Playlist #3: It’s Time to Play the Music!

Ahead of their big screen return, Marc Hall takes a look at the enduring musical legacy of The Muppets!

Hollywood seems to be stuck on repeat.  In 2011, 8 out of the top 10 grossing movies were sequels and part of mega-millions earning franchises. 2012 looks to continue this trend with the return of Peter Parker in The Amazing Spiderman, and Christian Bale reprises his role as our favourite rubber-fetishist Batman, in The Dark Knight Rises. Peter Jackson once again journeys to Middle Earth to visit The Hobbit, and Bond returns for the 23rd time in Skyfall.  It’s with this in mind that I’m delighted to see the return of one of the greatest movie ensemble casts of all time, The Muppets.

Whilst The Muppets have never really gone away, once they were taken over by Disney in 2004, they did fall from the limelight with 2005′s The Muppets Wizard of Oz, hardly receiving the acclaim of earlier classics The Muppet Movie (1979) or The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992). This is something that will be rectified with the return to public consciousness in 2012 with the imaginatively titled The Muppets.

The plot acknowledges and delightfully echoes real life, with The Muppet crew falling on hard times, and having to reunite to save their old theatre from a rich oil tycoon (recently causing, in real life, Fox anchor Eric Bolling to accuse Hollywood of pushing a dangerous liberal agenda). It’s a shame the old CBGBs hipster scene of the late 70′s couldn’t do similar when it closed in 2006 to become a shopping centre (now housing a designer clothes store). Debbie Harry could have easily channelled the energy of Miss Piggy, and I do believe David Byrne and Kermit the Frog have more than a passing resemblance.

For a ragtag collection of felt, fuzz and ping pong balls, The Muppets sure do know a good song. They have their own repertoire of classics like Movin’ Right Along and in The Muppet Show Theme, one of the greatest theme songs of all time. The opening scenes of The Muppet Movie, isolated Kermit, sat on a bridge with banjo in hand singing Rainbow Connection, surely represents one of cinema’s greatest musical moments of all time. In my eyes, at least.

The Muppets also know how to spot talent. During its run between 1976 and ‘81, it would have been easy to pick just the acts of the day, like Elton John. Instead, The Muppets invited edgier performances from the likes of Alice Cooper, Johnny Cash and jazz legend Buddy Rich.

Today, we reach a generation of musicians who grew up with these wonderful characters and their songs. Last year’s The Green Album, a collection of Muppet cover versions from artists such as Weezer, My Morning Jacket and Andrew Bird, shows the cultural footprint left in pop-culture’s collective psyche.

In their welcome return to the big screen, we see Kermit and Co. directed by the team behind The Flight of the Conchords, with the movie being director James Bobin’s first feature. Also utilising the talents of Bret McKenzie as music supervisor, the movie has to be a sure fire winner. The critical acclaim and $85m gross since opening Stateside suggests so.

Without further ado, “It’s time to play the music”.

Marc Hall

Main illustration courtesy Laura Robertson (and The Muppets)

Posted on 17/01/2012 by thedoublenegative