Kieran Moore- So here we are, at another catch up chart. Hasn’t time flown? I really enjoy putting these together. Partly because they take less research; but mostly because it gives me a chance to really contemplate how the Muppets grew (or didn’t) over the period in question and put individual charts into a wider context. On the flip side of that is trying to rank 10 songs that I already really, really love.
In the years from 1996-2005; we had movies, anniversaries, incredible live shows, groundbreaking kids TV series’, Christmas productions, and the Muppets on primetime TV. This era of Muppet/Henson/Sesame Street output often gets a bad rap, but you could use the above description about almost any decade since The Muppet Show began. Perhaps history has judged the late nineties/early noughties a little unfairly? Let’s see shall we…
10 – Songs – Elmopalooza – 1998
1998 was really all about Sesame Street, as it celebrated its 30th anniversary. Elmopalooza was the jewel in the crown of the festivities and “Songs” was the joyous finale that incorporated lots of Sesame Street’s classic musical moments. It was brilliantly staged and performed, but I have a confession… I’m not sure I made the right choice with this one. In terms of significance (which I do take into account), I think this absolutely deserves to be number one, but you know there’s another song from 1998 I’ve come to prefer. If I had the chance to rewrite my chart again, Songs might not take the top spot. Instead, the song that has stuck with me is Zig-Zag-Dance – also from Elmopalooza. The Count and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones do a wonderful job with that one and I find myself humming it all the time. Honorable Mention: Zig-Zag-Dance (funnily enough!)
9 – The Street I Live On – The Street We Live On – 2004
Ok, so Sesame Street anniversary shows aren’t having the best time on this list, but remember all of these tracks are previous number ones, so I’m appealing for some slack – please? As I listen to this song I’m reminded of just why I love it. It’s a wonderful piece that builds and swells into a really big, bold anthem that unabashedly says “We’re proud to have been on air for 35 years.” Almost every character gets a least one small line and it feels like a real community piece. It’s this kind of moment that made us all want to get to Sesame Street when we were younger – if only we knew how… Honorable Mention: Everything’s Coming Up Noses
8 – You and Me Against the World – Muppets Tonight – 1997
Where the last few charts had been all about Sesame Street, 1997’s list was centered on the reinvigorated Muppets and Bear in the Big Blue House. Setting out to write this chart; I expected Muppets Tonight! to feature heavily, but I found myself surprised at just how good the songs were. I think memories of Andy & Randy and Clueless Morgan had perhaps marred my memories of the show. I still haven’t got round to a proper series re-watch, but it’s on the list. There have been times over the last 10 weeks when picking a full list of good songs has been tricky, but 1997 wasn’t one of them. Almost all of this chart could have been number one and choosing an honorable mention was tough, but it’s going to… Honorable Mention: The Bear Cha-Cha-Cha (Bear had to go somewhere – he’s essentially plot exposition!)
7 – What Happened to Show Business? – The Muppet Show Live – 2001
Do you remember 2001 when a live Muppet Show was actually a thing? If only they’d repeat that experience over several days in a huge venue somewhere… Wouldn’t that be awesome? This live version of The Muppet Show was plagued by technical difficulties that make parts of it hard to watch online, but I’m sure if you were in the audience you just didn’t care. This rip-roaring celebration of those classic Muppet Show years was my stand out moment from the whole event. It’s funny and raucous and a little rough and ready, but perfectly honors the show, its guest stars, characters and performers. It really should be better known. I’d love to see this recreated with studio quality audio – even if it only went on YouTube. Honorable Mention: San Francisco Bay Blues
6 – Everyone Matters – A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie – 2002
Every wrap up chart needs a Christmas song and this is (for me at least) the best one of the years presented here. It certainly doesn’t start out as festive as one might expect from a Muppet Christmas track, but after Gonzo’s overly miserable first verse Kermit comes along to perk things up and remind us that “everyone matters”. This track is reprised at the end of the special and that version is a big, rousing group number; but this is the cut that really makes me fall for this track over and over again. It makes me want a hug! 2002 was a busy year for all arms of the Muppet/Henson/Sesame trinity, but my honorable mention doesn’t stray too far… Honorable Mention: Moulin Scrooge
5 – Different People, Different Ways – Sesame Street – 2000
This song’s message works perfectly for the year 2000. I don’t know about you, but the turn of the century felt like a time of hope and new beginnings and was an opportunity to see the world differently. 17 years later I can see the many ways we’ve moved on in appreciating people’s differences and respecting them, but this remains just as relevant. On the face of it, this song is about children learning to share their parent’s affections, but it’s the wider context it has that propelled it to first place a few weeks ago. There’s a long way to go, but this is full of hope. By passing on its lesson to kids it becomes easier for each generation to take the next step. Alan sings beautifully and this song has gone from undiscovered gem to firm favorite for me. Honorable Mention: Dance Myself to Sleep
4 – I See a Kingdom – The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland – 1999
1999 was another big year – Bear in the Big Blue House and Sesame Street were huge and not one, but two movies were released in theaters. Sadly, Muppets From Space didn’t feature much in the way of Muppet music, but “Elmo in Grouchland” was stuffed to the brim with toe-tapping numbers. This is my favorite, but in total four out of the top 10 songs were from this movie that week. It doesn’t happen very often that so many songs come from one single production so it’s a real achievement. The movie itself mostly caters to the youngsters in your life, but the score and songs have a sophisticated world music vibe that means anyone can enjoy them. Vanessa Williams does a great job portraying the regal side of a Queen of Trash and is fun throughout her short appearance. Honorable Mention: Take the First Step
3 – Springin’ – Animal Jam – 2003
When Henson kids’ shows do music, boy do they get it right. From Fraggle Rock and The Animal Show to Bear in the Big Blue House and Animal Jam – I genuinely can’t think of a bad song amongst the whole lot. Even on a show like this that is definitely aimed at the younger members of your family, the music never plays down to its audience. The songs cover a range of genres, including those that would normally be associated with an older audience, such as jazz or blues. I’ve loved this song ever since I first heard it so I’m glad through my charts I’ve been able to highlight it to a wider audience. Leslie Carrara-Rudolph is a fantastic performer and I’d love to see one of her non-Muppet shows someday. If she ever comes to the UK… Honorable Mention: Reach, Reach, Reach, for the Stars
2 – When I’m With You – The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz – 2005
By 2005 Disney owned the Muppets, and with this special (which was in production before the buyout) was trying out what would and wouldn’t work going forward. The Muppets have always been good at folding pop culture into their act, but this Oz special got it wrong by being a little too “2005” – if that’s a thing. This song, however, is as timeless as they come. It’s pure Muppet magic and on a par with their very best material. Every character gets a moment to shine and the lyrics are funny and clever, yet still accessible. The singing is top notch, the performances just as good and this whole sequence puts a huge smile on my face. I’ll take several more of these please… Honorable Mention: Kansas
1 – Treasure Island/Shiver My Timbers – Muppet Treasure Island – 1996
It was really very close between this song and the previous one for the ultimate winner of the last 10 years! When I’m With You is perhaps the more classically Muppety of the two, but Muppet Treasure Island was such an achievement this had to come first. I’ll make no bones about the fact that Muppet Treasure Island is one of my favorite Muppet films (although it would be easier to rank my family members). One of the reasons I’ve always enjoyed the movie is Tim Curry – another is the music. This piece is full of drama! It never lets up and its pounding beat continuously hits right down to my core. Jerry Nelson is the MVP here. His trademark Muppet sound is all over this track and I really do credit him with its enduring success. 1996 was a big year for the Muppets – 9 out of 10 songs on my chart were from Muppet Treasure Island or Muppets Tonight! and this really is the peak of everything they did back then. Honorable Mention: Love Led Us Here
Compiling the last 10 weeks’ worth of charts has been a really interesting experience for me. There have been times where whittling the amount of awesome material to just 10 songs has been near impossible – and moments when I was praying for another version of the alphabet song to get the numbers up. However, it’s ultimately been fun to find 100 songs that represent a very interesting time in Henson history. Before I go, I must take the opportunity (while a certain person is away) to say that neither I See a Kingdom or Bless Us All are dull songs. And perhaps almost as importantly, I need to say a massive thank you to everyone who worked with the Muppets between 1996 and 2005. You all did great work and kept the home fires burning to provide a beacon of hope for us Muppet fans. Thank You Very Much.
I can’t believe I’m now 75% of the way through my epic The Muppet Show anniversary charts. Somehow I feel the next 10 years could be a bumpy ride…!