Monday, May 04, 2009

Joe Raposo's song "Wonder Child"

I remember being in my grandfather's high-rise apartment in Philadelphia sometime in the mid-to-late 70s. I was sitting on the bed in his bedroom. An off-white Zenith TV with a thick, noisy spring-loaded button metal brick remote sat on a stand in front of a large window overlooking the 30th Street Train Station. On the screen, a fuzzy PBS station was airing Sesame Street, and Helen Reddy was singing a song that has been stuck in my mind's infinite shuffle playlist ever since.

Of course, where else do I find it but YouTube, the ever-present fountain of nostalgia?



Lovely song. But then I discovered the Ritchie Havens version, also on Sesame Street and possibly the original version of it:



Tricia and I love this version even more!

The song was written by the late Joe Raposo, the primary musical force behind the early Sesame Street and The Electric Company years. Probably best known for his "Bein' Green" song sun by Kermit The Frog. Musically, he's got a trademark sound built upon flutes, piccolos, glockenspiels, chimes, harpsichords, player pianos, 70s funk bass and guitar, random sound FX and banjo. He believed very strongly that children should hear music from everywhere else, and that it wasn't over their heads.

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posted by Brian at 7:11 PM 0 comments links to this post

Monday, January 26, 2009

Very poignant vintage Sesame Street film


A particularly good performance of Vivaldi's Guitar Concerto in D Minor, 2nd movement is combined with footage of a little flower that manages to bloom atop a busy Manhattan cityscape.

This piece offered hope for my father, who saw it in the hospital while I was very sick as a toddler. He felt very moved by it. Whoever you are that made this film -- thank you! I wish more children's TV today had sublime moments like this.

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posted by Brian at 7:56 PM 0 comments links to this post

Friday, March 28, 2008

My 1970s Childhood TV Experience: Jabberwocky

I was a young boy near Boston during the early 70s. My portal to imagination was all the crazy children's TV programming on TV at the time. You're probably familiar with famous shows like Sesame Street, The Electric Company, Schoolhouse Rock, and Mr. Rogers. But there were also now largely forgotten, local programs produced, and some have stuck with me. I can't remember the episodes really, just the theme music and a bit of visual imagery.

Take for example, Jabberwocky, a show with a Gilliamesque animated opening sequence and a tune that is difficult to remove from your head once you hear it:
I've been looking for any sign of this show for years. (The Museum of Radio in NY did not have it.) Never expected to actually see it again. Thank you, youTube and Internet video!

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posted by Brian at 11:02 PM 0 comments links to this post

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Sesame Street Clips Online!


Whohoo! Finally! Sesame Workshop (formerly known as Children's Television Workshop) has begun offering classic and newer Sesame Street clips online after seeing so many of them posted by fans on YouTube. It's in Beta and lacks the ability to link to favorites right now, but here are some keywords to type in for my favorite clips so far:
  • "painter"
  • "monsterpiece theatre" ("upstairs downstairs")
  • "news: angry reporter"
  • "can remember"
  • "kermit calls a plumber"
  • "song: subway train"
  • "news mother hubbard"
  • "question song"
  • "disco"
  • "daddy dear"
  • "lonely n song"
I just love the energy, spontaneity, weirdness, and subversive humor in these sketches. Some of it I'm just getting now, clearly meant for the parent watching with his or her kids.

There are some untagged clips in there, some really rare ones, and all in pristine quality. Enjoy! Let me know if you discover any great ones.

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posted by Brian at 9:49 AM 3 comments links to this post

Monday, October 29, 2007

"I Want a Monster" - Banned Sesame Street sketch


I've known this song since I was maybe 5 or 6 when I got the Sesame Street LP "Monsters!" This album has been reissued by Sony on CD in 1996 but WITHOUT this song. The R & B group EnVogue did a cover of this song but with lyrics changed.

Original:

If I make friends with a friendly monster
I'd let him bounce me on his knee
I'd let him do whatever he wants to
'specially if he's bigger than me.

New:

If I make friends with a friendly monster,
I'd be the best that a friend could be.
I'd let him do whatever he wants to
And he'd always belong to me.
It was taken off rotation on Sesame Street in 1984 after a mom complained. Other classic SS sketches have been removed too due to a complaint, like the Don Music sketches where he bangs his head against his piano when frustrated.

(Interestingly, the person who uploaded this onto Youtube had to combine a Dutch-dubbed version with the original album version. At home I found that I have a Spanish-dubbed version and was considering doing the same thing.)

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posted by Brian at 5:43 PM 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Classic Sesame Street - "Fat Cat Sat"



I love this sketch from the early 70s. Simple "limbo" set. The humor is in the wacky lyrics, timing, choreography, dynamics of the music, and the contrasts and reactions between the characters. Lovely little rhythm guitar going on in the background (making the tempo feel faster than it really is). Great use of the screen space -- Jim Henson came up with the idea of using wide-angle lenses in video puppetry to give great depth of field, so the main singer puppet isn't moving back all that far, but it looks like he is.

Or for a hoot, try this faster version.

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posted by Brian at 2:14 PM 0 comments links to this post

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Sesame Street animation: 3 striped Balls & a Polka Dotted Ball


I'm very glad someone found this little stop-motion animated clip from Sesame Street in the 1970s. I've had its synthesizer music in my head since I was a child, and it's greatly influenced my sense of melody and arrangement.

If anyone knows who created this piece, please let me know!

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posted by Brian at 12:44 AM 0 comments links to this post

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Sesame Street Martian costumes, Uh-huh Uh-huh Yip Yip Yip Yip

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posted by Brian at 11:10 AM 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

My name in Credits, my "arch-nemesis", Grover, and Fireworks!

or probably the best Fourth of July weekend of recent memory

About fourteen of my friends and I all went to see Spider-man 2 on Saturday night at the Arclight. (A pity we didn't take any photos, bleh). Most are puppeteers. One I met via Craigslist. One I've known since college and was a key member of my puppet troupe. Others friends I've met from those friends.

All had a blast! I'm am so lucky and thankful that my first movie is so highly reviewed, so successful (already at $180 million. Geez!) It was also cool that my name appears dead center with no names to the left, so it is easy to spot.
Afterwards a subset of us ate dinner/dessert.

The next evening, some of the same people (The Johnsons, Victoria, Anita & Jeff, and Danielle) and I went to the Hollywood Bowl for their Sesame Street Live event. I'd heard about it from Eric Jacobson (see in earlier blog), who was performing in it. It was fabulous! And strangely cosmic. For in 1999, The Johnsons and I met Victoria in Los Angeles before any of us had moved here, at the Muppet Auditions. Kevin Clash led a workshop and in class had us do an improvisation with Elmo. The topic? "Elmo wants to know how to get to the Hollywood Bowl." Well here we all were, at the 2004 Fourth of July festivities in the Hollywood Bowl, watching Elmo (Kevin Clash, our workshop teacher), Grover (Eric Jacobson, my childhood friend), Big Bird (Caroll Spinney, whom we all know now after assisting him at his award ceremonies), plus Zoe (Fran Brill), and Rosita Monster. AND Brian Stokes MITCHELL, my honorary "arch-nemesis."

You see, Brian Stokes Mitchell is the owner of http://www.brianstokes.com and the fabulous singing god of theatre, particularly in "Man of La Mancha" and "Ragtime." For a while in 1996 I was receiving his fan-mail, because Yahoo™ listed my website before his. There he was, live, talking to Grover, and Elmo. Elmo kept referring to him as "Mr. Stokes" (which made me & my posse laugh hysterically). I found out later from Eric that he had told Mr. "Stokes" Mitchell about me. Hehehe.

The show was sensational. Big Bird was wonderful. When he first conducted the symphony (gesturing madly, resulting in a mish-mash of noise), Big Bird commented to the conductor "Boy, they're not very good, are they?" Grover was hilarious, trying to help out with the music but failing miserably, starting with Christmas music, then incorrect anniversary music selections. Rosita Monster was hysterical too! At first she suffered from a bad microphone, and the conductor handed a handheld one to her. She lowered it down below herself, which added just a tad bit of unintended innuendo. Then she made a comment about seeing only one star in the sky over Los Angeles. Grover sang his rendition of "Elmo's World" as "Grover's World" making Elmo furious, which I loved. (It was nice that Elmo was not the center of attention for a change). Brian Stokes Mitchell sang Sesame Street songs, as well as "To Dream the Impossible Dream" which was worth considerably more than the price of admission right there. Then finally the FIREWORKS, which were really great too! Perhaps a bit too loud though as they were right over the orchestra.

So I suppose we did our part to help Elmo get to the Hollywood Bowl, eventually.

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posted by Brian at 12:06 AM 0 comments links to this post