August 30, 2006

Sesame Street "Jazzy Spies"


A decade before there was Pointer Sisters pinball, there was "Jazzy Spies." Named after the ten spies who opened their coats to reveal numbers 1-10 at the end, "Jazzy Spies," or "Jazz Numbers," was the trippy animated counting series that debuted on the first season of Sesame Street in 1969.

The frenetic jazz soundtrack was by Denny Zeitlin, and the vocals were by Grace Slick. Slick's first husband Jerry Slick produced the segments, while working at animator Jeff Hale's SF-based studio, Imagination, Inc. [Hale also made the Pinball Series. Check out this firsthand account by composer Walt Kraemer. Jerry's brother Darby played guitar with Grace and wrote the music for the 4-armed Indian dude couting to 20. Those folks on The 'Street back then really burned the midnight hookahs, I tell you.]

These badboys are trippy, especially the elevator sequence on #2 and the food chain on #8. Actually, #6 is weird, too, with those bugs and-- Anyway, some of them are on YouTube:

1 [didn't make one], 2 [crappy audio], 3, 4, 5, 6 [crappy audio], 7, 8, 9, 10.


For all the musical firepower, the real impact for me is the animation. Imagine blowing one of these number things up and painting it on the wall [minus the Noggin logo, of course.] Why would you ever settle for ducks or ladybugs, when you could stencil one of those big-mouthed spiders, or even the racing cars in the ol' nursery? Just saying.

Apparently, all the illustrations in The Sesame Street Book Of Numbers [1970, Time Life] are from "Jazzy Spies," so set your eBay alerts--and your scanners--on "stun". I just bought a copy for 95 cents.

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