Kieran Moore – Here in the UK we’re about to go into a holiday weekend (our last until Christmas) so I’ve been watching the weather very closely. Three things are true about Brits and the weather: first, we love talking about it; second, we can experience all four seasons in one day; and third, it will always rain on a holiday weekend – it’s pretty much the law.
I have a big weekend planned so I’ve been keeping tabs on the forecast a lot, but to be honest I just don’t trust the weatherman. I do, however, trust the Muppets so I thought I’d see what they predict. Without any prejudice I decided to write a chart of weather-based songs from The Muppet Show and whatever comes out in first place will be my weather forecast for the next few days. Wish me luck…
10 – Good Day Sunshine/Dancing in the Dark
This song was number nine on my Fozzie Bear chart so it’s actually slipped a place which makes me sad. I do prefer songs to go up rather than down, but if you think that’s bad, spare a thought for Wayne and Wanda who had several songs eligible for this chart and only managed 12th, 13th and 15th place. It seems that the writers of the show really liked to throw the elements at them. For those who are interested in these things – their highest placed song was “Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow” and the 11th place song was “Hazy Mountains” by Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. Although I think Fozzie has given better vocal performances, I do love seeing the Muppets dressed as flowers and this is a neat idea for a medley.
9 – Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight
Considering how cool this song is I’m surprised there isn’t a better version of it anywhere online. The “open sesame” joke was just begging to be made, but far from being obvious and cheesy it’s just awesome instead. It’s exciting – like the moment a character from “Buffy” suddenly appears on “Angel” or someone from the Starship Enterprise shows up on Deep Space Nine to post a letter. Seeing Count Von Count and Gonzo onscreen at the same time is always a thrill. It may have happened a few times, but it’s super cool having the Sesame guys on “The Muppet Show” AND singing their theme song to boot. Marty Feldman and Cookie Monster were surely separated at birth. This is another Fozzie led song so he’s not done too badly for himself so far. Kudos Frank Oz!
8 – Orange Colored Sky
Who remembers when DC superheroes were cool? This fun superhero inspired number is a visual treat that features lots of interesting ways to get puppets onstage. From explosions to belly flops we get the lot. Lynda is clearly having a ball singing this song. I must admit I’d always considered her more as an actress than a singer, I suppose because of that role, but she has released several albums over the years. Her performance here has made me want to go check them out and I think I will, but don’t worry I’ll finish writing this first. I’m not that mean. It’s only just occurred to me that the mix of characters used in this sketch gives all of the main male performers one character each. I can’t believe I didn’t notice that before!
7 – We’ll Sing in the Sunshine
Is that voice at the start another Cookie Monster cameo? I must admit I’m getting nervous that we’re frontloading all the warm weather songs now… As I listen to this I can’t help, but feel that seventh place seems a little harsh for such a bright and breezy number. Such is the quality on display I guess. I really like Helen Reddy, not just because she originated the beautiful “Candle on the Water” or played herself hilariously on “Family Guy”, but also because of how incredible she is on this episode of The Muppet Show. She has a fantastic singing voice and, along with stars like Julie Andrews and Twiggy, clicks with the Muppets brilliantly. You have no question in your mind that Helen is interacting with a real, frog, pig or camel. This is the perfect lazy afternoon song.
6 – Sunny
This really isn’t looking good for me weather-wise is it? Can I make a confession? I might have to hand my membership card in, but I’m not as much of a fan of season one Electric Mayhem as I am of their later work. I know. I’m sorry. There are a few reasons for this though. Obviously the performer line up was still being worked out and I do feel they miss Richard Hunt as Janice (as good as Eren Ozker was). Also, I feel they’re playing up their “long-haired cynical hippie” roles a little too much – it sometimes seems like they’re attempting to show Kermit and Co. up for being uncool. Perhaps I’m reading too much into it, but I know I prefer them later on when their edges have been softened a little and they appear to appreciate being part of the gang more. I do like this song though. It really hots up as it goes along and the speedy end is pure rock n roll!
5 – Gone With the Wind
What’s that I hear you cry? “Jim Nabors didn’t sing this song on The Muppet Show; otherwise I’d have seen it on my DVD.” Actually he did, but sadly due to music clearance issues it wasn’t included on the season one box set. It’s a shame as this is very funny and sung perfectly by Jim. Is it just me that thinks he sounds a lot like Wayne? In fact when you think about it, this could easily have been a Wayne and Wanda song if it had been cut shorter. Muppet Wiki doesn’t seem to list who’s performing Jim’s partner which is a shame as it’s a great comedy performance. Her face as she looks into the wind is hilarious.
4 – Blue Skies
Compared to some of the songs on this chart you could almost be forgiven for thinking that this track is punching above its weight, but musically I just love it. It has nice big band feel with bright, brash vocals from the ensemble that descends into smooth jazzy scatting. I blame “Fraggle Rock” and more specifically Steve Whitmire for my love of scatting. Earlier this year I attended a scatting workshop where people improvised a song on the spot. I thanked Wembley Fraggle a lot that day. After the scatting things on this song get even more complex as lines begin to overlap and it almost becomes a medieval madrigal! For a throwaway opening number starring prairie dogs there’s a lot going on – no wonder this was selected for inclusion on “The Muppet Show Music Album”.
3 – Misty
For quite a while this piece was sitting in first place. There just aren’t enough complimentary words for this. It’s just beautiful and serene and moving and pretty much everything you would want from this type of music. Liberace is an amazing player. Sure, he’s no Heifetz, but he gets by… The staging is stunning. There’s plenty to look at, but it’s simple enough that it lets the music shine. Whoever did the set design is a master craftsman. Pretty much the whole of the last half of Liberace’s episode is given over to a mini concert with multiple movements and moods. It’s a virtuoso performance and I guess quite a brave thing for The Muppet Show to do. Sure, you know you can depend on Liberace for quality, but that’s still quite a risk for the show to take.
2 – Sunshine on My Shoulders
It’s Cookie Monster again! I hadn’t heard this song for a while and was all ready for it to get mid-chart placement until I sat down and watched it again. It starts off simply enough with a well sung, but perfunctory performance from Cheryl Ladd and then if I’m honest takes a turn for the worst once the critters join in. Please don’t hate me, but I actually think, unusually for the Muppet performers, their harmonies are a little off. That’s all quickly forgotten however once the main Muppets come in to help finish off the song. The moment where Scooter puts his arm around Fozzie melts my heart and shows all we need to see about how the Muppets feel for each other. In fact I think Scooter is my MVP here. Richard does so much with so little. Once the whole gang are harmonizing we’re reminded just why we love these guys so much and given an anthem of love, joy, and loss as good as any we’ve ever had. One other thing to mention before we go on is just how many of these songs Beauregard has appeared in. Way to go, Beau!
1 – Singing in the Rain
Oh well, I guess I’d better find my umbrella… It looks like I’ll be needing flippers this weekend! Is there a more famous song about weather? I’d be surprised if there was. I love the start of this piece where Gene is doing everything he can to avoid singing his signature tune. Then as Singing in the Rain kicks in something magical happens. There’s an imperceptible spark that ignites and the screen fizzles with electricity. It’s Muppet magic. I can’t think of another phrase for it. The final instrumental moment as Gene walks off through the street scene, loses the umbrella, breaks the fourth wall and acknowledges the audience is somehow quite moving. This scene feels like more of a permanent goodbye than we usually get and it’s worth noting that the Gene Kelly episode was the last ever filmed making it even more poignant. The whole thing is clever, funny, musical and moving. You’re a Muppet fan – need I say more?
So there we have it. I guess the exceptional songs on this chart should provide some comfort as I’m sploshing my way around this weekend. I’m not sure they will though… I find it interesting how many songs on this list feature a guest star. I don’t know if we can glean anything from that fact, but it’s worth mentioning nonetheless. I think I might start using these charts to predict things more often. Perhaps next time there’s a big lotto draw we can try and find some numbers using this method or we could attempt to pick the winner of the Superbowl. Stranger things have happened! I guess all that remains is to say a begrudging thank you to the Muppets for quite literally raining on my parade. Thanks Guys! Thanks a bunch!