Sunday, August 28, 2005

In a Fuzzy and Blue Kinda Mood

I mentioned something in my last post about a great song parody from Sesame Street, which got me thinking about the show. I want everyone to think of what their childhood would've been like without that program. Sure, we still would've had Mr. Rogers and some cool cartoons, but Sesame Street was amazing in that it perfectly bridged the gap between learning and fun as well as between kids and adults.

Some of today's programs are so mind-numbing to watch, like The Wiggles and Teletubbies, that it can be really difficult to find something that your child enjoys but, at the same time, won't make you want to pull your brain out through your nose. The alternative would be to do something with them that doesn't involve TV, but those kids seem to have a sixth sense for programming. They know what's on and when it's on, and they know when they're missing it. And they'll make sure you know too. Loudly.

I don't have children, but I've spent a lifetime babysitting and hanging out with my nieces and nephews. I pride myself on being the "cool Aunt." I watch the kiddie shows with them, I'll run around and act like an idiot like they do, and I'm always looking for stupid ways to make them laugh and just love me more than they already do. There have been a few times when I felt like I was more excited about a particular show or movie than they were. The Spongebob Squarepants Movie was one such instance. I was honestly counting down the days until it premiered. I kept sending my nieces goofy emails and reminding them incessantly that "Spongebob time" was almost here. And when we went to see it, I probably laughed more than any of the kids in the theater.

Sesame Street is another love of mine. Now, I don't usually sit around watching entire episodes. First of all, it's on very early in the morning and I don't do mornings well. I get up at the last possible minute, just in time to shower, attempt to look presentable and get my sorry ass to my even sorrier job. (I actually do look kind of like Bert in the morning, though my eyebrows are less bushy these days.) The second thing is that my nieces are 10 and 12 now, so they really aren't into SS anymore. My youngest nephew isn't even 1 yet, so he obviously could care less. My other nephew is 4, and although he enjoys the show now and then, his attention span is limited to goofiness and vibrant colors all the time. They just talk a little too much on SS for his taste. He loves Spongebob and any cartoons where a lot of singing, dancing and odd noises are a constant. So, although he generally can't sit through an entire episode of Sesame Street, he absolutely loves the music videos on there. I'm sure a lot of other kids are the same way, so it's a blessing that there are tapes and DVDs of just the musical segments.

When I lived at home with my father, he used to watch the girls every day while their parents were at work. Therefore, he would go out and buy tapes to keep them entertained, in order to cut down on the incessant "Pap, Pap, Pap, Pap..." that went on all day long. Lucky thing he had me around, because as the cool Aunt, I could tell him what the kids would find cool, which was usually what I liked as well! Some of the first tapes we got were the Sesame Street compilations. We had about five different ones, but the two that were most popular with the kids, myself and the rest of my family were "Rock 'n Roll" and "Count it Higher." Both of these tapes were viewed with such frequency that they were eventually destroyed. We ended up buying new copies and then when my first nephew came along, his mom and dad bought him copies to keep at their house. For those of you who haven't had the pleasure, let me just summarize what can be found on these tapes.

Rock 'n Roll - This is formatted like a radio call in show, hosted by - wait for it - Jackman Wolf! Ok, so already it's funny. Some of the muppet banter on here is priceless, though not quite as humorous as The Count's. But we'll get to him later.

Rather than go through every song, I will just list the highlights. The apparent "stars" of this show are Chrissy and The Alphabeats. Now, Sesame Street will often do direct parodies of artists and songs, but this band seems to be an amalgam of a bunch of artists. Chrissy mostly reminds me of Randy Newman. He's usually always playing the piano and has wild hair. I did see them once do a parody of Jerry Lee Lewis's "Great Balls of Fire" called "Eight Balls of Fur," although I think that was Chrissy's solo project.

The Alphabeats' two songs featured on this tape are "You're Alive" and "Rock 'n Roll Readers." "You're Alive" is really quite funny. The two background singers keep inhaling and exhaling while singing in breathy tones, "Breathe in...breathe out...." The song is basically about how to tell the difference between living things and non-living, put to a rockin' beat. "Rock 'n Roll Readers" stresses the importance of books, letting kids know that even rockers think reading is cool by proclaiming, "When we're not onstage we're likely to be making an appearance at the library."

Another of my favorites is "(I Can't Get No) Cooperation" by The Cobble Stones. This is what Sesame Street does better than anyone else - creating something that kids can take and love at face value, but parents and older kids will fully appreciate because they're in on the joke. Whoever works the Mick Jagger puppet (known as Mick Swagger) really nailed his mannerisms and it's a riot to watch him strutting and dancing. The Keith Richards doll is positively hilarious. I don't know how Henson and company did it, but they managed to make a muppet look like a haggard, drugged out rocker.

Others I especially enjoy are "Telephone Rock" by Little Jerry and the Monotones (love that name) and "It's Hip to Be a Square," which is performed by an animated square with some other "shapely" friends. If only the original Huey Lewis song were this enjoyable.

Count it Higher - My favorite. These songs are classics, and I know them all by heart. The best part of this program is Count von Count. He plays the host of the SMV (Sesame Music Video) Countdown. I always liked The Count, but as a VJ (or "wee-jay, as he would say in his quasi-Transyl-Hungarian accent) he's at his best. He has a wealth of great lines that, no doubt, go over a lot of kids' heads, but are guaranteed to crack up the adults.

I mentioned "ZZ Blues" in my last post, which is a great send-up of ZZ Top. The song sounds frighteningly like a Top song, which probably wasn't too hard to achieve considering that they all sound alike. The part that always gets me giggling is at the end when the singer says, "The only band I ever worked with who can fall asleep and keep playing the blues," and then they all nod off surrounded by floating Z's.

Some really clever parodies can be found here, including The Beetles' "Letter B" and "The Ten Commandments of Health" by Dr. Thad and the Medications. My personal favorite isn't a parody, but an original rock song called "Wet Paint." The singer looks and sounds oddly similar to Chrissy, of Alphabeats fame, but it must be his long-lost brother. The band is called How Now Brown Cow, and as any good rock band should, features a cow on backing vocals. This is a really fun song to sing because they use phrases like "smishy-smashy" and "gloopy-gloppy," and the singer screams a lot. The best part is actually The Count's introductory commentary: "Here's a band who's taken the little bit of talent they have and milked it for all it's worth!" He should really be a VJ on MTV, because that phrase really sums up most of the popular bands clogging up the airwaves now.

As so often happens on Letterman's Top 10 list, the #1 entry isn't the funniest, but it is just fine and elicits some chuckles. The #1 video happens to be by SS's most popular band, Chrissy and the Alphabeats. These guys are like the muppet world's U2 or Green Day. They're everywhere. Again, the funniest bit is the Count's intro dialogue, which I thought I knew verbatim, but now I'm second-guessing myself. But it goes a little something like this: "Those of you who watch the Count's countdown regularly know that there is one thing you can count on veek after veek after veek. And that one thing is this - as long as I, Count von Count, am the host of this wideo program, the same song will always be number 1! Why? Because it's my favorite wideo, that's why! So now, for the 1,423rd veek in a row...and still holding firm...Chris and The Alphabeats with Count...It...Higher!!" I don't know if I got that week number right, but you get the general idea. It was a random, high number like that. Pretty funny stuff. The song itself isn't really all that great until they get to the end, where Chrissy starts ad-libbing a little. If I wrote down the part that cracks me up, it wouldn't really translate because it's more about the tone of voice the lines are delivered in, so I won't bother. Just know that it's funny. I'm the cool Aunt. I wouldn't lie.

As much as I love these Sesame Street tapes, my all-time favorite musical parody is nowhere to be found. I have found it offered on an audio tape or CD, but never the video version. It was a parody of "Born to Run," called "Born to Add" by Bruce Stringbean and the S Street Band. There has never been a more perfect song parody than this one. I happened to be watching SS with my nephew one day about a year back and, unbelievably, it came on again. I flipped out because I couldn't get a blank tape ready in time to snag it. It's just priceless. Therefore, I will leave you with the lyrics to it. (I didn't know these off by heart, but luckily found them on the web.) If you don't at least crack a smile...well, you're probably covered in green fur and live in a trash can.

Born to Add
When we're roamin' the streets and we see one car
We always add one and make it two
It don't matter why we like to add one and one
Out here it's the thing to do
Now some say that screaming one plus one all night
Means we're thoughtless, cruel, and bad
But kids like you and me baby, we were born to add

Yes, sir, we were!

As we keep on wandering we see two trash cans
So we add one and make it three
There's alot of us adders on the Jersey Shore
Out here it's the thing to be
Yeah, we'll keep on shoutin' one plus two
Even though it makes 'em mad
'Cuz kids like you and me baby, we were born to add

Baby we were born to add!

One and two and three police persons spring out of the shadows
Down the corner comes one more
And we scream into that city night, three plus one makes four!
Well, they seemed to think we're disturbin' the peace
But we won't let 'em make us sad
'Cuz kids like you and me baby, we were born to add

Baby we were born to add!
Baby we were born to add!
Add! add! add!
Baby we were born to add!
Add! add! add!
Baby we were born to add!
Oh, add
Baby we were born to add!
Baby we were born to add!
Add, add, add, add, add!

And upon seeing this video, Bruce Springsteen smiled, for he knew he had really made it.


Spinning Girl said...

I love all things Sesame Street. Thanks for writing about it!

Bailey said...

Great recap on Sesame Street!

Any thoughts on Fraggle Rock? Or the Muppet Show?
Personal favorites of mine.

The Zombie Lama said...

My favorite has always been Super Grover.

Oooh, or the one where he's a waiter.

Sangroncito said...

I'm afraid my childhood was WAY before Sesame Street. In my day (sounds like my grandfather talking here) the children's shows were Romper Room, Mouseketeers and Bozo the Clown (the same SOB who outed me as a sissy on tv when I was six). I feel deprived!

Teri said...

Oooooh, I like both the Wiggles and Teletubbies. The teletubbies are just goofy and happy, although I can only take them in small doeses. The Wiggles I like because they are actually musical, instead of the off-key howling that is usually pawned off as singing on kids shows, although they are totally devoid of any plot. I like Sesame Street too, but I like the older episodes much better. The ones before Elmo had such a prominent roll. I hate Elmo with his squeaky voice and bad grammar. Ugh.
Now the Muppet Show, that I like, a lot.

pia said...

Used to give out Spongebob goody bags to all kids who visited me--paper towels and the rest of the stuff in garbage bags

Problem was they would never let their mom's use the paper towels, and I was accused of adding clutter to the world

Kate said...

You just dragged me down memory lae again!

A puppy is alive (yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah!)
And a fish is alive (yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah!)
A kitty is alive (yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah!)
They eat and breateh and grow!
And that is how you know, whuh oh, whoa whoa whoa...that they're alive!

That was a great song. I vaguely remember Telephone Rock with everyone at the end piling into the phone booth while Jerry was trying to talk to the operator. :)

snavylyn said...

Great post - brought back childhood memories & made me long for the days when my kids still enjoyed Sesame Street. But, I do enjoy Spongebob Squarepants & Kim Possible - what is wrong with me??

By the way - I could use a babysitter - lol!!!

Bonanza Jellybean said...

I was definitely a Muppet Show girl. I think I missed out on the whole Sesame Street thing, as we lived in the middle of nowhere and there was no cable yet.

Doggie Extraordinaire's Mom said...

That's so cool -- I'm going to have to look for those. I was banned from Sesame Street at a young age because I had near anxiety attacks over the whole Snuffy situation. I actually wrote a letter to Big Bird telling him that I believed him about Snuffy being real. My parents thought it was cute at first, but my frustration with the people on Sesame Street not seeing Snuffy started interfering with my life. After that, we were always conveniently busy during Sesame Street.

We listen to School House Rock at work and it's Da Bomb! I imagine a lot of the music from Sesame Street would be similar. :)

teletart said...

Somewhere I've got the "Susan Sings Songs from Sesame Street" album, circa 1971. She does this great version of the Alphabet Song - it's super funky. Back in the days when I made party mix tapes on cassette, I always included it.

The Everglades said...

Only in hindsight does the phenomenon of Sesame Street weird me out. I mean, we had no way of knowing all the famous guests that made appearances because we were too young. What a benchmark show.


Lee Ann said...

Aw, I want you to be my Aunt. Sounds like fun! Cool Bruce Sesame Street song :)

Layla said...

Being a MAJOR, BIG TIME, fan of Bruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuce, I just loved this song! I had no idea SS did it. It's great! Thanks for sharing it! Like Sangoncito, I am of an earlier era so only saw SS when I my niece & nephew came along.

Melanie said...

Great post! I too am a Sesame Street/Muppets fanatic. My favorite cover was "Cereal Girl":

I said I'll taste it
I'll give it a whirl
And now I am a Cereal Girl.


BadGod said...

I watched it, but do not remember anything from it. Anything of real importance, that is.

Lavinia said...

Thank you sooo much. What an awesome post.

I also used to love Muppets Tonight. The episode with Cindy Crawford was insane!

Homer Jay said...

One of my favorite album compilations is "Songs From The Street." It takes I think 25 years of SS songs, particularly those parodies and guest stars and puts 'em all in one place. Even if I didn't have kids, I would still own that set.

JC said...

C is for cookie, thats good enough for me! Yep, we love those cookies and loved sesame street-although when I was young it was all Mr. Green jeans and Romper Room. "Romper, bomper, stomper boo, wonder wonder wonder do...

Mario Sergio said...

oh my god!
i was jusyt a child that time. =lol=


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