Kieran Moore – Primates have had a big impact on music. There is (of course) “The Monkees” and “I Wan’na Be Like You (The Monkey Song)” and “The Funky Gibbon” and “We are the Chimpians” and “Wandrin’ Star” by “Lemur Vin” and I’m sure countless others that I wouldn’t have to make up just to prove a point. Ultimately that point is that primates haven’t had a big impact on music. (This of course discounts humans – after all this is an animal chart and yes, you are a human animal, but let’s not dwell on facts this early on or we’ll really be in trouble.)
Primates haven’t had the biggest impact on the Muppetverse either (with a few notable exceptions) and for the most part seem to be consigned to children’s shows which often call for the more exotic animal-wise. This is an interesting point actually – when you look at the oft-used Muppet animals they all tend to be native to the U.S.A. Where are the lions and koalas and three-toed sloths? Sure they exist, but they certainly weren’t Henson’s “go-to” creatures. That’s something to ponder.
Although there may not be a lot of primates about, there are actually some amazing songs sung by this group of animals – including a number that truly must be seen to be believed.
10 – I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts – The Muppet Show
When I mentioned notable exceptions above Quongo was definitely amongst them. This wild mountain gorilla was one of the very few Muppet monkeys that existed during Jim Henson’s lifetime. He’s got a great, Muppet-y design. He could wander on to the set of just about any TV show and even though he’s not a big name you’d instantly know he’s a Muppet. This song features my three favorite Muppet singers in Richard Hunt, Jerry Nelson and Louise Gold and it’s really only this low because Quongo doesn’t sing much and it’s not primate themed. However, I’ve always loved this song (in this version or any other) so it wins a coconut from me!
9 – Somebody Come and Play – Sesame Street
These animal charts have featured a lot of Sesame Street songs, but this is actually today’s only piece from the show. A few weeks ago I praised the wildlife photography on Sesame Street and this is further proof of why it’s some of the best in the business. Although this is not in the wild, to get such candid video of these orang-utans is a real thrill. You can’t help but feel for the little guy who wants somebody to stop lazing in the sun and come and play. This song has had a lot of cover versions over the years, but for me you can’t beat the original sung by Joe Raposo who also wrote it. There’s a real simple lazy-day charm to this version that I really enjoy.
8 – Jam It – Animal Jam
I’ve never properly watched Animal Jam as I don’t think it aired in the UK, but I do really enjoy the YouTube videos that The Jim Henson Company have posted. I think a lot of that is because of the brilliant cast headed by Leslie Carrara-Rudolph as Edi the Zebra and Ricky Boyd as Waffle the Cow-Monkey. I find Ricky’s vocal performance incredibly engrossing. It draws me in and makes me want to listen. I can’t put my finger on whether it’s the tone or the accent or whatever, but if Waffle could read my monthly credit card statements I’m sure they’d feel a lot less painful! Having the kids join in with the actions in this show is a great device (a bit like those one on one interviews) as it keeps the visuals moving and encourages kids to join in.
7 – Look at You Now – Bear in the Big Blue House
Could Treelo be any cuter? The minute he speaks I just about melt. Baskets of Labrador puppies have nothing on him. I’m listening to this as I write and gosh, I’m tempted to bump it up a few spots. It’s just making me go all gooey inside. (Yes, I’m a 38 year old man – your point is…?) No, I must stay strong, but it’s hard to resist. I have a Treelo devil on one shoulder and a Treelo angel on the other. I may have had too much sugar… Talking of engrossing characters as we were earlier, Both Bear and Treelo do the same as Waffle. I’m instantly drawn to them. Noel MacNeal is truthfully a singer I’m in awe of and Tyler Bunch as Treelo blows me away. Come on Disney, do something with Bear in the Big Blue House! This song has possibly the sweetest theme ever. In lesser hands it could be cloying, but to me it’s played perfectly.
6 – The Jumping Song – The Animal Show
The Animal Show has made surprisingly few appearances on my charts, but that’s really due to a lack of available videos rather than anything else. The songs are always fun and the show actually has a great track record of featuring songs from other Henson productions such as “Fraggle Rock” – in fact this episode also includes “Catch the Tail by the Tiger”. Mak Wilson plays Billy Bob the Lemur here and this could possibly be his first appearance on my charts. I’m always happy to feature someone new especially when they turn in such a fun performance. This song really does get you moving. It’s the perfect tempo for dancing. Regular readers will know I love anything with a banjo so there was no way this wasn’t getting a top 10 spot!
5 – I’m Number One – Muppets Most Wanted
Ok, so we’re not counting humans as primates, but we are featuring lemurs and is there a bigger lemur than Dominic Badguy AKA “The Lemur”? I don’t think so. Though he’s not as cute as Treelo he certainly has a charm all of his own. Ricky Gervais absolutely slayed it in Muppets Most Wanted. That movie was cast to perfection. I guess some people were shocked at just how well Ricky coped with the singing on this number, but his roots are actually in music so it’s no wonder he’s as good as he is. (As a side note: watch “Derek” – it’s brilliant). My nephew Jared and I have performed this song to a crowd a few times and (predictably) I’m always Number Two! I think there might be video somewhere…
(Note from Jarrod: This song is also acceptable because it contains the phrase ‘Dance Monkey Dance!’, which should appease anyone who thinks Lemur’s don’t count as primates!)
4 – Lonely at the Top – The Muppet Show
Far be it for me to say so, but I think this version is better than Randy Newman’s which I find extra ploddy. Two things instantly strike me about this number. First, I think the people in the building are hilarious especially the exchange about who Quongo is. Second, I think this is a great set. It’s simple yet striking and perfect for hiding a Muppet performer. This is Quongo’s second appearance on the chart and, I’m sure you’ll not be surprised to hear, his last. He was criminally underused. He’s cropped up in recent years here and there, but it would be fun to see him more often. He’s a blank canvas that a new generation performer could really excel with. Finally, this is Muppet-dom’s second best King Kong reference after “I Hope that Something Better Comes Along”.
3 – The Baboon Song – The Animal Show
It never rains, but it pours! This is another fantastic performance from Mak Wilson and it really couldn’t be any different from his last. As I sit here in the height of summer (sorry Aussies) I can’t help but think how perfect this calypso number is for a day like today. It makes me want to sip on something tropical and relax in a hammock. There were several song writers used for The Animal Show so it’s impossible to credit this properly so I’ll just say that whoever it was (most likely Ed Welch or Mark Radice) did a fantastic job. It’s the perfect baboon song and the “Baboon, Waka Waka Waka” chorus is today’s certified earworm. I’ll be singing it in my sleep!
2 – Bohemian Rhapsody – MDA Labour Day Telethon 2005
This clip came up in conversation recently on the Muppet Mindset’s Facebook page (8,000 followers and counting) and I must admit it is probably my favorite thing that Johnny and Sal ever did. If I’m completely honest I was never that smitten with them and if I’m completely honest they often veered into annoying territory for me. However, we’re here to celebrate Sal Minella’s incredible appearance at number two on this chart so we’ll leave that for another day. This is simply hilarious. It’s brilliantly performed by Bill Barretta and Brian Henson and I love the fact that we get a peek of Muppeteer every now and again. It makes it seem more human and off the cuff. I love the convoluted back story with the sauce and broom which is orchestrated purposely to get the song started. In fact I love it all. On my Bill Barretta chart this was number five – one day it has to be a number one!
1 – Hairy Fairy – Mopatop’s Shop
I could spend the next 100+ words telling you why this song is number one, but the song itself explains it so much better than I ever could. This might be the reason the internet was invented. I have to quickly say a couple of things. First, “Congratulations” to Mopatop’s Shop as I think this is their first ever chart entry and it’s so well deserved. Second, I genuinely don’t know if there was anything deeper behind this song, but “Hooray” for The Jim Henson Company either way. Mind. Blown.
I guess a song about being hairy is a great way to end a primate chart. It’s been a real treat delving into the unusual waters of shows like “Animal Jam”, “Mopatop’s Shop” and “The Animal Show” and featuring some unsung Muppet performers. What this chart is testament to is the quality of some of these less famous shows and the work of their creative teams. Despite what I said in the introduction this chart has also shown us that there are plenty of Muppet “monkeys” if you’re prepared to scratch the surface; then scratch yourself, eat a banana and swing in an old tyre. Muppet primates, you might not be the biggest stars on the planet, but you certainly entertain and for that I have to thank you. Forget what King Louie says – I wan’na be like you…