Kieran Moore – Over the last few week’s I’ve tried (and failed) to downplay the “Oh woe is me” element of these year-based charts. Yes, its true that in the late 70s there was an explosion of great music from The Henson Company and it’s also true that choosing just 10 tracks and then ranking them has been crazy difficult, but I set myself up for the task so I have no real grounds for complaint. Also, listening to excellent Muppet music every week is hardly a chore so I’m not exactly curling up into the fetal position and crying myself to sleep at night over this. That said…
Compiling a chart for 1979 has been hellish. You see probably my two favorite Muppet productions ever (The Muppet Movie and A Christmas Together) were both released in 1979. Trying to put together a list that honors them both, as well as the incredible songs from The Muppet Show and Sesame Street, is one of the toughest assignments I’ve had since I first started these charts. Having to miss out so many good songs makes my heart hurt.
But that’s enough about my problems. How’s your week been?
10 – The Magic Store – The Muppet Movie
“How charming, a finale!”
What better way to start than at the end? (Hand in hand with a friend? Just thinking out loud…) I find it hard to put into words why this song is so special (which I admit is a handicap right now) and I think that’s because it really is so special. It speaks to us directly. I can’t imagine there’s a Muppet fan alive that doesn’t in some way think this mirrors there own experiences. It feels like it’s telling our story as much as it’s relaying Kermit’s. Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher will obviously be getting plenty of love today, but lyrically I think this might be their best song. And this is from a movie full of songs with amazing lyrics. “Life’s like a movie, write your own ending, keep believing, keep pretending…” is sheer poetry (and literal poetry if you want to get technical). I defy anyone not to get a little choked at the moment the piano plays it simple melody and Kermit’s friends rally around him to see a rainbow flood the studio. It’s incredible. Finally, props to whoever made the awesome video linked above. It’s really well done and obviously took some time.
9 – It Was a Very Good Year – The Muppet Show
This is a song that I had very little ambition for when I started this chart, but upon listening to it again I just fell in love with its charms all over again. It’s possible I’m feeling a little nostalgic as my Dad turned 75 this week and I can’t help but think of him when I hear this. I’m just a sentimental old fool, but that’s what the Muppets and in a strange way Statler and Waldorf turn you into. For all their mean spiritedness (especially in more recent years) I think they’re probably the biggest sentimental old fools I know. This number takes on an extra layer of poignancy when you remember that it’s being performed by Jim Henson and Richard Hunt. I’m a guy who gets emotional seeing Jerry Nelson’s name in the credits for Muppet Christmas Carol so you can imagine what this song does to me. It’s simply beautiful.
8 – Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – A Christmas Together
This is my favorite version of one of my favorite ever Christmas songs. It’s pitched perfectly. As cheerful as the lyrics seem, this song is actually quite maudlin if you think about it and Rowlf and John Denver play this with just the right amount of reverence. Jim (as Rowlf) and John sound fantastic and the simple piano accompaniment really allows them to show their voices off. As a general rule I tend to prefer the album versions of these songs, but this is recreated pretty faithfully for the TV special (which came second), so there’s little to separate them. I first found out this album even existed some time in the 90s when I saw the CD in a bargain bucket of holiday music. Needless to say I bought it and fell in love. It wasn’t until I got online several years later that I really knew anything of the corresponding show and even later until I saw it. It’s not Christmas in my house until we’ve listened to this and I know several people that aren’t Muppet fans at all (who are these weirdoes?), that still count this as one of their favorite Christmas recordings.
7 – Movin’ Right Along – The Muppet Movie
I know. I can’t believe it’s as low as number seven either. I mentioned earlier the fantastic lyrics in the songs of The Muppet Movie and this is littered with them. Any song that name checks Saskatchewan is fine by me. This track perfectly encapsulates the Kermit/Fozzie relationship. It’s sincere, but also playful; Kermit takes a natural lead and Fozzie is loyal, worrisome and funny. It’s also got that great banjo “dug-a-dum dug-a-dum” line that I find really appealing. Having Kermit actually sing that in the song is brilliant – it’s the kind of thing we’d all do on a long trip. Speaking of which, this song has accompanied me and my family on many a road trip so it’s just filled with memories for me. It seems to be a recurring theme in this chart that I’ll reference my family a lot – that either says something about me or these wonderful songs (or both).
6 – Can You Picture That? – The Muppet Movie
This is probably my favorite Electric Mayhem song. I loved the live performance of it from The Outside Lands Festival earlier this year. As I listen to this track now I’m struck by two things: first, the cast sound amazing – Jim, Richard, Jerry Nelson and Frank Oz all put in tour-de-force performances (and Dave Goelz has never sung better); second, there’s a lot more organ in this mix than there seems to be on the soundtrack version and I like that a lot. Again, (broken record time) I have to praise the clever lyrics of this song. “Even Santa Claus believes in you” might be my favorite ever song lyric. It beats out anything else in the entire movie for me, which is saying a lot. This is groovy, psychedelic and has Scooter blowing bubbles. If that doesn’t make it one of the best ever Muppet songs, nothing will!
5 – Silent Night, Holy Night – A Christmas Together
I’ve got a real love for Christmas music and this is most definitely my favorite Christmas carol and once again, this is my favorite version of it. The musical interlude which tells the story of how Silent Night was written is a great idea and really ramps up the feels (even though it isn’t a particularly sentimental story). The harmonies here are amongst the best the Muppets have ever sung and John’s additions to the last verse are also exceptional. Although I love the album version of this, I thought I’d link to the TV one because I think the staging is very pretty. It’s a bit old school Muppets looking now (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but back then this would have been seemed a lot fresher. I love seeing the Muppets gathered round a fire singing. Finally, what’s up with Kermit’s thoughtful face? Is Piggy sitting on his hand? (Or worse…)
4 – Turn the World Around – The Muppet Show
Even in a week that’s dominated by two big Muppet productions there simply was no way I wouldn’t be including this song. It’s a truly iconic moment from The Muppet Show that has lived on through the years – partly from its many appearances on Muppet clip shows, but also because it was performed at Jim Henson’s memorial service. This was Jim’s favorite Muppet Show moment (as revealed on this very site) and knowing what I do of him through things I’ve read I can see how it would match his philosophy on life. The song’s message of knowing one’s place in the world and how everything is connected really strikes a chord with all of us at some time or another. Harry Belafonte sounds ace and adds some gravitas to the proceedings. According to Muppet wiki one of the African Masks performers is sadly unknown. Jerry Nelson, Louise Gold and Richard Hunt are easily identifiable, but the exact performer for the fourth is unknown. It could be Dave Goelz – next time someone bumps into him at the supermarket can they ask him? (Also can he reach up and get that jar of honey from the top shelf?)
3 – I’m Going to Go Back There Someday – The Muppet Movie
This is most definitely Dave Goelz singing here! Everyone who reads these charts regularly knows that I love this song so, so much. I’d have to check, but this could be its lowest ever chart position! There’s something indefinably magic about this song. It’s always felt like home to me. I guess it sums up my philosophy of life. The fact that there’s something out there calling you and you’ve been there before – that somewhere there’s a you-shaped hole waiting to be filled – that’s spellbinding. It could be physical or metaphysical, but either way there’s a place for everyone on earth to feel at home. This song is one of the main reasons The Muppet Movie is such a favorite of mine, but it’s not just the song itself, but rather how it and Rainbow Connection tell us everything we need to know about life. Speaking of which…
2 – Rainbow Connection – The Muppet Movie
I don’t really need to explain why I love this song do I? I can just let you all watch the video and hear for yourself just why this song is being robbed into second place. Is this the most famous Muppet song ever? I guess you could put up an argument for Mahna Mahna, but that’s not an original and if we go with actual Muppet songs only, it’s got to be this or Bein’ Green surely. Maybe one of the theme songs or Rubber Duckie… Anyway, I’m getting off topic. It’s an interesting thought though. This is as iconic as Marilyn Monroe’s blown skirt or Gene Kelly hanging off a lamppost in my book. In the story of Noah, God produces a rainbow to show that all is ok in the world. To Muppet fans, Kermit singing about rainbows tells us much the same thing. We’re ok for 2016 folks thanks to the Disneyland 60 special – let’s keep our fingers crossed for next year…
1 – The Christmas Wish – A Christmas Together
It’s a tough call, but this might very well be my favorite Kermit song ever. Again, as with the last two tracks this just speaks to me and how I view my life and the world. The inclusive message of this song has never been more important and I really like the fact that it says whatever your race, religion or creed you can all feel the same kind of magic that I do at Christmas and that’s enough for us to be family. It’s a very powerful message indeed. I remember many, many years ago going out with my mother and sister to buy our Christmas tree (a big event for us – huge) and we were listening to this album in the car (there’s a copy in the glove compartment at all times). I was singing along and was so taken with the sentiment of the song and the magic of Christmas that I started to cry. I don’t think my mother realised, but she sometimes reads these charts so it’ll be interesting to see if she ever mentions it… Watch this space!
So that’s 1979 done. Surely it must get easier from here on out? Honorable mentions go to “We Must Believe in Magic”, “The Gambler”, “Coconut”, everything else from The Muppet Movie and A Christmas Together (except Little Saint Nick which I can take or leave) and a huge sorry to “Hands” from Sesame Street that I dearly wanted to include so that the show was represented, but if I’m honest probably wouldn’t have been in 11th place anyway. Thanks to everyone who contributed in whatever way to The Henson Company’s 1979 for all their hard work. If it weren’t for you I wouldn’t have had such a tough time this week! Thanks a whole bunch…