Monday, July 14, 2008

Muppet Covers Week, Day 1: It's Time to Play the Music...

Welcome to a very special week at Fong Songs...

It's a week of Muppet cover songs, yaaaAAAAaAAAAAAaaaay!!!

Several months ago, I was googling "Muppets in Space" (don't ask why) when I came across this interview with Jason Segel that made my jaw drop. Now I'm generally on top of most movie news, but somehow the biggest announcement of the year slipped by without much fanfare. Even with the success of franchise reboots like Batman Begins and Casino Royale, the brilliance of a Muppet movie reboot escaped me and now it's in the hands of Apatow cronies Nicholas Stoller and Jason Segel, respectively director and writer/star of Forgetting Sarah Marshall. If you saw that film, the puppet musical adaptation of Dracula may give you an inkling of Segel's passion for puppets. In fact, those were created by the Jim Henson's Creature Shop and partly performed by Henson puppeteers. Segel plans to go old school, a return to the early Muppet films when they weren't just doing Muppet re-enactments of other films/books. The most recent Muppet production was 2005's made-for-TV movie The Muppets' Wizard of Oz, though the last Muppet feature to hit theatres was Muppets From Space in 1999. Some new blood, just what Dr. Bunsen Honeydew ordered!

So, a week of Muppet covers, eh? This is something I've been meaning to do for a long time ever since I found out about this new Muppet movie. I've procrastinated for so long they've even announced a Fraggle Rock movie since then! We'll kick of Muppet week with covers of the main theme songs of The Muppet Show, Sesame Street, and Fraggle Rock.

The Muppet Show Theme
[originally by Sam Pottle & Jim Henson]

Animal House - The Muppet Show Theme
This clunker comes from an out of print knock-off kids album from the 1970's with the unwieldy title, "Animal House Sings and Plays The Muppet Show Theme and other Hit Songs from the Muppet Movie & Sesame Street Show!", released by Peter Pan Records. While it's somewhat nice to find covers of some seldom-covered Muppet tunes, the results are fairly uninspired and pale imitations of the originals. Sadly of the Muppet Show covers that appear on iTunes, nearly all of them fall into this category.

Bowser & Blue - The Muppet Show Theme
According to their website, Bowser & Blue are "Canada's Musical Comedy Same Sex Couple" who have been performing for 30 years. From a live show, a mildly amusing cover of The Muppet Show theme as performed by Robert Plant.

Valley Junior High School Viking Band - The Muppet Show Theme
From a old WFMU post about records of high school bands found at thrift shops.

Dj TaMeiL - Muppets Theme
A sped-up, repetitive remix of basically just the instrumental intro. Some Pinky & the Brain samples sneak in near the end.

Alex H - Mupp It Out
Somewhat similar to the Dj TaMeiL mix but less haphazard, this basically makes a new instrumental track from elements of the Muppets theme.

Sesame Street Theme
[originally by Joe Raposo, Jon Stone, and Bruce Hart]

LWL - Sesame Street
BBQ Chickens - Sesame Street Theme
Lizards - Sesame Street Theme
Fall Silent - Sunny Days (Sesame Street)
As a cover rule, you can find a punk version of nearly any song (same goes for a cappella). In the next few days, we'll learn that this rule applies doubly for Sesame Street tunes.

Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra - Sesame Street
My favourite Tokyo ska band puts their distinct mark on the classic theme.

The Singers Unlimited - Sesame Street
Cotton Club Singers - Sesame Street
It's common to find covers of Jeff Buckley's version of Hallelejah rather than the Leonard Cohen original, but how unlikely is the idea of finding a cover of The Singers Unlimited take on Sesame Street? I first heard this jazzy vocal cover by Hungarian group The Cotton Club Singers, then was baffled to hear the Singers Unlimited version, which is almost the exact same. In fact, I played them both at the exact same time just be sure the weren't the same song (there are very minor differences). The Singers Unlimited version was actually released first in 1971 on the album In Tune with vocal arrangements by the group's leader, Gene Puerling. What I love about the cover is the awesome jazz piano arrangement and I was pleasantly shocked to find out that the In Tune album was a collaboration with Canadian jazz legend Oscar Peterson and his trio!

Harold Mabern Trio - Sesame Street Theme
A nice, if overlong instrumental jazz cover. The familiarity of the theme wears off as the song veers into pure improvisation.

Smart E's - Sesame's Treet
Apparently this remix reached number 2 on the charts in the UK in 1992!

Ursula 1000 - Sesame Street Theme Remix
This is an official remix from the Songs from the Street: 35 Years of Music box set of Sesame Street music.

Fraggle Rock
[originally by Philip Balsam & Dennis Lee]

I don't remember watching Fraggle Rock much as a kid, though I know the theme well. It was awesome to learn that the theme was co-written by Dennis Lee, the Canadian children's author/poet responsible for the classics Alligator Pie and Jelly Belly. He's also credited with the story for Labyrinth!

Allister - Fraggle Rawk
Outside of youTube videos, it's slim pickings for Fraggle Rock covers except for this punk cover from 1999.

Stay tuned for more Muppet cover goodness all this week! Let me know if there's a good cover you think I missed or if there's a Muppet/Sesame Street song you'd like to see covered, I'll see what I can do. Tomorrow: covers of tunes from The Muppet Movie!


Anonymous said...

Great posting. So much good music came from the early Muppet recordings. One that you may be interested in, if haven't already heard it, is from Paul Williams' 2005 album (available on iTunes). He does a really touching duet with the Great Gonzo on one of the many classic songs he wrote especially for the Muppets, "I'm Going to Go Back There Someday" on the album of the same name. Great cover of a moving song.

Anonymous said...

oh man, please make next week "muppet download week #2"!!! if you could find a recording of whoever doing "yes, we have no bananas" from the muppet show, i'd be soooooo stoked.

Fongolia said...

I wasn't planning on it, but for the record "Yes, We Have No Bananas" was performed in the second season on the episode hosted by Steve Martin. According to Muppet Wiki, it was performed by "Marvin Suggs and the All-Food Glee Club".

Anonymous said...

Awesome series of Muppet covers! My favorite all-girl Japanese punk band, Softball, also does a rockin' cover of "sesame street". It's on one of their Japanese singles EPs.

Fongolia said...

Thanks for the heads up, I'll look into that.

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