Fan Week ’17 – The Top 10 Songs of: Fan Covers (Instrumental)

Top 10 fan

Kieran Moore – I love Muppet fans! I think on the whole we’re a pretty cool bunch. Clever, witty, funny, kind, sensitive – these are all words. Some of them might even apply to Muppet fans. All you really need to know is, if you’re reading this – you’re ok by me!

My love for Muppet fans is one of the main reasons Fan Week is quite possibly my favourite time to read The Muppet Mindset. The amount of awesomely creative stuff that gets sent in is mindboggling. I’m sure Jim Henson would be proud to know how much he inspired everybody.

Before we start there are a few rules:

  • All music must be instrumental – I did lyrical pieces last year and didn’t want these two charts to compete.
  • Only original Muppet songs are eligible so there’s no “Tenderly” or “For What it’s Worth” here – even if it was inspired by the Muppets’ version.
  • Each song could only appear once.
  • Songs must be performed by fans and not be “official” sanctioned covers.

With all that established, let’s start with a very appropriate track for a numerical countdown…

10 – Counting is Wonderful – Melinda Meginness
As a general rule there are a few ways to get on this list and one of them is to cover something unexpected. Melinda has quite a few Sesame Street covers on her YouTube page and after whittling them down I was left with this and “La La La”. Both stood out because they are a little more unusual than the standard Muppet covers that are all over the internet and it was very close between the two. In the end I plumped for this track as the electronic organ sound works nicely with the original theme of the piece. This version is too warm to sound truly spooky, but does capture the excitement of Count von Count nicely and rolls along at a great pace. I think Jerry Nelson would appreciate this.

9 – Fraggle Rock Theme – John Bevans
Another way to get on my list is to be insanely talented.  Here John shows he’s got what it takes to produce a fantastic Fraggle cover across four instruments and five musical lines. I’m dizzy just thinking about it! There were some very cool kids’ TV themes in the 1980’s (Thundercats, I’m looking at you) and the Fraggle Rock Theme was one of the cooler ones with its stomping bass line and electric guitar licks. John has captured the essence (not in a weird, Skeksis way) of the original track brilliantly. It seems he’s been posting similar videos over the past year or so, and they’re all worth checking out (once you’ve finished reading this).

8 – Muppet Show Theme – Florian Stadler
I found this track at the 11th hour and just knew I had to include it. Not that I struggled to find cover versions of this song – as you can imagine there are a gazillion, but this is another way to get on my list. When performing a cover, don’t just whip out a piano or guitar – show me your accordion! I love an unusual instrument. If someone wants to cover “Pictures in My Head” on the euphonium or “Professional Pirate” on the penny whistle, I’m there. There’s an old joke that goes: “What’s the difference between an onion and an accordion? No one cries when you cut up an accordion!” Florian’s rendition of this song proves just how unfair that joke is.

7 – Sunny Days (Sesame Street Theme) – Beach Buddies Band
According to the poster of this video, this was created using Finale Notepad – a music notation program. I’ve had a go at something similar myself so I can attest that this is not an easy thing to do. I know some people aren’t keen on synthetic sounds, but when the arrangement is this good it’s hard to deny the talent involved. I love the retro “wall of sound” feel this has. It instantly makes me feel Christmassy and the chiming bells reinforce that vibe. It seems as though the Beach Buddies Band may have amicably split. I’m not sure where this comes in their timeline, so I don’t know if this is a joint effort or a solo project, but whoever put this together has a future in music I’m sure.

6 – The First Time it Happens – pianomusiclovr
The first time it happens could be referring to the fact that this is our first foray into songs from a Muppet movie, or the fact that this is our first piano cover. Or it could just be about a frog and a pig falling in love in London – you decide. The original version of this track was already quite jazzy, but this cranks it up a notch or two. It definitely wouldn’t sound out of place at The Dubonnet Club (even if it is more of a supper club than a restaurant).  It’s perhaps a strange adjective to use, but this rendition actually feels like the most “Muppety” version of this song I’ve ever heard. As you might imagine pianomusiclovr has plenty of piano tracks on their YouTube page, but as well as covers there are also some very, very good original compositions that I can heartily recommend.

5 – Rubber Duckie – Herman Acke
This version of Rubber Duckie is right up my bathtub (can I say that on a family site?) I just adore the folksy, bluesy tone of this cover. And that’s the third way to get on this list – do something different. If you’re going to attempt a cover, mix it up a bit. Change the feel or the tempo or the musical style. That’s exactly what Herman’s done and it really sets this apart. Herman gets extra points for having an Ernie doll with him in this clip; I love a nod to the original source material. It’s not quite subtle enough for an Easter egg, but it’s close. Herman is another insanely talented guy and this is only a very small taste of what he can do. Some of his other videos are off the chart (literally in this case as they’re not Muppet covers!)

 

4 – I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon – Shane Low
In his write up for this video Shane says he finds this song really sweet and I have to agree. Long time readers of my charts will know I love the original version of this track. Ernie’s thoughts of family and friends trumping his desire to travel the universe strike a definite chord with me. Shane’s version of this song takes something that is already dreamy and lilting and makes it even more mellow and mellifluous. For me, this version is every bit as affecting as the original – even without lyrics. On his channel, Shane has an instrumental version of one of my favourite songs from The Muppet Show – “In My Life”. It’s as soulful as this is and I heartily recommend it.

3 – Sesame Street Celebration – Kent White
I apologise for not being able to credit the musicians in this clip, but the orchestra seems to be made up of attendees at a workshop. We get four Sesame Street songs for the price of one here. The main theme has been listed elsewhere already so I’ll just add that I like the marching band feel it has in this piece – it sets the tone nicely. C is for Cookie is one of my favourite segments – those nice deep bass instruments really do a good job of invoking Cookie Monster. I can picture him shimmying and jazz handing all through this! Bein’ Green takes us in another direction entirely and turns this simple song into an absolute anthem. It’s soaring, swelling notes make me want to stand up and say “I’m green and I’m proud!” The first few bars of Sing make effective use of the woodwind section and really build up a nice amount of tension. If the score to any new Sesame Street movie is as good as this I’ll be very happy indeed.

2 – Rainbow Connection – UkeTunes
Earlier I said that one of the ways to get on today’s chart was to do something different. Here I’m throwing that out the window in favor of invoking the right amount of emotion. As you can imagine there are a lot of covers of Rainbow Connection online. There are a cappella versions, piano covers, someone playing the ocarina and just about everything in between. A ukulele cover in itself is not too outrageous, but as soon as I heard this I knew it was the one I had to feature. There’s an indefinable quality to this that, to use a music pun, struck a chord. It carried me away and that’s really what any version of this song should do. If you’re not going to reinvent the wheel at least get it spot on, and that’s what’s happening here. It’s a superb arrangement by Tom Guy, but sadly I’m not sure who the instrumentalist is…

1 – He’ll Make Me Happy – FountainKeeper
This beautiful piece brings me to the final way to get on today’s list; make me look at the original song in a new way. It had never occurred to me until I heard this, just how similar the opening of He’ll Make Me Happy is to Pachelbel’s Canon. (For those that aren’t familiar with the name – if you’ve ever been to a wedding, there’s a 99.9% chance you’ve heard it.) This cover has made me appreciate Jeff Moss’s original composition so much more knowing he used that clever musical cue to write (in my humble opinion) the best wedding song ever. FountainKeeper has done a tremendous job in capturing the feel of the original with soft, sweet moments gradually building to a huge crescendo. I’m even more impressed because his YouTube page says all of his arrangements are done by ear. That’s talent, folks! If I ever do anything crazy like get married (or shoot myself out of a cannon into a pool of Piggy Water™), I’m doing it to this song.

Writing and compiling this chart has been a real joy. It’s true – Muppet fans really are the best in the world. For me, the Muppets are about brotherhood and accepting everyone for who they are. Remember Brian Henson said, “Kermit believes you should love and respect the being most different from you because of how different they are”. We’re a diverse bunch and all like different things about our fuzzy friends, but it’s important to remember why we come together in the first place. Muppets and Muppet fandom can and should “make millions of people happy”.

I have to thank some weirdo called Jarrod Fairclough for bringing fan week to the masses (occasionally he does something right – heck, he hired me!), but the biggest thanks really has to go to today’s artists and you guys – the fans. Thanks for loving the Muppets. It’s not always easy bein’ a Muppet fan, but it’s so worth it.

Thanks to our pal Leah for drawing the fan-made version of our usual Top 10 logo.  We loved it last year, so we decided to use it again!

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