Kieran Moore – Wow! I can’t believe we’ve made it a quarter of the way through my Muppet Show anniversary series already. It’s flown by in no time at all.
But then 1976-1985 was a pretty jam-packed period for Kermit the Frog and Company so it’s probably right and proper that the period zoomed by for us – it probably did for them too. In just 10 years the gang had not one, but four worldwide smash TV shows; released not one, but four critically-acclaimed motion pictures; starred in countless specials; explored fantasy worlds of good and evil; recorded a slew of albums; won Emmys and Grammys and Oscar nominations and even met royalty – and that’s not everything!
I’m tired just thinking about it!
Over the last 10 weeks I’ve written about my favorite songs from each year and now I’m pitting those fabulous tracks against each other. There have been a few close calls this week, but here once and for all is the definitive list I know you’ve all been clamoring for…
10 – A Salute to the Year – The Fantastic Miss Piggy Show – 1982
When I wrote my 1982 chart I commented that this was the perfect way to finish a yearly review chart and subsequently it turns out it’s the ideal way to start one too! This is hilarious and reminds me why the world fell in love with Miss Piggy. She’s funny, sassy, sweet and a great all-round performer. It’s easy as a kid to see Miss Piggy as an annoyance who puts on Kermit and (particularly in the Muppet Show era) makes his life a bit of a misery. She can also come across as not very nice to the rest of the gang and consequently I’m not sure a lot of young Muppet fans take to Piggy straight away. As a grown-up (I must try that someday), it’s easier to see Miss Piggy as a more rounded character who actually has a lot of talent. This song is proof of that fact. 1982 really was dominated by Miss Piggy, but it was also the year some altogether scarier characters came to the public’s attention in The Dark Crystal. Honorable Mention: I Will Survive
9 – Hugga Wugga/You Are My Sunshine – The Muppet Show – 1976
I guess I should apologise to a certain webmaster (and Bountiful Leader) for placing this 1976 track in ninth place as I know it’s a personal favorite. Sorry. I love the weird and wacky moments from the first season of The Muppet Show. Jim Henson and his team had lots of tried and tested routines that had been performed on variety and talk shows and now they finally had somewhere to present them in what mostly became their definitive forms. Along with Hugga Wugga we also got classics like “Mahna Mahna”, “I Feel Pretty” and “Java”. That’s a top three to be proud of there on its own. As well as presenting these tracks 1976 also saw the debut of several new characters including Fozzie, Scooter, Uncle Deadly and Dr. Bunsen Honeydew – all of which have endured to this day. 1976 must have felt like catching lightning in a bottle for the Muppet crew. What an incredibly fruitful and creative time it was. Honorable Mention: Happy Together (What else?)
8 – Fraggle Rock Theme – Fraggle Rock – 1983
1983 really was all about the Fraggles and Fraggle Rock. I still remember the excitement of sitting down to watch the first episode. There are some things you never forget… I think… I’m a little stewpot?… Anyway, here in the UK ITV had been trailing the show as “the cousins of the Muppets” which was enough to get me hooked in. The announcer used the same line again as they introduced the show proper and I remember not knowing what to expect, but having high hopes. Of course these were not only met, but smashed to smithereens. I was blown away and still consider the show to be about the best thing ever on TV. It baffles me as I write this how something could be so perfect. Surely only snowflakes with their delicate perfect symmetry can compare? As much as Fraggle Rock was the new kid on the block, Henson’s other kids’ show Sesame Street was going great guns too – celebrating its 15th season by branching out to China and tackling the difficult subject of death. It was showing no signs of slowing down. Honorable Mention: Mothers and Children
7 – Ain’t No Road Too Long – Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird – 1985
I found out a long time ago, You gotta learn to say “Yes” when life says “No”, Don’t dwell on the bad times once they’re passed, That kinda thinking gets you nowhere fast.
And so begins the number one song from 1985. What a great message! There have been lots of important messages imparted to kids throughout Sesame Street’s lifetime, but this might just be the most important. I love this song, but then I love every song from this movie. Each one is filled with memories. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating – the very best Muppet songs are the ones that allow you to either remember a significant time in your life or create those memory points for the future. This conjures up memories of happy days spent with my brother and sister when we would watch videos for hours (mostly rented from our local BlockBuster [sigh]). They were amazing days. We got on so well (still do) and every day was an adventure into the unknown. I’ll never get that back, but I’ll never lose this song so I don’t need to. Honorable Mention: Easy Goin’ Day
6 – Happiness Hotel – The Great Muppet Caper – 1981
The middle songs in this chart were incredibly close together and this is one I was rooting for to do better, but somehow it ended up here in sixth place. It’s really through no fault of its own – simply a victim of the quality of what’s to come. My most quoted Muppet line ever is some variation of “sneak out in the middle of the night”, “We’ll take C” or “Veeery popular choice!” It’s amazing how often it fits. (That said, I once awarded myself 100 Muppet points for being able to use “They sure don’t look like Presbyterians to me” in context!) Anyway, my point was that I have a special affinity with this song. Its bluegrass/country/rock/honky-tonk vibe is perfectly Muppety and sounds like the Muppet Show in capsule form. The lyrics are funny and the whole thing is a riotous jamboree production number of the kind the Muppets are famous for. This song just about made up for the end of The Muppet Show the very same year (almost). Honorable Mention: Singin’ in the Rain.
5 – United We Stand – The Muppet Show – 1980
A month or so ago when I wrote about this song coming seemingly out of nowhere to take top spot, I meant it. This is a number that was not on my radar at all before that chart yet I find myself remarkably putting it in fifth place on my overall list ahead of songs like “Ain’t No Road Too Long” and “Happiness Hotel”. To me, that’s an incredible achievement. I think I probably said so at the time, but along with one or two other songs such as “We Got Us” this perfectly encapsulates the Muppet ethos for me. The gang might get on each other’s nerves from time to time, but they are ultimately a family that will stick together and protect their own. That’s a great message and it reminds us just why these ragtag performers stick together. One day we’ll get to enjoy this song on DVD or Blu-ray (you never know)! Honorable Mention: The Devil Went Down to Georgia
4 – Saying Goodbye – The Muppets Take Manhattan – 1984
This is in stark contrast with the previous tune. Placing this song at number four was incredibly hard to do as it is such a personal piece for me. I’ve loved the music from The Muppets Take Manhattan for as long as I can remember. As a kid watching the Muppets go their own ways, just about broke my heart. Listening to it now with Jim Henson, Richard Hunt and Jerry Nelson no longer with us only makes it sadder. Scooter’s solo line “Much more to say, Foolish to try” rings out loud and clear as he rides off into the distance and is particularly touching. For my money, the songs from this movie are just about perfect. Every one is performed brilliantly and I was sad not to be able to include more of them on my chart, but 1984 was a busy year. Along with Fraggle Rock and Sesame Street we also got the debut of Muppet Babies. It’s just occurred to me we’re not far from having that happen again! Honorable Mention: Counting the Days
3 – The Christmas Wish – A Christmas Together – 1979
Ok, so this is the song that stopped The Muppet Movie (and Rainbow Connection) from scoring a number one on my yearly charts, but this probably is my favorite ever Kermit song and as such it really did have to be the winner. 1979 was a fantastic year to be a Muppet fan. Not only did we get to see the guys on the big screen in their own feature-length film, their partnership with John Denver saw the excellent A Christmas Together special and album released to great acclaim. The album itself actually made number 26 on the Billboard charts (although I’m sure this ranking on my chart means much more to them). Everything about the album is perfect to me – listening to it is a holiday tradition that I don’t see ever ending. Sublime, Christmassy and beautiful – what more could you want? Honorable Mention: Rainbow Connection (what else?)
2 – For What it’s Worth – The Muppet Show – 1978
My own birthday year comes in at second place with what is quite possibly one of the most important Muppet songs ever. This is wonderful, musical, emotional and performed with distinction and its message reminds us that the Muppets aren’t just about comedy pratfalls and Mahna Mahna. This is about as far away from that as possible. If you can watch this without being affected then I’m not sure you should be allowed to use cutlery (maybe spoons). I have a non-Muppet friend who kind of tolerates my obsession and sees it as a bit of a joke, but even he had to comment about the emotion on display in this video when he saw it. If you look at this song and “Hugga Wugga” above and consider that these were presented on the same show (different episodes) it’s enough to blow your mind. Jerry Nelson as the lead critter gives this song exactly what is needed. He mixes the innocence of Robin with the world-weariness of Floyd Pepper and presents it with a musicality only he possesses. Fantastic and iconic in equal measure. Honorable Mention: Inchworm
1 – Just One Person – The Muppet Show – 1977
It almost seems like a bit of a cop out to put this at number one as I guess it’s an obvious choice. However, this song (in not just this form, but several others) is such an important piece of the Muppet legacy thanks to its association with Jim Henson and his memory that I simply couldn’t put it anywhere else. It’s incredibly emotional to think of the two large groups of Muppets singing it at Jim’s memorial service and on The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson, but they’re not the only places it has appeared. Sesame Street has featured it several times (most notably on A Special Sesame Street Christmas) and the Muppets themselves have sung it on shows as diverse as The Tonight Show and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Bernadette Peters is an incredible singer and her voice swells above the rest of the gang to really shine through. This goes from quiet and personal to rousing and spiritual in next to no time. It’s a truly special moment. Honorable Mention: Time in a Bottle
So there we have it. We’ve explored an astounding decade of Muppet music and celebrated 100 Muppetational songs. I hope if your favorite didn’t make number one it at least featured somewhere over the last 10 weeks. But that’s the beauty of Muppet music – there’s so much good stuff there truly is something for everyone. Thanks to the teams who worked with Jim Henson from 1976 to 1985 for making such wonderful work and marvellous memories. You helped shape a generation and we are indebted to you forever more. Thanks.