Monday, July 21, 2008

Muppet Covers Week, Day 7: Mah Na Mah Na

One more belated entry for Muppet Covers Week... this should've gone up yesterday, but churning out these daily posts was wearing me out. A quick round-up of last week's posts:

Day 1: It's Time to Play the Music...

Day 2: The Muppet Movie

Day 3: Songs From the Street

Day 4: Covers by Muppets & Friends

Day 5: The Batman Connection

Day 6: Pinball Number Count Rehashed

...which brings us to day 7: MAHNA MAHNA.

Mah Nà Mah Nà
Mahna Mahna
Mah-Nah Mah-Nah
Mah-Na-Mah-Na matter how you spell it, it's one of the most enduring and most covered Muppet-related tunes. I say Muppet-related because it did not originate with the Muppets but rather a 1968 Italian mondo film. As best as I can tell, most of the research about the origins of the Mah Nà Mah Nà stems from this geocities site, which was started in 2000 and continues to be sporadically updated to this day.

Piero Umiliani - Mah Nà Mah Nà
Piero Umiliani - Samba Mah Nà
We start at the beginning, 1968's Svezia, Inferno e Paradiso (Sweden, Heaven & Hell), an Italian mondo film "documentary" about sexual behaviours of Swedes. It seems to be the unlikeliest of soundtracks to an Italian softcore porn film, roughly on par with using sped up footage alongside Boots Randolph's Yakety Sax. Samba Mah Nà is an awesome variation from the same soundtrack. I really can't imagine what sort of scene this music accompanied! An entire album of remixes of the original, "Mah Nà Mah Nà: Vulcanology.It Remixes", is available on iTunes, eMusic, and Amazon, though it doesn't look like a physical disc exists.

Piero Umiliani - Mah Nà Cowboy
Umiliani revisits the Mah Nà motif with this hilarious variation from the soundtrack to 1971's Questo Sporco Mondo Meraviglioso (google's translation: This Dirty Wonderful World).

Mahna Mahna & The Two Snowths - Mahna Mahna
The Muppet debut of Mahna Mahna was on the 14th episode of Sesame Street, airing in November 1969. A more polished version was performed live three days later on The Ed Sullivan Show and this was later redone for the very first episode of The Muppet Show when it debuted in 1976. "Mahna Mahna" (the wild-haired scat man) was performed by Jim Henson and the "Two Snowths" (the pink creatures who sing the doo-doo's) were both performed by Frank Oz. Muppet Wiki has a handy Mahna Mahna Through the Years pictorial guide.

Henri Salvador - Mais Non Mais Non (Mah Na Mah Na)
An early French cover from 1969, which replaces the familiar refrain with Mais Non, Mais Non and adds some other lyrics.

Hot Butter - Mah-Na-Mah-Na
Electronic Concept Orchestra - Mah Na Mah Na
Two Moog versions, the first by Hot Butter who are best known for the instrumental Popcorn. The latter playfully incorporates random classical bit and other familiar tunes.

Giorgio Moroder - Mah Na Mah Na
De Savoya Combo - Mah-Na Mah-Na
The scatting in the first one sounds mostly like a sick duck, while the latter sounds like a sick pig. Strange.

Leroy Holmes - Mah Na Mah Na
Pay particularly close attention to this version, which uses a wide range of instruments and sometimes lush orchestration. This is clearly the antecedent of Cake's cover.

Dave Pell Singers - Mah-Nah-Mah-Nah
A pleasant, if bland cover. The more of these you listen to, the harder it is to distinguish them apart.

Asylum Street Spankers - Mah Na Mah Na
This is a fun live cover, incorporating snippets of Black Sabbath's Sweet Leaf, Zeppelin's Heartbreaker, the Stones' Satisfaction, and more in an extended bit of scatting.

Skin - Mah Na Mah Na
The big, loud, fast punk cover. I love it.

Cake - Mahna Mahna
If some of the other versions start wearing thin, I find the Cake version perpetually listenable. Again, check out the Leroy Holmes cover and notice the strong similarities. This was originally from the For the Kids compilation album.

Mr. Mo - Mah Na Mah Na
Mr. Mo uses Mah Na Mah Na as the basis of this song, which sounds suspiciously like Mambo #5 too. It's also the first version I know of to use "mah na mah na" as a sexual euphemism, though perhaps that's unintentionally fitting considering the song's origins.

Lenlow - Kanye Mahna [Kanye West vs. The Muppets]
Mash-up artist Lenlow combines Kanye's Golddigger with Cake's cover of Mahna Mahna. Works surprisingly well.

Alex H - Mahna Mahna in Memphis [Marc Cohn vs. The Muppets]
This mash-up is a little more forced...

K-Taro - Sweden, Heaven & Hell
Taking its title from the original film source, Japanese artist K-Taro, formerly of Pizzicato Five, contributed this electronic cover to the compilation album Sushi 3003.

Pato Fu - Made in Japan
Pato Fu - Made in Japan (live)
Brazilian pop band Pato Fu incorporates Mahna Mahna into the chorus of its hit song Made in Japan, which was written in Portuguese and translated into Japanese. A computerized voice actually sings "Made in Japan" in place of "Mahna Mahna". I love the live version, which is from their 10th anniversary album. It's much livelier, for lack of a better word, than the album version. So we have a Brazilian band singing in Japanese, based on an Italian tune from a film about Swedes. Very worldly!

Vanilla - No Way No Way
No doubt, the worst usage of Mah Na Mah Na: an atrocious sub-par Spice Girls knock-off. I just dare you to watch the music video for this on youTube (no, I won't link to it!).

That Handsome Devil - Hey White Boy
Mahna Mahna pops up in all sorts of curious contexts. I was trying to remember where I recognized this band's name from, then I realized their song, Elephant Bones, was one of the bonus tracks from Guitar Hero 2, one of the more eclectic song choices. Let's get Dr. Teeth & The Electric Mayhem in one of these games! Can you picture that?

Thanks for joining me for Muppet Covers Week! Phew, time for a break!


Joshua Rubin said...

Wow, man...
Great Muppet Week. I just stumbled on your site and spent the past half hour downloading nearly everything you put up since July 9.
I also love Muppet covers, and have been searching for Mahna Mahna covers for years.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, for all your hard work. This was really fun.

G said...

What is it about this song that makes it so much fun?
Our 2-year-old daughter saw the Sesame Street version on Youtube a while back, and couldn't stop laughing for the entire video.
Then she heard the Cake version and pronounced it "hilarious".
Looking forward to hearing her reaction to this crop of covers.

Anonymous said...

Thank you !
Great job !
I always have good surprises when i check your blog.
These are blogs like yours and CoverFreak and Copy Right that made definitely grow my passion for covers. Now i'm an addict. Thank you from France.

Flora said...

This seriously was a great series! Great job!

Mary said...

Oh, Fong!!!

How glad am I that I found you?

Love it.

Skittle said...

Very cool, I featured this post on my blog. Linky.

a Tart said...

oooh i forgot to say at the time but this stuff totally made mrs.tart a very happy woman ! thanks!!!

dspitzle said...

I'm trying to put together an all Mahna-Mahna podcast episode. Any chance you know of online sources for any of these versions?

Fongolia said...

Check here, but be quick... they won't be there for very much longer.

bosstone75 said...


My friends and I have been searching for as many versions of mah na mah na as we can find! I was excited to see all the research you'd done... but alas, I was WAY to late to get the link. Any chance I could connect with you and get the different versions? I would be eternally grateful and I'll be sure to share.

Feel free to e-mail or whatever...

filomeno2006 said...

"Os marretas"