Friday, January 3, 2014
M(aster of P)uppets: Synchronicity between Metallica and The Muppet Movie
Certainly the most Muppet-y Metallica album is 1986's Master of Puppets -- uh doy, it says "puppets" in the title -- and I think it's no coincidence that it's regarded as their masterpiece. It is a bit odd, though, that there's no overt Muppet references in the songs themselves. Maybe we're expected to dig a little deeper.
I've experimented with this idea, to some surprising results. I did one of those "synchronicity" things, where you start playing an album at the same time as you start playing a movie, to see if anything, lyrically or thematically, "matches up" between the two pieces. You know, kind of like how The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds synchs up perfectly with Freddy Got Fingered. In this case, I matched Metallica's Master of Puppets with the Muppets' first (and perhaps greatest?) movie, 1979's The Muppet Movie.
If you'd like to re-create this experiment for yourself, just queue up one of the many "master of puppets full album" uploads on Youtube while you watch The Muppet Movie. Are you ready? Here's what I found!
So, right away, James Hetfield's classical guitar intro to "Battery" beautifully accompanies the movie, as it pans down regally over the statue at World Wide Studios' main gate. Then, at 00:40, the monstrous electric guitars rudely interrupt the music -- just as Statler and Waldorf drive up to the gate.
Soon, the galloping rhythm of "Battery" begins, as the Muppets rip out chairs and detonate TNT in the screening room. When the rapid-fire lyrics begin ("Lashing out the action, returning the reaction, weak are ripped and torn away") we see Animal -- perhaps the most likely Muppet to be a Metallica fan -- bouncing frantically in his seat.
"Lunacy has found me" matches with the appearance of Lew Zealand.
When Kirk Hammett's ripping guitar solo starts at 3:17, the actual "movie within a movie" begins, and we're coasting through a panorama of clouds.
Throughout the remainder of "Battery," the camera moves through the clouds and into the swamp. At 5:23, the title song "Master of Puppets" starts its intro, just as we get our first glimpse of Kermit with his banjo.
The verses in "Master of Puppets" don't line up extremely well with "The Rainbow Connection," but the pace of phrasing is surprisingly similar, so certain lines match amusingly with Kermit's mouth: "taste me you will see," "come crawling faster," and "obey your master."
One of the more interesting ones is that Kermit shoots his head up suddenly when Hetfield sings "just call my name 'cause I'll hear you SCREAM" (in "The Rainbow Connection," this is when Kermit sings "all of us UN-der its spell").
It seems like Dom DeLuise lip-synchs the line "chop your breakfast on a mirror," and then Kermit tries to catch a fly with his tongue when the phrase "taste me you will see" is repeated.
The BEST part of this section is that Kermit does his "read my lips: al-ee-gay-tor" bit, beat-for-beat, with Hetfield grunting "MAS-TER! MAS-TER!"
Further along, the music becomes more ominous while Kermit is biking past Doc Hopper's signs; at 10:53, Kermit is ostensibly being smushed by pavers when Hetfield shouts "Beats me!" (or whatever he's saying) just before Hammett's zany whammy-bar solo.
To close out the album's title track with a bang: at 13:28 or so, an Andre the Giant-esque "HA HA HA," which is followed by peals of lunatic laughter, matches with the appearance of Fozzie doing his comedy routine at El Sleezo Cafe.
As we move into the third song, "The Thing That Should Not Be," Doc Hopper peeks into the bar with his tiny binoculars at the line "dark deception kills the light," and the angry mob starts tossing puppets at the line "fearless wretch / insanity."
Doc Hopper's first bizarre proposition to Kermit takes place while Hetfield sings phrases like "in madness you dwell," and "drain you of your sanity / face the thing that should not be."
At 22:13, we've moved into Metallica's classic "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)," and we see Big Bird's cameo with the lyrics "they keep me locked up in this cage." I assume this is a reference to the plot of Sesame Street's big-screen feature Follow That Bird.
The phrase "just leave me alone" is repeated, both when Big Bird strolls away by himself, and again later when Doc Hopper stops Kermit and Fozzie to harrass them.
At 24:40, Max attempts to stand up for himself against Doc Hopper -- to the phrase "mutiny in the air."
The fifth track, "Disposable Heroes," has started by 27:20, a point at which we hear a backwards cymbal crash while we see Animal bite his cymbal to "eat drum." When Lars Ulrich pounds out an extra-loud snare beat soon afterwards, Animal has realized he should "beat drum" -- which he does, on the snare with his head.
The Electric Mayhem's song "Can Ya Picture That" ends up corresponding to the lyric section of "Disposable Heroes," and it's not without its moments of near-perfect lip-synch phrases: "you will do what I say when I say," "you coward / you servant," "now an empty shell," and "the slaughter never ends." Clearly the most amusing thing is the irony in such a cynical, military-themed set of lyrics being "sung" by a bunch of freaked-out hippie puppets.
After Fozzie and Kermit drive away from the church, they're being followed by Doc Hopper and Max. At 33:00, they look behind them and spot their pursuers. This synchs exactly with the lyrics, "looking back I realize, nothing have I done / left to die with my only friend."
Soon, Fozzie and Kermit are about to collide with Gonzo's plumbing vehicle, and Fozzie covers his eyes at nearly the same time as Hetfield shouts the line "you blind man!"
Milton Berle's Mad Man Mooney makes his appearance to the opening riffs of the sixth track, "Leper Messiah." He begins his used car salesman pitch to the Muppets with the lyrics "send me money, send me green... make a contribution."
At 39:49, Miss Piggy is crowned and seated on her throne to the lyric phrase "time for lust."
Piggy and Kermit have their romantic fantasy montage to Cliff Burton's eerie bass effects at the beginning of the instrumental track "Orion." It casts a strangely foreboding mood on the otherwise sappy scene.
Gonzo is lifted into the air by his balloons at 45:50, accompanied by a slower, pensive section of the song, with lots of airy guitar string bends. Again, it makes for a different, but not inappropriate, mood -- it replaces the panic with a haunting dreaminess.
Kermit and Piggy have their first official date to the manic strains of Master of Puppets' final track, "Damage, Inc." At 52:45, Piggy coldly abandons Kermit for a modeling gig to the phrase "we chew and spit you out."
Kermit meets Rowlf at the piano during the guitar solo. There's a REALLY cool part, at 53:17, where Rowlf's hands seem to mime a frenzied run of notes.
"Damage, Inc." completes another round of verse and chorus during Kermit and Rowlf's duet, and abruptly ends. The album is done -- as far as Metallica is concerned, The Muppet Movie ends here, with "men" (as it were) working through despair and depression, but ultimately taking power and energy from the love of their music.
So, in conclusion, I'm 100% convinced that Metallica was directly inspired by The Muppet Movie, and made all creative decisions concerning the writing and production of Master of Puppets based on a frame-by-frame study of it. Try this synchronicity experiment for yourself and I think you'll agree.