In a joint collaboration with my weekday roommate and Bronx ally Skip Serpico, I’ll be discussing a mix CD a week. He makes them, I listen to them and provide my in the moment commentary. You, hopefully, read said commentary and maybe open up your musical horizons. You can come here every week for the Serpico Mixes. And you should also visit Skip’s site, Fission Spaghetti, for his musings on food and Saturday Night Live (and more!)
Theme: The Kids Disc
Simple Things by Jeff Richmond and Alec Baldwin- Always nice to check in with Kenneth to start things off. And a nice meta-connection since this disc is Sesame Street heavy (SPOILERS!) and Mr. Parcells sees everyone as Muppets.
Mah Na Mah Na by Bip Bippadotta- I’m not sure I’d find this as endearing if I had not already been exposed it and charmed by it from the Muppets. However, I have, so, that’s a purely theoretical exploration. In this reality, it makes me smile widely.
C is for Cookie by Cookie Monster- A classic of the genre. You’ve got to love how Cookie Monster really lets himself explore the full range of his unconventional voice.
Ladybugs’ Picnic by Richard Hunt and Jerry Nelson- I love the gag at the beginning of the song about this tune “inching” up the charts from 600-something to 12. Besides the obvious 12 symmetry, it is the kind of joke that exists purely to alleviate parental boredom with a joke that only they’ll get (not their kids).
As a song it is too quick to really register an objection or endorsement of. It’s unoffensive and over quickly.
King of Eight by Jim Henson- This isn’t the last one of these to upend the stated “theme” of the song with a last minute swerve, in this case an event that derails the King’s love of the number eight.
I like the story element of the song and that it gets in, tells it, and gets out.
People in Your Neighborhood by Bob McGrath, Jim Henson and Frank Oz- I’m not sure when this version of the song was done (I think it was season 2 of Sesame Street but that’s purely guesswork given the voices involved) but I’m assuming it is near Christmas. I kind of hope it wasn’t though, as the recurring joke about Santa Claus is funnier to me if it is completely divorced from the holiday.
I am forever (wrongly) associated this song with Mr. Rogers and as I never really enjoyed that show, I have a negative association with this entry. Divorcing myself from that as best as I can, I declare it…ok.
1-2-3 Sesame Street by Stevie Wonder- Kind of love it. It’s not lyrically varied but the music is great and they really wring everything they can out of the words “Sesame Street” to make the whole thing work.
Over, Under, Around and Through by Grover- I’m going to show my age and express what a shame it is Grover was transplanted by Elmo as top Sesame Street monster. He’s such a, I don’t know…he just seems oriented towards service while Elmo always seems way more into himself. Elmo’s more like a toddler, to be sure, but sort of the most frustrating parts.
Of course, that’s way too intricate an exploration of a Sesame Street dyad there, but you get it for free so…your welcome?
Anyway, Grover’s song here is a great example of that doing things for others orientation I mentioned.
Pinball Number Count by The Pointer Sisters- What is about 12 do you think? Ten is obviously the natural break point, but twice already we have Sesame Street going for 12. I wonder if it just rhythmically works better.
It does earn its keep here, for certain.
I also appreciate the song presents the numbers in order but then also randomly highlights them as they fit in the song structure. It’s nice to have them fulfill their cardinal mission (educating children) without sacrificing song craftsmanship. They balance it well.
Five Monsters in My Family by The Sesame Street Monsters- It is my assertion that one of the smartest things Sesame Street (and the Muppets, too) did was establish monsters as furry but not necessarily scary creatures. Besides somewhat defusing the classic “monsters in the closet” fear and giving rise to one of the best books to use in therapy with children ever (“There’s a Monster at the End of the Book”) it creates this universe where kids can tell right off that everyone belongs. If Sesame Street is a place where monsters can walk down the street, make friends, etc, no one will be turned away. It is a great signal of inclusion without shouting it from the rooftops (although it did that too).
This is another song that subverts its title by becoming about more than 5 monsters very quickly.
I Want a Monster to Be My Friend by Marilyn Sokol- What a great simulacrum of a 50’s/early 60’s sockhop song. Unfortunately, as an adult, the line “I’ll let him do whatever he wants to, especially if he’s bigger than me,” is a bit problematic, but that’s just my cynical/filthy-minded lens getting in the way.
In doing a bit of research, I found that a mother had the same revelation in 1984. Rather than recognize it was something she was bringing to it though, not the nature of the song, she objected. Initially, the song simply dropped the verse those lyrics appeared in, but since the song has more or less been mothballed. One could argue that time has passed so it perhaps might have been cycled out regardless but I think it is pretty clear this mom’s leap from “hehehe, I can make those lyrics be kind of dirty” to “those lyrics encourage child molestation,” wrongheaded though it was, killed the song.
Everyone Makes Mistakes by Big Bird and Farley- I’m sure it is unintentional but Big Bird sounds so sarcastic here when he identifies “his friend Farley.” It made me smirk.
A song with a nice message that probably will annoy me fairly quickly but I can swallow because I like the message enough.
Five People in My Family by Jim Henson, Loretta Long, Caroll Spinney, Bob McGrath, and Frank Oz- The monster version is better.
Up and Down by Cookie Monster and Herry Monster- Someone said, let’s take the least natural singers and have them duet and I think that’s grand. It just works.
I just hope Cookie Monster got that cookie back. Mean old bird.
Schoolhouse Rocky by Bob Dorough and Tom Yohe - “Schoolhouse Rocky” might be, ironically, (I’m honestly not sure if that’s the accurate or the Alanis Morissette usage there), my least favorite Schoolhouse Rock song.
Figure Eight by Blossom Dearie- And this is probably my favorite. So damn tragic and I don’t know why. Even the jazzy interlude is still exceptionally (for a Schoolhouse Rock song) restrained and downbeat.
Naughty Number Nine by Grady Tate- I’ve never met a number nine quite like the one Tate’s describing here, but I sure would’ve when I was single.
The math lesson though…I’ve known my times tables for years and I think I ended up confused.
Unpack Your Adjectives by Blossom Dearie- Blossom Dearie sings this as a somewhat impossible to please little girl. Of course I love it.
Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here by Bob Dorough- Fun song. Too bad it is in service to a near dead part of our language. That’s right folks, languages evolve and the English language is evolving adverbs right into the graveyard. Deal with it, Tim!
Conjunction Junction by Jack Sheldon and Terry Morel- Jeez…everyone should learn parts of speech from Schoolhouse Rock. Has anyone ever done it better? I think this is my favorite of the parts of speech songs.
Interjections! by Essra Mohawk- This one is good too. The sexual harassment that devolves into acceptance is perhaps a bit out of step with our more modern take on this sort of thing, but it is pretty standard romantic comedy thinking (try until they realize they do love you) so I’m willing to give it a pass.
I get a kick out of the rather censored sports fans. No one at a sporting event has ever used “darn” as their interjection of choice, I promise you that.
Verb: That’s What’s Happening by Zachary Sanders- Wonderfully of the time. The back-up chorus is a nice touch.
A Noun is a Person, Place, or Thing by Lynn Aherns- This one didn’t hold my interest at all. But then, I already know what nouns are.
I’m Just a Bill by Jack Sheldon- Remember when politics seemed this simple?
Deserves all the praise in the world for being fairly accurate and still a well-constructed song.
Electricity, Electricity by Zachary Sanders- An earworm of the highest order. And it predicts the coming energy crisis!
Telegraph Line by Jaime Aff and Christine Langer- This may be the only song on here I’m wholly unaware of until now. I’m glad to have rectified that.
Actually, I wish I encountered it earlier. Would’ve been way helpful for Psychology as a Natural Science, back in the day.
Sesame Street- Extended Funky Mix- I’m not sure the kids will much care for it, but it’s a nice way to the end the disc. And it’s way better than “The Brazilian.”