Dr. Teeth & The Electric Mayhem: A Primer
There's a certain subset of my generation for whom the Muppets will always hold a special place in our hearts. I still remember watching The Muppet Show faithfully every Saturday at 6:30pm, and seeing Elton John, Paul Simon, Olivia Newton-John, and a bunch of other celebrities mix it up with Kermit, Miss Piggy, and the rest of the gang. I'm doing my best to make sure that my kids know the genius which is Paul Williams' excellent "Rainbow Connection". To that end, my 5 year old son loves The Muppet Movie, and already is on his way to knowing the lyrics to that song by heart. If he takes away nothing else from my musical tastes, I've done a good thing.
Which brings me to Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, the house band of the Muppets. When you look at them closely, you see that Jim Henson and his merry men were clever when they conceptualized the members of the band. Each of the Electric Mayhem's members has some form of real-life couterpart, to whom they were created in tribute. Gentle readers, it is my pleasure to break it down for you all...
First up is the leader of the band, Dr. Teeth. It's relatively easy to see that he's based on New Orleans pride and joy, Mac Rebbenack himself, Dr. John. Both play piano, both sing a bit scratchy-voiced, and both are most definitely colorful characters.
Next up, Floyd is an unusual one. His full name is Sgt. Floyd Pepper, which sheds a bit of light on his preference in clothing. But also... the man has pink eyebrows. Get it? So Roger Waters AND the Beatles have played into the character. Personally, I always thought he resembled Mick Fleetwood or John McVie. Floyd has a great quote about the music he composes: "If I didn't know I was a genius, I wouldn't listen to the trash I write."
Janice is a relatively simple one to draw a connection to; her name is derived from Janis Joplin. But some musician friends of mine thought that personality- and musical-inspiration-wise, she might have a bit more in common with Joni Mitchell. This may very well be true, too.
Zoot the saxophonist definitely takes his name from Zoot Sims, the jazz saxophonist. But apparently, looks-wise Zoot was designed to resemble another jazz saxman, Gato Barbieri. Zoot always struck me as the perpetual stoner of the group, which is kinda cool that the Muppets were subversive enough to include that in their group.
Rowlf, though perhaps not officially a member of the Electric Mayhem (at least not initially), is most definitely modeled after Nighthawks At The Diner-era Tom Waits. Jim Henson was hipper than we give him credit for!!
And finally, the most beloved member of the band, Animal? Easy; Keith Moon. Think about it: both are crazed, both play with intensity, and both have a predisposition for destruction. For Keith, it was hotel rooms and Lincoln Continentals; Animal was kept under lock-and key, with that nutty dog collar that Floyd always had him on. Can you imagine Pete Townshend keeping Keith Moon on a short leash, with a fetish collar and the whole bit??
In case any of you need to be reminded just how cool Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem could be when firing on all cylinders, I submit to you their masterpiece, "Can You Picture That?" from The Muppet Movie. Even today, this song rocks; I don't care what you damn indie snobs think!!