Kieran Moore – Well, it’s official. Summer is over for another year and we are heading for autumn/fall. Unless of course you’re in the Southern hemisphere – then I guess you’re starting spring…? I don’t really know how it works. Do you guys have the same seasons as the Northern half of the world, but different weather? Have you just had winter? I don’t know. Is Christmas in the summer for you guys? I know it can be warm, but that doesn’t mean it’s not winter. Look at Florida. There are certain questions I guess we’ll just never know the answer to. If only there was some way to find out…
One thing we can be sure of though is that wherever on this crazy planet called Earth you happen to be right now – school is likely to be in session. The holidays are over, your brown paper lunch bags are packed and you still have no idea what a quadratic equation is – or when you’ll ever need to know. So in honor of all this, today we’ll take a look at some of the Muppets’ most memorable school moments. Let your edumacation begin!
10 – Preschool Musical – Sesame Street
Ok so this was probably funnier 10 years ago, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t without merit now. Aside from being a pretty neat parody of the High School Musical franchise, it also features brilliant performances by our favorite crop of Nu-Sesame Street performers. Chief amongst them are John Tartaglia and Stephanie D’Abruzzo as Trey and Mariella. Their Broadway chops really come to the fore here. Also included are Tyler Bunch, Joey Mazzarino, Leslie Carrara-Rudolph, Kevin Clash, Matt Vogel and Jennifer Barnhart. That’s a pretty impressive cast list I’m sure you’ll agree.
9 – Off to School – Sesame Street
Here we have yet another fun Sesame Street parody. This bluesy, rock n roll number is taking a massive lead from Chuck Berry’s Schooldays (the song that is – I have no idea what Mr. Berry’s time at school was like.) It tells us and, more importantly, the kids watching just what to expect from a day at school. Quite a few Sesame Street songs cover this theme (you’ll no doubt be surprised to find several of them feature today) and it’s a really important lesson to learn. If my experience is anything to go by Sesame Street is watched by kids of all ages, but is probably most viewed by preschoolers who need to know that a day at school isn’t as terrifying as they might imagine.
8 – Chairman of the Board – Muppet Christmas Carol
The world can be a cruel and harsh place. For example, you could be a young boy urged at school to be nothing but a money making machine, a mere cog in the machinery of commerce. You could take that lesson and become the chairman of the board or, worse still, a penny pinching money lender who hates Christmas and gladly twists the knife whilst evicting a tenant, taking meese’s cheeses or denying staff another lump of coal for the fire. Then, if that wasn’t bad enough you could be visited by five spirits who take you through a terrible ordeal that leads to you foreseeing your own death. Or you could be Sam Eagle and after almost 20 years with the Muppets get your big musical number cut from one of the most beloved films of all time. Either way, it sucks!
7 – I Go to School – Sesame Street
I’m no rock n roll aficionado (that’s my Dad’s job), but I’d say we’ve waved goodbye to Chuck Berry and instead are saying “Hello” to a different form of the genre – maybe something like Jerry Lee Lewis or Little Richard mixed with The Beach Boys? Now that I’ve shown my ignorance of 50/60’s music and fans everywhere are howling with laughter ,I’ll move on to say how much I love Little Chrissy and the Alphabeats. Christopher Cerf performs as Little Chrissy and he also wrote the music for this track (what a guy!) He never fails to impress me. It’s good fun seeing Bob and the cheerleaders in this video too. The cast are clearly having fun and that spills through the screen to the viewer!
6 – School – Sesame Street
It’s not intentional, but there’s a very rock n rollish vibe to the first half of today’s list. I guess we’re veering into Doo-wap here and enjoying something a bit more soulful, but I’d say this still fits neatly within the rock n roll oeuvre. Speaking of soul, this might be 14 Karat Soul’s first appearance on a chart of mine so I would like to give them a big, warm welcome. I must admit I don’t know them apart from their Sesame work, but that’s probably just a geographical thing as I’m in the UK. It certainly isn’t a reflection of how good they are. Regular readers know I love a cappella music and vocal tracks in general so this would score higher if it weren’t for the quality of what’s to come…
5 – Two Different Worlds – Sesame Street
Ed Sheeran came up in a conversation I was having at work today about artists that are prolific yet you don’t really know their stuff. Ed was that for me for quite a while. Other than “A Team” I’d have really struggled to sing you one of his songs and then I heard a track on the radio that was identified as his and I thought “I know this song” and then it happened again, and again and before I knew it I realised I knew most of his back catalog accidentally by osmosis. It would be a shame if people only knew this fun school-themed song by accident. Like most of Ed’s songs it has a great sing along chorus that will be in your head for ages now you’ve heard it. Sorry…
4 – 40 Blocks from my Home – Sesame Street
Funnily enough, although this song is more of a blues number it actually features on a Sesame Street home video release titled “Rock N Roll” so we still haven’t left the genre behind! It is one of Sesame Street’s signature sounds… The main selling point for this track is Jerry Nelson’s wonderful singing. Has any Muppet performer ever sounded more like a young boy with the blues? I doubt it! He’s channeling Gobo Fraggle here (making him slightly younger), but that’s never a bad thing. Fraggle Rock featured such wonderful blues music (often performed by Gobo) that any comparison should be taken as an honor. I like the fact that despite feeling an impending sense of doom all through this song, when “Farley” actually gets to school he is perfectly happy.
3 – School’s Out – The Muppet Show
I’m sure for most Muppet fans this was the first song they thought of based on this chart’s theme – and they probably expected it to be number one. Truth is, it might very well have been if it weren’t for the fact that this chart is focussed more on being “in” school than “out” of it. It was very close between the top three songs this week and it was only really that theming issue that put this in third. It’s a fantastic song, and I guess technically we’re back in rock n roll territory too! The Alice Cooper episode of The Muppet Show is quite rightly considered a classic and that’s for several reasons: because Alice has an interesting stage persona, the Muppets get free rein to play to that with a twisted nightmare theme running all the way through the show; Alice also has great rapport with the Muppets and is perfect in onstage moments like this and his fun backstage story, finally the music is excellent and everything just works. If you haven’t seen it – check it out.
2 – The First Day of School – Sesame Street
I guess we’ve officially left rock n roll behind now. This is much more Count Von Count’s signature Eastern European style. I just love The Count when he gets so excited at counting that he gets a little manic. It’s such a fun trait because it not only reinforces his love of counting, it also works with his status as a vampire. That slightly crazy edge could actually be scary if it weren’t for the skills of the Sesame Street writers and his performer, Jerry Nelson. I think I’ve heard people comment that certain Count moments did make them feel uneasy as kids, but I often think that’s the cobwebs and bats that accompany Count Von Count rather than the character himself. It’s fun to imagine The Count as a kid as we only really think of him as a grown up Muppet. This gives us a little glimpse into his formative years.
1 – Raise Your Hand Up High – Sesame Street
This is such a wonderful song. I honestly thought when I put together this chart that the previous two songs would be fighting it out for the top spot, but this snuck in and took the crown – and boy does it deserve it. It’s a joyous number that lifts my soul and fills my heart. The idea of using Gospel music for a song called Raise Your Hand Up High is perfect. It’s a fantastic match and allows this song to play on several levels. You could easily imagine this song with slightly amended lyrics working seamlessly in church. The track was written by Alex Lacamoire and Molly Boylan – both have very impressive musical resumés. The real star here though is Chantylla Johnson singing as Segi – without her this song would be nowhere near as good. This song was rightly nominated for an Emmy, but unrightly(?) didn’t win.
And that’s today’s list. I hope you were all taking notes and not goofing off in class as there’s a surprise pop quiz at the end. Here goes…
1 – How many songs feature Jerry Nelson on lead vocals?
2 – How many songs have the word “school” in the title?
3 – How often does Big Bird appear?
4 – What’s the capital of South Dakota?
One thing that’s never in question is my gratitude to all the hardworking people who put these songs together, so Thank You to everyone who contributed to today’s chart. You all get an A+++++++!