The Top 10 Songs of: Oscar the Grouch

The Top 10

WP_20160224_13_10_25_ProKieran Moore – Before I start I would like to thank our Glorious Leader Jarrod for writing last week’s unofficial chart. I thought it was great and featured a fun mix of songs and if you haven’t read it you should check it out. Part of me is (not so) secretly pleased that he found it a little tricky to pick the songs… now he knows how I feel some weeks! Also, last week may very well have been John Lovelady’s first appearance on the chart. There’s a chance that he’s appeared as “chorus” in the past, but I do think that was his first lead entry so well done to Jarrod for righting that wrong.

As mentioned in last week’s chart I was in sunny L.A. (and it was sunny) mixing and mingling with the stars. I met Kirk Thatcher (who was AWESOME), but as cool as that was (and it was cool), it shares the title for “best thing to happen that day” with me having my picture taken with Oscar the Grouch! Meeting him (and a few other childhood heroes) was an honor and a pleasure and that’s why I’m pulling rank today and forgoing the random selection process to write about Oscar the Grouch. Let’s have a yucky time…

10 – Let a Frown be Your Umbrella – Oscar the Grouch and Farley
What a great way to start this chart! Not only is this a brilliant song it’s also the title track to what is probably Oscar’s best album. Apart from being hilariously funny this number has several other things going for it: Jerry Nelson is fantastic as Farley from his very first solo verse and (partial) chorus right through to his final disgruntled comment; the song has a high-energy ragtime feel that takes me right back to Main Street USA at Disneyland (that was soooo last week) and of course Caroll Spinney is at his grouchy best setting Farley right on just what’s wrong with his song. As the opener to the album that follows I especially love how this starts out as a cutesy, almost sickly sweet song only to have that well and truly skewered by Oscar and his offbeat philosophy on life. It really sets the scene for what’s to come – just like it does in this chart.

9 – Do-Re-Mi – Oscar the Grouch and the Grouchketeers
It’s funny because I’m happy to admit that I really enjoy “The Sound of Music” and yet I’m sure it would come under that category of “guilty pleasure” for some. That’s a phrase I hate. Unless it’s serial killing or jaywalking that you enjoy I don’t really think anything pleasurable should be guilt inducing – and certainly not a slightly camp musical about a nun and some Nazis. Anywho… I also really enjoy a parody so this is the perfect storm for me. Oscar’s revised lyrics are a hoot and it’s neat to hear him having fun. As a music lesson it’s actually not terrible and the Grouchketeers all seem reasonably happy so I guess Oscar’s doing a pretty good job. Just topping Oscar’s counter-melody at the end of the song as the highlight of the piece is his confession that he loves the Grouchketeers. Awwwwww.

8 – A Little Grouch Music – Oscar the Grouch
We’re still firmly in parody mode and just to continue the theme further this is also based on a song from a huge musical hit. A Little Grouch Music (in case you don’t know) is a spoof of a similarly titled song from “The Phantom of the Opera”. I don’t know why, as Oscar is actually quite a soulful fellow, but it gives me a kick to hear him singing a lullaby-style song. Perhaps it’s because it gives Caroll the chance to show off exactly who Oscar can be when he isn’t stomping around angrily. Not that Oscar does much stomping of course! I love the idea of it being “noisy, but… quiet”. The roster of night-time noises that Oscar lists is actually comforting and reassuring. I guess hearing all of the sounds of the city through the night means a new day is about to dawn and that’s a pretty cool way to look at things that could be seen as annoying otherwise.

7 – Oscar’s “B” Sandwich – Oscar the Grouch
When I finished listening to all of the Oscar songs that were up for inclusion in this chart and got to filtering out the top 10 I must admit to doing a bit of a double take when I saw this had made the cut. So much so that I even had a re-listen to make sure I hadn’t marked it wrong. But no, it really is a great number! I guess that’s borne out by the fact that it has appeared on no less than nine Sesame Street albums over 40+ years. There’s a jaunty country and western/hoedown vibe to this that I just can’t resist tapping my toes to. Oscar’s list of “B” items (an old family recipe) actually didn’t sound too bad until he started adding things like “buckets of glue” and a “rotten old belt”, but if you do feel like having a go at making this at home feel free to substitute any item you don’t like for a barrel of barracudas or brace of bicycle pumps.

6 – I Love Trash – Oscar the Grouch
I thought it might be fun to play the original version of this song just for the novelty of seeing orange Oscar. To commemorate the day I met Oscar I went out and bought myself the Funko Pop version of his current state from Hot Topic (my new favorite store) and one day I’d love to get the orange variant to go with it. It might seem odd that what could be considered Oscar’s signature song is as low as number six, but I’ve always felt that this piece slightly simplifies his character and, as you’ll see later on, I think there are songs that represent him better. That said, Caroll sounds perfectly grouchy as Oscar here and his New York cabbie accent is at its most pronounced in this particular clip which adds to the fun.

5 – I’m Sad Because I’m Happy – Oscar the Grouch & Grouch Choir
As a case in point I think this song shows off Oscar’s personality better than the previous one. Not to get too bogged down in the psychoanalysis of a Muppet, but this song brilliantly explores the dichotomy that is a Grouch. (Wow, that’s a long word for me – “Muppet”!) Oscar is sad because he’s happy which in turn makes him happy because he’s mad and he’s mad because it’s sappy to be happy when he’s sad. I think I might stare at an M.C. Escher drawing until the world makes sense again! This number is written as an anthemic affirmation piece and I really enjoy that they went down that route because it takes a confused emotion and makes it something to be proud of. Only a Grouch could do that! Finally, does anyone else think Oscar’s feet look a little like Rosita’s?

4 – Itch and Scratch – Oscar the Grouch and Big Bird
I’ve written before about how Muppet performers might be the only people (outside of TV animation) that duet with themselves and this is one of my favorite examples of this sub-section of Muppet music. Oscar and Big Bird aren’t an obvious pairing, but that’s exactly why they work so well together and is pretty much the point of this song. Sesame Street has such a good track record for pairing opposites together and in doing so they highlight their core philosophies of tolerance and co-operation. What is also nice about this is that there’s no snarky comeback from Oscar – he calls Big Bird “Turkey”, but that’s basically a term of endearment from him. Ordinarily, you’d expect to hear some disparaging remark or other before the end, but it never comes. I love, love, love the Latin flair that this piece has and it’s fun to hear these guys tackle a style they aren’t traditionally known for.

3 – I’ll Give You a Song – Oscar the Grouch
I don’t suppose there’s much to say about this short, but (not very) sweet song, however I just couldn’t leave it out. I will stand by its placement at number three all day long as I think it’s pretty much perfect. I find Ernie’s question of whether or not there’s a second verse hilarious, but the whole thing (all 13 seconds of it) has me laughing from start to finish. I wouldn’t have been sad to see this place at number one quite frankly!

2 – Bein’ Green – Oscar the Grouch & Grouch Chorus
Bein’ Green has had an incredible run on my charts and this solidifies its position as one of the most featured songs ever – it might even hold the record. It has been listed several times in its original Kermit form and as Rowlf’s cover version, and this take on it was number four on my Caroll Spinney chart back in 2014. I said then and I still believe it – for me at least this version resonates more than Kermit’s does. It makes sense to me that Oscar would feel down about his color whereas I was never convinced Kermit would. As he points out in the song, green is a colour that blends in with beautiful things and Oscar would rather be gray or puce or something much less colorful. Part of me wishes they’d given us the Easter Egg of Oscar saying he’d rather be orange, but never mind…

1 – The Grouch Anthem – Oscar the Grouch & Grouch Chorus
When I prepare for a chart I often have a very good idea of what number one will be before I even listen to a single bar of music. Generally that’s because a song has resonated with me for such a long time that picking anything else would seem wrong and that’s exactly the case with this. I’ve loved The Grouch Anthem since I first heard it in the 80s and my admiration for it hasn’t diminished over the years. It instantly transports be back to my old childhood living room where me and my younger brother and sister would watch the song on a loop over and over again. We even had the lyrics written down for us by our mother so we could sing along. The best Muppet music should be able to take you to another time and place – it’s what “Pictures in My Head” and “Movin’ Right Along” do and I count this song as the equal of both of those. This also features probably my most quoted Muppet line ever – “Brace yourself I’m gonna sing”. As a performer it comes in handy more often than you’d think!

Oscar the Grouch is a pretty neat guy. Of course, he’d hate that – but that would please him which in turn would upset him, but he’d like being upset so he’d feel happy which would make him sad… I think Oscar (along with Grover) is my favorite Sesame Street character and I know I’m not alone. It seems that everyone loves an anti-hero and Oscar’s subversiveness is surely the main reason he has endured with such popularity. I really appreciate that on a show filled with brightly-colored Muppets, fun songs and cheery animation a character like Oscar can thrive and grow. I therefore want to say an enormous thank you to Oscar for helping balance out the cast of Sesame Street and for providing some of its biggest laughs, but I also want to say thank you for showing us that it’s OK to be grouchy sometimes. That’s a very valuable lesson. Thank You Oscar. Now SCRAM!!!!

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