Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Muppet Covers Week, Day 3: Cover Songs From the Street

With an astounding 4,160 episodes over 38 seasons, children everywhere are still managing to find their way to Sesame Street. First hitting the airwaves in 1969, Sesame Street is still going strong with season 39 coming your way August 11th with a swack of celebrity guest stars lined up including Jack Black, Feist, Will Arnett(!), David Beckham, Jessica Alba, and more. There have been hundreds of Sesame Street songs over the years, but just a handful of them are continually introduced to new generations of children (uh, don't quote me on that). I've chosen a bunch that I specifically remember from my childhood and have some sort of meaning to me.

See this? This is the exact album cover of the LP that was the source of my early love of Sesame Street music. All the hits were on there: the Sesame Street theme, C is for Cookie, Bein' Green, Somebody Come & Play, Sing, ABC-DEF-GHI... all of which were written or co-written by the brilliant Joe Raposo, who composed numerous other Sesame Street songs. Another virtuoso was Jeff Moss who wrote Rubber Duckie, I Love Trash, The People in Your Neighborhood, I Don't Want to Live on the Moon, and so many more. Raposo and Moss each scored and wrote songs for a Muppet movie too, The Great Muppet Caper and The Muppets Take Manhattan respectively. Like Jim Henson, both Raposo and Moss left us far too soon though their legacies are indelible.

Rubber Duckie
[originally performed by Ernie]

That's Baby Boy Fong (circa 1986 maybe?) with a lifesize Ernie and raggedy handmade Bert. These days one of Ernie's arms is detached and his legs are barely hanging on... well-loved. Rubber Duckie, of course, is Ernie's signature song. It's also very dear to me because "duck" was my very first word, believe it or not.

Little Richard - Rubber Duckie
Little Richard is hilarious and little scary. Sounds like he's struggling a bit with the script, but he's in his element (and bathtub) when performing this rockin' cover of Rubber Duckie.

Kelly Hogan - Rubber Duckie
Fun cover by Kelly Hogan, vocalist from Atlanta band The Jody Grind.

Love Pigs - Rubber Duckie
The inevitable punk cover...

The Buffalo Chips - Rubber Duckie
...and the inevitable a cappella cover.

Larry Paulette - Rubber Duckie
Inappropriate Bert & Ernie jokes aside, this is the most overtly sexual Rubber Duckie cover by the openly gay Larry Paulette from his 1977 album What Makes a Man a Man?.

C is for Cookie
[originally performed by Cookie Monster]

Another song that makes me feel warm and fuzzy. I had a soft Cookie Monster doll with googly eyes that rattled. One day he took an ill-fated tumble off the handlebars of my bike, cracking his eyeballs and spilling eye crystals all over the pavement. Cookie underwent some emergency crazy glue surgery with a few salvaged crystals, though he never quite rattled the way he used to.

The Independents - C is for Cookie
Punk cover that takes a bit of a cue from Oingo Boingo with this cover. The Independents contributed C is for Cookie to the 1995 compilation album 31 Bands Trash 31 Songs to Find the Way to Sesame Street, though this particular version was newly recorded for their 2002 album Back from the Grave. Interestingly, Joey Ramone discovered the South Carolina band in the 90's and became their manager.

Slapshot - C is for Cookie
Another punk cover. Here's a bizarre, yet amusing article from the Wall Street Journal about "Cookie Monster singing" in death metal. The writer even contacted Frank Oz and the Sesame Workshop about it. The response from the VP of corporate communications: "What is it?"

Cookie Monster - C is for Cookie [disco version]
Hilarious disco version from the Sesame Street Fever album, though clocking in at 5:47 it's hardly for casual listening!

I Love Trash
[originally performed by Oscar the Grouch]

Ernie loves his rubber duckie, Cookie Monster loves cookies, and Oscar, well, he loves his trash.

Steven Tyler - I Love Trash
The Aerosmith lead singer contributed this lively rock cover to Elmopalooza!. He's actually really into it and the backing band does an excellent Aerosmith impression (I'm under the impression the rest of the band wasn't involved). I noticed this did not make the setlist for Guitar Hero: Aerosmith.

Animal House - I Love Trash
From that "Animal House Sings and Plays..." kids album I mentioned the other day. A little more successful than the other Muppet/Sesame Street covers from that album because they don't try too hard to imitate Oscar's distinct vocals.

Krupted Peasant Farmers - I Love Trash
Yep, the inevitable punk cover. Most of these punk covers are from that 31 Bands Trash 31 Songs to Find the Way to Sesame Street album.

Rights Reserved - ABC-DEF-GHI
This song used to crack me up as a kid. Silly Big Bird, it's the alphabet! Not a great cover, but the only one I know of this tune.

Idiot Flesh - People in the Neighborhood
A hilarious, yet not so innocent cover of the Jeff Moss-penned classic. The pimp, the crack-addicted mother of 8, and one more surprise are some of the people in this neighbourhood and the music shifts to match each particular character. Need I mention this isn't for the kiddies?

Take 6 - Easy Bein' Green
Performed by Kermit in the inaugural season of Sesame Street, his signature song has been covered numerous times by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Van Morrison, Ray Charles, and Tony Bennett. This short but sweet a cappella cover by gospel group Take 6 is an upbeat, toe-tapping reversal of Kermit's lament (but of course, Kermit changes his mind by the end of the original too). Thanks to Boyhowdy for this one!

Barenaked Ladies - La La La La Lemon
BNL's Ed Robertson and Steven Page respectively take on the roles of Ernie and Bert in this wonderful cover from the 2002 benefit compilation For the Kids, which also featured a few more Muppet/Sesame Street covers. Steven Page made headlines yesterday when he was unbelievably arrested in New York on charges of cocaine possession! Right on the heels of Barenaked Ladies' children's album Snacktime!, this is the exact opposite type of press one could hope for. Say it ain't true! Hopefully it's all some sort of misunderstanding, or else he's got some explaining to do... For the Pollywog in a Bog music video, the band members were turned into woodland puppets with the help of puppeteer Noah Ginex who once trained at the Jim Henson Company.

I'd also like to direct your attention to this intriguing sounding jazz CD by The Choi Sacks Duo called Imagination: The Music of Joe Raposo, which is all covers of Raposo-penned tunes such as Somebody Come and Play, Sing, Bein' Green, and La, La, La. Listen to samples and purchase here.

This post was brought to you by the letter J and the number 3. Tomorrow: more covers by Muppets and guests.

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