Watch Jazzy Spies: 1969 Psychedelic Sesame Street Animation, Featuring Grace Slick, Teaches Kids to Count

When asked for their favorite Sesame Street seg­ment, many chil­dren of the 70s and 80s point to Pin­ball Num­ber Count. Psy­che­del­ic ani­ma­tion, the Point­er Sis­ters, odd time signatures–what’s not to love? But for the seri­ous Sesame Street buff, the “Jazz Num­bers” series above deserves the sil­ver medal. It’s got free jazz, Yel­low Sub­ma­rine-style sur­re­al­is­tic ani­ma­tion, and a vocal from Grace Slick of Jef­fer­son Air­plane. How many young par­ents rec­og­nized her dis­tinc­tive voice, I won­der?

Also known as “Jazzy Spies,” this 1969 series of ani­ma­tions was devot­ed to the num­bers 2 through 10 (there was no film for “one” as it is the loneli­est num­ber that you’ll ever do), and was an essen­tial ele­ment in Sesame’s Street’s first sea­son. High­lights include the dream-like ele­va­tor door sequence of “2,” the Jack­son 5 ref­er­ence in “5,” and the rac­ing fans in “10.”

Slick got involved through her first hus­band, Jer­ry Slick, who pro­duced the seg­ments for San Fran­cis­co-based ani­ma­tion stu­dio Imag­i­na­tion, Inc. Head­ed by ani­ma­tor Jeff Hale, the com­pa­ny also pro­duced the Pin­ball seg­ments, as well as the famous anamor­phic “Type­writer Guy,” the Ring­mas­ter, and the Detec­tive Man. (Hale, by the way, has a cameo as Augie “Ben” Dog­gie in the well-loved Lucas par­o­dy Hard­ware Wars.) He passed away last month at 92.

The deliri­ous music was com­posed and per­formed by Colum­bia jazz artist Den­ny Zeitlin, who would go on to score the 1979 remake of Inva­sion of the Body Snatch­ers. Zeitlin plays both piano and clavinet; accom­pa­ny­ing him is Bob­by Natan­son on drums and Mel Graves on bass. Accord­ing to Zeitlin, Grace Slick over­dubbed her vocals lat­er.

This wasn’t Slick’s first encounter with Jim Hen­son. In 1968, she and oth­er mem­bers of Jef­fer­son Air­plane were part of a coun­ter­cul­ture doc­u­men­tary called Youth ’68, the trail­er for which you can groove on here.

Sesame Street, with all its pri­ma­ry col­ors, plas­tic mer­chan­dise, and Elmo infes­ta­tion, may have lost its edge, but these ear­ly works show its rev­o­lu­tion­ary foun­da­tions.

via Dan­ger­ous Minds

Relat­ed Con­tent:

 Jim Hen­son Teach­es You How to Make Pup­pets in Vin­tage Primer From 1969

See Ste­vie Won­der Play “Super­sti­tion” and Ban­ter with Grover on Sesame Street in 1973

Jef­fer­son Air­plane Wakes Up New York; Jean-Luc Godard Cap­tures It (1968)

Thank You, Mask Man: Lenny Bruce’s Lone Ranger Com­e­dy Rou­tine Becomes a NSFW Ani­mat­ed Film (1968)

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the FunkZone Pod­cast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills and/or watch his films here.

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Comments (3)
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  • Dave Wollenberg says:

    There was also Jazzy Spies #7 and #10, done in Span­ish. I won­der of Grace sang those, too.

  • Matthew clisby says:

    I just think­ing about sesame Street clas­sic from ani­ma­tion and dif­fer­ent stuff from sesame Street skit from the mad paint painto from num­bers

  • Melissa Connors says:

    Love this information…huge Jef­fer­son Air­plane and Sesame Street fan.…Jim Hen­son was a GENIUS! And ALL the INTEGRATION of MUSIC😘to teach kids was anoth­er stroke of genius!I’m almost 56 years old and STILL REMEMBER ALL THE ENGLISH GRAMMER AND LANGUAGE TOOLS THE “SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK” SERIES TAUUGHT ME.…‘WE ALL Lice in A

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