Tune Tuesday – Muppet Music

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40 years ago this week, The Muppet Movie hit theaters.  My brother and I always made it a point to watch the Muppet Show on TV.  It was always fun to see the famous guest stars interact with Kermit and the gang.  If I am being honest, I am still upset that the final 2 seasons of The Muppet Show has yet to come out on DVD!

The movie itself was the 10th highest grossing film of 1979 and was loaded with cameos from celebrities like Bob Hope, Richard Pryor, Milton Berle, Dom Deluise, Steve Martin, Madeline Kahn, Mel Brooks, Telly Savalas, and so many more.  The cameo by Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy is especially special, because Bergen passed away shortly after he shot his scene in 1978.  Bergen was a hero of Muppet creator Jim Henson, and the movie is dedicated to his memory.

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The movie itself is a masterpiece.  It remains, in my opinion, the best of all the Muppet films.  Jim Henson did things in this movie that had never been done before – we saw Muppets walking, and Kermit riding a bike!!!!

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The movie had a great story and thanks to the writing of Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher, some really amazing music!  The soundtrack includes “I’m Going to Go Back There Someday” (which would be performed at Jim Henson’s funeral), “Never Before, Never Again”, and the bluesy, “I Hope That Something Better Comes Along”.  All of these are great songs in their own right, but for Tune Tuesday, and in celebration of the 40th Anniversary of The Muppet Movie, here are MY favorite songs from the film.

Can You Picture That?

I have always loved Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem!  First of all, what a great name for a band!  Second, Dr. Teeth was always so “hip.”  Floyd and Janice were “like totally far out!”  Animal was one hell of a drummer and I Zoot could really nail a sax solo! I always loved how they could take a standard song like “Tenderly” and rock it out!  Check out this groovy track!

Oh yeah, whoo
Everybody’s lover, everybody’s brother, I wanna be your lifetime friend
Crazy as a rocket, nothin’ in my pocket, I keep it at the rainbow’s end
I never think of money, I think of milk ‘n honey, grinnin’ like a Cheshire cat
I focus on the pleasure, somethin’ I can treasure, can you picture that?
Can you picture that?

Hey Floyd, take a verse

Let me take your picture, add it to the mixture, there it is I got you now
Really nothin’ to it, anyone can do it, it’s easy and we all know how
Now begins the changin’, mental rearrangin’, nothing’s really where it’s at

Now the Eiffel Tower’s holdin up a flower
I gave it to a Texas cat
Fact is there’s nothin’ out there you can’t do
Yeah, even Santa Claus believes in you

Beat down the walls, begin, believe, behold, begat
Be a better drummer, be an up and comer Can you picture that?
Can you picture that
All of us are winnin, pickin and a-grinnin, Lordy but I love to jam

Jelly-belly gigglin’, dancin’ and a-wigglin’, honey that’s the way I am

Lost my heart in Texas, Northern lights affect us
I keep it underneath my hat
Aurora Borealis, shining down on Dallas, can you picture that?
Can you picture that?

Can you picture? You gotta see it in your mind
Can you picture? You know it’s quick and easy to find
Can you picture? You don’t have to buy a frame
Can you picture? Can you picture that?
Can you picture that?

Use it if you need it
Don’t forget to feed it
Can you picture that?

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Movie Fact:  The Studebaker in the movie is currently housed at The Studebaker Museum in Indiana.

Movin’ Right Along

There is just so much to love about this song!  Kermit and Fozzie are traveling the open road in the Studebaker mentioned above.  It’s really the perfect song to kick off any road trip.  It’s just a fun song.  As I watch this scene now, I think about how many times my buddies and I would hop in my Caprice Classic in high school, pop in a “driving mix” tape and sing along to songs as we drove around wasting gas.  We were so much like Kermit and Fozzie!

Movin’ right along in search of good times and good news,
With good friends you can’t lose,
This could become a habit!
Opportunity knocks once let’s reach out and grab it (yeah!),
Together we’ll nab it,
We’ll hitchhike, bus or yellow cab it!
(Cab it?)

Movin’ right along.
Footloose and fancy-free.
Getting there is half the fun; come share it with me.
Moving right along (doog-a-doon doog-a-doon).
We’ll learn to share the load.
We don’t need a map to keep this show on the road.

(Hey, that song is sounding better Fozzie.)

Movin’ right along,
We’ve found a life on the highway.
And your way is my way,
So trust my navigation.

California here we come, the pie-in-the-sky-land.
Palm trees, and warm sand.
Though sadly we just left Rhode Island.
(We did what?!)
(Just forget it.)

Movin’ right along (doog-a-doon doog-a-doon).
Hey LA, where’ve you gone?
Send someone to fetch us, were in Saskatchewan!

Movin’ right along (doog-a-doon doog-a-doon).
You take it, you know best.
Hey, I’ve never seen the sun come up in the West?

Movin’ right along.
We’re truly birds of a feather,
We’re in this together and we know where we’re going.
Movie stars with flashy cars and life with the top down.
We’re storming the big town,
(Yeah, Storm is right should it be snowing?)
(Uh, no I don’t think so…)

Movin’ right along,
Do I see signs of men?
Yeah, “welcome” on the same post that says “come back again.”
Moving right along, nice town!
Footloose and fancy-free,
You’re ready for the big time…
Is it ready for me?

Movin’ right along,
Movin’ right along,
Movin’ right along,
Movin’ right along

The Rainbow Connection

What an amazing song this is!  It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song (it lost to a song no one remembers), it was a Top 40 hit (reaching #25 on the charts), and has been covered by artists like The Dixie Chicks, Willie Nelson, Judy Collins, Kenny Loggins, Jason Mraz, Gwen Stefani, and The Carpenters (just to name a few!).  The American Film Institute named the song one of the top 100 songs in their AFI’s 100 Years … 100 Songs list (it came in at #74).

Jim Henson told the song writers that the opening song would be Kermit in a swamp singing with a banjo.  According to Paul Williams, he and Kenny Ascher wrote most of the song fairly quickly at Williams’ house, but got stuck trying to think of appropriate words for the part in the chorus that eventually became the phrase “the rainbow connection”; they were looking for a way to tie in the chorus to the song’s theme of rainbows. As they sat down for dinner with Williams’ then-wife, Kate Clinton, they explained to her their predicament of looking for a phrase that would provide “a rainbow connection”, then realized, in the course of explaining the problem to her, that the phrase “the rainbow connection” would itself be a good fit.

In a recent interview with Vanity Fair, Paul Williams explained how the song was recorded.  He said that when the song was being recorded in the studio, Jim Henson started by simply performing the song himself in Kermit’s voice. However, there was a feeling that something was missing. Williams said that somebody, he doesn’t recall who, suggested that Kermit should give the song a try. Henson then took the Kermit the Frog puppet into the recording booth with him and performed the song with the world’s most famous piece of green felt. He says that “Kermit sang it brilliantly! One can only imagine what this looked like to the people working on recording the song. Kermit the Frog himself, with Jim Henson standing behind him, really did sing “Rainbow Connection.” Clearly, this was the thing that was missing. The recording would then be perfect, and would go on to inspire millions in The Muppet Movie.

Why are there so many songs about rainbows
And what’s on the other side
Rainbows are visions
But only illusions
And rainbows have nothing to hide

So we’ve been told
And some choose to believe it
I know they’re wrong, wait and see
Some day we’ll find it
The rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers, and me

Who said that every wish
Would be heard and answered
When wished on the morning star
Somebody thought of that
And someone believed it
And look what it’s done so far

What’s so amazing
That keeps us stargazing
And what do we think we might see
Someday we’ll find it
The rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers, and me

All of us under its spell, we know that it’s probably magic

Have you been half asleep?
And have you heard voices?
I’ve heard them calling my name
Is this the sweet sound
That called the young sailors?
The voice might be one and the same

I’ve heard it too many times to ignore it
It’s something that I’m supposed to be
Someday we’ll find it
The rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers and me

La da da di da da dum da duh da da dum di da ohhh

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Happy Anniversary!

40 years later, and this movie still amazes me.  It never gets old.  I still enjoy watching it and I still tear up during the finale.  40 years later and I agree with the Swedish Chef – “Der Flim is Okie Dokie”!

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Uncontrollable Laughter

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When I started this blog, I often questioned whether or not I would have things to write about.  A friend of mine suggested subscribing to a “daily writing prompt” site.  These prompts can be helpful as “thought starters,” but I haven’t really ever received one that immediately made me want to sit and write – until today.  Today’s prompt simply said, “Write about a time when you couldn’t stop laughing.”

There are two stories that instantly come to mine and they both involve my best friend of over 40 years.  Jeff and I have known each other since 2nd grade.  For years, we’ve been able to make each other laugh with stories, jokes, gibberish and sound effects.  As you know, there are times when laughter is appropriate and there are times when it is not.  Both of these incidents fall into the latter.

Story #1

You know that uncontrollable laughter that you get when you know that you absolutely should not be laughing?  The laugh that no matter how hard you try not to laugh, and try to stifle that laughter, you just cannot seem to stop it from happening?  Remember the Mary Tyler Moore when Mary can’t stop laughing at the funeral of a clown?  No?  Here is the clip:

My first incident falls into that category.  Jeff and I had an English class together.  As I remember it (and Jeff can correct me if I am wrong), we had a substitute teacher and we were working on vocabulary words.  This meant looking up words and writing the definitions down on a work sheet.  Well, you know how it is when there is a substitute teacher … we were screwing around.

In this class we sat next to each other.  I don’t recall who started it, but we began looking up words, circling them, and passing the dictionary to each other with a bookmark marking the page to be looked at.  You can imagine the words we were looking up.  If you can’t, they were words like “penis”, “anus”, “testicles”, “feces”, “turd”, etc…

The more the dictionary went back and forth, the more we both began to laugh.  The final two passes that got us in trouble was when one of us looked up the word “fart”.  This in itself was funny.  The following word that was looked up was an adjective to describe the fart – “raunchy”.  The words were scribbled in a sentence: “A man let a raunchy fart under downtown Las Vegas.” (“under downtown Las Vegas” was something that Telly Savalas said in Cannonball Run II, which we found funny for some reason).  By this time, we were snickering and doing every thing we could to hold back laughter and just couldn’t.  I remember being called out by the teacher and not really being able to explain myself because I was still laughing.  Jeff was laughing too.  The sub stood at the front of the classroom shaking her head and said to me, “I’m still trying to figure out what planet your friend is from” and without missing a beat, Jeff yelled out, “Uranus!”

We both may have been sent to the office for that, but I can’t recall.

Story #2

One of the cool things about TV series on DVD is that most of them include a Blooper or gag reel.  Many of the flubs are performers or actors forgetting lines and many are because other actors are laughing or can’t stop laughing while recording the scene.  Those gag reels will show take after take of an actor cracking up before the funny line of the script is even said.  There were no “retakes” with my second story, as it happened live on the radio in Detroit in 1991.

I was working a weekend overnight shift one Saturday night at WMXD.  I remember before I left for work, I was searching for something to take for lunch.  My dad had recently been to some army/navy surplus store and bought a bunch of MRE’s.  MRE stands for “meals ready to eat”.  They are made so that no matter where a soldier is, they can rip it open and eat it.  Some of them are actually quite good.  He gave me one to take and I left for work.

Jeff came up to hang out in the studio that night and when I got ready to eat, I pulled out the MRE.  It was barbeque pulled pork.  First of all, when I opened it, it reeked!  The smell was awful – almost like vinegar and cat food!  I squeezed it out onto a plate and it looked disgusting!  I can’t even begin to describe it to you.  It was stringy and orange-ish red (the so-called “barbeque sauce”).  I am sure that while the microphone was off we were laughing and describing just how gross it looked.  Then I had to go on the air.

I remember opening the microphone and backselling the song I had just played.  I was getting ready to go into commercials and had to read a liner card.  Liner cards usually contained information about contests, concerts, or promotions that the station was involved with.  I remember getting a line or two into the card and out of the corner of my eye I noticed Jeff moving around.  As I continued to read the card, he waved a fork loaded with that gross pulled pork in front of my face.  This made me crack up as soon as I saw it.  I really hope that the information on that liner card wasn’t important, because the more I kept reading, the more I laughed.  If I had been smart, I would have just quit and fired off the commercial, but I was determined to finish that liner card.  It was reminiscent of when Elvis started laughing while singing “Are You Lonesome Tonight?”  I can’t even imagine what the listeners thought as I laughed and read through that!!  (I am chuckling as I am typing this, just remembering the incident!)  Thank God it happened on the overnight shift, I probably would have gotten called into the bosses office!

If you are unfamiliar with Laughing Elvis – here is the clip (with the story):

Final Thoughts

The laughter continues with each phone call and visit from Jeff.  We send each other silly pictures daily and leave voice mail messages that are incomprehendable for each other.  We can still make each other laugh with a sound effect, movie line, or some made up song lyrics.  Though we are approaching the half century mark … we still are like teenagers looking up “fart” in the dictionary … and I am ok with that!

I would love to hear your stories about laughing when you shouldn’t be ….