Maylee Todd’s Version of Pinball Count!
I remember digging through the stacks in the bowels of the CBC (the music library) about five years ago and happening upon a musical artefact I had long conveted, the Sesame Street BOXED SET: Songs from the Street.
A shiver went through me as I read the track list.
Why? Because it held the only version on record of “Pinball Count” — and the identity of the voices who haunted my brown-and-orange-tinted 1970s childhood. It was information I hoarded with a demented glee that only record nerds will really understand (and no one should emulate).
I saved up this little nugget for the right moment. Maybe that moment came during the waning hours of a party as kitchen stragglers debated the merits of Typewriter Guy (nooony-noo-noo) and someone tried to sell a Golden An.
Maybe someone felt inspired to sing out “one-two-three-FOUR-five” and suddenly an impromptu kitchen choir chimed in with — “6-7-8–nine–ten–ELEVEN-TWELVE!”
As detailed in this letter to (unofficial “Pinball Count” historian) Matt Jones, the composer and producer of the track was Walt Kraemer, who assembled a hodge-podge of local San Francisco-area musicians to back up the sisters and put the song together.
Animation director Jeff Hale suggested the Pointer Sisters “shout in” the various numbers from 2–11 at different intensities — thus cueing a new animated sequence and instrument solo (the soprano sax solo for “Seven” was always my fave).
Incredibly, no master tracks of the original song exist and even the animation cells are sadly long gone. But I’m pretty sure the song is responsible for an entire generation’s future embrace of funk and jazz.
Cue Toronto musician and stylistic chameleon Maylee Todd.
Impresario of her own wildly eclectic musical career, she’s not one to leave an insta-classic alone — no matter what the source. She’s done us one better in releasing her own beautifully sung and re-interpreted version of the Sesame Street classic.
Which she nails effortlessly.
She’s incorporated all the number shouts, some of them by children. I urge you to try out your own dinner-table rendition with your kids tonight.
You can find Maylee’s Pinball Count on Escapology, her much-anticipated new record and itself a fantastic musical homage to the disco, boogie and funk, Tropicalia and soul that shaped her own musical awakening. The album name is a tribute to her family: while her father’s professional career as an Elvis-impersonator made a musical career a viable option, it was her grandfather (a bona-fide Escapologist, one of the first in Canada) who inspired the title.
p.s. Escapology is also the perfect soundtrack to your next family home improvement project – making this insanely amazing Pinball Count-inspired wall clock, devised by Travis Hydzik over at Instructables.
p.p.s. Book a babysitter now for April 25 — the official CD release party for Escapology at the The Great Hall, 1087 Queen St. W. in Toronto. Doors at 10pm. Tickets are $8 in advance, available at Soundscapes, Rotate This and Maylee Todd’s site ($15 at the door).
Helen Spitzer feels no compunction walking down the street singing “Ladybug’s Picnic.” She lives with kids in Guelph and Toronto.