March 5, 2007

Apparently, "Mah-Na Mah-Na" Means "Into The Sauna, Ladies!" In Italian

So we're watching a few vintage Sesame Street clips the YouTube this weekend, when we see a seriously vintage version of "Mah Na Mah Na" under the end credits of this 35th Anniversary montage.

Apparently, it dates from 1969, the first season of The 'Street. I'd only ever remembered the version with the hipster muppet with the blinkable sunglasses, Mahna Mahna, and those two pink creatures, Snowths, which turns out to be two versions: a 1969 performance from The Ed Sullivan Show which was later put into rotation on The 'Street, and the 1976 remake, which was the opening sketch on the first episode of The Muppet Show. [The latter is everywhere, online the former, nowhere. Go figure. One problem of searching for clips is the myriad spellings of munnahmunnah, not to mention the 100,000 cover versions. The original Sesame Street audience is all grown up now, and drunk, and they have a phonecam.]

There's a complete version of the "original," which features two girl muppets, but it's in German. Come to think of it, the girls' outfits look kind of German, or maybe...Swedish.

Which would be noteworthy because, it turns out "Mah Na Mah Na," was originally composed by the late, great Piero Umiliani for a movie. Specifically, a 1968 mondo "documentary" by Luigi Scattini called, Svezia, Inferno e Paradiso [Sweden: Heaven and Hell].

So the next time you watch "Mah Na Mah Na," just remember: Jim Henson used the soundtrack from a softcore exploitation flick where dozen towel-shedding practitioners of the Swedish "pagan body cult" frolic in a woodland sauna to launch his children's television series. TWICE. And if you don't believe me, here's documentary proof.

Can you believe the things they do in Sweden?? [SFW until about 1:15, but seriously, as soon as that song starts, everyone in your office under 40 will be crowding around your desk. Your call.]

Mah Na Mah Na [wikipedia]
The first Snowth version of Mahna Mahna is on the Muppet Magic from The Ed Sullivan Show DVD, though

1 Comment

We netflixed the first volume of the Sesame Street Old School compilation for our toddler, and I believe Manamana was on that (volume one included the premiere episode). My husband found the song on itunes and now it's his ringtone. He (husband, not the todder) will be glad to see the orignal source material.

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