Although you don’t hear his name mentioned often these days, there was a point in time not too long ago, when Paul “Little Enos” Williams was showered with accolades for his brilliant songwriting for both television and film. So it is with many thanks to Walt Disney Records for giving the 21st century a taste of the man’s excellence with a beautiful reissue of the 1979 soundtrack for “The Muppet Movie.”
Having been out of print for nearly twenty years, “The Muppet Movie” soundtrack tells the tale of how the Muppets (of “The Muppet Show” fame) came together as an unstoppable force in entertainment.
There are really only a handful of songs written for films that are considered perfect, and ‘The Rainbow Connection’ easily ranks among the top. The song transcends the genre of film for which it was written and touches anyone who hears it. Although sung by an amphibian, the song speaks directly to the human spirit – the dreams of youth and hope for the future. Setting the tone for the entire soundtrack, ‘The Rainbow Connection’ awakens the child within us all and makes us believe that anything is possible all over again. I challenge anyone not to be moved by this song!
While ‘The Rainbow Connection’ (an Oscar-nominated tune) is the most famous song borne of “The Muppet Movie,” my personal favorite is ‘Movin’ Right Along.’ It’s such an infectious, good-time, head-bobbing track that deserves to be on every family roadtrip playlist (right alongside Lindsey Buckingham’s ‘Holiday Road’)! It’s all about looking ever-forward, having no regrets, and enjoying life with the wind in your hair (or fur, as the case may be), and is the unconditional hallmark of the bond between Kermit the Frog and Fozzie Bear. Before you know it, you will be going “dug-a-dun, dug-a-dun” right along with the chorus.
Miss Piggy’s debut, ‘Never Before, Never Again,’ although very sincere romantic (in an inter-species kind of way), is very difficult not to chuckle at primarily because all you can envision is a pig with blond hair singing an ode to love. But perhaps this is one of those ironic cases where animals understand more about the human condition than we do. There is a strange purity to the song that is difficult to explain, given its humorous backdrop. And it is made even more touching by the follow-up track, which is an instrumental version. Without the vocals, the song benefits from the same outpouring of musical emotion that made the theme from “Love Story” so riveting.
And if you needed any more evidence that these songs weren’t exactly written for a child-centric audience, look no further than Rowlf & Kermit’s duet ‘I Hope That Somethin’ Better Comes Along,’ where the duo express their problems with relationships, and how Rowlf prefers the bachelor life (“I finish work, I go home, read a book, have a couple of beers, take myself for a walk, and go to bed.”) That said, there is enough dog-and-frog humor within the song to draw the kids’ attention away from its negative connotation.
Before Spinal Tap, Tenacious D, and Steel Panther, there was Doctor Teeth and the Electric Mayhem – the prototypical parody band satirizing the conventions of 1970s rock groups…all of them…at the same time. ‘Can You Picture That,’ at its core, sounds like The Guess Who, Elton John, and Grand Funk Railroad balled into one semi-harmonic mass of sound. It’s big, it’s loud, and it’s not to be taken seriously at all.
This is followed by an instrumental rendition of ‘I Hope That Somethin’ Better Comes Along’ with brass taking the vocal spotlight. A bit of a mood-changer from the brashness of the prior track, this version has a bit of New Orleans bluesy-ness to it that was absent from the vocal version. It perfectly sets the plate for Gonzo’s slow-tempo, dreamy ‘I’m Going to Go Back There Someday’ – giving the outwardly outrageous character a bit of emotional depth. The song seems like the somber flipside of the coin that is ‘The Rainbow Connection.’
And while the soundtrack is in a heavily emotional state, we are treated to Fozzie singing the traditional hymn ‘America the Beautiful’ (here simply entitled ‘America’) expressing his appreciation for the country and the wonders and opportunities it holds.
Marked as the only piece of legitimate score on the soundtrack (save for tiny segments of the final track), ‘Animal…Come Back Animal’ recounts the disastrous (yet oddly heroic) adventure that ensues when Animal ingests Dr. Bunsen Honeydew’s "insta-grow" pills.
“The Muppet Movie” could not close more appropriately than with ‘The Magic Store’, a triumphant number about relentlessly pursuing your dreams. The tune builds to a hearty crescendo and melts into a short finale medley of music from the film that includes a rousing rendition of ‘The Rainbow Connection’ sung by the cast of Muppets and closes with a special ‘thank you’ to the audience from Kermit the Frog.
Although rooted in 1970s songwriting style, the humor of The Muppets transcends generation, which makes “The Muppet Movie” much more than a dated soundtrack to a kid’s movie – it’s a legitimate piece of musical Americana.