Thomas the Tank Engine: A Sodor Sing-Along

All aboard!

Rolling along the tracks of life…

I’ve been on a bit of a “Thomas the Tank Engine” kick lately.  Since the recent announcement of a new Thomas movie coming out in 2013, I’ve been hunting for Thomas videos and DVDs at garage sales and  bargain bins, looking to reconnect with a cherished piece of my childhood.  I’ve also tuned in weekly to the Thomas & Friends TV show to see what all the engines look like now that CGI is being used instead of the old model trains (I prefer the models, but the computer animation isn’t too bad).  I have rediscovered many wonderful friends on the island of Sodor, and I love seeing them all.  A couple of days ago, I bought a DVD full of songs from the TV show and spent a bit of last night appreciating just how good the songs were and the great memories they brought back.  Here’s a few of my favorite songs from the show along with links to YouTube videos featuring them.  Credit for most songs goes to series composers Mike O’Donnell and Junior Campbell who I feel gave just the right kind of lighthearted feel this series called for in terms of music.  The one exception is “Hear the Engines Coming” which was written by Robert Hartshorne.  Feel free to share them with your kids; I think these songs are too much fun to keep to yourself.

“Toby”

This song features one of my favorite engines in the whole Thomas universe (other than the big blue guy himself, of course).  It’s a three minute retelling of the story of how Toby the tram engine came to Thomas’s railway after being shut up in a shed for years.  That story almost always makes me cry a little at the thought of Toby being cut off from everyone for so long.  The song makes this thought even more unbearable for me because the kids singing it soon start wailing, “Toby, oh Toby,/What will become of you?/The world’s much nicer whenever we see you.”  I agree with them wholeheartedly: the whole world does seem a lot nicer whenever I see Toby’s big square body and cute little smile, and I’m glad that the song ends with him going out into the world again.  It also has a great melody taken from Toby’s signature upbeat musical theme which always precedes his appearances in the series and which I never tire of hearing.  No matter how old I might get, I’ll always cherish Toby’s presence in my life.  Like the song says, “Oldies but Goldies, we still care for you.”

“Sir Topham Hatt”

Please note that this is the 1994 song, not the 2010 rendition which covers virtually the same territory but with a light jazz motif which I really don’t like much at all, so, in my opinion, the lesser said about that one the better.  The 1994 song is a musical tribute to the big guy in the top hat and black coat who runs one of the most famous parts of the Sodor railway system.  Basically, the song covers Hatt’s rotund figure, his control of the railway, and recounts a few of his more iconic moments in the series.  It’s all sung to a melody that throws its weight around through heavy percussion beats and loud brass notes, just like the character it is dedicated to.  If you ever wanted to explain to someone who has never heard of the Thomas franchise who Sir Topham Hatt is, this song would be a good place to start.

“Hear the Engines Coming”

As I hinted at above, I generally don’t like a lot of the newer songs that have been written for the Thomas series.  Most of them tend to be written in Broadway, rock-and-roll, and light jazz styles which I think clash a lot with the old-fashioned setting of the series.  I do like this song from 2011, however.  It turns the puffs, whistles, clanks, bangs, and bashes of the engines’ work day into a fun, noisy song that made me smile the first time I heard it, possibly the first time I’d cracked a really big grin at anything I’ve seen during the CGI era.  I’ve always liked songs and stories that turn noise into a fun rhythm game, and this song hits that sweet spot for me.  I don’t think of it as a classic like the songs from when I was growing up, but it’s not half bad.

“Island Song”

I had actually never heard this song before (or at least I didn’t remember it from my childhood) until I picked up the DVD I talked about at the beginning of this post.  I felt myself crying a little bit as this song went on because it reminded me of why I fell in love with the Thomas the Tank Engine show in the first place.  In fact, that was pretty much how I felt after hearing the first verse: “Picture a land where the sky is so blue/A storybook land of wonder/A magical land just waiting for you/Island of Sodor will make your dreams come true.”  The show’s depiction of Sodor as a perpetually green in the summer (pristine white in winter) land full of talking train engines definitely left a strong impression on me when I was younger and has stayed with me for years.  As new generations discover Thomas for the first time, I feel compelled to join in with the chorus and tell those kids, “Children follow the dream/To the land of make believe.”  I am sure that dream will live on forever as long as kids care to dream it.

“Thomas’ Anthem”

We started with a song about one of my favorite engines, so now I’ll close with my absolute favorite song from the series, which coincidentally happens to be the first one ever featured in the series.  Like the title indicates, this song is pretty much the original Thomas theme song, using the music from the opening title sequence to back up its chorus, “Thomas the Tank Engine rolling along,/[whistling part – I don’t quite know how to do it all that well either for this post or in real life; you can hear it for yourself in the video, so bonus points if you can replicate it on your own]/All of his friends will be coming along/Thomas, we love you!”  I was actually surprised the original title sequence even had lyrics, but when I heard them, I thought to myself, “Yup, this one’s going to stay with me.”  I also kind of like the new intro song it’s been replaced with since my childhood, “Engine Rollcall,” but there’s a part of me that will always like the original theme the best.  I didn’t hear it until well after my formative years were over, but it reminds me of when I first saw the show, and that’s a great thing in my book.

These songs always bring back my childhood whenever I hear them, and I hope you enjoyed them, too.  What did you think of them?  What songs do you like?  Let me know in the comments, and keep puffing along!

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply