Monday, January 07, 2008

Pinball Number Count Revisited

[EDIT: 7/19/2008 2:46pm]
MP3 links temporarily restored in conjunction with Muppet Covers Week!

[EDIT: 1/11/2008 10:36pm]
Now with direct links! Dear readers, a spike in traffic to this blog in which the 10GB/month bandwidth limit was exceeded in the last 2 days has had me reconsider the benefits of the pay account. Lucky you I decided to not invest $80 in more blackjack, but rather get a account with unlimited bandwidth and as an added bonus, direct links! And guess what? Despite great temptation I will not start soliciting donations... Everybody wins! To boot, there are a couple new covers by Venetian Snares and Inglewood Jack added.

First post of the new year and instead of looking forward, I'm going to delve into the past to wallow in possibly unhealthy nostalgia. In one of the earliest posts on Fong Songs, I focused on a funky little ditty known as the Pinball Number Count, which we should all fondly remember from our collective childhood memories of Sesame Street.

To pretentiously quote myself:
"I remember several years ago going on a mission to find this song and eventually downloading a shortened version (just the number 4) through Napster. This was also pre-"google-takes-over-the-world", so I never did really find out anything more about it. What a difference a few years makes."

Well, what a difference a few more years makes. In the meantime, the influx of Pinball Number Count-related material has been incredible. Since that original post, the song has been covered several times, parodied on Family Guy, released on DVD(s), gotten its own wikipedia entry, inspired clocks, and much more. Its place in pop culture history is cemented as long as the internet doesn't implode, which considering the percentage of dead links on the previous post (3 of 5) is not entirely unlikely.

Pointer Sisters - Pinball Number Count [DJ Food Re-Edit]
Originally composed by Walt Kraemer and performed by the Pointer Sisters, the full story of the Pinball recording sessions can be read here in a letter from the composer himself obtained by unofficial Pinball Number Count historian Matt Jones. As I would learn later, this full-length edit of the Pinball Number Count is actually a remix by DJ Food released on the Ninja Tune label in 2003. The 3-song release Solid Steel Presents Sesame Street also contains 2 disco remixes of C is for Cookie.

The Dead Hensons - Pinball
The Dead Hensons are an 8-piece band from the San Francisco Bay area that exclusively perform covers from the Muppets and Sesame Street. Active since 2004, the band was assembled after founding member Ryan Beebe placed an ad on Craigslist seeking seeking Muppet-music enthusiasts. And thank goodness he got some responses. I'm still waiting for a follow-up to their only release, a 4-song 7" vinyl. Find some more mp3s on their official website.

Big Organ Trio - Pinball Number Count
This organ-based jazz cover sounds like Medeski Martin & Wood invading Sesame Street. And hey, why not? Incidentally, a Medeski Martin & Wood children's album will released tomorrow. Check out Big Organ Trio's website and you may just find some more covers...

Neil Cowley Trio - Pinball Number Count
A sweet, sweet piano jazz cover is from the Neil Cowley Trio's 2006 debut album Displaced, which won the BBC Jazz Award for Best Album.

Wicked Hemlocks - Number Count
This experimental/funk/rock cover by Wicked Hemlocks is the most recent addition to the Pinball Number Count collection, just released last June by indie label Stick in Your Spokes Records.

Blind Spot - 12
From the impossible-to-find 1995 compilation called 20 Bands Trash 20 Songs to find the way to Sesame Street. Trash is a fairly accurate description of the punk covers inspired by Sesame Street, though luckily the Pinball Number Count is the best cover on there, done in a ska/punk fashion.

Nude Continuum - Twelve (live)
Australia-based funk/acid jazz outfit Nude Continuum perform a sweet rendition of the Pinball Number Count live. This mp3 is ripped from a youtube video, which features lead singer Princess Freesia rockin' out in her underwear on stage. Clips from their impending debut album Nightclub of the Nudist sound promising and Jamiroquai drummer Derrick McKenzie is a guest performer.

Serious Aeolian Belfry - Twelve (live)
I consider it a major coup to find this cover, recorded live in the summer of 2002 at Nelson Ledges Quarry Park in Garrettsville, Ohio. On occasion I'm prone to go all Veronica Mars-like in pursuit of covers. After extensive research (read: googling), I found a mention of a band called Serious Aeolian Belfry performing the Pinball Number Count live and a recording that may exist. I was able to contact Andrew Rothman, drummer for the now defunct band, who graciously indulged me with my strange request for the cover. Now here's the really cool part: does the name Andrew Rothman ring any bells? Just a couple weeks ago, Andrew won first-place in the Coverville theme remix contest that ran in conjunction with the Coverville Countdown! Congratulations! And to boot, Andrew also won Coverville Idol last March! Wow, it's a small coverworld after all.

Braces Tower - Eleven Twelve
Sweet head-bobbin' remix by the possibly non-existent Braces Tower (their website has been "coming soon" for a long time).

Venetian Snares - Twelve
Thanks to many readers who've pointed out this 2005 Venetian Snares remix that I missed the first time around. Different but good, a schizophrenic breakdown of the original track. I've read it described as "breakcore", a term that really means nothing to me. By the way, Venetian Snares is the alias of one Aaron Funk (a highly appropriate name) who hails from Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Inglewood Jack - Pinball Number Count (live)
One more cover for ya! Just when I think I've exhausted all cover sources, I stumble upon this live cover from Ottawa band Inglewood Jack on the Internet Live Music Archive. If you scroll around, they've got a few different shows with the Pinball Number Count. Go Canadian Content!

Hockey Night - For Guys' Eyes Only
Not limited to mere covers, the Pinball Number Count gets a shout out in this catchy Hockey Night tune.

Stephen Lynch - Jim Henson's Dead
In spite of its morbidly blunt title, this is a terrific ode to the muppets creator from comedian/musician Stephen Lynch, possibly with the most melodramatic rendition of one two three four five six seven eight nine ten eleven twweeEEEeeeeEELLVE! The chorus is as follows: Oh Jim Henson's dead and gone / But his muppets will live on / And Kermit's still hot, 'cause it's still not / Easy bein' green.

Pinball Number Count international
As it turns out, the funkiness of the Pinball Number Count transcends many languages. Sort of. While the master instrumental tracks cannot be de-funked, some of these versions do not benefit from the awkward extra syllables. I'll leave it to you to laugh inappropriately when necessary.
Flipperkast [in Dutch]
TallSangen [in Norwegian]
Пинбол [in Russian]
Pinball Numeros [in Spanish]
Sayılar [in Turkish]

Strangest Pinball Count-related video: "SE7EN!"
David Fincher's Se7en is mashed-up with the Pinball Number Count. Funky AND disturbing. Really quite brilliant.

Best Pinball Number Count video on Youtube
It starts off innocuously at a radio station in Hamilton, Ontario. 2 guys in a broadcast booth, one guy standing awkwardly facing the camera, the other in chair facing away. Someone whispers "Six!" and the pinball number count is on! The guy standing proceeds to unashamedly dance his socks off as the other eventually shuffles off camera. This appears to be an on-going project of one Mike Long of Hamilton whose youtube video count is nearing 300 (!), most of which are him dancing guerrilla-style in and around Hamilton, sometimes to the utter bafflement of passerbys. Getting jiggy to Mickey Lee Lane's Hey Sah-Lo-Ney in a health food store is particularly brazen. The hilarious kick-off to France Gall's Poupeé de cire, poupée de son is also not to be missed. Napoleon Dynamite and the Torrance Community Dance Group would be equally proud. Dance on, my friend.

The Fox lawyers have been busy... It was surprisingly hard to find a working link to the spot-on Family Guy pinball parody. But you know, you can't really stop the internet from doing it's thing.

Want to own your own piece of Pinball Number Count? The DVD collection Sesame Street: Old School, Volume 2 contains a replica animation cel from the Pinball Number Count! A tempting offer no doubt.

A nice 1280 x 1024 wallpaper can be found here. Originally available in conjunction with the Ninja Tune release.

Gee, I've always wanted a clock based on the Pinball Number Count animation, but I just didn't know how to go about making my own. I'm sure you've been struck by that same insight at one point or another. Well, we're in luck. Someone more capable of putting thoughts into action has a step-by-step guide to creating such a clock. Very, very impressive. Ironically, he was struck by a wave of nostalgia triggered by the Family Guy parody. Inspired by the DIY clock, someone else made a flash version of the same clock. At first I thought I was looking at a static image, until I realized that indeed the clock was accurately displaying the time.

OK, I'm off to Las Vegas & San Francisco for the next few weeks. You may or may not see guest posts in the meantime. Later 'gators.


Kurtis Findlay said...

Wow! Great post! I love this song!

I demand more muppets posts!

Anonymous said...

I had to look up youtube to recall the original - wow, takes me back! I can't believe there are so many cover versions, thanks for sharing these.

Anonymous said...

Oh, coincidentally, I found this post after looking for interstate76 music - a post you did a couple of years back still had an active link in the comments!

Eliot said...

Venetian Snares - Twelve

DH. said...

There was a band at Carleton College (and later in the Twin Cities) in the mid-90s called the Lentils. They were doing a cover of this song as their set closer for as long as I knew it. I can't seem to find a copy of it right now, sadly...

Anonymous said...

Awesome find! Thanks for doing th research.

Anonymous said...

Biggage! Love this tune to death and I'm surprised by all those cover versions!

tumel said...

great research mate... and cheers for the whole site as well, one of my faves really... ive been getting the error message that your bandwith is full... is there a way i can get them some other way? id really appreciate it, it kinda is important for me... cheers

Fongolia said...

Sorry for the delay in fixing this (sigh, "working" while on vacation), but links should be working now. They're all direct links now too! :)

Anonymous said...

I have an entire Blindspot album if you'd like it. I remember singing this song on stage with them @ the Phoenix in Petaluma.

Fongolia said...

Hey Anonymous #5, I wouldn't mind hearing that Blindspot album... my e-mail's on the sidebar or post a link. thanks!

Kurtis: I promise some more Muppet covers in the future! There are some great ones waiting to be heard.

MonsieurCactus said...

How about the lead sheet to this song?

Fongolia said...

I can't find any lead sheets, tabs, chords or anything for the Pinball Number Count. Sorry! If anyone else knows of any music notation for the song, let me know.

Also, proving that old cover adage about there being an acapella version of every song, I found out that a college group from York University called Wibijazz'n has an album with Sesame Street and Pinball Number Count on it. Future purchase, methinks.

Anonymous said...

I would add this one to the list: South Rakkas Crew 'Twelve' (iTunes URL)

woodboow said...

Russian cartoon!

sean said...

there is a rap song that samples the pinball number count that I cannot find the title or artist for...anyone(else) ever heard it? i am beginning to think it was some kind of fever-induced hallucination...

Anonymous said...

(of the original songs)I currently have only been able to find (3!) (4!) (7!) and (11!) I have some remixes and versions from bands other than the original, but can anyone track down the full complete set of 12 from Electric Company?

Will trade with anyone that want some...

sean said...

found the song i was looking outfit called T.H.C. title: "1,2,3,4,5". Awesome track!

Fongolia said...

Intriguing find, Sean! I wonder if I can scrounge up enough songs for a Pinball Number Count Re-Revisited post someday...

Anonymous said...


Ludvig II said...

Here's a Go!Animate version of the Pinball Count.

DJ Xerox said...

We just did a Sesame Street Cover song Tribute, with some of the tunes uploaded to

Anna Copa Cabanna and the MG5 perform the Baker Series Ten Count

Madam Robot and the Lust Brigade doing the Indian Guru Ten Count

Whooping Crane doing the Pinball Number Count

Jack Hymers said...

great song, a band called fred leslie's missing link teamed up with the sweet divines to make a great cover of this song too :)

Fongolia said...

Actually, the cover by Fred Leslie's Missing Link is probably my favourite! It came out not long after I did this post so it didn't get a chance to be included.

Unknown said...

Fans of the original might like this remix: