Thursday, July 23, 2009
First off, thank you for your ongoing support, loyal readers. I am in a somewhat pain medication-induced state (read all about my exciting bicycle crashing adventures here), but I am here to honor my commitment to bring you your daily dose of 90s nostalgic goodness. What sort of a nostalgian (like a historian, but lazier and less reliable) would I be to abandon you and fail to quench your unending desire for childhood revisitation? A bad one, that's what. So, let's get down to business here.
Sesame Street is a long-running and impressive television enterprise. Not only is it valuable to children on an educational level, it manages to continually entertain adults with its subtle barbs and references to popular culture. The show boasts an incredible number of high-profile guest stars over the years, ranging from politicians to boy bands.
Most adorable, however, are those popular musicians who come to reprise their popular songs with new Sesame Streetified lyrics. You really can't help but love their capacity to belt out these tunes to a bunch of well-orchestrated puppets with such fervor and intent you'd think they were playing to a sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden. Though some sing Sesame Street orignals, many take their most popular songs and tweak the lyrics to make them either educational or pertinent to the lives of cute fuzzy monsters.
While the child viewers probably think of Elmo as the celebrity and the musical guests as some no-name Elmo backup singers, older watchers can appreciate the mildly self-deprecating aww-ness of watching Hootie and the Blowfish warn of street-crossing safety.
Though you may have been far beyond your Sesame Street years when many of these aired, you can certainly enjoy them retrospectively for their celebrity value. For your pure viewing/listening enjoyment, I present a random but reasonably comprehensive compilation of 90s musical guest appearances on everyone's favorite pedgoical PBS puppet program:
Spin Doctors: Two Princes
In 1996, the Spin Doctors appeared on the show with a parody of their popular "Two Princes", conveniently re-titled "Two Princes". In the original song, the Spin Docs sing about a woman with a choice of two male admirers. If you're not familiar with the song, feel free to take a listen. Really, just go ahead now. In the more kid-friendly Sesame Street version, lead singer Chris Barron explains how Princess Zoe doesn't have to pick between two princely playmates but rather that they can all play together. To their credit, the monsters' celebratory dance moves during that extended solo are pretty impressive.
REM: Furry Happy Monsters
REM released "Shiny Happy People" in 1991, intended as an ironic loose translation of some obscure Chinese propaganda. The original video (pop-up version for your entertainment available here) was ironically unironic in its colorful, upbeat interpretation. Luckily, these political undertones were totally absent from the playful Sesame Street Version, "Furry Happy Monsters". The VH1 Pop-Up Video version notes that many fans believe REM hates this song as they never play it live, but obviously they must want to spread the joy in some capacity if they're willing to get this into it with puppets 8 years later.
Bobby McFerrin: Tweet in the Morning
I have to say, Hoots the Owl is one of the coolest puppets I know. Who knew owls were so jazzy and scat-catty? Scat-owly, I suppose, but now we're really just splitting feathers. 90s phenom Bobby McFerrin of "Don't Worry Be Happy" fame came to the Birdland club in 1991 to showcase his quirky percussive stylings. I have no idea what he's saying, but I would certainly be tapping my foot if it wasn't broken.
Aaron Neville (with Ernie): I Don't Want to Live on the Moon
I have vague recollections of owning a casette tape with this song on it, and loving it intensely even though I personally thought I could handle living on the moon for more than one afternoon. What can I say, that Ernie's a real lightweight. Especially on the moon. In all seriousness, it's a really pretty song. Also, they created a cool arrangement using a previous recording by the late Jim Henson and matching it up with Neville's harmony section.
Johnny Cash: Tall Tale
Johnny Cash appeared on the show a few times, seen above performing "Tall Tale" with giddy-up puppet Noel Cowherd in 1993. It's sort of a country song version of "opposite day". The clip really, really makes me love Johnny Cash. If I were a man, I would yearn for that deep, toneful, resonant voice. Back in the day, though, I was probably more preoccupied with coveting that cowgirl puppet's bolo tie. I'm into it.
Gloria Estefan: 1-2-3
Pretty much anyone who ever puts out a song with any counting whatsoever must be high-up on the list of preferred celebrity musical guests on Sesame Street. After all, it's incredibly easy to rewrite a song to be about counting when the original already conveniently features numbers in sequence. Well played, Sesame Street song reprisers. Well played indeed. Nice work on coming up with the word "Birdketeers", too. Those incredibly multicultural children in birdsuits are pretty awesome. Kudos all around.
Queen Latifah: The Letter O
Yes, she totally called those little puppets her safari sisters. I just love all of their turbans. It's been so long I actually totally forgot Queen Latifah even rapped, I'm pretty impressed with this. Mainly because that second hat she's sporting totally warrants a comparison to Abu the monkey from Aladdin.
Little Richard: Rubber Duckie
Little Richard is all kinds of crazy, but more fun crazy than scary crazy. Between this and his guest appearance on Full House, he earns major 90s children-entertaining points. That signature "Woo!" really adds appropriate emphasis to the Rubber Duckie song. And there's Hoots the owl again! Can't go wrong with Hoots. Hoots is the dude.
Goo Goo Dolls: Pride
I mainly included this clip because I find it heartwrenchingly adorable at the start when Elmo says, "Oh, hi Goo Goo Dolls!" It's really just spectacularly cute. This episode aired in 2000 so I was certainly far past my prime Sesame Street watching years and thus only recently discovered this clip. They reformulate their song "Slide" as "Pride". I just love watching these guys rock out to lyrics like, "You helped your mother bake a pie/You fell and didn't cry/You made your bed and said/Your ABCs".
Hootie and the Blowfish: Hold My Hand
Yeah, yeah, this clip is more recent too (also from 2000), but you may just have to deal with it. Hootie and the Blowfish were an inexplicable runaway 90s success and hence deserve our attention, even if this clip wasn't necessarily a part of our original formulative Sesame Street watching years. Unlike bands who capitalized on Sesame Street guest appearances at the height of their fame, these guys were clearly on the downslide by the time they reprised their song "Hold My Hand" to be about crossing the street safely.
And of course, though by the time these two groups were on the show I'd likely graduated to screaming in the front rows of their concerts and trying to catch the teddy bears they tossed during their stunt flying, I'll share these with you as a concession for you not judging that last confession:
Well, that's about all I have for you today. This post was brought to you by the letter V as in Vicodin.