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A Letter from Walt Kraemer

+ 2003-09-10 09:41:42 BST

[Following up my response to yesterdays comment in the Pinball Song thread, Walt Kraemer has been kind enough to email me with some information about the song. So here it is, definitive and from the person who composed and produced it, everything you ever wanted to know about the Sesame Street Pinball Number Count.]

As composer and producer of Sesame Street’s Pinball Music I was flattered to find interest in something I created over a quarter of a century ago. Our company, Imagination, Inc in San Francisco produced a great number of animation pieces for Children’s Television Workshop at that time so forgive me if I’m a bit hazy as to some of the particulars.

Those were indeed the Pointer Sisters. All four of them. At the time only three were performing regularly and I recall budgeting for just the three when June showed up at the session with the rest. It was a bonus. The basic track was performed by San Francisco Bay Area musicians and since there were to be eleven pieces of animation I had the track structured to accomodate three different lead instrument overdubs to give the pieces some variety. On some numbers Andy Narell plays a steel drums solo, on others Mel Martin plays a soprano sax solo, on the rest… I forget. Much credit should go to Ed Bogas for interpreting my melody ideas and for the musical arrangements.

The concept and design was devised by our animation director, Jeff Hale. It was his idea that I create basic tracks then record as ‘wild-lines’ the Pointers shouting the various 2-11 numbers in different intensities and different compliments of voices. Then, each time the pin ball hit a selected number he would drop in these (off-key—couldn’t be helped) wild lines. While I have retained first or second generation masters (quarter inch tape now converted to DAT and CD) of 99% my audio productions over the years it is for above reason there was never a ‘master’ track. This news came as a dissapointment to the folks back at Sesame Street who were planning the current CD release. Unfortunately, I have retained nothing from this session. Matter of fact, I haven’t heard the piece in years.

On the techinal side, we recorded at Richard Beggs’ (Francis Ford Coppola’s) studio in the Columbus Towers Building, 24 track, analog—of course. Mag transfers were made at Imagination, Inc. which is long out of business. And, again unfortunately, there is nothing left of either the animation cells nor audio elements for any of that beautiful work.

Personally, I am honored to be thought of in the same company as Herbie Hancock and Frank Zappa. My approach was to write the piece in 12-4 or 12-8 time but that didn’t quite work out. And it wasn’t until we had completed the project that I realized I may have stolen the first five notes of the Woody Woodpecker Song. Something I’m sure neither Hancock nor Zappa would be guilty of.

Cordially,

Walt Kraemer


Phil

+ 2003-09-10 10:31:47 BST

Nice one Matt. Respect to Kraemer for getting in touch and taking the time out to write an informative and lengthy response. God bless Google!

natis

+ 2003-09-10 15:30:28 BST

That is way cool dude.

Tommy

+ 2003-09-10 17:55:49 BST

Nice. :)

mal

+ 2003-09-10 22:20:53 BST

Brilliant! :)

As Phil says, god bless Google! And cheers to Walt, too, for that matter. :)

tim

+ 2003-09-11 10:42:47 BST

I’m a amatuer musician, and I can trace my love of all thing funk back to some time in the early 80s and being sat infront of sesami st and seeing the amazing pinball animation, with the most far out tune behind it (Walt – its the superb Rhodes playing that I would reckon is why people think its a Hancock tune). Ever since, I’ve been trying to trace this tune. Anyone got it, like in any format (other than the remixed version thats just not the same!)??

strictly kev

+ 2003-09-13 00:20:53 BST

I saw this as i was forwarded the letter from Walt by Sesame Workshop. Pity it didn’t reach us in time for the Ninja release as it would have made great sleeve notes. Might just make it on another Sesame release we’re planning in the future though ;)

As the record will finally see the light of day on Monday i’d like to let Tim know that it is basically exactly the same as the original ‘Pinball Number Count’ that Walt recorded.
When i obtained tapes (no.s 2 through 12, there is no number 1 apparently) from Sesame Street i realised that the track came in 3 different versions. Each had the same beginning and end chorus but there was a choice of 3 different ‘bridges’ scattered amongst the songs and each has it’s own particular number shouted throughout.
All i did was a minimal re-edit of the original adding all 3 bridges to the existing chorus but chopping in different numbers randomly in the places they originally sat in each particular version.
The version on the 3 CD Sesame boxset is an early mix that includes a couple of Count von Count samples at either end. This was originally done for a mix CD i released but didn’t make the cut. Sesame liked it so much they put it on their box set and kept the spokenword either end.
The version coming out on vinyl is the exact same arrangement, without the Count, but remastered and mixed to a much higher standard. As the original tracks were less than a minute long the re edit brings parts of all the versions together to make up just over 2 and a half minutes worth of Pinball nostalgia.

Enjoy

Strictly Kev
(DJ Food)

Leon

+ 2003-09-14 17:14:07 BST

See, kids, this-and not American liberals banging on about Howard Dean-is why weblogs are making the world a better place.

Tim

+ 2003-09-16 13:57:16 BST

Cheers Kev – respec!

Philippe

+ 2003-09-24 03:18:01 BST

wow this is just the tops

Ryan

+ 2003-10-01 17:11:30 BST

Serious props for the info.
Seeing this song’s inclusion on the recent set convinced me to pull the purchasing trigger.

BTW, many omissions on the box set (‘Telephone Rock’ & ‘Letter B’ for starters), but that’s off-topic. Maybe CTW will keep the vaults flowing for the diehards? A Cut Chemist mix of that crazed “Hat, Hat … mmm, Hat” rhyming song, perhaps?

ezra

+ 2003-12-16 15:07:42 GMT

Greetings all,

I am trying to figure out the chords and melody for this very song. What a great tune! Damn it’s difficult!

If anyone has any information they can share on this challenge, please email me at ezra@twinoaks.org

doug

+ 2003-12-21 01:34:35 GMT

Wow – what fantastic information.
The pinball song always used to be my favourite part of sesame street and i apparently used to cry if i missed it.
haha

tabitha

+ 2004-01-05 05:20:46 GMT

my band was doing an in store set at rough trade record shop in london last month and the shop played the pinball song while we were setting up. we all stopped what we were doing at freaked out at how amazing it was. i think they said some german dj’s released a remix of it?? it was only on vinyl so i didn’t buy it. looks like it’s available on cd through sesame street now, yay…..i really should have turntable, shame on me.

Heather

+ 2004-03-18 23:01:40 GMT

This is all good, but what about the extraordinary Jazz Numbers Jeff Hale animation that pre-dated the Pinball version? I hear so much from Gen Y-ers about the Pointer Sisters \”Pinball\” numbers clip; but what about the psychedelic, beautiful, and still eye-poppingly imaginative \”Jazz Numbers\” cartoon that featured Grace Slick singing the numbers? Someone out there must remember it, and I hope if you do, Walt, you\’ll tell us Gen X-er old timers about OUR generation\’s numbers clip. Anyone out there remember the bald wizard in the peaked cap for 7? The devil at the end of 3? The snarling hockey-player whose flying puck leads in 4? How about the homage to the Jackson 5 and The Beatles in 5? I know someone out there remembers, not just me… and btw, Walt: I own all the clips of each version, so if you want to hear and see them again, post a request here, and I\’ll get you a VHS copy of the whole megilah!

Jenn

+ 2004-03-29 18:18:18 BST

heather,
please let me know how I can get a VHS copy of your clips. That would ROCK!

ted

+ 2004-03-31 13:33:08 BST

I have pinball animations for the numbers 4,8 and 10 recorded from dutch television – with dutch lyrics. I can convert them to a digital format, but I am not sure about copyright…

I am not sure what Heather means with the Jazz Numbers cartoon. Her description (\”psychedelic\”, and the hockey player in number 4), fit what I understand to be the pinball number animation…

Josh

+ 2004-05-13 17:41:29 BST

Heather, if you can get me a VHS copy (or post up somewhere a digital copy), that would rock! email me and let me know: jparish@columbus.rr.com

Mat

+ 2004-06-13 10:17:17 BST

what a wicked tune. Not only was this a childhood song for me and my friends but I have also experienced some crazy sing alongs to this tune under various substances and it blows me away everytime.
There is something about that tune that is magic! 123-4-5-678-9-10-11-12

Micah Moore

+ 2004-06-15 00:02:46 BST

You can get EVERY one of the cartoons animated by that genius on DVD!!!And for like 12 bucks!!!
Spread the word!!!

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00005QFDV/qid%3D1087254552

dobe

+ 2004-10-17 01:51:40 BST

yo that song used to scare me as a kid. Foreal. Freaked me out. But lately i heard a modern day remixed funk song that droped that in there and it was bangin. I havent been able to get it out of my head since. Its a strangly addictive tune. Never has a song affected me like that.

Jess

+ 2004-10-18 03:25:37 BST

OMG! I am absolutely amazed this information is on the internet. I was blown away when I used google to look up this song. It was also MY favorite Sesame Street song, and as an 18-year-old college student… this has made my day.

kurenrat@yahoo.com

+ 2004-10-27 19:11:36 BST

Yo,

Comparing the Grace Slick “Jazz Numbers” Jeff Hale animation sequence (a.k.a. “Racecars/Spies,” to SS fans) to the Pointer Sisters’ “Pinball Numbers,” is only fair if you consider that they were 10 years apart? Each one’s a pretty fair specimen of their generation, and its tastes. One was hippie-psychadelic, the other Superfly-funkadelic.

“Jazz Numbers” aired on the VERY FIRST SS episode in 1969…same year as Woodstock, BTW. :o The animation was trippy, in the style of Peter Max and the cartoon “Yellow Submarine” movie. This experiment was to be followed by many more like it, in the early years of SS.

Sometimes this technique backfired. Most impressionable <5 youngters I know, [gentle sarcasm] are not emotionally equipped to take a head-trip. Check out alt.tv.sesame-street sometime, and see how many threads are titled with variations on, “which-sketch-scared-the-crap-out-of-you-as-a-kid?” Still, this same footage was so evocative that those same children (now Gen-X’ers) are scrambling to find copies of those short-films today.

Excerpts from MY personal list of horrors:

-12 rocks in the desert, forming the number “12”
-stop-motion orange singing “Habanera” from the opera “Carmen”
-a bakery, where time-lapse dough is rising to nightmarish sound FX
-a sinister voice counts from 1-20; the corresponding number appears onscreen, and something awful happens to it.

Some that I just thought were neat:

-David (former cast member) as a Hindu snake-charmer, charming the number “12” out of a basket
-4-armed Hindu swami, counting to 20, to neat sitar music.

Was I going somewhere with this? :)

Sorry. Nevermind.

SSFreak

+ 2005-01-24 17:56:58 GMT

To this day I am still deathly afraid of this.
-4-armed Hindu swami, counting to 20, to neat sitar music.

Haven’t seen it in decades, but the mere mention of it fills me with horror.

I am trying to find a pic to see if I can overcome the fear.

ryanscissorhands

+ 2005-02-01 01:15:26 GMT

I’m trying to arrange “The Pinball Song” for a jazz combo I’m in from memory, but alas, it was in the OTHER half of my lifetime that I heard it. I would kill for even a crappy copy of it in any audio form, so I can refresh my mind. If anyone has a lead, please email me

ryanscissorhands@hotmail.com

Mike

+ 2005-02-17 02:30:29 GMT

Hi, everyone.

I have been trying to obtain copies of the “Jazz Numbers” segments ( with the spies and number 1-10 engulfing the screen at the end) vocalized by Grace Slick for a very long time!

I already have complete versions of numbers 2-6, 8 and 10 on tape, but I would greatly appreciate getting copies of #7 and 9, as I haven’t seen those in years. Surprisingly, years ago someone pointed out to me versions of these cartoons in Hebrew (a language I don’t know fluently) that were found on the video series of “Shalom Sesame”, and I obtained copies of numbers 4, 6 and 8. It’s a different woman voicing doing a different number!

I’m looking for more of these “international” versions of this cartoon in any language; in particular, as far as the Spanish language is concerned, only #’s 7 and 10 in that language were ever shown on the original Sesame Street, although the remaining numbers must have been shown on the Spanish-speaking versions of the show. I haven’t seen those versions in years, so if anyone has copies of those, I’d greatly love to get copies!

Trades for clips or SS “Unpaved” or “The Electric Company” episodes can be arranged if you want. BTW, I have the Hindu swami 1-20 segment in both English and Spanish, too!

Take care.
Mike
mikeflint70@hotmail.com

P.S. I live in Toronto, Canada.