Ryan Dosier – This is the second day in a row that we’re talking about Fraggle Rock here on The Muppet Mindset. Rather convenient that the news breaks on the hiring of new writers on a Fraggle Rock movie just after I start a brand new article series about Fraggle Rock on here isn’t it? If I wasn’t so happy about the news I’d be more perturbed… Anyway! Here we are with Part 2 of My Favorite Things About Fraggle Rock–an article series I hope the new movie writers pay attention to, since my favorite things about Fraggle Rock are basically all the things that make it so great. Last week it was the characters, and this week I’m spotlighting one of the most pervasive and magical aspects of the show: the music.
With music and lyrics primarily written by the incredible team of Phillip Balsam and Dennis Lee, each episode of Fraggle Rock featured at least one song, but usually three or four. In half an hour, finding space for three songs within a story is no small feat. (Take that, Glee!) Truly, there is no better place to start talking about the music in the show than its unbelievably perfect “Fraggle Rock Theme.” Who among us can hear the words “Dance your cares away!” without clap-clapping and following with “Worries for another day!” afterwards? Balsam and Lee penned a theme song that not only showcased the wonder of the Fraggle Rock universe, but was catchy, charming, and brilliant. The fact that all five main characters are introduced and the dichotomies between the Fraggles, Doozers, and Gorgs are highlighted all in about a minute and a half of theme song is nothing short of incredible song-writing.
All of the main characters had their chance at songs–multiple songs, at that. I’ll be talking about my favorite songs for each of the five main characters, the Doozers, and the Gorgs. First up is Gobo Fraggle, the stubborn leader performed by Jerry Nelson, sang all the time and his voice–which Jerry himself described as a slightly older Robin the Frog–was breathtaking. Gobo could pull of rocking, somber, country, and everything in between. I have so many, many favorite Gobo songs… I think the only way to do this is just list my favorite solos and implore you to go listen to them. You’ll dance, you’ll sing, you’ll cry… it’s amazing. My favorite Gobo songs: “Just Can’t Be the Me I Wanna Be,” “I Knew I Was Good,” “Once Upon a Time (I Knew My Name),” “Petals of the Rose,” “Shine on Me,” “Get Goin’,” “Only Way Home.” Just amazing. I could listen to them on loop day in and day out and never grow weary.
While Gobo’s music varied in type, Mokey Fraggle’s songs stayed mostly constant with sweet, soothing, deep-meaning songs. Songs like “Sail Away,” “Ragtime Queen,” “Time to Live as One,” and “Show Me” all have lyrics which contain deep and profound messages that you won’t find on any other “kid’s” show out there. Take, for instance, the beautiful ballad, “Why?” which Mokey sings in Season 1. In this song, Mokey questions the universe singing, “Why do caterpillars crawl?/Why is there sky?/Why is there a world at all?/And why do I ask why?” These questions not only make for beautiful music, but they make you wonder the same things Mokey wonders. The songwriters clearly found a way to express their poetic thoughts through the equally poetic Mokey.
My favorite Fraggle, Wembley, is also one of my favorite singers on the show as well. His songs can be downright silly (see “Pukka Pukka Pukka Squeetily Boink”), profound (see “Here to There”), or elated (see “A Perfect Day”). But my favorite songs with Wembley are ones in which he duets with someone else. Any of his duets with Gobo are magnificent, but “Wemblin’ Fool” simply cannot be beat. The scatting, the dancing, the vocals… it’s a perfect song. When Wembley duets with Cotterpin Doozer in the Duet-a-Thon, he sings the beautiful, resonating “We Are the Children of Tomorrow,” which became another anthem for the show. Then there are the even more profound songs that Wembley sings such as “Just a Dream Away” with Mudwell the Mudbunny and “Heart in a Hanky (Free and High)” with the Ancient Spiderfly. If you’re looking for the widest range of music on Fraggle Rock… Wembley songs are the way to go.
Boober Fraggle was gifted with the wondrous voice of Dave Goelz, who brought the morose and doomsday-shouting Fraggle to life with many fun songs (“Get Blue,” “I’m Never Alone,” and “Talkin’ ‘Bout Germs”). However, my favorite songs weren’t actually sung by Boober, per se, but his alter ego, Sidebottom (the side of Boober that he keeps on the bottom). The episodes where Sidebottom emerges and Dave Goelz gets to play both depressive Boober and manic Sidebottom are amazing–and so are the songs. I adore seeing Boober try to sing “The Gypsy Song” while imitating the Old Gypsy Lady because of Sidebottom. “Party Hard (Who Knows What You See)” expresses the relationship/acceptance between Boober and Sidebottom perfectly. But for the best Sidebottom song, and one of the best Fraggle songs period, look no further than “Fun is Here to Stay.” Sidebottom leads a raucous chorus of Fraggles and Junior Gorg through this incredibly catchy, awesome song.
Finally in the Fraggle camp we have Red Fraggle. Red sang an interesting mix of songs on the show. She could get excited and sing songs like “The Rules Song (I’m the Leader Now),” “There’s a Lot I Want to Know,” or “Chase the Wind.” She could even slink out of her rough and tumble persona and grow loving and magical with her music and we got songs such as “Afraid to Be Afraid,” “Dreaming of Someone,” and “Bring Back the Wonder.” Perhaps my favorite Red song was a duet between she and Boober in Season 1. “The Friendship Song” is a perfect song and an even more perfect duet between these two opposite characters. It is powerful and moving and heartfelt–just like Red.
Although the prided themselves on being completely different from Fraggles, the Doozers often got their chances to sing, and more often than not, Doozer music was just as great as Fraggles. “Rev,” “Sing That Law Again,” “Doozer March Song (Set Your Shoulder),” “Yes, We Can,” “Doozer Knitting Song,” and “Eye to Eye” are all fantastic songs and all sung by Doozers. Is it any wonder that the Fraggles and Doozers found so much in common once they looked for it? Music is a major part of both cultures in the show–arguably a major part of all cultures in the show, uniting them all (whether they realize it or not).
Even the mountainous Gorgs made fantastic music–especially Junior Gorg. Junior performed amazing songs both silly and sacred including “Big Boy Now,” “Whoops! Feeling Better!” “Dream Girl Lover,” “The Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore,” and the beautiful “How Wide, How Far, How Long.” It was even more fun when Ma and Pa Gorg got in on the music with songs like “Goodtime Goombah Soup,” “Dum of a Son of a Gun,” “I’m Not Scared of Anything at All,” “Gorgs in Glory,” and “I Give to Thee.” It’s amazing to see these massive creatures be so silly when they sing… but even more amazing to see them be so powerful and moving. Just watch Ma, Pa, and Junior sing “The Gorg’s Lament (O World O Time O Woe)” and tell me I’m wrong.
The Fraggles, Doozers, and Gorgs weren’t the only creatures in the Rock who serenaded the show with perfect music. One cannot discuss the music of the show without mentioning Marjory the Trash Heap, whose gospel-esque tunes, like “I Seen Troubles,” “Without a Hat,” and “Go With the Flow,” were glorious throughout the series. Cantus the Minstrel was the personification of music on the show, so he obviously has to be showcased. Jim Henson made him so “ambiguously exact” and made his musical side so powerful. The song “Let Me Be Your Song” alone is enough to show why Cantus was such a powerful musical presence. Of course there was also Convincing John (and his aptly titled song “Convincing John”), who never ceased to rock the Rock. Even the shills of the Trash Heap, Philo and Gunge, sang a few songs such as “Home” and “Blanket of Snow, Blanket of Woe.” Truly music was pervasive in every aspect of Fraggle Rock.
Already in this article I’ve mentioned over 50 songs from Fraggle Rock that I love… and I still haven’t gotten to some of my most favorites: “Dixie Wailin'” with Gobo, Red, Boober, and the Gorgs, “Follow Me” with Traveling Matt and Gobo, “Ball of Fire” with Cantus and Junior, and “Easy is the Only Way to Go” with Phillip Balsam voicing a Fraggle singer. There are so many songs from Fraggle Rock that an entire blog could be dedicated just to that (just give me some credit if you start writing that blog). I’ve been listening to non-stop Fraggle music while writing this… and it’s just joyous. It puts a smile on your face, a spring in your step, and a song in your heart. Dance your cares away!!
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, firstname.lastname@example.org