:: The Letter People, A-Z ::[note from Tony: When I imported these into iTunes, the artist showed up as simply "People," so adjust your tags accordingly]
This record and I go back a ways. No, I wasn't brainwashed by it as a child because by the time this record came out I was busy buying Black Sabbath records. I have been aware of it though for about 15 years now, and the story of how I became aware of it goes a long way toward explaining my rather odd tastes in music.
Way back in the early 90s, my friend Alec was working in an art framing shop in Venice, CA. Some of his coworkers would bring in mixtapes, and according to Alec, working in that shop and listening to the wide and varied musical offerings brought in by these wacky artist types served to broaden Alec's musical tastes in a direction he never would have expected. Now I don't know much about exactly what all he was subjected to, but I do know that he became much more open minded and he gained an appreciation for musical "cheese" that is second to none.
Alec began scouring the .25 bins at local record stores and began making his own mixtapes filled with obscure genre hopping would be pop gems. His mixtapes helped inspire Robot Tony to make his now infamous "Scars on 45" series of mixtapes, and eventually inspired us to take the concept to the blogosphere, and here we are.
Back to the Venice framing shop though, one day one of Alec's coworkers brought in a tape with sort of a "best of" selection from The Letter People LP. Alec loved it, and was able to make a dub of the tape. The song Mr. S appeared on one of Alec's mixtapes, and the legend was born. About a decade later, our young friend Trags recognized the track as part of the soundtrack of his youth, so Alec supplied another dub of the tape to us. Lately I had been keeping an eye open for a copy of the album, but the ones I found on Ebay were going for $50.00 and up. I finally found this copy for under $20.00 and pounced on it. As most kids' records tend to be, it's not in the greatest shape, but it plays through for the most part without many skips (Mr. M being one unfortunate exception).
The Letter People was of course a television show on PBS during the 70s. Each letter of the alphabet was represented by a puppet character, and each character sang a song about themselves. Consonants were represented by male characters and vowels by females (I have no idea why this is the case, but as a result the Letter People were a male dominated society, to say the least). The show proved to be a wonderful teaching tool for preschoolers, and it survives today though the music undoubtedly lacks a certain element of 70s funkiness.
Speaking of the music, I couldn't find much information about the people who wrote, arranged and produced these songs, but whoever they were, they were monsters. We can thank the folks over at Sesame Street for not only revolutionizing children's television, but for changing the sound of children's music from the innocent and innocuous drivel of the 50s and 60s, to urbanized, street smart 70s funk performed by hipster jazz cat studio crawlers of the day. Of course each of these songs is in a different style, the better to give each letter it's own distinct personality, but when these musicians want to turn it on, as they do in Mr. S and a few others, any worries about a 3 year old's musical sophistication are thrown out the window. No wonder there are so many smart 30 year-olds running around.
One tip: Watch out for Mr. H. He's HORRIBLE!