Kieran Moore – If I had a time machine and/or millions of dollars I’d go back in time and stop “Muppets from Space” from being made. Not because I don’t like it (though I’ll admit it’s my least favorite Muppet flick), but because what I really want is a “Pigs in Space” film instead. How cool would it have been to see First Mate Piggy, Dr. Julius Strangepork and today’s subject, the intrepid and well-fed, Captain Link Hogthrob up on the big screen? I’d love to have seen the crew crash land on planet Koozbane and in the process mercilessly lampoon Star Trek, Star Wars and all those other great space franchises. Kermit can be on the planet in reporter guise and a love triangle would ensue with him, Piggy and Link. The rest of the gang can be on a Koozbanian outpost and the whole thing will be 90 minutes of Sci-Fi gloriousness.
Back on Earth, although Link is a part of two of The Muppet Show’s biggest recurring skits (see also: Bear on Patrol) and better known generally for his acting roles, he actually has a decent smattering of musical performances under his belt and is a pretty accomplished singer as we’re about to find out…
I guess it’s fitting that this song kicks off our chart as it is actually Link’s first ever musical performance. I guess Link was probably added to the show’s list of characters in the second season to help expand Piggy’s role with Pigs in Space, but it seems obvious right from the start that Jim Henson is having a blast performing him and I think that’s why his role slowly expanded. Jim always seemed to particularly enjoy pricking away at people who take themselves too seriously and Link was ripe for that kind of treatment as a pretty boy jock with an over inflated ego. This piece sets that stall out nice and early as Link channels Wayne and Wanda and only gets one line into the song before the trees onstage have had enough. It makes me wonder if Link was also being eyed up as a replacement for them.
I love The Rhyming Song! It’s superbly silly and absolutely absurd. I really enjoy its cobbled together nature. I’ve often wondered whether the song is supposed to not rhyme even if it’s well-rehearsed or if its off-the-cuff performance is the reason it doesn’t make sense. I like to think it’s the former as that makes it even more nonsensical. Link is great fun here. He does a fantastic line in looking like he doesn’t know what’s going on at the best of times so he’s the perfect choice for this. In fact all four characters are well suited to this song in their own way. I especially enjoy the opening of the song where Link is caught unawares at the back of the stage. Jim is perfect at those understated moments. I’ve often thought about doing this song with my a cappella group, I think it would go down brilliantly!
You know what’s surprising me as I write these charts? How often Sam the Eagle features! For a character that isn’t a much of a singer he sure is part of a lot of musical moments. Link is more of a background player here, but this is probably his most culturally significant singing role. The Muppets covering Smells like Teen Spirit was inspired and this is one of my favorite tracks from the movie. It’s just so Muppety. As I mentioned above I sing in an a cappella group so I know the work that would have gone into this. It’s no mean feat! Steve Whitmire is pulling double duty as Link and Beaker and is doing a wonderful job. Since Jim’s passing Link hasn’t been around much, but it’s good to know he’s in safe hands. Can a Muppet be in safe hands or is a safe hand in a Muppet? Furthermore, if a Muppet’s in a forest and it falls down does anyone hear it if a train leaves Chicago at 2 p.m. travelling at 75 mph? I just don’t know. A big shout out to Bill Barretta and Eric Jacobson as Rowlf and Sam respectively is also due.
This song reminds me of my mother as for some reason she sings it on a regular basis! It could have been written for Link. In fact, I bet he thinks this song is about him (or maybe that’s something else)! All of the best Muppets have flaws of some sort and vanity seems to be Link’s. As with Miss Piggy, I don’t think it’s completely unjustified though, he does have talent for what he does even if it does often go wrong. We know Kermit isn’t against firing people so he must be doing something right. This song has a gentle lilt to it that I really like and it reminds me a little of Roger Miller. Mac Davis’ voice has a great country twang, but if I’m honest I don’t think Link’s does. As you’ll see later on he can sing with the best of them, but I’m not sure country is his genre. Any Muppet song that ends in a group sing is fine by me though so it gets bonus points for that.
This is a song that I very seriously tried to get my group singing a few years ago when we had to perform some songs of the sea for an event. It never made it off the starting block, but I really think we could have done a super job of it. I was surprised to learn it wasn’t a medley as it certainly has that sound feel. However, it was written by Abe Burrows whose music appeared several times on The Muppet Show, most notably in episode 219 where three of his songs are performed. Jim must have been a fan as Abe’s music is also heavily featured on Rowlf’s “Ol’ Brown Ears is Back” album. Each of the show’s five main performers (Jim Henson, Richard Hunt, Frank Oz, Dave Goelz and Jerry Nelson) are present here and their voices blend very nicely together straddling the line between male voice choir and rabble rousing chorus perfectly.
This song has cemented itself in my psyche because a clip of it was used for the trailer to “The Kermit and Piggy Story” VHS release. I would see it every time I watched “Gonzo Presents Muppet Weird Stuff” or “Fozzie’s Muppet Scrapbook”. Funnily enough it was actually the faster part of the song where the animals sing that was used for the trailer. Perhaps they wanted to downplay the romantic side of the video? Both Piggy and Link are on great form here vocally with both of them playing up the melodramatic feel of the song. The set for this number is gorgeous and has a scope that is not seen much on The Muppet Show. The lush feeling given by the jungle setting seems almost opulent and calls to mind movies like “The African Queen” which is a neat touch.
This medley features the songs “My Hero”, “Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life”, “Serenade” and “Stout-hearted Men”. I have to admit that as a guy from the UK who was born in the 1970s my knowledge of Cloris Leachman was very limited so the first time I heard this, her amazing voice really blew me away. I had no idea she could sing like this! This song exemplifies what The Muppet Show did best. It takes a guest star and allows them to do something unexpected; it features artistic content performed in a way that makes it seem important yet accessible; and it wraps the whole package in a bundle of fun. Pigs singing operetta is funny and yet this in no way feels throwaway or light. This is the kind of singing that Link excels at and shows that despite a goofy and vacuous demeanour he has some serious musical “chops”.
This song feels like it could have been written for Link! It makes me laugh to see it follow up the previous one. I’m not sure they could be much more different! I like the pairing of Link and Gonzo in this number. It’s a fun matchup that we don’t see very often, if at all outside of this number. As we get further up the chart we are hearing Link sing more and more and here he shows off his leading man status with a cool, assured performance that really works. You can tell that he’s having fun. Gonzo looks perfect in his artistic garb – it’s a look he can really pull off! After watching this I think my new catchphrase might be “Come on, fight like a shirt!” Once again, Link is on the losing end of the scale here as he and his fellow pigs are beaten to submission by Gonzo and the chickens. In the Muppet world I can totally see how that works!
Although it’s not number one on the chart, this song really feels like Link’s best musical moment in terms of vocals. He and Piggy sound incredible here. I mentioned above that they both had the “chops” to do what they do and this song is the proof of that. For all the clowning around and upstaging that goes on during this piece, Jim Henson and Frank Oz have rarely sung better and this shows serious musicianship. It would be remiss of me not to praise the awesome comedy talents of Jim and Frank however. They are truly one of the greatest TV comedy duos ever in my opinion. They know instinctively how to react to make their counterpart raise their game. It’s all over this song with just the tiniest look or mouth movement making such a difference. This piece feels a little like an undiscovered gem when compared to something like “The comedian’s a bear”, but it’s every bit as good.
There really were no other options for the number one spot than this song. Apart from the fact that it’s Link’s only proper solo song, it’s also a rare emotionally tender moment from a character that is much better known for comedy. Jim sounds fantastic and really squeezes every bit of feeling from the lyrics. Brian Henson is quoted as saying of Link’s voice “As a kid, whenever my dad did some stereotypical fatherly chore, like carving the Thanksgiving turkey, that would be the voice he would use” so it seems especially perfect that a song about fatherhood is number one on the chart. The joke about his “son” one day growing up and being a football feels like a rare misstep for The Muppet Show and doesn’t really match the tone of the number. Perhaps it seems worse because he’s talking to a real pig rather than a Muppet, but otherwise this song is just about perfect.
Those of you who read my charts regularly will know that I’m selecting characters at random from a CD case full of names and I must admit that I threw Link’s name in for fun at the last minute because I wanted another Jim Henson character in the mix. I must say though I’m glad I did as it’s given me a new insight into a character I’d never properly considered before. Sure he’s vain and air-headed, but he’s also good at what he does and has a softer side that he shows only when his guard is down. In the new show “The Muppets (2015)” we’ve seen Piggy with a human love interest, but I’d love to see Link brought in to add a new dimension to the Piggy/Kermit/Denise dynamic even just for a few episodes to bring new life into the story once it inevitably wears thin. Perhaps Kermit can have a Ross/Rachel epiphany only to find that Piggy has “Linked” up elsewhere. Whatever the future holds for Link, I’d like to thank him for his contribution to the Muppet gang. He’s a trouper and a trooper and there’s no more Muppety quality than that.