Ruffy talks: Sesame Street

Okay, so this month‘s column is rather late. Seven weeks ago we welcomed our beautiful boy into the world and he’s been pretty much at the middle of everything since then and this article is no exception.

There’s been plenty of music playing in the nursery; I’m doing my best to get the good stuff into him from an early age but what’s been quite wonderful has been exploring kids’ music. My wife bought the exceptional compilation ‘This Record Belongs To’ on the turbo-cool reissue label Light In The Attic and we’ve been running that one a lot… kids songs from the likes of Nina Simone, Harry Nilsson and my current favourite, Donovan’s ‘The Mandolin Man And His Secret’

Also on this comp are a couple of muppet-related songs; Kermit‘s ‘Rainbow Connection’ and the absolute turbo classic ‘Number Song’ by The Pointer Sisters, a tune which in my opinion has a strong case for greatest kids’ song ever. Over my life I must have heard this song a thousand times and still I marvel at the constantly shifting time signatures, the heavy bass licks, the downright extraterrestrial harmonies and the sheer amount of joy that can be contained within a song about the numbers 1 to 12.

What’s truly extraordinary is that this is no single achievement; Sesame Street has got some serious musical form that makes it a cultural paragon; I can’t think of any other show that would wilfully expose pre-school children to avant-garde jazz and it’s worth pointing out that Philip Glass was on Sesame Street eight years before the South Bank Show cottoned on to him.

It’s not simply noodly art school business Where The Air Is Sweet, though; The Pointer Sisters saw a joint vinyl release and on the other side was everyone’s favourite overeater with a great song: ‘C is for Cookie’ given the remix treatment by none other than Paradise Garage lynchpin and DJ uber-deity Larry Levan. Indeed, this track is so punchy that DJ Harvey stole it for a Black Cock edit…

But, you know that whilst Levan and DJ Harvey might be gods to some people, ultimately they are still kind of niche… which is why we finish on what might be one of the greatest moments of TV history. In 1973 Stevie Wonder went to Sesame Street.

There are many other great musical moments that this show has brought – Paul Simon, Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, even James Blunt singing about triangles, but nothing beats Stevie. Nothing at all. When I think of the song ‘Superstition’ this is the version I hear and see in my mind. Raw power.

The next Ruf Dug event is on Friday 26 Feb at Soup Kitchen, Manchester with Project Pablo. More details here:


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