Kieran Moore – In terms of pop culture I think Easter sometimes gets the rough end of the proverbial pineapple. If you compare the number of Easter movies, songs or TV specials to other holidays such as Christmas, Valentine’s Day or Hallowe’en you’ll see that poor old Easter is sadly lagging behind. With this fact in mind it’s perhaps not too surprising that I haven’t written an Easter chart before.
The Muppet canon (Did somebody say cannon?) doesn’t include a whole host of Easter material either, but what little there is is some of the best Muppet stuff you’ll find. There are a handful of rarities in this list and discovering something hidden and unusual feels perfect for an Easter egg filled chart. And speaking of eggs…
10 – These are the Yolks, Folks – Humpty Dumpty and Chorus – The Muppet Show (Song starts at 10:20)
Before I discuss this song I want to give a quick mention to “Rowlf’s Polka” which tied with this for 10th place. Ultimately I decided this worked better with the theme, but I’m always sad to lose a Rowlf track.
This number comes from the Brooke Shields/Alice in Wonderland episode of The Muppet Show and in some ways I’ve always felt this is a spiritual companion piece to the Star Wars and Robin Hood episodes in that just about every sketch and backstage plot fits a central theme. To me they are three of the best episodes ever. This song written by Ray Charles (not the Ray Charles, the Ray Charles) and is as corny as they come. It isn’t going to win the next Nobel prize for literature, but it might get the “oh well” prize instead. Actually the jokes, however forced, are pretty clever and this whole piece is sold with such gusto that it’s incredibly hard not to buy!
9 – The Story Show – Bunny Chorus – The Tale of the Bunny Picnic
(Song starts at 20:40)
Of course there is no way to write about Easter without featuring The Tale of the Bunny Picnic. I’m going to go ahead and say it – I think this is one of the best things Jim Henson ever did and it makes me sad that it isn’t seen more. Luckily I have an old VHS copy I found at a garage sale so I’m set for life. Last time I wrote about Bunny Picnic I called it the best Fraggle Rock special that never existed and I still agree with that sentiment. A lot of the creatives and performers from the ‘Rock are present and this song feels like it could have been lifted straight from a Fraggle Rock episode. Philip Balsam and Dennis Lee are probably my two favorite Muppet song-smiths and I could listen to their stuff on an endless loop. I want to give a quick shout out to Ron Mueck who is making his top 10 debut as Storyteller Bunny! Woo hoo!
8 – Don’t Touch Me – Benny Rabbit – Sesame Street
From baby bunnies to wrathful rabbits! After “Bunny Picnic”, Benny Rabbit was the first subject I thought of for this chart. He’s such a funny fellow. With a look that’s part rabid rabbit and part cloth-eared cuddly toy he certainly doesn’t look like the average Muppet and a few notable exceptions aside he doesn’t particularly act like one either. He’s been likened to Oscar, but he’s a Grouch and therefore it’s in his DNA to be, well, a grouch; whereas with Benny he’s a grump for the sake of it. I think we all have days where we feel like he does in this song so I certainly don’t hold anything against him here. This song was written by Christopher Cerf and Norman Stiles and it has Christopher’s 1950’s signature style, but instead of being cheery like “Put down the Duckie” this has a grungy grimy feel that I really, really like. Kevin Clash is all over this chart, but this shows the rock side of his voice (which you might not hear later on) brilliantly.
7 – Chicken or the Egg – Sesame Street
It seems to be that if you’re writing a song about an egg the challenge is to be as silly as is humanly possible! That certainly seems to be the case with this Joe Raposo number. One of the things I like about these special charts is that I get to feature songs like this that wouldn’t normally appear when I’m writing about Muppets or their performers. One day I’ll get round to looking at Sesame sketches in greater detail… This has a neat country sound that really bowls along, but I especially enjoy the quiet opening that brings to mind songs like “Blue Shadows on the Trail” or similar cowboy lullabies. It’s a fun juxtaposition. I wish I knew who sung this so I could properly credit them, does anyone know?
6 – Hello Sunshine – Bunny Chorus – The Tale of the Bunny Picnic
You should really find time to watch Bunny Picnic this Easter, but you should really, really find time to watch this song. Even if you discount how cool this piece is with it simple “Hop, hop” motif and brilliant counter-melody it is a must see for the art direction and puppetry alone. The set looks lush and has a great pop up book feel that really works. There’s a depth here that goes beyond a lot of what the Muppets’ output had been until now. With the exception of Fraggle Rock and a few Muppet Show sketches I don’t think we’d seen a Muppet set on this scale before and we’ve rarely seen it since. Add to that some fantastic puppetry and neat tricks like the birds, full-bodied bunnies and play equipment and we really do have a fully immersive and engaging universe here. Please watch this video. Your eyes will thank you.
5 – Bunny Go High and Go Low – Mother Bunny and Father Bunny – The Tale of the Bunny Picnic
For this song we’re hopping (Wocka Wocka) straight from one bunny song to another. There’s a lot to say about this… First, it’s another Muppet lullaby and I love Muppet lullabies. It doesn’t matter who writes them or which performers are present, give a Muppet a lullaby and they will knock it out of park. Speaking of performers this is another appearance for Kevin Clash and he’s joined here by another of my favorites – Louise Gold. Louise is the queen of harmonies – watch her performance of “When the River Meets the Sea” with Jerry Nelson or “You and Me” with Alice Cooper and you’ll see what I mean. I want to say a quick word also about how great these puppets look. I guess if you were being mean-spirited you could cite “Sylvanian Families” as an obvious reference, but Father Bunny in particular is a fantastic puppet with his blinking eyes and cute moustache. Finally, can anyone guess which Muppety Christmas song this reminds me of? One extra smug point for the first correct answer!
4 – I Am Chicken – Chicken and Chicken Chorus – Sesame Street
This song (brilliantly sung by Louise Gold) was a gnat’s breathe away from being included in my “12 Days of Christmas” list as the entry for “5 Gold Rings”, but at the last minute I decided it was too similar to “4 French Hens” which was “Baby Face” from “The Muppet Show” and it was swapped out. In a bizarre turn of events the two songs once again found themselves competing for a spot on the same chart, but I decided to redress the balance and give I Am Chicken a shot this time instead. This is such a different performance from Louise compared to the previous song. It’s brash and loud and brings to mind the girl groups of the 1960s. It goes without saying then that this was written by Cerf and Stiles (even though I just did). It’s funny because there was a diverse range of material to choose from for this list and yet Kevin Clash, Louise Gold and Christopher Cerf and Norman Stiles (not to mention Balsam & Lee) are all over this chart like a (very welcome) rash!
3 – Give Your Friend an Easter Egg for Christmas – The Easter Bunny – Elmo Saves Christmas
Poor old Easter Bunny – stuck with a whole batch of Easter eggs and nothing to do with them. It’s all Elmo’s fault too. Who says he’s lovable? This song is just fab. It’s a fun, knock about number written by Tony Geiss and features fantastic lyrics and fun rhymes. But let’s be honest, the real star of this show is the always superb Harvey Fierstein. He’s really giving his all in this number and I don’t think I could come up with a more inspired choice to play the Easter Bunny here. His gruff, gravely voice is exactly the opposite of what you’d expect, but in this context as the hawker of unwanted eggs it works perfectly. The biggest problem with his performance is that it’s so good I’ll be sitting up on Easter Sunday waiting for Harvey to appear. When he does I’ll wish for Easter every day so I can see him again and then we’ll end up in a right pickle. Santa will be trying to offload “Easter toys”…
2 – Drum of Time – Bean Bunny, Lugsy & The Bunny Chorus – The Tale of the Bunny Picnic
If I could bottle Richard Hunt and Steve Whitmire’s duets and keep them forever I’d die happy. I guess thanks to videos like this I don’t need to, but you can’t hold a YouTube video and feel it in your hands so it’s not the same. This song makes me miss Richard so much. Sure he was fun as Beaker, Don Music or Janice, but when he turned on “the feels” as characters such as Junior Gorg, Mudwell the Mudbunny or Lugsy he just soared. I am comforted to know that his spirit lives on through performances like this one. I have to take this opportunity to give a high five to Bean Bunny as well. Although I don’t think I’d necessarily call this special humble beginnings I don’t think anyone would have predicted at this stage that he’d go on to become one of the Muppets’ most loved c-listers appearing in TV shows, specials, movies and, in what is arguably his most seen role, Muppet Vision 4D where he steals every scene he’s in. That’s not easy to do when your co-star is Miss Piggy. To cap it all off, he’s now an action figure! Way to go, Bean!
1 – Easter Parade – Julie Andrews, Kermit the Frog & Chorus – Julie Andrews: One Step into Spring
(Song starts at 4:43)
My dad loves Julie Andrews and that means I do too, but probably for different reasons. First for me is how well she interacts with the Muppets. From this special to her “Muppet Show” episode to her work with Sesame Street, every moment is some of Julie and the Muppets’ best work. Just look at how she sparks with Kermit in this clip. Jim and Julie are on fire and being naturally funny. She’s also (obviously) an incredible singer and her voice is so clean and clear that it’s like a freshwater pool I could just dive right into. The parade scene finale is a lot of fun with some great costuming and fun nods to the audience. That fourth wall is in pieces! Sweetums is cosplaying as the 11th Doctor, Thog is cosplaying as Gonzo in “The Muppet Movie”, Miss Piggy is cosplaying as some botanical gardens and Dr. Teeth is cosplaying as… a pin cushion(?). Also, don’t miss Fozzie’s three-way arm at the bottom of the screen. The final joke with Kermit, which I won’t spoil, is the cherry on the already delicious cake!
So there you have it – my definitive Muppets Easter playlist. If you want to add to it I recommend Baby Face, Rowlf’s Polka and Searchin’ from The Muppet Show, Lets’ Lay an Egg and 14 Carrot Love from Sesame Street and of course the remaining songs from Tale of the Bunny Picnic. And please, please, please make time this weekend to watch the whole special. It’s awesome.
It just remains for me to wish you all a HAPPY EASTER and to end with my traditional thank you. With a list this diverse it’s impossible to mention everyone so instead I want to thank you, the readers for your continued support. Easter is a time to be thankful and look forward and with both of those things in mind I really do have just one thing left to say. Thank You.