ToughPigs Roundtable: Electric Mayhem Covers

Published: May 15, 2023
Categories: Commentary, Feature

The Muppets Mayhem is now out and ready for your visual and auditory enjoyment. Throughout the season, the Electric Mayhem got to sing a whole bunch of songs, both originals and covers. And that got us to thinking about some of our favorite songs covered by the Mayhem. And that got us thinking about which songs the Mayhem never covered.

The ToughPigs team got together to talk about which songs we’d love to see the Electric Mayhem put their own unique spin on, as well as the tunes they shouldn’t touch with a ten-foot drumstick. Let us know which songs you’d love/hate to see the Mayhem cover too!

Joe Hennes:

The Electric Mayhem have covered so many songs from some of the most notable rock artists in history.  The Beatles, the Beach Boys, Queen, David Bowie, even Huey Lewis and the News.  Naturally, there are plenty of bands the Mayhem have yet to cover, but what sort of musician would inspire an already legendary rock group?

One answer (of many, to be sure) is Steely Dan, whose genre-straddling and experimental work surely would’ve been something the Mayhem would own on vinyl.  The Mayhem would sound ideal covering “Reelin’ in the Years”, “Dirty Work”, “FM”, “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number”, “Peg”, or any number of songs from the Steely Dan catalog.

If I had to choose just one, it’d probably be “Deacon Blues”, which perfectly encapsulates that Muppet Show sensibility of trying so hard, only to come up short as a loveable loser. They call Alabama the Crimson Tide; they call us The Electric Mayhem.

Of course, Steely Dan songs aren’t without their controversy.  It’s probably best that they avoid “Hey Nineteen” – a song about an inappropriate relationship between an older man and a younger woman.  Or “Time Out of Mind” – blatantly about using heroin.  But to choose just one, let’s go with “Doctor Wu”, a song about a doctor who treats celebrity drug addicts, and the actual antithesis to our own Doctor Teeth.

Matthew Soberman:

BRUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCE!* Believe it or not, despite their long roster of cover songs, the Electric Mayhem have never covered a song by the Boss, the legend, the Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey, Bruce Springsteen. And given how many Muppets the Mayhem have included as part of the band over the years, it adds up to a wall of sound that could rival the E Street Band.

And I can think of no better song to showcase the thundering harmony of the Electric Mayhem than Springsteen’s iconic hit “Born to Run.” Hearing Zoot’s take on the late Clarence Clemons’ sax solo would be a career high.

But they can go ahead and skip any and all songs from “The Ghost of Tom Joad.” That album is just a level of depressing even Animal’s antics can’t fix.

*Obviously, this isn’t directed at any ToughPigs readers named Bruce. Unless of course you’re actually Bruce Springsteen. In that case, maybe give me free tickets to one of your concerts? I gave you these paragraphs for nothing, so you kinda owe me.

Shane Keating:

There’s so many songs in the world, it’s hard to pick just one the Mayhem could cover! But, the other day I heard this quirky jazz tune called “Barnyard Boogie” that seems right up their alley and it…what? They already did that one? Oh, my mistake. Well, that’s no problem.

There’s also that great classic “Rockin’ Robin” they could do with some cute Muppet birds and such…you’re kidding. They did that one too?? What about “Bohemian Rhapsody?” “Sonny?” “Cheesecake?” They’ve done them all, huh? Okay, I guess I have nothing for this.

Now, for a song they shouldn’t cover, absolutely, I got this nailed. See, there’s this song from this old 70s movie called “Can You Picture That?” that was really great and I just don’t think the Mayhem can do it any justice. Say what now? That was the Mayhem in that movie? Oh brother, I need to get out more.

Ryan Roe:

My first thought was to pick a raucous, rockin’ tune approximately contemporary to the band’s heyday, like “Jump Into the Fire” by Harry Nilsson. But then I realized that there’s a ton of music from the decades when the band was laying low.

In fact, the Electric Mayhem was barely around at all in the late 1990s, which means they missed that era’s big surge in the popularity of ska — a genre that is often played LOUD and includes horns! With that in mind, my pick is the 1996 hit “Sell Out” by Reel Big Fish. I can easily imagine Dr. Teeth, Floyd, and Janice trading off on vocals, and their performance would be a defiant one, considering the Electric Mayhem has never sold out.

(For the record, my runners-up would be “Doctor Worm” by They Might Be Giants, “Peaches” by the Presidents of the United States of America, and “My Life Would Suck Without You” by Kelly Clarkson.)

As for a song they shouldn’t cover… I’ll stick with 1996 hits and say “It’s All Coming Back to Me” by Celine Dion. Not that it’s not a lovely song. It’s just not right for the Electric Mayhem. (It would be a perfect song for, say, Gorgon Heap to sing to Luncheon Counter Monster.)

Katilyn Miller:

The Electric Mayhem has been transposing musical work since their inception, what with covers being their bread and butter and all. Usually that means finding interesting ways to work in the horn and saxophone where no part for those instruments previously existed. But in the age of electronic distortion of music, the options for assigning sounds are wide open. Not necessarily for the Mayhem to go heavy on the loopers and wah wah pedals but to take sounds that are pretending to be other sounds and unpretend them back into traditional rock ‘n roll sounds. The perfect place to start is “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes. You can hear the bass notes in your head, can’t you? Except they’re not played by a bass! It’s a guitar that’s been pitch shifted. But I already know Floyd would pluck the hell out of those notes. Beyond that, it’s got a drum-forward beat that will let Animal bang as loud as he wants. And I’m most eager to hear how they translate the woogie bridge of the song for Zoot and Lips.

What they should not do is cover a song with a very similar musical theme: Anton Bruckner’s Symphony #5. Listen to the first five minutes of the symphony and you’ll hear it easily. It’s honestly a surprise when the composition doesn’t transition into a guitar solo. But sadly for The Electric Mayhem, it doesn’t. And while covering classical music isn’t unheard of for the band, they’re now free of any need to bow to the whims of Sam the Eagle and have much more intriguing choices they could make.

Becca Petunia:

In general, the Muppets really need a hit right now, which means they’ve got to appeal to the youth. And we all know the youth’s favorite musician, for the past fifteen years or so, is Taylor Swift. The youth still loves Taylor Swift, right? It’s not just depressed queer millennials like me? Anyway. That’s right: it’s time the Mayhem become Swifties and start working their way through Tay’s discography. I think the best starting place is with the lead single from Midnights: “Anti-Hero.” Look, Animal is also always causing problems, why not embrace it by singing about it? There’s a cool, plodding drum that he could have some fun with, and opportunities for inserting bits and sketches like in Taylor’s music video. Look, maybe it isn’t perfect, but we all know that Taylor Swift is so popular she crashed Ticketmaster. Maybe the Electric Mayhem just needs to capture some of that viral vibe. 

While they’re working through every single song Taylor Swift has ever recorded, they should probably skip over that ten minute version of “All Too Well.” For one thing, no one in the Electric Mayhem ever had a painful falling out with Jake Gyllenhaal. Also, that song is like forty-five minutes long and kind of slow, so Animal would absolutely not be able to make it through the whole thing.

Beth Cook:

Normally I’m in the camp of “If the Muppets are going to cover a popular song (or if a popular artist is going to cover the Muppets), it should be unique, different enough from the original that it brings something new to the song. Covers that are nearly identical to the original are unnecessary.” But hear me out: the Mayhem could nail this song note-for-note if they wanted to do an identical version, but I’d rather see them go all-in on bringing their own unique flavor to it. 

I need the Electric Mayhem to cover “What’s Up?” by 4 Non Blondes. I need this like ice cream in summer. As soon as it occurred to me, I could hear it. I believe Janice and Floyd are at their best when singing together sincerely, when you can tell they’re connecting with the song, and the lyrics of “What’s Up?” are just vague enough as to feel deeply relatable (not just anything can get He-Man meme-ified). Plus, Animal’s unhinged wail is the perfect fit for this karaoke classic.

While this inspired me to look at the other 99 songs in 1993’s Billboard Top 100, I figured the Electric Mayhem could slay just about any of them—“Whoomp! (There It Is)” by Tag Team, “Dreamlover” by Mariah Carey, “River of Dreams” by Billy Joel, “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by the Proclaimers—two they should definitely not cover are the ones by Janet Jackson, “That’s the Way Love Goes” and “If.” Now don’t get me wrong, I adore Janet, especially ‘90s Janet. The one is a funky-smooth groove and the other a sizzling upbeat banger, both of which the Mayhem excel at, but the lyrics to both songs get pretty explicit. If they do a Kidz-Bop-ification of any song with sanitized lyrics, I will tear my ears off.

Julia Gaskill:

Ultimately, I came in thinking I was going to rep the Mayhem covering some songs by my favorite band (and several other ToughPigs’ great love) The Mountain Goats. To call them a lil indie folk rock band these days would be foolhardy – even if you’re not familiar with the names, chances are you’ve heard a number of their songs (if nowhere else, as TikTok sounds). But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I want The Electric Mayhem nowhere near The Mountain Goats’ catalog. I cannot picture that, and by that I mean the idea of them singing ‘No Children’ or the bridge of ‘Up the Wolves’ or ‘The Best Ever Death Metal Band Out Of Denton’.

So I’m gonna play it safe with my other favorite band – and one I know folks are less familiar with – The Beths. The Beths are an up and coming band out of New Zealand, and man do they have a lot of feel good, upbeat jams. Even when their song is one of heartbreak or sadness, it’s a bop. I could easily see The Mayhem rolling through their discography and having a grand ol’ time with it!

Anthony Strand:

“Splendid Isolation” is a Warren Zevon song about a grumpy man who wants to be left alone. I always thought that Jerry Nelson’s Floyd voice would have been an amazing match for any Warren Zevon song, but especially this one. Like Zevon, Jerry is no longer with us, of course, but it would still be a thrill to hear Matt Vogel rip into that bridge. Can you imagine Floyd up there on the stage snarling “Don’t want to wake up with no one beside me, don’t want to take up with nobody new! Don’t want nobody comin’ by without callin’ first, don’t want nothin’ to do with you!” Ah! My dream!

I don’t want to hear the Electric Mayhem cover “Hero” by Chad Kroeger featuring Josey Scott. Why would I? That’s a terrible song!

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by Joe Hennes –

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