Kieran Moore – I think it’s fair to say Sesame Street has left an indelible mark on the world. It’s truly a global phenomenon. That’s all good, but other than telling everyone reading this how great the show is, what has that got to do with Season 4 of the show?
Well, in a similar way to how Sesame Street has affected the whole of the world, season 4 of the show has affected the whole of Sesame Street. Over the course of 130 episodes we saw genuinely iconic moments appear. The three words “stick of butter” can instantly conjure up memories that zip you straight back to childhood, and who here didn’t hope Reporter Kermit showed up in “Tangled”? That’s all thanks to Season 4 of Sesame Street. We saw beloved characters debut (more on that later) and guest stars that made unforgettable appearances (more on that later, too). It was a heck of a season and it created a heck of a great list of songs…
10 – Simon’s Song (Sound Song)
Could this song sound any more like the early 1970’s? That’s not a put down – I think it’s awesome. I’m listening to this song and doing a weird shoulder bobbing dance as I type, which I must admit is making it quite hard. Still I’ll soldier (should that be shoulder?) on. As you can probably gather, Simon Soundman’s “thing” was that he could impersonate any sound. It’s a neat character trait, but maybe a little too one note to really hit it off with the public at large. Simon’s made sporadic appearances on the show, but has been missing in action for a while. It’s a shame as he’s a fun little character. Jerry Nelson is in fine voice here and, despite being a part of Sesame Street for a couple of seasons at this point, is finally getting more to do.
9 – The Zizzy Zoomers
Early Sesame Street is a funny kind of thing. For a show that is so well cataloged and recorded, there’s such a lot we don’t know. Whole episodes are a complete mystery, with only the briefest of synopsis’ available – often from some dusty old local newspaper. That means a lot of details about the early years of the show has seemingly been lost forever. Add to that the fact that Sesame Street was born on a principle of repetition and things can be a real jumble. This can make writing about the early seasons of Sesame Street tricky. Take this song for example, it appears on a Sesame Street album (and single) from 1971 and at least one YouTube video credits it to season 3. However, the first actual record we have of it appearing in this form is from episode 431, as part of season 4. For this particular set of charts I have decided to take the earliest known episode for each song as gospel, even where other evidence contradicts that. It might lead to some odd placements, but when the song’s as odd as this that actually seems quite fitting!
8 – Sad
A couple of weeks ago, Little Jerry was “Mad” – now he’s “Sad”. I wish he’d make his mind up! Sesame Street has several signature musical styles (despite being expert at just about everything). We heard one of them with Simon’s Song and we’re hearing another one now. Whether the emphasis is on the “rock” or the “roll”, Sesame Street does rock ‘n’ roll brilliantly. This is a fine example. Jerry Nelson’s falsetto is very impressive – I actually checked to make sure it wasn’t Fran Brill singing the lead! This song is probably a good moment to give a quick mention to Richard Hunt, who is credited on the show for the first time in season 4. I love Richard’s story. It shows that with luck, perseverance and talent anything is possible. A final stray thought: Does anyone think Little Jerry looks like Dick Van Dyke when he’s a ragdoll in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in this clip?
7 – Who You Looking at, Tiger?
This song title’s a bit confrontational. If I really didn’t want to be a tiger’s dinner I might phrase the question in a slightly politer manner! To be fair, the singer does at least attempt to be friendly just in case, but it might be too little too late… This song was written by Joe Raposo and sung by Northern Calloway (which sounds like a county in Ireland). Joe is rightly heralded as a Sesame Street legend, but Northern often gets overlooked when the Sesame greats are remembered. He appeared as David for 18 years, but was also an accomplished theater actor and singer. Though he was (and is) the subject of much controversy and speculation, Northern’s contribution to Sesame Street can’t be denied. This might only be a very short, simple tribute, but it is one nonetheless.
6 – The Ballad of Casey MacPhee
Jerry Nelson is definitely having a good week! On the subject of Muppet performers – it’s hard to tell, but is this the first time Richard Hunt played a cow? It would be amazing if it was part of such a well-loved song. We know where the money for special effects in season 4 went – I can’t believe they had that in the budget! All jokes aside, this skit looks fantastic and could easily be from a more recent season of Sesame Street. It looks much more modern than it is. Cookie Monster often finds his willpower being tested, but this might be the most fun his audience has had while it’s happening. I won’t spoil the ending, but it’s all good – you don’t have to worry.
5 – Ladybugs’ Picnic
I love this song! It’s another one that’s fallen foul of squiffy dating, but honestly, who cares how this track appears as long as it does? Long-time readers will know my a cappella trio recorded a version of Dixie Wailin’ for our last album; what many of you might not know is that we also recorded this. It always goes down a storm when we perform it live! This skit was animated and sung by Bud Luckey (who also wrote the music for Donald Hadley’s lyrics). Bud is a huge talent – he’s been Oscar nominated, appeared as a voice artist in several movies, designed the look of Woody from Toy Story, defeated several dragons, put the bomp in the bomp bah bomp bah bomp and still got home for dinner. Sadly he passed away earlier this year, but with this wonderful counting song his work will live forever.
4 – 123 Sesame Street
Across the first few seasons of Sesame Street the show was visited by quite a few music stars, most notably Pete Seeger who was often found performing to the residents of our favorite New York street (sorry 5th Avenue). Unfortunately a lot of these moments aren’t available online, but one that is (officially too) is this fun, funky track from “Little” Stevie Wonder. Stevie (if I can be so bold) is a musical genius. There are people who seem to live, breath and eat music and he’s most definitely one of those. On so many levels he could knock spots off just about any other artist you can think of. He’s showcasing just a few of his talents on this track by singing, playing keyboards and acting as his own sound engineer. I love the vocal effects he’s using! Do you think when his backing singers phoned home to tell their parents they were performing with Stevie Wonder they ever dreamt the lyrics of the song would be “Sesame Street” over and over again?
3 – The Song of the Count
As we’ve discovered, season 4 of Sesame Street really belongs to Jerry Nelson – not just because of how fantastic he is at singing and performing songs like this, but also because his most iconic character debuted that year. In Muppet Guys Talking, Jerry briefly mentions the inception of Count von Count and how he came to puppeteer him. If you haven’t seen the movie I won’t spoil anything for you, but I will ask why you’re on a Muppet site and have yet to watch it? As soon as you’ve finished reading this, head on over and have your Argyle McSocks blown off! The Count was portrayed as being much more vampirific (is that a word?) in his early appearances – he just liked numbers and not blood! He could hypnotize people and generally seemed a little menacing when he got excited. There are elements of that here, but he’s already been softened a little from his debut at the start of season 4.
2 – Imagination
It was a really close run thing between this and the song at number 1, but we’ll discuss that later. There’s a lot to appreciate here, however I think the best bit is the glorious last section which features a cavalcade of balloons to a beautiful, soothing score. It’s stunning. There’s also the lovely duet between Bert and Ernie that shows just how well they fit together despite being complete opposites. I just love that Bert, who is so often the foil for Ernie’s humor, gets to show how much he cares for his friend and room-mate. Speaking of humor, The Muppets love nothing more than popping the balloon that is sentiment with a final punch line or gag. Here, they quite literally let that balloon fly. It’s a wise decision and illustrates the genius of everyone involved. They know when to go for the laugh and when to play it straight. After asking about Richard’s first time as a cow, I can state with only mild trepidation that this scene sees the first ever use of the word “Wubba”. That’s a Muppet trivia question waiting to be asked!
1 – Still, We Like Each Other
Over the last few weeks Grover has consistently appeared in a high position on my charts, but has narrowly missed out on the top spot every time. This week I am pleased to see he’s finally made it. It was a very close run thing though and it’s genuinely been a tough choice. Last week though Bert and Ernie pipped Grover to the post, so I felt it was fairest if the table was turned today. In my book that makes the last two weeks (and all four songs) tied. But this isn’t one of those consolation awards people get at the Oscars because they were snubbed previously – this song is truly deserving of its position. Grover (and Frank Oz) sings this with so much emotion it’s beautiful. If I wasn’t so hard hearted it could almost make me cry. This is a lovely song that looks at how very different people can find common ground. That message was one of the focal points of season 4 and I don’t think it was ever tackled better. It’s funny how a song can often say so much more than words alone.
As I look back at the 10 songs listed here I’m stunned by the diversity on display – not just in musical styles, but also in the characters presented (and that’s without including Big Bird or Oscar). As Sesame Street grows, so does its roster of stars and it’s interesting to see how that affects everything from music and skits to the focus of the show itself. It has me excited for season 5. First though, I must than everyone who had a hand in season 4. Thanks guys! You rock! (And polka, and funk, and ballad, and story song…)