Kieran Moore – With this chart I guess we’re completing the set – we’ve had a character-based list for a Fraggle (Wembley), for The Trash Heap and now for one of those mountainous beasts The Gorgs. I say I guess we’re completing the set as I can’t see a chart coming for Sprocket any time soon and I’m not sure Cotterpin Doozer has sung 10 songs. It seems musically all the big species are covered now.
Junior Gorg is, as his name suggests, the son of other Gorgs. In this instance the aptly named Ma and Pa Gorg. It’s unknown as to whether they are the only Gorgs in existence or if it’s simply that we don’t see others in the show. I quite like the idea that they are the last of a dying breed. Sure, it’s not warm and fuzzy, but it adds pathos to their characters. Junior’s main goal in life seems to be keeping the Gorg’s garden in order and trying to catch “pesky Fwaggles” as they cross it in search of radishes or the wisdom of Marjory, The Trash Heap.
So, let’s and like good “Fwaggles” and keep your heads down as we head out into the scary wastelands of this week’s top 10. There’s a Gorg a-comin’!
10 – Yes Sir, No Sir – Junior Gorg
Junior Gorg and his dad have quite a fractious relationship. Poor old Junior is a bit of a klutz and Pa is often frustrated by his “dum of a son”. I always felt a bit sorry for Junior as a kid due to Pa’s seemingly heavy-handed parenting and I guess I still do, but now as a grown up I see things a little differently. It’s true Pa has a short fuse, but his blustering obviously comes from a place of love. He only wants Junior to be his best – partly because one day he’ll rule the kingdom and he needs to know it’s in safe hands, but also because he cares for his son and is trying to nurture him. I also think Pa and Junior are more alike than either would want to admit. Jerry Nelson is fantastic as Pa’s singing voice and there’s some fun slapstick puppetry from Rob Mills (Junior) and Gordon Robertson (Pa). This scene as much fun to watch as it is to listen to!
9 – Dum De Dum II (I Wish I Had a Genie) – Junior Gorg
This, unsurprisingly, is a sequel to similar song “Dum De Dum”. Although I think I would term it an “indirect” sequel to be honest as it is quite different. Here Junior laments the fact that Pa has given him a dumb job to do when actually he’d rather be catching Fraggles. This song has a nice steady beat that bounces along. It’s not quite marching tempo, but it definitely has that feel. It’s fun and childlike and fits Junior’s personality brilliantly. Richard Hunt played Junior Gorg for the show’s entire 5 year run and his ability to portray youthful enthusiasm (see also: Scooter) makes him the ideal man for the job. I remember reading somewhere that he had to fight for the role, but that’s hard to imagine based on songs like this.
8 – Doom De Doom – (March Alone) – Junior Gorg, Pa Gorg and Ma Gorg
From “Dum De Dum” to “Doom De Doom”! The Gorgs sing this song as they mistakenly think that their reign over the universe is about to end. I really, really like the heroic opening and closing sections of this song and if it was solely made up of that tune I think this number would have been higher in the list. However, with my critic’s hat on I think the middle part slightly undoes some of that good work meaning it’s ended up here at number eight. For all of their bumbling around the Gorgs are a proud and noble race. They have a great sense of history and tradition and are perhaps more aware of their role in the universe than any other Fraggle Rock species (with the exception of The Trash Heap). “The Gorgs lose the castle” is a storyline that’s wheeled out a couple of times on the show, but it’s always done with such emotion that it really allows the viewer to empathise with the Fraggles’ main “enemy” making the Gorg’s much more interesting as a result.
7 – Big Boy Now – Junior Gorg
I think we all remember the moment as kids that we were finally treated a bit more like grown ups by our parents (unless you happen to be Scooter in “The Muppets”) and this song really captures that. Richard Hunt and Rob Mills do a great job of showing Junior’s excitement at being left alone in the castle for a night. This is a good place to mention how well these two performers combine together to portray Junior. With Richard providing the voice and puppeteering the face and Rob acting out his movements it’s so seamless that it’s hard to imagine this isn’t just one performer. I’m sure after several years of working together (as is the case in this clip) it becomes easier, but I can only wonder at the hours it must have taken to get this right in the first place.
6 – What If a Friend – Junior Gorg
Until now all of the songs featured have been up tempo and a little silly, but this sees Junior straying into more heartfelt territory as he mourns the loss of his friend, Geraldine. The fact that Geraldine is a radish does nothing to raise the spirits of the piece – if anything it makes it sadder. There’s a beautiful simplicity to this song, both in the way it’s performed and its staging making it the kind of gentle, character moment that Fraggle Rock does so well. The darkness of the garden with Junior and his backing dancer plants lit just by the light of the moon really adds to his sense of loneliness. I think this is about as good a vocal performance as Richard has ever given with Junior’s voice sounding clear and bright yet sad and sorrowful in equal measure.
5 – Goodtime Goombah Soup – Junior Gorg and Ma Gorg
I was went backwards and forwards several times on this song as to whether it should be considered a Junior Gorg song or was really more of a Ma Gorg piece. Thanks to Junior’s “dum de dums” (I see a pattern forming here) he just about squeaks 50% of the lyrics so the rest is history. Had this been an ordinary run of the mill song I wouldn’t have worried too much, but I really like this number and knew it would be destined for a top five spot. In my head this works quite well as a mash up with “Trash Heap’s Back in Town” from my other recent Fraggle Rock chart. I might have to explore that. Ma Gorg is played here by Cheryl Wagner (face and voice) and Trish Leeper (body) and it’s cool to see them showing her fun side as she’s often quite uptight and demanding. It’s also really nice to see a spotlight on the mother/son relationship as it’s a dynamic that isn’t often seen on the show.
4 – Dum De Dum – Junior Gorg
I don’t think there’s a single negative thing I could say about this song. From its opening base line (that sounds spookily like a familiar TV theme song) to its comic conclusion, the whole thing is perfection. Why oh why is it so short? Lyrically this is the Fraggle equivalent of “On Top of Old Smokey” (at least the version with the bald eagle), but with a marginally more kid friendly rhyme. It’s just so clever. However, that’s not even the funniest part. I defy anyone not to laugh at Mokey and Gobo’s reaction at the 0:20 second mark. It’s hilarious and exactly the kind of thing Muppets do best. I’d love to see a marching band adapt this with a full on arrangement using brass, glockenspiel, big bass drum and the whole works. Why are obscure Fraggle Rock songs that only last 40 seconds so often overlooked?
3 – Whoops! Feeling Better! – Junior Gorg
This is another song that I can see working well with “Goodtime Goombah Soup”. Perhaps a three-way mash up is in the offing? I want to take this opportunity to mention Philip Balsam and Dennis Lee who between them co-wrote almost every Fraggle Rock song. The way they were able to jump from one musical style to another getting each one near on perfect is incredible. I really consider them song writing heroes and Muppet Legends alongside the likes of Joe Raposo and Paul Williams. I really do think they are of that calibre. This is a fun upbeat song and exactly the kind of thing that I would expect from Junior – a spirited performance combined with childlike exuberance. It’s pretty impossible to listen to this without wanting to join in. I’m currently resisting the temptation though as it’s hard to hold your foot and type at the same time!
2 – The Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore – Junior Gorg
I’d never considered the Gorgs as steampunk until I watched this clip again a few days ago, but seeing Junior in that hat it kind of makes sense now. I’d love to see someone cosplay as a steampunk Junior Gorg! This song features in “Mokey’s Funeral” which is an episode I absolutely love. It also has an incredible hit rate when it comes to the very best Fraggle Rock music as it features this song and “Ragtime Queen” which was number one in my Kathryn Mullen chart last December. With songs ranked one and two I heartily recommend you watch the episode if you’re not familiar with it. Fraggle Rock has some seriously good songs about funerals and death and this more than earns its place amongst them. Junior sounds heartbroken and that just about breaks my heart too. This is a world away from something like “Dum De Dum” back in fourth place, but is all the more effective because of that.
1 – How Wide, How Far, How Long? – Junior Gorg
As you’ll all know by now, I love a ballad and I also love some Muppet philosophy so this song really ticks boxes for me. It’s stunning. It captures the moment where children start to ask about the universe and their place in it beautifully. Richard Hunt sounds amazing and shows off his upper register with great aplomb. He has been a favorite of mine since forever as he always gave his characters a soul and knew how to find their essence. Even as a kid his characters spoke to me in a way that others’ didn’t. As Fraggle Rock went on its scope got bigger and settings for later episodes seem much more alive than they did early on in its run. This almost feels like a Technicolored version of the “Dark Crystal” set. I never pegged Junior Gorg as one of life’s great philosophers, but I guess I was wrong.
Junior Gorg may well be the most important character in Fraggle Rock from the viewer’s perspective as he’s the recognizable child in the cast. He has parents who he loves, but has complex relationships with, and he asks the big questions kids ask. He also likes to break out and be silly. He’s often an antagonist and the starting point for the Fraggles’ adventures, but he’s also the protagonist and must overcome adversity himself. A lot of episodes are driven by his actions. All this combines to make him one of the lynchpins of the series. I’d like to thank Junior’s performers; Richard Hunt, Rob Mills and Frank Meschkuleit (who performed Junior’s body in season five) for their astounding work in bringing this complex character to life. I’d also like to thank the big man himself for giving me another reason to love Fraggle Rock. Junior, your contributions are immeasurable – a bit like you! Thank You.