You may have heard by now, but I just found out about this and I am crazy excited. After all these Winehouse/Ronson and Adele rumours and "official" announcements, this is the real deal. The theme for the upcoming Quantum of Solace will be called Another Way To Die, written and produced by Jack White who also played drums. So I guess it's already been recorded. Somewhat surprising but true, it'll be the first duet in Bond theme song history. Alicia Keys made it known a couple years ago that she was interested in collaborating with Jack White, but who knew it would end up being a Bond theme?! So awesome, can't think.
I tried to imagine what this will sound like... mix these ingredients together and shake, don't stir:
The White Stripes - Shelter of Your Arms [originally by the Greenhornes]
The White Stripes - In the Cold Cold Night
The Raconteurs - Blue Veins
Alicia Keys & Adam Levine - Wild Horses [originally by the Rolling Stones]
Shirley Bassey with Propellerheads - History Repeating
Let the inevitable White Keys jokes begin. What do you think?
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
I know you don't come here for gaming news, BUT this is just way too cool. So what was the wickedest news from Comic-Con 2008? THIS:
An episodic series of adventure games based on Wallace & Gromit! The fact that this is from Telltale Games rather than any other gaming company is even more exciting. Started in 2004 by former LucasArts employees, they nearly single-handedly revived the Sam & Max franchise with their brilliant games, which eventually led to the publishing of the long out-of-print original comic series and indirectly (possibly directly?) the DVD release of the short-lived animated TV series. Telltale Games seem to be harnessing my psychic impulses because they originally started off with a game adaptation of Jeff Smith's Bone, though the games were somewhat flawed and the series apparently abandoned after two episodes. Also, a Strong Bad/Homestar Runner game is soon to be released, though honestly that's something I never really got into though I know people who swear by the web series. Anyway, this Wallace & Gromit announcement has me thrilled because I know the care they'll take with the franchise (obviously Aardman Animation was impressed by their pitch). The game will obviously not be stop-motion animated because of the painstaking and time-consuming process, but that shouldn't put you off since they're clearly going out of their way to replicate the look, feel, and humour of the animated shorts and feature film. A good comparison is Flushed Away, the all-CGI film that retained the trademark Aardman look, and more importantly, charm.
The biggest mark against TellTale is that their games don't work on Macs without something like Boot Camp or Parallels. Even though I've bought all their Sam & Max games and will buy their Wallace & Gromit games, I haven't had a computer capable of playing them in over 3 years and my iMac is showing no signs of quitting anytime soon. That means I have to resort to playing these on other people's computers, which is kinda weird.
Read about the game and watch the teaser trailer here. Also, a completely new Wallace & Gromit animated short A Matter of Loaf and Death is due by the end of the year! Can't wait!
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Today's the 35th anniversary of the Bruce Lee classic Enter the Dragon, his last completed role before his untimely death less than a week before the movie was released. Lalo Schifrin, probably best known for composing the Mission: Impossible theme, also composed the score for Enter the Dragon. The main theme is campy, funky, and all around awesome, incorporating samples of Bruce Lee's trademark sound effects. Great theme with its fair share of solid covers.
Jack Parnell & His Orchestra - Enter the Dragon
Ha! And you thought Muppet week was over.... This is a faithful orchestrated version of the theme sans Bruce Lee sound effects performed by Jack Parnell & His Orchestra. Jack Parnell was the conductor of The Muppet Show orchestra for its entire 5-year run.
Buckethead & Bootsy Collins - The Japanese Connection: Enter the Dragon
A guitar shredding solo cover of the theme.
New Cool Collective - Enter the Dragon
A live big band cover. Not particularly groundbreaking, but sounds great. It comes to life roughly halfway through when they go into jam-mode.
Turbo A.C.'s - Enter the Dragon
A hard rockin' cover.
B3 Project - Theme From Enter the Dragon
An oddly satisfying remix with thumping dance beat for one of them Dance Dance Revolution games. An unlikely combo, but it works.
Euroboys - Enter the Dragon
Decent, but unremarkable cover.
Button Down Brass - Enter the Dragon
A very faithful cover but performed at a sped-up pace. This would be good for some 70's car chases.
Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra - Enter the Dragon
My favourite Enter the Dragon cover from the always reliable Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra. They completely own this cover.
Dennis Coffey - Theme From Enter the Dragon
The 2nd favourite cover of the lot, Dennis Coffey's supremely funky take on the already funky theme. Coffey was a Motown session guitarist who scored his own top 10 hit in the 70's, Scorpio. His songs have been heavily sampled by the likes of the Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Moby, and Rage Against the Machine. He also scored the blaxploitation film Black Belt Jones, which starred Bruce Lee's Enter the Dragon co-star Jim Kelly as the title character.
Monday, July 21, 2008
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.
...no 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!
Saturday, July 19, 2008
I rarely post on Saturdays so today I'm going to cheat a bit. I've reactivated the mp3 links on my Pinball Number Count post back from January, still one of my most popular posts ever. There you'll find numerous covers, remixes, and foreign versions of the classic Sesame Street short. Enjoy it while you can!
Here are a couple more new variations I've come across since then:
Kai Kln - Counting Song
The sneering rock version cover of the Pinball Number Count was missing in action... until now! Actually this was recorded in 1990 as a bonus track to Kai Kln's debut album Rhythm of Stranger, which is entirely available to download on the Internet Archive.
South Rakkas Crew - Twelve [feat. Geefus & Ninja Kid]
The South Rakkas Crew are an Orlando-based production duo who originally hail from the Greater Toronto Area. Their myspace site classifies them as reggae / electro / hip hop. Reader Justin pointed this out back in January.
T.H.C. - 1,2,3,4,5
Thanks to reader Sean who mentioned this one.
From the Live Music Archive:
note: the mp3 has mislabelled tags, but it IS the right song
There are some other Muppet/Sesame Street covers from the same gig
I haven't heard it, but there's also a college a cappella cover of the Pinball Number Count by a group called Wibijazz'n on their CD In the Pocket. Let me know if you find any other versions I haven't mentioned!
Friday, July 18, 2008
OK, when I planned to make it Muppets Cover Week this week, it didn't completely escape me that the biggest, most anticipated movie of the summer was coming out today. I saw The Dark Knight at a midnight screening last night and it was absolutely stunning. It's been out for less than 24 hours and it's already broken two box office records, biggest take for midnight screenings and opening in most number of theatres. Mind you, that figure doesn't include the 3am and 6am screenings so all signs point to a blockbuster weekend and it deserves it. It's uncommon for me to actually want a movie to take in obscene oodles of money, but here I'm cheering it on. I'm thinking a 140-something million opening weekend, but I not-so secretly would like it to beat Spider-Man 3's $151M. It's opening to great reviews too: a 4-star review from Ebert, an A from Keith Phipps at the AV Club, and an 82 rating on Metacritic.
So how does this all tie in to the Muppets you ask? The connection is not as far-fetched as one might imagine and I learned some interesting factoids when looking this stuff up. Directly related to Christopher Nolan's reboot of the Batman series, the Jim Henson's Creature Shop worked on some of the visual effects for Batman Begins, most notably the shots of the "memory cloth" that Lucius Fox shows Bruce Wayne, which would later be fashioned into Batman's cape. And check out this bizarrely amusing trailer remix of The Dark Knight... with the Muppets!
And did you know Batman and Superman teamed up to promote the very first season of Sesame Street??
During the early seasons of Sesame Street, Batman and sometimes Robin would pop up in animated shorts to teach kids lessons such as traffic safety, for example. Apparently one Batman and one Superman segment appear on the compilation DVD Sesame Street: Old School, Volume 1. Another cool connection is that Paul Williams, who of course co-wrote all the great music from The Muppet Movie, voiced The Penguin on Batman: The Animated Series!
Muppet Wiki has an entire entry on Batman that points out several Batman references and connections to Jim Henson productions.
To celebrate the release of The Dark Knight, I've re-activated all the links to a post I did a couple years ago: Batman vs. Taxman. There you'll find an overly elaborate face-off between the various Batman themes and the Beatles' Taxman, off course all told in cover song form. If you skim the whole post and only download one Batman cover, make it this one:
Skavoovie & The Epitones - Batman [originally by Danny Elfman]
A great ska cover of the Danny Elfman score from Tim Burton's 1989 version of Batman. I still get a big kick out of the fact that Skavoovie & The Epitones are the former band of Boy Howdy's brother!
Here are some more cover songs from films either produced by The Jim Henson Company or worked on by The Jim Henson Creature Shop.
Cars Can Be Blue - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
HORSE the Band - TMNT
For the 1990 live action version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the costumes for the four turtles and Splinter were provided by the Jim Henson Creature Shop. Brian Henson, Jim's son, was chief puppeteer on the film as well as second unit director. The Creature Shop also worked on the second Ninja Turtles film as well, though not the third. Of course, these covers are of the theme to the animated series, not the film. But I just couldn't resist. :)
BC-52's - (Meet) The Flintstones
From the 1994 critically panned live action remake of The Flintstones, the B-52's (uh, cleverly redubbed the BC-52's) covered the main theme in their distinct style. The animatronic puppets in this film were provided by the Creature Shop.
Josefine Cronholm - Close to You [originally by Burt Bacharach and Hal David]
This wonderfully off-kilter cover of the hit song for The Carpenters is from the soundtrack to MirrorMask, a Jim Henson Company production from 2005 directed by Dave McKean and written by Neil Gaiman. Connie Stevens and Fozzie Bear once covered this too on The Muppet Show!
Kelley Polar - Magic Dance [originally by David Bowie]
The Hill Valley Preservation Society - Magic Dance [originally by David Bowie]
One tagline to this 1986 fantasy film Labyrinth was: "Jim Henson, George Lucas and David Bowie take you into a dazzling world of fantasy and adventure". Throw in a young Jennifer Connelly and a screenplay by Monty Python alumnus Terry Jones and you have the makings of an instant cult classic, though the film bombed quite spectacularly at the box office with a TOTAL gross of just under $13 million and a piddly opening weekend of $3.5M. I checked and that's awful even by 1986 standards. Ranking 66th of all the releases that year, Labyrinth was out-grossed by the likes of Friday the 13th Part IV, Police Academy 3: Back in Training, Iron Eagle, House(??), and Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life is Calling. While David Bowie wore the tight pants of nightmares, the image that stuck with me most from my childhood was the baby crawling on the ceiling, which creeped me out further when I later saw Trainspotting. Uh, yeah, babies on ceilings freak me out-- thanks Labyrinth! From the recent Life Beyond Mars album of Bowie covers, Croatian-born artist Kelley Polar does an awesome version of Magic Dance, originally sung by David Bowie and his goblin cohorts. Thanks to reader Remi who alerted me to another cover by The Hill Valley Preservation Society, a defunct Atlanta band that covered theme songs of the eighties.
The Coconutz - Everybody Hurts [originally by REM]
Aloha Sex Juice - More Than Words [originally by Extreme]
These two covers performed in Hawaiian are from the soundtrack to Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which featured puppets created by the Creature Shop. Don't forget too that writer/star Jason Segel and director Nicholas Stoller are in charge of the forthcoming revival of the Muppet movie franchise. Everybody Hurts is one of three covers translated into Hawaiian by musician Daniel Ho working under the pseudonym The Coconutz. Also covered on the soundtrack by The Coconutz: These Boots Are Made For Walkin' and Nothing Compares 2 U.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Ozzy Osbourne & Miss Piggy - Born to Be Wild [originally by Steppenwolf]
From the 1994 album Kermit Unpigged, which featured the Muppets, uh, mupping it up with special guests such as Jimmy Buffett, Linda Ronstadt, and Don Henley. Ozzy & Miss Piggy make for stranger bedfellows than a frog and a pig, eh? Actually, when you think about it, this is really the unlikely singing combo of Ozzy and Oz [Frank].
The Muppets - (Hey Won't You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song
[originally written by Chips Moman and Larry Butler]
From the first season of the Muppet Show with guest host Peter Ustinov. Gathered around Rowlf's piano with various other Muppets, Miss Piggy takes the lead on this cover of the Grammy-winning country song originally recorded by B. J. Thomas.
Joel Grey & The Muppets - Razzle Dazzle [originally by John Kander & Fred Ebb]
One of two numbers from the musical Chicago to be performed in the first season of The Muppet Show. This opens with The Great Gonzo putting on another typically misunderstood performance piece (demolishing a vintage car with a sledgehammer to the tune of The Anvil Chorus) before Joel Grey comes in with some stage advice.
Ben Vereen & The Muppets - Mr. Cellophane [originally by John Kander & Fred Ebb]
Mr. Cellophane is the other song from Chicago performed in season one. I was scrolling through Ben Vereen's IMDb listing and the one credit that jumped out for me was his role as "Mayor Ben" on Zoobilee Zoo. Man, I hated Zoobilee Zoo. The costumed animal/human hybrids freaked me out the same way clowns do, and yet it was something I watched again and again as a kid. Why? A strange childhood tendency to watch anything whether you liked it or not (also known as Younger Sibling Syndrome).
Floyd Pepper - New York State of Mind
Rowlf - New York State of Mind
This Billy Joel ode to New York City was covered by two different Muppets. Floyd, backed by Dr. Teeth on keys and Zoot on sax, performed it on The Muppet Show during its second season (shown again in the third season). Rowlf also performed the song on the out of print album Ol' Brown Ears is Back, which seems like a labour of love moreso than any other Muppet album I've heard. According to the Muppet Wiki entry, the songs were originally recorded by Jim Henson and Derek Scott (who played all of Rowlf's piano tracks on the Muppet Show) in 1984, but the album was not released until 1993, three years after Henson's death. Unlike Kermit who would from then on be performed by Steve Whitmire, Rowlf was not recast immediately after Henson's death and would appear silently in future Muppet productions for many years. Muppeteer Bill Barretta gradually took over the role and other Henson characters such as Dr. Teeth and the Swedish Chef, though Rowlf would not speak his first word ("Yeah!") until a 1996 episode of Muppets Tonight and his first full lines would not come until 2002's It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie ("Hey, Kermit!" and "Yeah! Heh, heh. Oh!").
Rowlf - Cottleston Pie [originally a poem by A. A. Milne]
Rowlf - Bein' Green [originally sung by Kermit]
A couple more covers from the Ol' Brown Ears is Back album including a cover of a Winnie-the-Pooh poem, which was written in 1924. I'm not 100% sure, but I think the poem was first put to music on this 1952 record by Jack Gilford. Bein' Green is a Rowlf cover of Kermit's signature song, ha ha. Of course, the dog and the frog were both performed by Jim Henson, though in Muppet terms I consider it a cover. Rowlf's "banter" on the album is heartwarming and often hilarious. It never sounds like someone putting on a character; Rowlf simply exists and it's magical. Other than Kermit, Rowlf is my favourite Muppet with his floppy ears, gruff voice, goofy jokes, and mad piano poundin' skills. And Baby Rowlf as seen in The Muppets Take Manhattan is absolutely adorable. What I love about Rowlf is that you never doubt for a second that he's a dog playing a piano. You know in movies when some actor is supposedly playing the piano and it cuts to a close-up of someone else's hands? Rowlf is most often shown from an angle where he's convincingly playing, not just random pounding. For a long while I assumed someone controlled his head while a piano player was ducked out of sight actually playing the piano with his big paws, which is half true. In actual fact, the piano is a "dud" that makes no noise, but the Muppeteer controlling the hands could possibly spend hours learning all the nuances of the pre-recorded piano track to play it believably. Incredible. It's often said that seeing the behind the scenes of "movie magic" can ruin the illusion, but in the case of The Muppet Show it just further enhances one's appreciation of the artistry and, well, the magic of the Muppets. Just watch the vintage behind the scenes special Of Muppets and Men that someone thankfully put up on youTube. Endlessly fascinating.
Rowlf - The Muppet Show Closing Theme
Near the end of season one, the Muppet house band abandons the show (temporarily) because they're fed up with playing the same old Muppet Show theme every night. Led by Floyd, they take off leaving only Rowlf to play the closing theme by himself. A nice twist.
Not exactly covers, mind you, but here are a couple guest appearances from Sesame Street:
Norah Jones - Don't Know Y
Norah was supposed to meet with Y, but he was a no show. She don't know why Y didn't come. That's not grammatically correct, is it?
Squirrel Nut Zippers - Put a Lid on It
I literally tried to track this down for years before some kind reader alerted me a couple months back to the recently uploaded youtube video. Victory! The goofy skit from 2001 has the Zippers trying to put different "lids" on a muppet's head. For context, watch the full clip here.
A few days ago the much anticipated Feist performance of 1234 for the upcoming season premiere of Sesame Street hit youtube:
Uh, wasn't that a completely missed opportunity for an appearance by The Count? Still fun though. My favourite part is her gleeful reaction at the very last second!
The Dust Brothers - Shining Star (featuring Jeymes) [originally by Earth, Wind & Fire]
This is the lead track from the Muppets From Space soundtrack. I frantically tried to track this cover down (indirectly leading to this whole series of Muppet cover posts) when I first found out that The Dust Brothers had covered Earth, Wind & Fire's Shining Star. Disappointingly it's a very blah straightforward carbon copy cover, not at all what one would expect from the duo who produced Beck's Odelay and scored Fight Club, among other prominent projects.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
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.
[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.
Max Vernon now has a hilarious music video to accompany his great cover of Katy Perry's I Kissed a Girl. Check it out!
Wakey!Wakey! has a free NY concert available for download here including a pretty sweet cover of Crazy.
Watchmen trailer imminent, supposedly of the mind-blowing variety. The Dark Knight is going to be so awesome, even the previews rock.
OK, this is awesome. Act I went live yesterday, Act II hits tomorrow, Act III on Saturday, then gone after Sunday night. The free bit at least, it'll stay on iTunes and eventually make its way to DVD. So what is it? Joss Whedon's latest creation, a musical internet mini-series about a Evil Super Genius in the guise of Neil Patrick Harris. Watch Dr. Horrible as he eagerly awaits the result of his application to join the Evil League of Evil (fingers crossed!), faces off with his nemesis Captain Hammer, and tries to talk to that cute girl at the laundromat-- with musical numbers! With Neil Patrick Harris in a lab coat talking to his computer, it's impossible to NOT think of Doogie Howser, M.D. all grown up to be an evil doctor. Incidentally, I just happened to pick up the Serenity: Those Left Behind comic at the library yesterday and alarm bells went off as I read its forward with its conspicuous mentions of "Whyte Ave", "Albert's Family Restaurant (now burned down)" and "Wee Book Inn". Of course, the forward was written by Edmonton native Nathan Fillion, better known as Captain Malcolm Reynolds in the short-lived Whedon series Firefly and its follow-up feature film Serenity. E-Town pride! Strange now that you can wear Nathan Fillion's grinning mug on your chest! That's right, Fillion plays Dr. Horrible's asshole superhero nemesis, Captain Hammer! Go watch now and soon you too can sing along to Dr. Horrible's freeze ray love song. In related news, Neil Patrick Harris will be making a guest appearance on the upcoming new season of Sesame Street.
This has been a Fong Songs News Flash. Our regularly scheduled Muppet Covers Week will continue momentarily.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
I loved The Muppet Movie as a kid and re-watching it is still a magical experience. The funny thing is watching years later and seeing the bevy of celebrity cameos: Mel Brooks, Bob Hope, Steve Martin, Milton Berle, Madeline Kahn, Orson Welles(!), Richard Pryor, and more! All the cameos fly over your head as a kid except one: Big Bird! The real stars, of course, are the Muppets themselves who appear in a very meta-narrative with the Muppets gathering in a movie theatre to basically watch how the Muppets all came together and ended up in Hollywood. While Kermit's Rainbow Connection is the most well known (and covered) song from the film, the whole soundtrack is full of great tunes including the rockin' Dr. Teeth & The Electric Mayhem jam Can You Picture That?, the jaunty Rowlf & Kermit blues duet Hope That Something Better Comes Along, Gonzo's wistful I'm Going to Go Back There Someday, and the ultimate roadtrip song Movin' Right Along sung by Kermit & Fozzie Bear. All the songs were written by Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher with both the music score and Rainbow Connection receiving Oscar nominations. The soundtrack also won a Grammy for best children's recording. Williams had previously been a guest host during the first season of The Muppet Show and also wrote songs for the Muppet TV special Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas. We continue Muppet covers week here at Fong Songs with a selection of covers from The Muppet Movie.
[originally performed by Kermit the Frog]
There are numerous Rainbow Connection covers, many of which were once posted by Kurtis when he guest posted here last year. I've chosen a few covers that he "missed", though posting every Rainbow Connection cover is a pretty futile exercise.
Sad Kermit - Rainbow Disconnection
A sombre acoustic version in a minor key by the appropriately named Sad Kermit, an internet parody that first made headlines with a suicidal drug addict Kermit covering Nine Inch Nails' Hurt a la Johnny Cash. Other "sad" songs covered include Radiohead's Creep, Nine Inch Nails' Something I Can Never Have, and yet another Hallelujah cover. The covers are actually quite wonderful and the Kermit voice is pretty spot-on. A cover of Elliot Smith's Needle in the Hay is accompanied by by a hilariously perfect if morbid music video, parodying a key scene from The Royal Tenenbaums. Though it's ostensibly a parody, listening to Kermit singing Needle in the Hay does in fact make me kinda sad. As it says on the Sad Kermit myspace site, "It's excruciatingly painful being green..."
Fifteen - Rainbow Connection
Not quite Me First & The Gimme Gimmes (who also cover it), but the singer for this punk band slightly alters the melody for his own purposes.
John Michael Higgins & His Symphony of Guys - Rainbow Connection
This cover is from the soundtrack to The Break-Up, in which John Michael Higgins played Jennifer Aniston's brother who happened to be in an a cappella group. You may recognize John Michael Higgins as a regular in Christopher Guest's mockumentaries including A Mighty Wind for which he arranged and performed songs as part of the fictional New Main Street Singers. He also had a hilarious recurring role on Arrested Development as pro lawyer, Wayne Jarvis.
DAT Politics - Rainbow Connection
This is the most drastic interpretation I've heard, a jarring electro cover by French group DAT Politics.
Movin' Right Along
[originally performed by Kermit the Frog and Fozzie Bear]
Always a lock for a good roadtrip mixtape, this song also inspires a bit of Canadian pride when Saskatchewan gets name-checked.
The Dead Hensons - Movin' Right Along
You can't do a proper Muppet cover week without mentioning The Dead Hensons, the first and only Muppet cover band. It's a shame that their recorded output is limited to one 4-song vinyl EP, a couple live mp3s, and a short demo album. I want a full-length CD! I think they still regularly perform live in the San Francisco Bay area.
Less Than Jake - Movin' Right Along
The inevitable punk cover of anything.
The Fantastic Leslie - Movin' Right Along
This cover from The Fantastic Leslie's first (and only) release 1999's A Tiny Mark, which was the first CD I ever ordered from overseas. I stumbled on the band while searching "Ben Folds" on a now defunct version of mp3.com. Every song from that EP could be downloaded for free except for Movin' Right Along, so naturally I ordered the CD (an early sign of my unrealized cover obsession). Guitarist/vocalist Andrew Hansen would later become more widely recognized as a member of the Aussie comedy group The Chaser, which explains why nine years later I occasionally get e-mails out of the blue from curious Australians about it. Apparently I'm the only person on the internet who advertised the fact that I had this mp3, which I posted in one of the earliest Fong Songs posts. The Chaser made headlines over here last year when members of the group crashed the APEC Leaders Summit in Sydney disguised as a fake Canadian motorcade and were arrested while filming an episode of The Chaser's War on Everything. Heh heh, we had a good laugh about that. As for the cover, some of the lyrics have been substituted with Aussie locales (no more Saskatchewan!) and the whole thing ends up as a We Are the World-type sing-along.
Never Before, Never Again
[originally performed by Miss Piggy]
Johnny Mathis - Never Before, Never Again
According to Muppet Wiki, Johnny Mathis was originally to perform this in the film before they decided Miss Piggy should sing it. In the movie, Miss Piggy sings this when she spots Kermit for the very first time in the middle of the crowd at the fair and imagines their future life together. To my knowledge, that original Johnny Mathis recording has never surfaced, though he did perform the song for the 1979 TV special The Muppets Go Hollywood, accompanied by Rowlf on piano.
Can You Picture That?
[originally performed by Dr. Teeth & The Electric Mayhem]
Dr. Teeth, Floyd Pepper, Janice, Zoot, and Animal. Best band ever.
The Dead Hensons - Can You Picture That?
Another Dead Hensons track. Man, I really want a full-length CD!
There - Can You Picture That?
This was a nice find, a rock cover by a Boston band called There. They're faithful to the shared vocals between Dr. Teeth and Floyd from the original (though no Janice) with the lead singer even affecting a bit of a Dr. Teeth-like growl. Nice extended solo in the middle too.
While The Muppet Movie brings back warm, fuzzy memories, the first of only two Sesame Street feature films, Follow That Bird used to freak me out as a kid. Mrs. Finch! AAAaaaugh! Re-watching the film brings back palpable feelings of dread whenever Mrs. Finch, the evil social worker bird appears on screen, particularly when Big Bird is hiding in the haystacks. In retrospect, she's not so evil but it sure seems that way when you're a toddler. I also used to have nightmares about Big Bird's adoptive Dodo family. Nightmares aside, it's a pretty awesome film. There's a lot of CanCon in this one with three SCTV alumni Dave Thomas, Joe Flaherty, and John Candy making guest cameos with the whole thing being filmed in Ontario. Alyson Court who played a little girl who befriends Big Bird would later go on to play Loonette on The Big Comfy Couch! Even Kermit stops by for a nice cameo as a reporter. While maybe not as classic as The Muppet Movie soundtrack, the songs are still great including Easy Goin' Day and Upside Down World. Unfortunately, I don't know of any covers of songs from the movie! Let that be a challenge to you.
Tomorrow: Songs from Sesame Street!
Monday, July 14, 2008
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.
[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.
[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!
Friday, July 11, 2008
OK, so Cover Riddle #6 was dependent on being able to identify all the people in the pictures. Let's see...
And what do they all have in common? They all made their feature film debut in a Woody Allen film!
Maybe I'm just a nut for trivia, but I think that's remarkable. Let's go through that list again:
This is based on the sometimes dubious IMDb listings, but it's accurate enough for our purposes. There are even a few more notable names that were close calls, just one or two minor credits off a Woody Allen debut: Jennifer Garner, Sylvester Stallone, Danny Devito, and Adrien Brody (who debuted in New York Stories, but technically in the segment directed by Francis Ford Coppola).
Again, thanks to those who participated and congrats to reader Mimi who was the only one to get it right. From the Fong Songs prize bucket, she received a 2-disc cover compilation from the UK chock full of covery goodness. Onto the cover songs!
Anita Kerr - What's New Pussycat? [originally performed by Tom Jones]
What's New Pussycat? (1965), starring Peter Sellers and Peter O'Toole, was Woody Allen's feature film debut both as an actor and writer. The song written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David for the film was also nominated for an Oscar that year.
Built to Spill - Take the Money and Run [originally by Steve Miller Band]
Run DMC - Take the Money and Run (Feat. Everlast) [originally by Steve Miller Band]
Technically Woody Allen's directorial debut was the 1966 film What's Up, Tiger Lily?, a comically re-dubbed version of a Japanese action movie. His first "proper" directorial effort was 1969's Take the Money and Run.
Annie Hall - Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go [originally by Wham!]
While Diane Keaton covering Wham! in character may be an intriguing if completely bizarre prospect, this is simply an Italian band called Annie Hall (damn!). Just a note for aspiring artists: naming your band after a popular movie does not do you any favours in the Google department. I did manage to find their myspace page, though clearly the "anniehall" myspace address was taken and they had to settle for "unclepig". This isn't a particularly audacious claim to make, but not only is this my favourite Woody Allen film, but one of my favourite films of all-time, period.
Edward Norton - Just You, Just Me [originally written by Jesse Greer & Raymond Klages]
Woody Allen's first and only musical (I think), Everyone Says I Love You features several unlikely actors breaking into big music numbers including Edward Norton in an early role, here backed by the Helen Miles Singers on the jazz standard Just You, Just Me. Written by Jesse Greer & Raymond Klages, the song debuted in the 1929 MGM musical, Marianne. Frequent Woody Allen collaborator, Dick Hyman also performed a version of the same song in Hannah & Her Sisters.
Dick Hyman & Mike Lipskin - 'Deed I Do [originally by Walter Hirsch and Fred Rose]
Dick Hyman - Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da [originally by The Beatles]
As an old school New York City jazz man, Dick Hyman made a perfect fit for Woody Allen's musical sensibilities. He has served in various roles as composer, arranger, conductor, and pianist for Stardust Memories, Zelig, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Broadway Danny Rose, Hannah and Her Sisters, Radio Days, Bullets Over Broadway, Mighty Aphrodite, Everyone Says I Love You, Sweet and Lowdown, The Curse Of The Jade Scorpion, and Melinda and Melinda. His only on-screen credit is as "Band Leader" in The Curse of the Jade Scorpion. I first discovered Hyman when I stumbled upon the stunning Stride Piano Summit album at the library, which the 'Deed I Do cover is from. As I later became a Woody Allen enthusiast, I was pleasantly surprised to find Dick Hyman's name repeatedly gracing the opening credits. That Beatles cover is from an electronic album Dick Hyman did in the late 60's (think: Moog synthesizer).
Incidentally, the writing credits on popular jazz standards is the first big hole in wikipedia's compendium of knowledge that I've come across. Spoiled by the google/wiki one-two punch, it's strange to have to dig a little deeper and find the right combination of google keywords just to find the original composers for these songs that have been recorded hundreds of times. And it's not like these are traditional folk songs of lost origin either... I mean, even those have extensive wiki entries.
Woody Allen and His New Orleans Jazz Band - After You've Gone [originally by Turner Layton]
If it wasn't apparent from the soundtracks to his films, which often feature predominantly jazz scores, Woody Allen is a jazz enthusiast. In fact, he supposedly took his stage name (his birth name was Allan Konigsberg) from clarinetist Woody Herman. Allen himself is a clarinetist with his own band that plays dixieland jazz. The 1996 film Wild Man Blues documented Allen and his New Orleans Jazz Band on a European tour and, as far as I know, he still plays weekly in New York. That is, of course, when he's not filming. Just a couple weeks ago, Allen and his band played two shows at the Montréal Jazz Festival for the first time, after previous invitations conflicted with his filming schedule. First recorded by Marion Harris in 1918, After You've Gone is my all time favourite standard, so I was happy to find Woody and his band perform this on the Wild Man Blues soundtrack.