Kieran Moore – Gonzo/The Great Gonzo/Gonzo the Great is a Muppet who really needs no introduction. Which is just as well as how do you introduce one of the best known Muppets around? What about this…
There’s a Muppet you know –
He’s kind of blue and
Gonzo is his name and he is a
Tour de Force.
Gonzo is best known for his appearances
On The Muppet Show where he’s
Noted for his soulful singing and
Oh, and he plays a mean trumpet!
(I do hope Gonzo appreciates my acrostic poem and thinks it’s suitably artistic and silly!)
10 – My Way – The Great Gonzo – The Muppet Show
I know that this is a fan favorite, but if I’m honest I’ve never really liked the song My Way very much regardless of who was singing it. I will say though that I think this is about as good as the song has ever sounded. For me, this gets extra points (and thereby a place on the chart) for its touching conclusion with Kermit. Having recently watched “The Muppets” episode “Pigs in a Blackout” I’m reminded of the scene between Gonzo and Scooter which is equally as touching and another quiet moment between two Muppets away from the chaos of the show. Gonzo looks so small on the big empty stage that hosts this performance – it really adds to the feeling of isolation that goes with the song. We’ve all had times where we’ve been torn between staying and going and this moment captures that emotion perfectly.
9 – Workin’ at the Car Wash Blues – The Great Gonzo & Chickens – The Muppet Show
Placing this song straight after the last certainly shows Gonzo’s range as musically they really couldn’t be more different. This up tempo number sees Gonzo backed by his favorite animal – chickens! It seems absolutely perfect that a character who revels in his weirdness would have a penchant for poultry. And it’s made even better by the fact that this attraction was added by the writers after an ad-libbed line from performer Dave Goelz caught their imagination. This song was written by Jim Croce whose music was used several times by the Muppets including Jim Henson’s stunning performance in “Time in a Bottle”. Although written early in the 1970s this version adds a Disco-light vibe to its original mellow Blues tones that places it firmly in the Muppet Show era. I think this song is great and I just had to have it in my top 10 – so here it is!
8 – Memory Lane – The Great Gonzo – The Muppet Show
I love the pairing of Gonzo and Rowlf here. It’s a team up we don’t see enough of. The interplay between them during the song’s instrumental section is minimal, but genuinely funny. Speaking of Rowlf, this song also appears on his album “Ol’ Brown Ears is Back” (unavailable at all good record stores). This nonsense song actually kind of makes sense for a character like Gonzo whose origins are shrouded in mystery. After all, a person who addresses himself as a “whatever” is clearly confused about his past! For the record I’m happy to state that I won’t believe Gonzo is an alien until Mulder and Scully verify it. Part of Gonzo’s charm is in the not knowing. I’ve always enjoyed Gonzo singing this song. Dave’s vocals are kind of scratchy as this is early in Gonzo’s evolution and he mellowed out later on, but hearing him sing it just feels like a pair of comfy Muppet slippers.
7 – Gonzo’s Song – The Great Gonzo – The Muppet Show
Up until recently Gonzo’s main squeeze was Camilla the Chicken. For some reason she seems to be completely absent from current offering “The Muppets”. Hopefully she’ll appear soon as it would be cool to see Kermit, Fozzie and Gonzo triple date. For a show that promises to feature the gang in their personal lives Camilla’s omission does seem odd. Perhaps I should file a missing chicken’s report? This song has some historic significance in that it’s featured in the episode where Gonzo and Camilla have their first date so this is young love blooming. The song has a nice swaying vibe with its ukulele accompaniment that just makes me want to head off to the beach. It’s one of a handful of original songs written for The Muppet Show and it’s cool to see them having fun coming up with rhymes for “Camilla”. “You’re prettier by far than Godzilla” is surely the pinnacle of song writing!
6 – Jamboree – The Great Gonzo – The Muppet Show
Speaking of Muppet Show original songs Frank Oz actually has a writing credit for this number. This piece explores the theme of Gonzo’s loneliness and how he makes the best of it by imagining all sorts of weird and wonderful things happening. It’s a strange one this song as it’s upbeat yet about a fairly sad subject matter. It’s poignant, but madcap and brightly colored. I guess it’s a bit like the ball of contradictions that makes Gonzo who he is. I think that’s the reason he’s such an interesting character. Some background Muppets can be a bit one-dimensional if I’m being completely honest. We’ve never seen much depth from Crazy Harry for example (though his name change hints at something in his past). But with Gonzo he’s like an onion with layer after layer of character facets exposed as you mine to its core. I think I’ve mixed a metaphor, but you get my drift.
5 – Act Naturally – The Great Gonzo – The Muppet Show
Just a few weeks ago I listed this song in my Floyd Pepper chart. In my write up there I said I’d tip Gonzo’s version over Floyd’s however as it happens they’ve both come out in fifth place so I guess it’s actually a draw! This song really does work well for Gonzo though. Apart from the fact that he does want to star in movies, it totally seems to match his personality. In a similar fashion to the last song this is another upbeat song with a fairly downbeat theme. I guess they are his forte. Despite its gloomy self-deprecating tone this song is mostly played for laughs and boy does it get them! The reflection in the mirror bit is a comedy goldmine and this is full of superb nuggets. I assume that for at least part of this reflection Gonzo is being played by someone else and Dave and whoever it is do a fantastic job of keeping together. You really can’t see the join!
4 – Love in a Laundromat – The Great Gonzo & Camilla – Muppets at Walt Disney World
It’s taken all the way to song number four to get to a non-“Muppet Show” track. I suppose outside of the show where everyone got a fair crack of the whip, songs tend to go to Kermit and Piggy first or be group affairs… That’s something to mull over. This is one of my favorite Muppet songs from one of my favorite Muppet productions. I hold this special directly responsible for my childhood desire to get to Walt Disney World – something I’ve done many times as an adult. This is Gonzo and Camilla’s second love song on the chart and to me it provides clear evidence that they should be together. We know Gonzo’s weird and it makes perfect sense that he would love visiting the WDW laundry building, but Camilla is having a great time too. Maybe it’s because she’s happy if Gonzo’s happy, but I’d say watching this clip that actually it’s because she wants to be there too. Is this the Muppets’ steamiest love scene?
3 – I Wish I Could be Santa Claus – The Great Gonzo and Fozzie Bear – A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa
I guess I could have held this song over for my imminent Christmas chart, but I love it so much I couldn’t leave it out here. I really do rank this song amongst the Muppets’ best Christmas numbers. For me it’s every bit the equal of “The Christmas Wish” or “One More Sleep ‘til Christmas”. Paul Williams has done a fantastic job here writing a song that works 100% in context with the special, but that can also be lifted and performed in isolation and still make sense. Dave is at his most heartbreaking as he sings about wanting to try and make things right. And how perfect is it that Fozzie is the one that comes to his rescue? For a bear that has his own confidence issues it shows just how much he cares for Gonzo that he can be the one to turn him around. Eric Jacobson is brilliant in this scene. I could watch it over and over.
2 – I’m Going to Go Back There Someday – The Great Gonzo – The Muppet Movie
I’m as surprised as you to see this song at number two, but I have my reasons and I’ll explain them below. This is such a special song. I always find it hardest to write about songs I love as I just can’t think of anything to say that isn’t a tangle of superlatives. This song speaks to my soul. It always has. It feels like it matches my own philosophy on life and I suspect that of plenty of other Muppet fans too. It makes me happy and sad. How can a song do that? How is it even possible? Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher have done an amazing job with this song, but the lion’s share of the praise really has to go to Dave Goelz who I haven’t talked about nearly enough. He sings this song incredibly. Every word – every syllable of every word – is cut-glass perfect. Cut glass is the right phrase too as Gonzo’s voice shoots its way into my heart. Dave has done an amazing job turning a random bit-part Frackle into one of the most beloved characters of all-time. It’s simply astounding.
1 – Wishing Song – The Great Gonzo – The Muppet Show
If I’m honest, when I first ranked this chart this song was number two and “I’m Going to Go Back There Someday” was number one. If you’d prefer to swap them around I don’t mind as it’s a very personal reason that caused the switch. Almost five years ago my sister died suddenly just a few weeks after her 20th birthday. When I spoke at her funeral I tried to make sense of things as best I could and so naturally I turned to the Muppets and described her as the Gonzo in my family – artistic, weird, soulful and strange, she truly was one of a kind. Gonzo was her favorite character and to me they are kindred spirits. This is the song that reminds me of her the most. Maybe it’s the sentimental tone. Maybe it’s the idea of wishing for something you can’t have and learning to be happy in spite of things that are missing. I’m not sure as I don’t recall this being a particular favorite of hers. Either way, it’s a favorite of mine and I’m placing it in first position in her memory. The best songs speak to you in a way that others don’t and this one could fill volumes.
I don’t want to leave this chart on a sad note so perhaps instead I’ll finish on another poem. I’ve borrowed this from a blue “whatever” we all know really well and I’ve genuinely written this in greetings cards in the past.
I’d wash my hair with stinky glue,
I’d fry my legs and eat them too,
I’d put a spider in my shoe,
Thank you Gonzo, for being the embodiment of the best the Muppets have to offer. I don’t think words will ever describe what you mean to me. The best I can say is “Thank You”.