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Monday, June 14, 2021

What We Can't Do Without is Music

 


The Topic Where Everybody Is An Expert


Guessing most feel as vested in music as any pastime. Cannot think of anyone offhand who says, I don’t care for music at all. Take it away and movies would not mean half so much, or much of anything for that matter. Imagine watching silents without accompany. I had to run The Birth of a Nation mute, and 8mm, to a college class (apx. 1974), a sudden request, so no time to arrange even shellac escort. Would have preferred ants crawling over me. Music is as breathing in this quarter. How many listen as they read/write onscreen? Fred Hamm and His Orchestra are playing Sugar Foot Stomp as I type, Exclusively 20’s part of “Online Radio Box.” Name please, your earliest song memory. Mine are tied between Fred Kirby singing Big Rock Candy Mountain and Debbie Reynolds doing Tammy, both 1957. There was more from that year, surprising what tunes could be absorbed at age three. I recently got a CD, Hard To Find Jukebox Classics Volume One: 50’s Pop, each track repurposed for stereo, among them Perry Como performing Round and Round, another from 1957 to oddly stay with me even as Elvis and others spun more prominent. And how is it 1958 sustains on strength of Tommy Dorsey’s Tea For Two Cha-Cha, a tune I still repeat-hum without being conscious of it. Early exposure to music depended on what was brought into the household. Having four older siblings was for me like living in a record store. No room was without song, competing at times, but add my own to their choices and it was like Tin Pan Alley as described by passersby who described non-stop cacophony within that busy address.



I find appeal in music however old. Remember what The Sting did for Scott Joplin and ragtime? His The Entertainer, as performed by Marvin Hamlisch, went to #3 on the May 1974 “Hot 100.” I had the single, then the album, used Joplin as backdrop for silent comedy. He made serious study of ragtime while others performed it purely by instinct. Did The Sting bring about resurgence for ragtime beyond Scott Joplin? Seemed in 1974 that whatever was spent could be made fresh again, this the year That’s Entertainment came out after all. Ancient enough songs traveled on wings of elementary school attendance, Norman “Chubby” Chaney in Little Daddy (1931) singing “Asleep In The Deep” (1897), none of us caring how far back the tune went, so long as it captivated here and now. I memorized lyrics for “The Curse of an Aching Heart” (1913) after seeing it performed in Blotto (1930), a song we felt no one outside Laurel-Hardy fandom would know. Could I have revived it for prom night and been voted a senior superlative? Appreciation for oldest music came invariably from left field. Shock for me was learning Frank Sinatra sang “The Curse of an Aching Heart” on his 1961 album, Swing Along With Me, done straight, no irony. I wonder if Frank saw Blotto and got the idea. He was known to enjoy L&H during off-hours on location doing Sergeants Three. “The Curse of an Aching Heart” sounds like something comical and dated, but really, it is not. Stan Laurel reduced to tears by Frank Holliday’s rendition might happen to anybody, given a right emotional circumstance. Those undone by lost love could easily respond the same. If Sinatra made it work, why not someone able enough doing a same even today?



You Tube affords a lot of footage that looks way older than we know it to be. I found a Dick Clark Beech-Nut fragment where Connie Stevens and Edd Byrnes do Kookie, Kookie, Lend Me Your Comb. You’d think it predated parade footage of Queen Victoria lately found, a ghostly pop recital to make 1959 look long before anyone’s lifetime. Sobering is fact I sat on our screen porch that year and played Kookie, Kookie, etc. on loop that was my portable phonograph, just why beyond my kin to answer. Did this five-year-old imagine he would someday meet Edd and Connie, former at Columbus, latter twice in Charlotte? D. Clark had artists lip-sync to songs, a regret later when fans preferred performance live, “unplugged” even, which everything on Bandstand was determinably not. Clark and spontaneity seem not to have met, let alone melded. Or maybe he knew popsters for props barely able to singalong with offstage recordings. From such wind-up clay were teen idols made. Observing Edd/Kook by himself waiting on breakfast buffet at Cinevent gave moment to ponder an alternate reality where he stood before a thousand frenzied kids fifty years before panting to see him introduce Yellowstone Kelly at one of key stops Edd flew to. How many knew such fame, if studio-generated illusion of it, then retired to anonymity complete as most obscure among us enjoy? Wonder if it is too late to package and exploit the old Bandstand programs. At a peak, forty million watched daily, but as many saw The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, and who remembers it now? Effort to raise funds and restore these went kaput, pop culture headed toward seventieth year less likely per annum to see resurgence, especially where it’s Ozzie and sorta bland to begin with. With so much of old TV streaming, I ask why not American Bandstand?



The Twist was a dance, but the Limbo really was not, or was it? Little children enjoyed both because they seemed so utterly silly. I never observed a grown-up doing either, probably would have been embarrassed for us both if I had. Limbo bars were a novelty we tired of unless more people entered the room to join in. Ann has been told she twisted as a toddler, so I guess anyone could be passable at this dance. Record singles were a dollar per, unless you dealt faux versions not by the intended artist. Sister requested Return To Sender from the newsstand my father walked me to each Saturday morning, and out of pure meanness, I picked a 45 for fifty cents by some guy other than Elvis. Dad did not know from the King, but recalled well “King of Jazz” Paul Whiteman, whose rendition of Rhapsody In Blue was a 78 he played on a household Victrola until grooves wore out. This would have been around 1924. I’m blessed to have grown up among people who knew such an era first-hand. So many tastes in music collided as rock rolled, then became merely Rock. I cared less for that, as in not at all, was sorry to see pop singles bow to albums where a song ran interminable, and music seemed suddenly self-conscious art. On Whiteman topic, 1930’s King of Jazz, in restored two-color Technicolor, had a TCM round, but where in 99 minutes was there jazz? The Maestro tried elevating the form at tony auditoriums, one of which introduced Rhapsody In Blue, itself more quasi than real jazz; a historian called it “thrilling, warm music … marvelous tunes linked by classical devices.” Conclusion: This was “excellent pop,” and listeners, including my father, loved it. Seems the wider jazz went, and later rock and roll, the stronger was impulse to tame both beasts, make them mainstream, irresistible corporate forces against all too movable cultural objects.



So parents had their music too, even if, unlike us, they weren’t still listening to it forty years later. My mother walked through the room one morning as music under main titles for The Hoosegow got underway on Channel 5 out of Bristol. "That’s My Weakness Now," she said, without surprise or emphasis. The song was fresh when The Hoosegow came out (1929). I knew the tune but didn’t realize it had been popular apart from Hal Roach usage. To whistle this at school set you apart from peers, but all of them, any of them, knew Our Gang background themes where someone, anyone, whistled them. These were imbedded deep in all of us who grew up with access to NC viewing markets, where the Rascals were rife. My regard for classical music grew out of need for background to 8mm. I’d embrace Chopin, Liszt, the rest, for themselves and not just as adjunct to silent clowns. Collecting film and the need to score it gave great composers a practical utility that grew into fuller appreciation as we got used to their backlog, as good a way as any to introduce oneself to so-called Great Music. Having no aptitude for instruments themselves was reality hard-taught by calamity that was piano lessons, the instructor so put out by debacle of crowded recital that she finally took my fingers and poked them onto each key (selection was “Dance of the Elephants,” regarded as the simplest composition anyone sitting at a keyboard could possibly play). Audience glee was unbounded, my purpose served as there would be no more lessons after that night. The clarinet would also come a cropper, me expelled from band for too animated reaction to instructor Priscilla Lyon, former child actress, mentioning to her immediate regret that she had visited shooting of The Wolf Man in 1941, that story GPS-told years back. Some have a performing gift, but such gift is rare. I decidedly did not, don’t to this day. They say musical genius manifests early, or never. I am among nevers.



Data says Swing got close as Jazz ever did to a mass audience. That was because Swing made its audience dance, more so even than they had in the 20’s. Look at a scene from The Gang’s All Here where soldiers with girls gather round Benny Goodman and his band. Theirs was understood to be typical crowd reaction wherever Goodman played, like at theatres given up on keeping jitterbugs out of aisles whenever he took the stage. War enlarged the frenzy. Big bands ran on a stopwatch and left nothing to chance. Goodman like other leaders was a martinet. He knew members for often undisciplined lot they were. Performers who wanted to widen jazz beyond its obvious commercial realm looked to offshoot Be Bop, which detractors thought strictly on the downbeat, a “cult” whose music required “intense listening,” but never dancing. Be Bop or not, Swing was headed out thanks to changed postwar priorities and risen cost of travel and expense of big bands. Be Bop took licks for being too serious. Marty Milner’s combo in Sweet Smell of Success dodges an egghead fan who wants to know “meaning” behind their music. Even oily Sidney Falco makes better company than this chick. 1961’s Paris Blues has Paul Newman’s group upping tempo so basement club patrons can dance, but it becomes clear this band is for sit-still concentration. Be Bop made for strong LP’s a fan could groove with at home, stereo by the late 50’s a major spike to disc sales. Wonder who and how many of the jazz fraternity missed opulent days where it looked like everyone was climbing aboard their bandstand. How many cling yet to traditional jazz? As many, or more, who have stuck it out for classic movies?



Certain of convulsions in the music game make compelling reads, as in two early 40’s strikes that nearly took the industry out. Reminds me of hardship Hollywood sustained after the war. First there was ASCAP withdrawing member songs from broadcasters, retaliation the forming of BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.), which opened the field to artists and independent labels all over the country. This made possible … inevitable … rhythm and blues, then the coming of rock and roll. Maverick outfits like Chess Records evoke freewheelers at film like American-International. These platter and picture men had lots in common. I listen to R&B compilations like Blowing The Fuse (a CD series from Bear Family), stuff from far back as 1945, and it sure sounds like rock and roll to me. Somebody’s been dispersing bum history with Bill Haley, early Elvis, etc., as progenitors of R&R. Fact is, we could trace roots clear to 20’s with broad enough a brush. I like especially what survives of “air-checks” with meat-eater D.J’s that fans, or old-time station employees, have uploaded to You Tube. Amazing how guys who started in the 50’s are still at the game in 2021. The great tragic figure, of course, was Alan Freed, his fall Homeric on Big Beat, hubris-driven terms. The more I read about Freed, the more I believe Big Powers put a neat frame around him to let radio know that bosses way above them would henceforth pull strings. “Payola” was just another term for “Doing Business,” a same way it was always done, and is still being done. When greasing palms quits, so does commerce. I knew an exhibitor who gave out country hams with homemade hootch to whatever booker fixed him up with desired product, a system theatre-men embraced in glory day when people panted for the new and novel. Same way with records needing to be heard … a couple century notes more/less, did it every time. How grand it must have been to be part of such daily corruption!



“Top 40” was the drab fix puppet masters put in. Nothing henceforth would be left to chance, or whim of jocks who forgot their subservient place. Major labels got back what they considered rightful place at the top, upstart independents fallen like flies sprayed by big corporate flit. Song sales should be reasonably predictable … they’d see to that. Even The Beatles, “phenomenon” as they were, got that way not by effort or initiative of tiny “Swan” or “Vee-Jay” Records, distributing a few of their earliest singles, but mighty Capitol Records, whose entry to the race clinched notoriety for the band. Still the game of “moving up the charts” was observed with stilled breath by those who would follow leaders. I had a friend at college who, each Friday night, tuned in to Casey Kasem’s Top 40 Countdown, three hours in which Tom would sit rapt and update his hand-written charts in accord with Casey updates. I was impressed at the time by Tom’s diligence and accuracy. No one would catch him napping re song status. Primary engagement for me was local radio outlets, AM still the format, if a primitive one, for hearing what was new. You could say ours was at least remnant of “Golden Age” that was pop music, assuming the 70’s has not been altogether discredited as a source for listening pleasure. I would drive around college town Hickory, NC, hear a peppy number on WHKY, pull off to a handy record store where the 45 single was mine for a dollar, it to join stacks beside the dorm room hi-fi. As to banner years these were or weren’t, I cede the floor to historians better equipped to evaluate epochs of song. Rest assured the 70’s is someone’s idea of epochal, even if there are increasingly less of them to celebrate it. Swoon for me was the “Philadelphia Sound,” Philly Soul, TSOP, whatever label stuck … these on a seeming loop, a previous week’s sock surpassed by what showed up this week, both in shade by what next week would bring. Busy groups were the O’ Jays, Spinners, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, each to be lasting favorites --- or possibly not, for here I am of late listening to way-back call of 20-40’s pop, needing, or wanting, less to be reminded of the youth I had than what generations before me seem to have enjoyed more profoundly, based on cheerful music they made.

11 Comments:

Blogger Kevin K. said...

I was shocked, circa 1965, when my mother started singing along to Chad and Jeremy's "Willow Weep for Me". "How do you know this?" I asked. She replied, "Are you kidding? My friends and I would sing this when we went camping when we were kids." So I was listening to old music without realizing it.

We had Noel Coward and All Jolson records around the house, which I appreciated but my friends, alas, had not clue one as to who they were. But lets not forget the Mills Brothers and Frank Sinatra on top 40 in between Beatles, Beach Boys, and Motown. The last gasp of "old music" before given the heaven go.

8:53 AM  
Blogger Scott MacGillivray said...

Remember what The Sting did for Scott Joplin and ragtime? His "The Entertainer," as performed by Marvin Hamlisch, went to #3 on the May 1974 “Hot 100.” I had the single, then the album, used Joplin as backdrop for silent comedy. He made serious study of ragtime while others performed it purely by instinct. Did The Sting bring about resurgence for ragtime beyond Scott Joplin?

Yes, indeed. At the time I was working as the film librarian at an antique-auto museum, and the management allowed me to add one- and two-reel comedies to the museum's program. I made sure that each subject had something to do with transportation. Laurel & Hardy's car-smashing epic TWO TARS was a perennial (we went through six prints), as was Snub Pollard's IT'S A GIFT. Mack Sennett's LIZZIES OF THE FIELD, Charley Chase's YOUNG OLDFIELD, Buster Keaton's THE BLACKSMITH, and other subjects kept the visitors laughing (and kept them in the theater while the exhibit halls were swarming on weekend afternoons!). Running so much silent film necessitated a constant supply of musical accompaniment, and I haunted the local record store every payday for the latest rag records.

Many LP releases of 1974 cashed in specifically on Scott Joplin's resurgence, but a great many didn't, and turned me on to ragtime in all of its varieties. Joplin's contemporaries James Scott, Joseph Lamb, Tom Turpin, and others had their own compositions revived by pianists and combos. I very seldom used full-orchestra tracks (these stately, pretentious recordings were best suited for Chaplin Essanays and Mutuals), preferring ragtime piano for most silent comedies and jazz bands for Laurel & Hardy. Some of the bored tour guides were content to just let a Joplin tape play, but when I was in the booth I might as well have been using a Fotoplayer, getting a new tape ready every time I went for a changeover. Happy days. I still play those rag records almost 50 years later.

8:54 AM  
Blogger radiotelefonia said...

I have been rescuing sheet music scores for more than 20 years. Last year I began to produce recordings of things that were never recorded or almost forgotten; not only tangos but also for silent film music.

Yesterday I received a big series of badly xeroxed scores that I will need to reconstruct. They are too many and I so far was only able to reconstruct just one.

10:14 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Richard M. Roberts considers music influences as he discovered them:


John,

I don’t think Swing was as close as jazz came to mainstream popularity, there’s Louis Armstrong to contend with and take that mantle, considering his single of HELLO DOLLY pushed the Beatles off the number one chart spot for a few weeks in 1964. Satchmo crossed over color lines and stylistic labelings to achieve both widespread popularity and still basically do what he wanted to creatively. Even though he toured and recorded with a big orchestra for more than a decade in the 30’s and 40’s, after the war he scaled back to the small-group All-Stars that became his basic performing group for the rest of his life and career, all the while spreading his versatility and viability as a popular performer collaborating with so many other big names in the pop music industry.

Great article on music indeed, yes, we all have our early faves and influences, I was collecting old records at an even tenderer age than the very tender age I was when I started collecting movies when I brought home an old forgotten cache’ of Jimmie Rodgers , Hank Williams and Tommy Dorsey records from our family farm, having fallen in love with the sound of them. Then came the Beatles of course, they were probably more of a multi-stylistic musical gateway to most of us due to their own interests in many styles of music, and somewhere in there I discovered Louis Armstrong and jazz, country music led to country blues and rhythm and blues, and classical music came to my attention and appreciation thanks to Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic appearing on the mainstream TV networks first on Omnibus and later his Young Peoples concerts on CBS (can you imagine any network not Public Television running a classical music program these days?).
Those great early days of 60’s pop music were indeed an eclectic mix, where top 40 stations would indeed play the latest Monkees records alongside Frank Sinatra or Al Martino, and yes, there were indeed those strange revivals of old songs by the new Rock and Rollers. You think Chad and Jeremy’s “Willow Weep for Me” was revival of the ancient, imagine my surprise to discover Herman’s Hermit’s having a hit single with “I’m Henery the Eighth I Am”, which had been introduced and recorded by Music-Hall legend Harry Champion in 1910!

Just like the movies, pop music went downhill in the late 70’s, corporatization sucking it up and blandifying it all into boredom and noise, either music designed to make people dance, move and not think very much, or mean-spirited non-melodic beat hitting with violent and misogynistic language with rap music (and country music just became assembly-line Republican Pop). After Leon Redbone and Dr. John passed away a couple of years ago, I can now pretty much count the number of living musicians I still listen to on one hand. Fortunately there are a lot of records, tapes and hard drives in the house with all the music I need, along with what one can find on the internet. Pardon me, but I have to flip over the Paul Tremaine and his Aristocrats disc I’m listening to now.

RICHARD M ROBERTS

11:56 AM  
Blogger Filmfanman said...

There's just so much recorded music to listen to. Many lifetimes' worth.
And as I've gotten older, I find I listen to older recordings, regardless of the never-ending flood of new and worthwhile music.

Here's something I've listened to but lately, a number by one of the very first stars of recorded music, who in fact made a fortune from selling his records - Enrico Caruso. The following song was recorded on 10 April 1902:

https://medicine-opera.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/ah-vieni-quino-non-chiuder-gli-occhi.mp3

That link was taken/found from/in the item linked below, the first of a fine series of posts (each with song links embedded) about Caruso's recordings, all of which are now (2021) over a century old. And from what I understand, Caruso's records have never been "out of print"!

https://medicine-opera.com/2009/01/the-recordings-of-enrico-caruso-1902-1904/

12:36 PM  
Blogger DBenson said...

With three siblings the music was always playing around our home as well. In fact, there were bands and specific songs I really liked, but never got around to learning the names of because they were always playing. To this day, I'm occasionally surprised to find out who did a number I listened to all the time as a youth.

Early on I took a shine to instrumentals and orchestral music, those serving as soundtracks to movies inside my head. That led me to actual soundtrack albums, "mood" music and classical music, especially noisy Russians like Prokofiev. The radio presets on my Ford Pinto were set for classic, easy listening, already-oldie 60s pop and rock, and a station that played comedy albums on weekends.

I was heavily into community theater and accumulated a pile of Broadcast cast albums for shows I did or wanted to do. Also movie soundtracks (the double LP STAR WARS was a placebo before home video release), vintage novelties, radio shows (Shadow and Sherlock Holmes from Murray Hill), Beatles, a smattering of other vocalists, and pops concerts, in addition to the aforementioned genres. When I had my first flat in the late 70s, I'd stack four or five LPs on a record changer to inspire me as I wrote on a manual typewriter. I flirted with cassettes -- mainly making tapes to play in the car -- but committed to CDs. Today I have a five-disc CD/DVD player, but lately that's just for viewing purposes. Most new CDs (or increasingly, old ones bought cheap) are promptly loaded onto my now-vintage iPod -- again, soundtracks piped directly into my head as I write, walk, ride, or putter around.

Over the course of several years I wrote a farrago set in the 1920s, and during that time I stocked up on what was plausibly silent movie music. There's a surprising number of CDs devoted to player pianos rolls, mighty Wurlitzers and band organs as well as dedicated music for actual silent movies -- much of it inexplicably (to my mind) in clearance racks. A prize find was a double-disc of a carnival-sized band organ Cecil B. DeMille had in his home. Top THAT, audiophiles! Online you can find obscurities like Walter Scharf's scores for Harold Lloyd's compilation films -- 1920s filtered through lush 50s.

"Curse of an Aching Heart" was etched in my memory long before I saw "Blotto". A piano arrangement was the closing theme on "The Toy That Grew Up", the old public television silent movie show. Of course that's on the iPod (it's on a full disc of old time piano music for silent films), along with the soundtrack of "The Great Race", Petula Clark, Claude Bolling, Max Morath, silent movie suites by Carl Davis and William Perry, a ton of boomer-vintage Disney, Sondheim miscellany, "This is Cinerama", and a "radio opera" of Archy and Mehitabel. Oh, and "Let's Twist Again" in Icelandic ...

4:41 PM  
Blogger Dave K said...

Ha! Love DBenson's shout out to THE TOY THAT GREW UP. Yes, that's my first association with CURSE OF AN ACHING HEART too! That particular show was my introduction to silent movies that didn't involve slapstick schtick.

11:15 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Dan Mercer recalls music accompany through college (Part One):


I started college at a school catering to commuters, Rutgers-Camden, driving down Route 130 from my home in Willingboro and then through the Airport Circle to the Admiral Wilson Boulevard. The circle design was widely adopted in New Jersey during the 30s and 40s as a way of blending traffic from three or four different directions without the use of stop signs or stoplights. In practice, it was an impromptu demolition derby. Drivers seeing me careen into the Airport Circle in my rusty Studebaker Lark gave way. They knew that I had nothing to lose.

Usually, WLFN would be playing on the car radio, a classical music station simulcasting on the AM and FM bands in those days, which is why I was able to listen to it, the Lark only having an AM radio. I had begun to appreciate the importance of music, but I cannot say that I truly enjoyed it then. I listened to such music and the swing of big bands like those of Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller, and Stan Kenton because no one else I knew cared for that sort of thing. It seemed to distinguish me from them, as though I needed anything else to mark me as an oddball.

When I transferred to Lenoir-Rhyne College in Hickory, North Carolina, I became a lot more familiar with what passed for popular music then. I was still limited to AM in the car I made those long drives in, a 1968 Ford Mustang, but most of the AM stations along the route had a music format. Neil Diamond was enjoying his years of popularity, so I heard a lot of him, also Bobbi Gentry, Glen Campbell, various one-hit wonders, like Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff,” Tony Orlando and Dawn’s “Tie a Yellow Ribbon,” and B. J. Thomas’ cover of “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on my Head,” and of course, Elvis Presley. Oddly enough, I did not hear much of the Beatles, which had already disbanded, or the other British bands. Everything was top 40, as evocative of the time and as fleeting in popularity as bell bottom slacks and miniskirts.

At Lenoir-Rhyne, I joined a small and rather odd social fraternity composed of ministry students, would-be Jaycees, free-thinkers, and good old boys. There was a shabby frame building on the outskirts of town that served as a fraternity house, with a basement that doubled as a dance floor and party space. The walls of the basement were painted black with wild designs in florescent paint that glowed under a black light, a rare incursion of the 70s counterculture into that neck of the woods. In one corner was a small bar where a keg of beer resided—as the token teetotaler, my job was to ensure that the tabs were paid, but my influence did not extend to the repertoire of the juke box in the opposite corner. The good old boys controlled that and what they liked was "beach music." There was only one slow piece in the rack, Billy Paul’s “Me and Mrs. Jones.” On a Saturday night, those young men who wanted to hold their dates close had only that as an accompaniment. Toward the end of an evening, “Me and Mrs. Jones” would be heard over and over again.

1:09 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Part Two from Dan Mercer:


My own contribution was an instrumental by Sammy Kaye and His Orchestra of Henry Mancini’s theme to the movie, “Charade.” It would have at least broken up the monotony of “Me and Mrs. Jones,” but it was not accepted. Sammy Kaye’s musical approach was like that of Lawrence Welk: impeccable musicianship but absolutely no originality. His marketing slogan was “Swing and Sway with Sammy Kaye.” That was not the reason my record was rejected, however: it simply was not beach music and there was already a slow song for those who needed it.

In the meantime, there was a bit of musical color in the eclectic mélange of my interests. I had become infatuated with the Olympic figure skater, Peggy Fleming, and so listened to the music that accompanied her programs with a heart newly opened. Pieces by Rossini, Saint-Saens, Strauss, and others became familiar to me, for I had acquired a stereo system cobbled together by an electronic genius back home and used that to replicate the experience of watching her on television or in an arena, listening to the music again and then again, until at last I began to understand and enjoy it not simply for what I associated with her, but for those qualities that had allowed it to be chosen for her programs in the first place.

There was also a showing of “San Francisco” during Dr. Ellis Boatman’s interim course, that odd format the school experimented with at the time, of allowing it professors to teach whatever they liked during the three weeks between the fall and spring semesters, so long as they did not repeat themselves from one year to the next. Boatman was a massive film buff, and whether his course was ostensibly about American history or culture, it was always about films.

“San Francisco,” of course, is an immensely entertaining film, but when I came back that evening, to see it again at the showing for the student body, it was not for the film itself. There was a scene in which Jeanette MacDonald was featured in the final trio from Gounod’s opera, “Faust.” It seemed that this was one of the most thrilling musical performances I had ever heard. When Harold Huber turns to Clark Gable and says, “I think she’s great,” he could have been speaking for me. Such music seemed to meld mind and soul and provide a glimpse of something beyond the mundane. I know that there are some who will scoff at Jeanette MacDonald and her pretentiousness or vocal limitations, but at that time and place, she held a golden key to the lock of the gate I stood before and, with a delicate touch, turned it. Nothing has been the same for me since.

1:09 PM  
Blogger antoniod said...

When I was a little Kid I liked the Singing Nun's "Domenic", the Serendipity Singers' "Don't Let the Rain Come Down", and "Do You Hear What I Hear"(I had no idea what it was about). Yes, I caught the beginning of Beatlemaina. As an older Child my favorites were 20s dance band records!

1:42 PM  
Blogger tmwctd said...

As Paul Lynde sang in ´Bye Bye Birdie`: "What´s wrong with Sammy Kaye?"

4:04 PM  

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