Kieran Moore – Aah, that tricky sixth season. As a show, you’ve been around long enough to know what you’re doing, but need to try something different to keep viewers entertained. It’s a tale as old as TV times…
Actually I’m not sure if any of that is true, but Sesame Street did do a couple of new things in season 6. Probably the biggest change to impact this chart was the hiring of Sam Pottle, who became the show’s musical director. From this season on, you can see a subtle shift in not just the music but also how it’s performed. With this new injection of creativity, the songs on today’s list are a fantastic mix of fun showstoppers and gentle ballads. It’s easy to see (and hear) that the songs and singers from season 6 are really giving it their all. So I guess I’d better do the same…
10 – Garbage
Ok, so I must admit including this song is a huge cheat, but surely I’m allowed the odd one every now and again? This track is not from Season 6 of Sesame Street but is instead from an album recorded by Pete Seeger and Brother Kirk (who both guested on the show during that season). Pete Seeger was actually a regular guest on Sesame Street for quite a while and over the last few weeks I’ve desperately wanted to include him on one of my charts. Sadly, I’ve been unable to find any videos to use so I’ve cheated and included this as a way of honoring his contribution to the show instead. If it helps, it was released around the time of season 6 airing. I’ve just recently watched the movie Soylent Green which comes from a similar era, and this track is massively invoking that film for me. Both the movie and the song are still incredibly relevant and I heartily recommend them.
9 – I Can’t Help It
Herry is such an underused character, I couldn’t resist including this today. I guess we see a little less of him now Jerry Nelson is no longer with us. This is a lovely little song that shows off Herry’s sweeter side. It’s emotional, heartfelt and funny – what more can you want? Everything from the moment David and Luis sneak away from the destruction in the fix-it shop onwards is utterly hilarious! On a more serious note, this song speaks to those accident prone toddlers who try to do their best, but perhaps aren’t quite agile enough to make a success of everything yet. Don’t worry kids, Herry is here to show us it’s all gonna be ok!
8 – A Kid Like You
Along with Sam Pottle, season 6 of Sesame Street saw Roscoe Orman added to the cast to take over playing Gordon, the patriarch of the show. And that’s kind of what this song is about. For generations Gordon (and Roscoe) acted as the father figure to countless children all around the world and yet the character didn’t have a child of his own. This song, written by Sam Pottle, shows us just how much he really does want one. Happily we know that Miles came along 9 years later to make his wish come true, but at the time no one knew that was going to be the case. The fact that Miles was adopted makes this all the more poignant. After controversy over whether Roscoe was still part of the Sesame cast or not a little while back I have no clue exactly what his status is currently, but the guy’s a legend and an icon and deserves to be treated as such.
7 – Telephone Rock
Over the last six weeks I’ve listed several Little Jerry and the Monotone songs, but this is probably their most famous. Although it’s only in 7th place today I’d argue it’s possibly their best and most certainly their catchiest tune. If you listen to the full version there is no way you won’t be tapping your toes by the end of it. Sesame Street did this kind of music so well and it’s no surprise that Christopher Cerf was the musical genius behind this (with Norman Stiles as lyricist). Christopher was a dab hand at rock ‘n’ roll and doo-wap type songs and Jerry Nelson was tremendous at bringing them to life. They are the dream team!
6 – I Don’t Wanna
It’s a curious thing that despite being a massive part of Sesame Street, Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch haven’t featured in these season charts as much as characters like Bert, Ernie, Grover and Cookie Monster. So I’m pleased to give Oscar another chance to be included here (for what it’s worth, Big Bird narrowly missed out with I Just Adore 4). This song is full of delightful contradictions as Oscar is his usual grouchy self, but to a light and lively tune. If rock ‘n’ roll is a signature Sesame Street style, this Joe Raposo penned number is the other one. I don’t know exactly how I’d describe it, but if you can grab a cane and boater and dance along to it, then that’s it. It might technically be Vaudeville, but it definitely has that old timey feel. Either way, this is one if the genre’s finest examples.
5 – Three Whipped Cream Pies on the Wall
This song perhaps highlights one of the biggest changes to the music of Sesame Street during season 6, but also perhaps is just a sign of things staying the same. Let me explain… As you can see, this number is all about the human cast of the show – there’s ne’er a Muppet in sight. And although the real-for-real people on Sesame Street have been singing away for the last six years, there seems to be a real focus shift towards letting them go beyond One of These Things and People in Your Neighborhood to make a much bigger contribution. This is evidenced in the fact that (spoilers) Muppets feature prominently in only one and a half of the top five songs this week. On top of that, we’ve already had a Roscoe Orman solo today and there were several more “human” songs that were bubbling under. It’s great to see them shine. This song is so funny you can even hear the cast and crew laughing as it’s performed!
4 – Yes We Can Can
I honestly expected The Pointer Sisters to be in full on Moulin Rouge mode with a title like this, but alas it wasn’t to be! Instead we get this smooth, funky RnB number that is far too cool for school (which is odd for a Sesame Street song!) Forget being good for kids TV. Forget being good for Sesame Street. This is just plain old good. The song itself was a top 20 hit for The Pointer Sisters in 1973 and here they’re drafted into the show to share its message of unity and equality. These were always important themes for Sesame Street, but in season 6 the show was highlighting social interactions and career awareness – both of which are touched upon here. We’ll no doubt be seeing (or at least hearing) The Pointer Sisters again in the next few weeks, but until then this will keep us going.
3 – Boy from Indiana
I’m completely in love with this song! Everything from its beautiful guitar opening and orchestration to Bob’s wonderful singing is perfect. It still floors me even after all these years of writing about Muppet music that songs like this exist. Not because I don’t think they should or that the teams behind them aren’t capable, but more that madcap shows like Sesame Street, The Muppet Show and Fraggle Rock are happy to let these moments take place. They are an oasis of peaceful calm that creates emotional responses which are almost too big for the shows they’re on. But it’s exactly those moments that elevate their shows beyond what they seem to be on face value. It’s astounding. I mention Fraggle Rock here because this has a very Fraggley feel. The wind and outdoorsy noises throughout the song are exactly the kind of thing Fraggle Rock would do. Sam Pottle co-wrote this song with Carol Hall. She might not be instantly recognisable like Sam, Christopher Cerf or Joe Raposo, but she’s partly responsible for some of the best Sesame Street songs around, including the brilliant True Blue Miracle.
2 – Exit
I mentioned earlier that there wasn’t much of a Muppet presence in the top five today so it stands to reason that their one big hurrah would be something extra-special, and here we are with this banging rock/blues number. Also as previously mentioned about an earlier track, this isn’t just a good Muppet song – it’s a good song period. It even got its chance to shine on a bigger stage as part of a double A-side release with Count it Higher. I wonder if it outsold Jerry and the Monotones? This is sung by Christopher Cerf, who co-wrote it with Norman Stiles. As an aside, can I just give a shout out to co-written songs? There have been several on today’s list and I love seeing creative co-operation in full force. Today’s chart is sponsored by the word “collaboration”. Anyway, I know Christopher has a fantastic voice but I’m especially shocked at how amazing he sounds here. In fact I’m pretty blown away by this song altogether.
1 – What’s the Name of That Song?
Exit is such a good piece it truly took a classic Sesame Street song to knock it off the top spot. Aside from being one of the best musical moments from the show, it also makes an appropriate number one this week as it so prominently features the human cast. Even Mr. Hooper gets a line. I’m enjoying this celebration of the people of Sesame Street so much I should do it every week! I actually wish the Muppets weren’t used at all here (except maybe for Oscar who is perfect). Sam Pottle’s most iconic Muppet composition is surely The Muppet Show Theme (it’s incredibly sad that he passed away while the show was still on air), but this is probably a close second. I honestly don’t know a Sesame Street fan that (ironically) couldn’t tell you the name of this song. It’s such a clever idea – writing a catchy song all about trying to remember a catchy song! Perhaps the best indication of just how good this song is though is the number of times Sesame Street has covered it themselves. Only the best of the best get that honor.
And this chart has shown that season 6 is also the best of the best. It’s been really tough to narrow all the great songs from season 6 down to just ten. As well as I Just Adore Four, songs like Numerical Correspondence Song, I’m Cold, The Subway, City – Country Song, and Knee Shoulder Ankle were all strong contenders. So I have to say a really huge Thank You to everyone who contributed to Sesame Street’s sixth season – in particular the humans in the cast. Your contribution can’t be understated. Thank You.