My 2:40 With Songs from the Street, Hour Two: Strange Poetry

Published: September 9, 2003
Categories: Feature

Hour One Hour Three

1:07. Another blow struck for The New Obsessiveness. Listening to B.B. King, it sounded to me like Bert was performed by Eric Jacobson, not Frank Oz. The booklet says it’s from season 32, in 2001 — was Jacobson playing Bert in season 32 yet? I’m not sure.

I turn to the back of the book — and there it is, in the credits. “Eric Jacobson as Bert in B.B. King.”

So what are fans going to do once The New Obsessiveness really takes root, and everyone in the world becomes an anal-retentive fan? We won’t have to spend hours making lists and tracking down useless bits of information; they’ll do all our work for us. Start making other plans for how to spend your free time.

1:11. Here’s Los Lobos, singing Elmo and the Lavender Moon: “He goes to sleep when the sun goes down / In his dreams, boy he goes to town / He never stops, he’s all around / Up on the roof, down on the ground.” It’s impressive, really, that Sesame Street can just go off like this once in a while. They don’t have to be literal all the time: Hi! We’re teaching about the number 2 today. This is the number 2, and welcome to it. They can be weird and dreamy sometimes, and it fits right in. There’s a lot of variety in this collection — and it’s not just that it’s a combination of some rock songs, some jazz songs and a rap number. The whole approach to how the show talks to children changes from track to track.

1:17. “I am the smallest person on Sesame Street,” says Prairie Dawn, “and I do not like it!” Then Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers start playing. “Oh!” says Prairie Dawn. “It is Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers, here to make me feel better!”

Doesn’t that make you wish you lived on Sesame Street?

myweekstreetsongs121:20. I know that there’s been a lot of TV shows that have played with the idea of kids using their imaginations — Muppet Babies being the obvious example here. But I’m not sure that any of them ever talked about imagination the way that Ernie’s song Imagination does.

“Why don’t we all be very still, and close our eyes,” Ernie says. “Kids at home, you too.” The kids at home close their eyes. “What do you see when you close your eyes?” Herbert Birdsfoot answers: “With my eyes closed, I see blobs of yellow moving around in blackness.” Then Ernie says: “If you close your eyes real tight, the yellow blobs turn all orange, and then red.”

And you know what? That’s a perfect description of what you see when you close your eyes. I remember listening to this song on my “Ernie’s Hits” LP when I was a kid — and with my eyes closed, it was like Ernie was whispering in my ear and telling me this little secret. Even now, as an adult, it’s an incredibly intimate moment. What could be more personal than what you see when you close your eyes? But Ernie can see it too. That’s magic.

These lines are another example of the strange poetry of Sesame Street: “I look inside and discover things that are sometimes strange and new / And the most remarkable thoughts I think have a way of being true.” Is there any other kids’ show that aims at this kind of dreamy beauty?

1:25. By all the laws of frog and man, What’s The Name of That Song? should be the most annoying, repetitive song ever. But, remarkably, except for “La de da de dum” and “What’s the name of that song,” they don’t repeat a single line twice. It keeps building, with brand new jokes in every verse, until it explodes into a huge production number. It’s brilliant.

1:30. The New Obsessiveness is even more out of control than I figured. They’ve actually transcribed all of Mahna Mahna for the booklet.

All of it.

“Na mah na nomp nomp, mah na na na. / Ee bit tee bomp bomp, / womp womp a domp bomp / Bee dit ee bee bee…” It goes on like that for almost a whole page.

What are we supposed to do with that? Are we supposed to follow along? It’s just showing off — being obsessive for the sheer absurdity of it all. You’ve got to respect that kind of dedication to a pointless ideal. I wonder whose job it was to proofread this part.

1:32. A little girl named Lexine sits next to Tony Bennett on a park bench. Naturally, her first thought is to turn to him and say, “Sometimes I wish I was big like you.”

Tony chides her — “What’s your hurry?” — and sings Little Things at her. I wonder if the kids on Sesame Street resent having their every offhand utterance twisted into a song cue, especially when the songs always turn out to be lengthy discourses on why they shouldn’t feel that way. Then they’re expected to sing it back in the second verse, officially retracting their original position.

Lena Horne pulled rank with Grover in just the same way, and Prairie Dawn got beat down by Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers. It’s hideously unfair.

1:35. One Small Voice. It’s the revenge of The Kids! I hadn’t heard a kids’ chorus for almost an hour, I was getting complacent. From now on, eternal vigilance is my watchword.

1:38. Apparently, in 1993, Aaron Neville recorded a duet with Jim Henson — which is very nice, except Jim Henson was three years dead by then. At least, that’s what this version of I Don’t Want To Live on the Moon sounds like to me — a Natalie Cole-style duet with a dead person. It’s not an improvement. Aaron hot-dogs his way through the bridge, mangling the melody. This is one of your more unnecessary remixes.

Aaron Neville, you have no power here! Begone, before someone drops a house on you.

1:48. I have always loved the Spin Doctors’ song Two Princes. Judge me if you must.

This version involves Elmo and Telly fighting over who should have a play date with Zoe. Naturally, by the end of the song, they’ve decided to all cooperate and play together.

Listening to this, I have to imagine that backstage, at least one wiseass Muppeteer pointed out that this was teaching kids about threesomes. You know how those wiseass Muppeteers can be.

1:52. Melissa Etheridge sings Like The Way U Does. If you haven’t heard this song yet, it’s exactly as brilliant as you think it will be.

1:56. “Hola, Elmo!” says Luis. Elmo doesn’t know what “Hola” means. Luis explains that that’s Spanish for hello. “Uh oh,” Elmo says, “Elmo doesn’t know any Spanish. Can Elmo and Luis still be friends?”

Elmo doesn’t know any Spanish? Boy, is Rosita going to be pissed off when she finds out he’s been faking his way through all their conversations.

By the way, am I becoming more of a wiseass myself as I go along? Maybe it’s the two solid hours of Sesame music. Only forty minutes left…

Hour One Hour Three

by Danny Horn

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