Kieran Moore – A wise frog once said “That’s what we need! More frogs and dogs and bears and chickens and… and whatever!”, and I must say I wholeheartedly agree. In fact I think we can all agree that we need more of those things on a regular basis (I know primetime on ABC does!), so that’s why I decided to take a break from writing character charts to shed some light on our furry, feathered and fishy friends in the animal kingdom. Each week, for the next 10, I’ll feature a different animal until we’ve got a whole safari (or at the very least a small petting zoo). Henson shows have featured a menagerie of animal characters over the years, from Pierre the French Rat to Gloria Estefan so I’m looking forward to raiding the archives and bringing their exploits to The Muppet Mindset!
According to Wikipedia, Cameroon is about to celebrate “Sheep Festival” and The Muppet Mindset likes to consider itself an international site so in honor of our Cameroonian readers we now proudly present the top 10 songs from our ovine friends!
10 – Four Lambs Together – Sesame Street
There are a couple of “baas” (I’ll get my coat) of this song that remind me of “Saying Goodbye” from “Muppets Take Manhattan” which is definitely no bad thing. I love that song. Looking at Muppet Wiki I see the performers for this number are Martin P. Robinson, Camille Bonora, David Rudman and Joey Mazzarino and yet whenever I listen to it I’m sure I can hear shades of Frank Oz. I’m thinking it might be David who every so often sounds a bit like Bert, but I’m not sure. It’s funny because if you’d told me that this was sung by Frank, Richard Hunt and Karen Prell I’d have thought they might all have colds, but I’d believe you. Just listening to it now I even think I heard a smidgeon of Big Bird. I might need to lie down in a darkened room!
9 – Lambarena – Sesame Street
I suppose this has only a very slight link to sheep, but who cares when it’s this good. First, I have to commend Lorena and Lorna Feijóo on their spectacular dancing. I’m no expert, but I know what I like and they are incredible movers. Stunning. And the music ain’t bad either. I’ll admit I had no knowledge of “Lambarena” before looking at this clip, but the basic principal is that it takes the music of J.S. Bach and reinterprets it through the rhythms and melodies of Gabon. I’ve just listened to a longer piece on YouTube and it’s amazing. I heartily recommend that you all have a listen (after you’ve read this chart). We Muppet fans are a cultured bunch and it’s thanks to clips like this that that’s the case. I can’t tell you how happy I am to have found this…
8 – Dance Myself to Sleep – Sesame Street
This is probably one of the first songs that springs to mind when you think of sheep on Sesame Street and yet, like the clip above, there actually isn’t a whole lot of sheepiness in it. Another thing this has in common with the previous song is the fantastic dancing! If Muppet fans like culture they love tap dancing thanks to our favorite frog and his ability to cut a rug. Ordinarily at this point I’d add the joke “I used to be a tap dancer, but I had to give it up after I fell in the sink!”, but that doesn’t really work for an American audience. Oh well! I love the sound of tap dancing and the extra dimension it gives to a piece of music so I’m digging this. This is classic Bert and Ernie and you can’t but feel sorry for Bert. Poor guy…
7 – Perfect as a Pig – Sesame Street
Ok, so Perfect as a Pig might seem an odd choice for a sheep chart, but this is sung (partly) by the always entertaining Lamb Chop and is about how Suey doesn’t need to be a sheep to be awesome so I think it counts. Is it just me or does this sound like a little like “Let it Be”? Lamb Chop was never as big here in the UK as she was elsewhere, but I’ve always thought she and Shari Lewis were great performers. There’s just something that makes them so incredibly watchable. Apropos of nothing, I learnt one of my favorite songs from Lamb Chop – “This is the Song that Doesn’t Ends” and I admit I sing it all the time. Finally, I don’t know if Lamb Chop has ever been cited as the inspiration for Lolly Lardpop, but it seems like a no-brainer to me.
6 – Baa Baa Black Sheep – Sesame Street: Kids Favorite Songs
I love the country vibe this rendition of Baa Baa Black Sheep has. I guess it makes sense given the theme, but I’ve always looked at it from a British perspective where I guess it’s given a more folky slant. At the end of this video Telly and the gang sing a mash up of this, “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and “The Alphabet Song” and it’s never really occurred to me that the three songs have the same root – I guess because the phrasing is different. Anyway, as we all know Baa Baa Black Sheep is actually from “Somebody that I Used to Know” by Gotye. Once you’ve heard it you can never un-hear it! Telly is such a fun character. I wonder why he’s never really hit the big time like Oscar, Grover, Cookie Monster and Elmo have? I’d buy a Tickle Me Telly. And speaking of Elmo, when he first came to prominence I assumed he was related to Telly somehow. I hope it wasn’t just me…
5 – Bert’s Blanket – Sesame Street
This actually was the first song I thought of when I decided to feature sheep this week. I considered it for my recent Bert chart, but decided it’s actually a little bit border line whether it could be classed as a Bert led song. That’s thanks (in part) to the ever-wonderful presence of Jerry Nelson as the lead sheep. He sure takes some bleating (what is it with me and corny puns this week?) This is another superb doo-wop style number from Christopher Cerf (with lyrics by Sara Compton). If you hear a Muppet singing something along these lines you can almost be guaranteed it’s Christopher’s handy work. This is a fun pastiche with nods to other songs (“Get the Picture?” “Yes, we see”) that pays homage to the original genre and sounds incredibly authentic. It reminds me of the soundtrack to “Hairspray” and is equally as joyous.
4 – Rama Lama Ding Dong – The Muppet Show
This is the first song on this chart not to originate from Sesame Street and it’s such a fun number. It’s also incredibly well sung! But then what else would we expect from Richard Hunt? This shows off his upper register brilliantly. There are shades of Janice’s laid back vocals here and this would have made a cool solo Electric Mayhem number for her with a quick change of pronouns. I’d like to have seen that. Richard certainly was busy on this particular edition of The Muppet Show as this song comes from the Mark Hamill/Luke Skywalker episode which also features “Six String Orchestra” sung by Scooter. It’s a shame that despite the classic status of the episode in question this song isn’t better remembered. Finally, I really enjoy the opening mash-up of Rama Lama Ding Dong and Schafe können sicher weiden (Sheep May Safely Graze) – we’re certainly getting our fill of J.S. Bach today!
3 – Baa Baa Bamba – Sesame Street
I have very fond memories of the song “La Bamba”. Not the original Ritchie Valens version (I’m not that old), but the one Los Lobos released in 1987 to go with the film of the same name. It was out around the same time as my first family holiday as a kid and I can remember me and my brother and sister miming along with our tennis rackets outside our caravan. We were air guitar stars before we even knew what that was! This acoustic, stripped back version is really cool and mellow with a real Latin American feel. It makes me think of hot nights, hot food and hot fiestas. It doesn’t matter that this is essentially a new version of “Old Macdonald’s Farm” – in fact I think that makes it all the better. I’ve spoken before about how much I like the bilingual aspect of Sesame Street and songs like this show just how effortless they make it.
2 – Lambaba – Sesame Street
We’re sticking with the South American vibe as we dance into song number two. I must admit to being a little disappointed that this isn’t more of a parody of the actual “Lambada” song – just because I think it’s a really good piece of music, but that doesn’t detract from how awesome this is. It makes perfect sense that Count von Count would count sheep at bedtime – in fact I’m almost a little disappointed that he’s being so obvious! For some reason, aside from the obvious Eastern European influences in his music, the Count does seem to enjoy a good Latin beat. I guess he’s a well travelled vampire! Jerry Nelson is always good value as the Count. It seems to me that he really enjoys cutting loose with the character and I think you can hear it in his vocal performances. He always sounds so happy as the Count – I guess it’s all the laughing.
1 – Mary Had a Bicycle – Sesame Street
Quite simply – this is brilliant. It’s a classic Sesame Street moment that just had to be number one regardless of whether Mary’s lamb made the final cut or not. Richard Hunt (who’s performing Don Music) is having a great chart so far and his match up here with Jim Henson as Kermit is phenomenal. I wrote a few weeks ago about classic Muppet performer pairings and other than maybe Statler and Waldorf, these guys weren’t often a double act. However, this sketch/song proves that Jim and Richard were every bit as good as Jim and Frank. There are shades of “The comedian’s a bear” here with Kermit getting visibly and audibly upset and this is just as funny in my opinion. Musically, I love Don’s soft piano take on “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, but I’m just as smitten with the boogie-woogie bicycle version that emerges thanks to Kermit’s rhyming skills. This is pure Muppet magic.
I just looked up at the TV and there were two sheep on the screen – I guess that’s an omen of some sort! My real concern now is that having just counted down the top 10 sheep songs, there’s a good chance my loyal readers will have started to nod off! Don’t worry if you’re fighting back the yawns, I won’t take it personally. In fact, I could use 40 winks myself right about now so I’ll sign of quickly with a huge thank you to all of the Muppet sheep out there. Some of them, like Baa Baa Walters and Meryl Sheep, didn’t make the final cut (I hope they don’t feel fleeced!), but either way – thanks guys for baa-ing amazing. You are truly the reason we flock to our TV screens. Now if you’ll excuse me… zzzzzzzzzzzzz…