studio DC: Almost Live, to having an actual movie in production. Also, their hugely popular viral videos reached what is arguably the peak in the series with “Bohemian Rhapsody”. 2009 was a pretty significant year for the Sesame Street gang as they celebrated their 40th anniversary in style. With appearances on everything from “Food Network Challenge” to “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon”, and brand new merchandise that included apparel, toys, books and DVDs they were everywhere. They even won a “Lifetime Achievement” award at The Emmys! The “Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas” show came back for a second year, Red Fraggle made a public appearance and “Jim Henson’s Possibility Shop” and “Jim Henson’s Dinosaur Train” both premiered. As you can see there was a lot going on.
But, there is another reason why 2009 was a good year to be a Muppet fan and that’s because it saw the birth of this very website! As regular readers will no doubt be aware, this site is currently celebrating its sixth anniversary (fifth anniversaries are so last year), so I thought it might be fun to write a top 10 in honor of this wonderful occasion. I could have written about birthday or anniversary songs, but if there’s one thing the Muppets do well it’s sing about numbers so I’d now like to present my special sixth anniversary chart – featuring all of the Muppets’ very best songs about the number six!
Obviously with a show like Sesame Street to include there’s no shortage of songs relating to the number six to consider. There was an awful lot of competition, but ultimately this song found a place because it’s so much fun. The tempo never lets up for even a second (which is just as well as it runs for just 34 of them!) The theme allows for all of those great circus/funfair instruments to be used. I love a calliope and the pounding percussion keeps everything on track. If I try really hard I can even smell cotton candy! This song is brilliantly sung by Ivy Austin and it’s neat to be able to showcase someone who provides voices, but doesn’t puppeteer. That hasn’t happened much so far in these charts.
I’ve seen this song called all sorts of things (including it being introduced as “Six” in the video itself), but I’ve gone with the Muppet Wiki name. Innuendo notwithstanding, I do like a fiddle – especially when it’s played in this country/bluegrass/folk style. What this song really lets me talk about though is Bud Luckey, who despite not being a regular cast member feels very much like one of the stars of Sesame Street. Animated sequences such as this, along with “The Alligator King”, “Ten Turtles” and “Ladybug’s Picnic” are an integral part of the show – especially for those of a certain age. I could see any of those sketches in isolation and be instantly transported to the Sesame Street of my childhood. Bud is a talented artist and musician and although by percentage his contribution to the show has been small, in terms of pop-culture significance he is quite rightly a Sesame Street legend.
It’s been a while since I’ve been able to feature Kevin Clash in one of my articles so this is the perfect chance to put that right. Up until recently Kevin was one of Sesame Street’s MVP’s and this song is a nice reminder why. He’s a great singer and an enthusiastic performer who never holds back. It’s all there onscreen. He’s always been excellent as younger characters and I always enjoy seeing him play them – especially when they’re not fuzzy and red. This song would make a fun marching song as it has a good mid-tempo beat and strong bass line. It just makes me smile! As a side note, the third kid to leave the classroom (Sally) sounds so much like Leslie Carrara-Rudolph, and Lolly Lardpop in particular, that I can’t believe it isn’t her even though she didn’t join Sesame Street until several years later. It’s uncanny!
From the opening few beats it’s instantly obvious that this song/sketch was written and produced by Jim Henson. I’m sure I’m not the first person to compare it to “Tick Tock Sick” which I featured on a chart a few weeks ago. Jim seems to really appreciate percussive sounds. I guess in essence you could call this beat poetry which has its roots in the jazz music that influenced him throughout his earlier work. The harpsichord accompaniment lifts the whole thing and stops it becoming too heavy and ties in nicely to the baroque visuals. The ethereal sounding “lullaby” from the queen adds a sense of magic and fantasy. That said, I could totally see how a sketch like this could have the potential for a few unwarranted nightmares from preschoolers with its ghostly sounding protagonist and slightly jerky animation. We’ve all got that one thing from childhood that still creeps us out…
Performed for Sesame Street by the vocal harmony group Take 6, this song resonates with me in particular as I also sing in an a cappella group (although we’re a trio). Because of that I really like the way this song breaks down the parts and then shows how they all fit together – it’s something I’ve been working on for the last six years. It’s also just occurred to me that my group (“The Skeptics”) is the same age as this website (Happy Anniversary Me!) Looking on Wikipedia I notice that Take 6 were signed in their seventh year so I guess there’s hope for me yet! The group sound phenomenal – you can hear in their harmonies just how together they are. Speaking from experience you really can only get that from time-served no matter how good a singer you are. I guess that’s why family groups perform so well together. The song itself is a fun mix of genres with jazz, soul, gospel, doo-wop and R&B all combining to really show off the group’s abilities.
Yay, it’s Count von Count! I couldn’t leave him out of a chart full of number songs! This calypso is sure to get you up and dancing… or sitting down and dancing… or… look, can you at least tap your toes… please?! I’m sure if I looked over my charts (can you believe I’ve written over 30 – ah ha ha) I’d find that the most common phrase used would be “Jerry Nelson is amazing/phenomenal/fantastic.” I guess the Count would be happy that he can add another to the tally as Jerry Nelson is amazing/phenomenal/fantastic. I think this might be the most like Jerry I’ve ever heard the Count (this could be a missing track from “Truro Daydreams”), and I reckon it’s because of the musical style. I love that the Count, who is in essence part of a scary and stoic race, is allowed to let his hair down and act against type with songs like this from time to time.
This song just sneaked into 10th place in my Martin P. Robinson chart, but fares much better here. I’ve always loved this style of rock/blues music. I’ve talked before of my love for The Blues Brothers movie and this song sounds like it would be right at home on the film’s soundtrack. I also really like the absurdity of the piece. Why wouldn’t Telly have six penguins in his shirt? It makes me feel warm and snugly that there’s a place where this kind of thing can be presented as if it is just happens all the time. It’s one of the great hallmarks of the Muppets regardless of whether it’s on Sesame Street, The Muppet Show or anything else. Telly (and Martin’s) gruffness works well here and adds an edge to such a silly song. A silly song which, incidentally, was created by two great Muppet writers – Joey Mazzarino, who we all know and love and Mark Radice, who appeared a couple of times on last week’s chart thanks to “The Muppets at Walt Disney World”.
These sketches have a ton of “official” names. Jim created them under the banner of “Numerosity”, Sesame Street has referred to them as “Henson #…” and they are informally known as “The Baker Films”. The songs themselves are registered with the names listed as per the title above though so that’s why I’m using it here. This song series must vie with “Pinball Number Count” as the most iconic non-Muppet Sesame Street moment ever. I have very little experience of watching Sesame Street as a child and even I know them. I think part of why they are so remembered now is that they were easy to remember as a child. Working on the principle that kids remembered adverts, these sketches used well-worn advertising techniques such as showing us people that we can identify with. When the kids are counting that could have been me and my friends. There’s lots of repetition and a humorous ending that sticks in the mind – something which Jim would have learnt through the slew of commercial work he had done previously. For this Muppet fan in particular it also helped that the Baker sounded a little like Kermit!
When I wrote my Richard Hunt chart this song serendipitously placed at number six. Perhaps looking back I was a little bit harsh though as I really think this song deserves a higher position. Ironically enough, because of the nature of this chart, it once again finds itself in “sixth” place! In the interests of full disclosure I will say that Scooter is my favorite Muppet as I identified with him as a child – primarily because we both wore glasses, but also because I wanted to hang around with Kermit all day as well. Richard is one of my favorite Muppet singers and I regard this as one of his best performances as Scooter; not just because of the pitch-perfect singing but the superb puppetry as well. Scooter’s reaction to his teacher needing a “reprieve” is wonderful and I especially like how he changes in presence from the parts of the song set in his bedroom to when he is onstage. Little touches like Scooter’s sparkly green jacket and different hairstyle when performing with the band are the icing on the cake.
This is the quintessential Muppet song about the number six. It’s six-mazing! It’s six-tastic! It’s six-tamatic! Why this song could be “Greased Lightning” (oh, hang on a minute…) I’ll admit that up until now Bert hasn’t really received a lot of love on these charts, but that’s not because I don’t think he’s great. In fact, I think I prefer him to Ernie. It’s really just that he’s often squeezed out by others. That’s one of the reasons I’m especially happy to have him here in …er, sixth place! Like Bert, six is much misunderstood. Ernie points out that it’s really just a way of getting from five to seven (or 18:55 if you will), but it’s so much more. It’s the number of legs on an ant, it’s the number of legs on a beetle and it’s the number of legs on a donkey/penguin/fish hybrid! Ok, so maybe there aren’t a lot of obvious things that come in sixes, but there is a very important one and it’s the reason I’m writing this now.
Which brings me back to this site – I really want to wish The Muppet Mindset and all of its contributors and readers an amazing anniversary. Special wishes must go to the founder of the feast Ryan Dosier for getting the whole thing started and also to Jarrod Fairclough for picking up the baton and running with it. Both of these guys are super-awesome people and have been so incredibly supportive of my efforts. For the last six years, The Muppet Mindset has allowed random Muppet fans (and they don’t come much more random than me) to have a voice in the wider world. When we share thoughts and ideas we can only become stronger and this site has helped Muppet fandom consolidate and become just that.
Traditionally, a sixth anniversary present should be iron so my gift to the site is this:
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY MUPPET MINDSET, HERE’S TO SIX MORE YEARS!