Kieran Moore – Over the last week or so this website has had a retrospective theme as it celebrated its sixth anniversary, and I’m keeping that going just a bit longer. You see I’ve once again reached the point where I take a look back over my charts for the last 10 weeks and rank the number one song from each. During that time we’ve looked at the Muppets’ interactions with Disney, taken a road trip and a summer vacation, run through the colors of the rainbow and dealt with the tricky subject of what happens when a frog and a pig go their separate ways.
But how on earth do you decide which song is the best out of 10 awesome songs? These are the moments where Muppet magic happens. Each has been a deserving number one (and would be again) and the margin between them really couldn’t be any closer – especially as we get further down the list – if your favorite isn’t number one, please forgive me!
P.S. Please check out my request at the end of this article… thanks!
Thanks to Floyd and Animal’s “Dramatic Reading” this is now the second most viewed Muppet version of this song! I’m loving that series by the way so don’t be surprised to see Rowlf’s version of “Grim Grinning Ghosts” appearing on a Hallowe’en chart near you next month! There were a lot of fantastic songs on the Disney chart, but this one took the top because of how wonderfully zany it is whilst still honoring the original source material. It’s an example of what The Muppet Show did best. Spike Milligan is a wonderful comedian who wrote one of my favorite poems:
A very rash young lady pig,
They say she was a smasher,
Suddenly ran under a van,
And now she’s a gammon rasher!
I guess I shouldn’t give Kermit ideas!
Honorable Mention: Rockin’ all Around the World – Muppets at Walt Disney World
Rather than giving Kermit ideas I bet this number from early on in The Muppet Show’s run gave him the shivers! It’s interesting to note that this song featured so soon in the Kermit and Piggy relationship and was already setting out the stall for the on/off relationship that would define it for the next 30+ years. Incidentally, can someone tell me where the idea that Kermit and Piggy have been dating for 40 years came from? By my calculations it’s 39 years and yet the figure of 40 years was all over the media when they split. I’m genuinely curious to know. Frank Oz’s performance is what takes this song from good to great. I really don’t think this song comes over half as well on its many audio releases as it does on the show. It just sounds like Piggy trying too hard to me and I hate it when her talents are played for laughs. There’s a reason the Muppets place so much importance on having her around and it’s because she’s actually very good at what she does.
Honorable Mention: (Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song – The Muppet Show
I love this song. It’s been a staple warm-weather, summer-vibe track of mine for years. I first heard it when I bought the “It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green” sing-along video in the mid 90’s as we didn’t really get The Jim Henson Hour here in the UK. I say “didn’t really” because “The Storyteller” aired as a separate show and some of the other stand-alone episodes were broadcast as TV specials. This song is bright and breezy and has a great tropical feel. I’m not sure it gets much better than Kermit singing about friendship (actually I guess it must otherwise there wouldn’t be another seven songs to go!) I haven’t re-read what I wrote about this song last time as I try and keep things fresh, but I’m sure I waxed lyrical about how when you’re with friends you don’t need a holiday and that time with the Muppets is time spent with friends ergo it’s always a holiday with the Muppets. If I didn’t I should have! I must also give a quick shout out to Dave Goelz and Steve Whitmire for their awesome harmonies.
Honorable Mention: Kokomo – Muppet Beach Party
I don’t suppose I’m spoiling too many surprises by stating that this is the only Fraggle Rock song on this catch up chart. That said if you’re only going to feature just one Fraggle song it might as well be this one (or any of about 50 other fantastic tracks!) In all seriousness, what I like about this song in particular is that it feels like the Fraggle Rock mission statement. Watching the show as a kid I learnt that I was indeed one of the children of tomorrow and that peace and harmony are goals to be strived for. I’ve always listed people who refuse to see life from another’s point of view as one of my biggest dislikes and I think that this show is directly responsible for that. I think the way this song resonates outside of the rock into the Gorg’s garden and the human world is really cool and is a nice metaphor for the way the show affected its audience. This is a fantastic tune with a big sing-along chorus that makes me want to hold my lighter in the air (if only I had one – damn those Superman anti-smoking commercials). I have only one gripe – why does it take so long for the Fraggle next to Boober to start singing?
Honorable Mention: Dixie Wailin’
From the “Children of Tomorrow” to quite literally “Morrow”! This is the kind of brilliantly funny nonsense song which The Muppet Show did so well. Although, having called it nonsense, I must concede that it’s very clever as while the lyrics may sound like gibberish they actually make perfect sense. I’ve always enjoyed songs with quick-fire lyrics as both the listener and the singer must be engaged and focussed on the song, and that makes for a strong performance and a rewarding listening experience. The Country Trio puppets – Jim, Jerry and Frank – are brilliant to watch with their floaty boa hair flapping up and down as they move. Coupled with Jim’s tassels, it gives the characters a great kinetic energy which can be lost sometimes with puppets, but fits perfectly with their high-energy music. Frank’s exclamation of “I don’t get it” after the song is a nice touch. It moves along at such a pace there were probably a few viewers at home feeling the same way!
Honorable Mention: The Devil Went Down to Georgia – The Muppet Show
As we enter the upper half of the chart (which is weird when you consider the numbers are going down), we come to the first song on the list that could probably have the word “classic” attributed to it without needing it to be preceded by the word “Muppet”. I would think most casual fans associate this song with Kermit over any other, probably because of the use of “green” in the title. That’s one of the reasons I find this version sung by Rowlf so appealing. It takes the song and makes it less about the character and more about the sentiment and meaning of the piece. It makes it bigger and more anthemic and yet in juxtaposition, this version seems smaller and more intimate than Kermit’s in orchestration and arrangement. When you add in the fact that Jim Henson performed both Kermit and Rowlf and is still able to put a different spin on each character’s interpretation it makes the whole thing even cooler.
Honorable Mention: I’m the Letter T – Sesame Street
Before watching this episode of The Muppet Show my knowledge of Pearl Bailey started and ended with the movie “The Fox and The Hound” in which she played Big Mama the owl. Since then I’ve come to appreciate her work further and it’s most definitely because of this song. It’s one of my highlights from the whole of the show’s 5 season run. As soon as I heard this number I was taken with it. This was proper music. That’s not to do down the rest of the music on the show, but this stood out because it felt improvised like a jam session between two like-minded musicians. It felt real. It was the moment a spark ignited. As I watch this now it’s almost impossible to consider that Floyd is in essence being played by two people (the puppeteer/vocalist and the bass player) because it feels so off the cuff and unrehearsed. There’s an element of synchronicity to the whole piece that leaves me astounded.
Honorable Mention: You and Me – Alice Cooper
I find that the more I like a song the tougher it is to write about and as I listen to this I find myself staring at a blank screen unsure of how to describe just how incredible it is. You see I really think that this song fits at no other position than number one on any chart. Heck, it could top next week’s “Songs about Exploding Bananas” chart if it were included, but this particular top 10 really has forced me to make some incredibly tough choices as you’ll read below. Jerry has an incredible voice that cuts through me and touches my soul. It’s astounding. A quick count will show that he’s involved in over half of the songs represented here and I don’t think that’s by accident. I struggle sometimes when writing these charts to find new ways across 2,000+ words to say “great”, “amazing” and “fantastic”, but there is no way to discuss Jerry without using those words. In fact I’m not sure they’re enough. Please watch the video linked for this song – it’s a stunning tribute. Honorable Mention: You Gotta Get a Gimmick – Gypsy/Louise Gold
When I first ranked the songs for this week’s chart a few days ago this was number one, edging ahead because of its Muppety significance. I’ll discuss the reasons for the change below, but suffice to say as with the song “Tides” this really does deserve a number one place on pretty much any chart. At this rate next week’s “Exploding Banana” chart is going to be full before I start – although I guess there’s a more obvious Harry Belafonte song for that one! This is performed brilliantly by both Harry and the Muppeteers and has gone on to become the number one musical performance from The Muppet Show for a lot of fans. The way it’s staged is enough to make it instantly memorable with its cut from the dressing room to the stage and how it usurps the regular theme tune to close the whole show. Although I can’t be certain, it’s not a huge leap to see how this song could be seen as an influence in Jim’s later works and it obviously had a special place in his heart as it was performed at his memorial service. This song highlights that The Muppet show wasn’t afraid to take risks and that those risks were well worth taking.
Honorable Mention: We Must Believe in Magic – Crystal Gayle
I’m well aware that having this song at number one over “Turn the World Around” could be considered as controversial – it might even be sacrilege. It definitely feels a little David versus Goliath for this reasonably obscure song from a pre-school show to take the top spot over a song that is beloved by Muppet fans. This was originally intended to be in second place, but in the time between choosing the order of the songs and sitting down to write this article I simply couldn’t get it out of my mind so I’ve had to listen to my heart and pick sentiment over significance. Once again I find myself in the impossible situation of putting the intangible into words. Why do I love this song? First, Tara Mooney and Noel MacNeal sound sublime. Individually they have great voices, together they are on another level. Second, Muppet or otherwise this is a breathtakingly beautiful ballad, expertly written by Peter Lurye. I was interested to see how many people in the YouTube comments of this video cite this as their favorite lullaby. It holds such memories for so many, reminding them of times gone by, whether happy or sad and I think that’s the hallmark of a great song. It transports the listener to another time and place. The Muppets have been there for me through the years and this song lets me know that they mean the same to others. Honorable Mention: Goodbye Song
As I hope I’ve managed to convey writing this chart has not been easy, but bizarrely it has actually been fun as well. I’ve really enjoyed reminiscing about the happier times of two or more weeks ago! I’d like to thank everybody involved in these songs for making my job so hard, but also so entertaining.
And now, Dear Reader, I need your help. Over the next 10 charts (minus a few seasonal specials) I’m going to write a series of top 10’s featuring a different character each week and I’m looking for suggestions of who I should include. They can be from any Henson TV show, movie etc., but obviously they need to have performed at least 10 songs! Also they should not be a character that was well covered by a Muppeteer chart (for example, I love Mokey, but she was 80% of the Kathryn Mullen list). Please let me know who I should write about by commenting here or on Facebook and I’ll try and include as many as I can. The more weird and wonderful the better! Thanks!