If you follow the festival circuit and/or the news about famous puppets, you might already know that the ever-talented, ever-infamous hand-operated rock ‘n’ rollers Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem are on the bill for this year’s Outside Lands, a music fest held annually in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Yes, the fictional band made of Muppets will be sharing the stage with the likes of Radiohead, LCD Soundsystem, Lionel Richie, Major Lazer, Lana Del Rey, J. Cole, and countless others on an all-star lineup that festival-goers everywhere are freaking out about.
And sure, you might say that this appearance is little more than an overwrought gimmick, further proof of Jim Henson’s beloved creatures having sold out under Disney’s ownership. Given the overall disappointment many longtime Muppet-lovers felt from their latest, Office-inspired ABC sitcom, I wouldn’t blame you for being wary.
But The Muppets, and especially their resident musicians, like San Francisco, were once upon a time a symbol of the counterculture and a safe haven for all things strange. It seems fitting, then, that the Electric Mayhem would get their festie debut in the SF, where some of the musicians the characters are loosely inspired by got their starts. Of course, they won’t have the Muppet man Henson himself behind Dr. Teeth like they used to, but they wouldn’t be the only famed psychedelic rockers to have to replace their iconic frontman on tour this summer.
Sadly, tickets for the festival are long sold out, but you can still relive the band’s glory days with this playlist of greatest hits (including some solos from each of its members) from their first gig, back in the ’70s, as the house band on The Muppet Show. Enjoy the whole playlist here, and some personal favorites highlighted below.
This number really captures the core ideology of the band’s beat-keeper and best-known muppet, Animal — “FASTER!”
“Can You Picture That?”
One of the band’s handful of original songs, this one functions as a “clever plot device” in 1979’s The Muppet Movie, providing the base of a montage in which the band gives Kermit and Fozzie’s car a psychedelic makeover to keep Doc Hopper, the film’s villain, off their tail.
“I Get By With a Little Help from My Friends”
The Beatles’ song title is taken literally in this rendition, in which Janice gets out of being sacrificed to a pagan idol by a group of pigs with a little help from her friends from the band, who untie her while they’re distracted singing. I’m telling you guys, back in the day the Muppets were weird.
“Mack the Knife”
This little skit is essentially “how to get away with violent lyrics,” as Dr. Teeth fools morally upright Sam the Eagle into thinking the words in this old murder ballad are harmless slang for everyday activities. Less musical number than dialogue, its offbeat humor still warrants inclusion.
“New York State of Mind”
Floyd Pepper takes the lead on this take on Billy Joel’s ode to the city, which the Muppet band debuted on The Tonight Show when Kermit filled in for Johnny Carson as the host in 1979.
“Lady Be Good”
Minus manic Animal and Janice, the more mellow Muppet men of the Electric Mayhem kill it on this Gershwin jazz standard.
A Dr. Teeth original that, personally, speaks to my soul.
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