Wednesday, December 19, 2007

December 19, 1957: The Music Man opened on Broadway

Originally posted May 19, 2011. Last updated September 4, 2018.

The Music Man (cast/soundtrack)

Meredith Willson (composers)

Opened on Broadway: December 19, 1957

Cast Album Charted: February 24, 1958

Soundtrack Charted: August 11, 1962


Sales (in millions):
US: 1.0 C, 0.5 S
UK: --
IFPI: --
World (estimated): 1.5 C+S


Peak:
US: 112-C, 2 S
UK: 14 S
Canada: --
Australia: --

C cast album
S soundtrack

Quotable: --


Genre: show tunes


Album Tracks:

  1. Main Title/ Rock Island
  2. Iowa Stubborn
  3. Ya Got Trouble
  4. Piano Lesson If You Don’t Mind My Saying So s
  5. Goodnight, My Someone
  6. Ya Got Trouble s
  7. Seventy Six Trombones
  8. Sincere
  9. The Sadder But Wiser Girl for Me
  10. Pick-a-Little, Talk-a-Little
  11. Goodnight Ladies c
  12. Marian the Librarian
  13. My White Knight c
  14. Being in Love s
  15. Gary, Indiana s
  16. The Wells Fargo Wagon
  17. It’s You c
  18. Shipoopi *
  19. Lida Rose/ Will I Ever Tell You?
  20. Gary, Indiana
  21. Till There Was You
  22. Goodnight, My Someone s
  23. Seventy Six Trombones s
  24. Finale c

* Track comes right before “Till There Was You” on soundtrack.
c indicates song that appears only on cast album.
s indicates song that appears only on soundtrack.


Singles/Hit Songs *:

Till There Was You
- Anita Bryant (1959) #30
- Valjean (1962) #100

* As was common in the pre-rock era, multiple versions of a single song from a Broadway show would become hits. All chart positions are from the U.S. Billboard pop charts.

Review:

“The original Broadway cast of Meredith Willson’s most successful musical was headed by Robert Preston, who played the part of Harold Hill, a conman” R-C “intent on swindling the good people of River City, IA, by selling them on a fictitious boys' band.” R-S

“Willson concentrates on percussive effects and rapid-fire spiels for Preston, though the musical standout is Barbara Cook as Marian the Librarian. Highlights of this perennial hit show include Seventy-Six Trombones and Till There Was You.” R-S

“Coming along in the summer of 1962, four and a half years after the Broadway opening, the film version of The Music Man appeared in an era when Hollywood was more likely to be faithful to stage musicals, rather than dramatically altering them, as had been the practice in the past. R-S

The movie version “found Robert Preston re-creating his starring role as conman Professor Harold Hill…and some minor roles were also filled by the Broadway originals. More important, Meredith Willson’s score was rendered intact, the only change being a revision of the song My White Knight into Being in Love.” R-S

“The major casting change was the substitution of Shirley Jones, who had a box-office track record, for Barbara Cook, who did not, in the role of Marian the librarian. Cook may have been preferable, but Jones handled the part well, too.” R-S

“Musically, the big change had to do with scale; the Broadway pit orchestra and original cast were replaced by a vast Hollywood orchestra and chorus, and musical director Ray Heindorf made the most of the larger effects on songs like ‘Seventy Six Trombones’.” R-S

“Still, the music fan who already owned a copy of the original Broadway cast recording didn’t really need to plump for the original motion picture soundtrack, which didn’t keep the album from racing up the charts…as the film became one of the year’s top grossers. But it remains true; unless you are a Shirley Jones fan or want to hear future Andy Griffith Show co-star and film director Ronnie Howard sing Gary, Indiana with a lisp, stick to the Broadway version.” R-S


Review Sources:

Awards:


Friday, November 23, 2007

Fifty Years Ago Today: “Great Balls of Fire” charted (11/23/1957)

image from culturemap.com


Jerry Lee Lewis “Great Balls of Fire”


Writer(s): Otis Blackwell, Jack Hammer (see lyrics here)

First charted: 11/23/1957

Peak: 2 US, 12 CW, 3 RB, 12 (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, -- UK, 5.0 world (includes US and UK)

Radio Airplay (in millions): 1.0 Video Airplay (in millions): --


Review: Some of rock ‘n’ roll’s earliest architects walked a fine line between their religious Southern upbringings and the shockingly sexual and aggressive style that defined early rock music. With a musical prowess birthed as much from the black honky-tonks as the Assembly of God Church, CL-114-5 Lewis concocted an uncomfortable blend of music inspired by God and the devil. His “onstage terrorization of the piano” FR-50 earned him the nickname “The Killer.” It also got him booted out of Bible college. CL-114-5

Nowhere was Lewis’ musical dichotomy more on display than with “Great Balls of Fire.” Jerry Lee’s signature song was “full of Southern Baptist hellfire turned into a near-blasphemous ode to pure lust.” RS500 Lewis realized the shock in 1957 of such sexual innuendo coming from a Southern music man SF and initially refused to sing the song. RS500 He and Sun Records’ founder Sam Phillips delved into a theological argument which was eventually swayed Sam’s way by the ever-flowing liquor during the session. RS500

Sam Phillips turned to Otis Blackwell to pen the song as a follow-up to Lewis’ first hit, “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.” Blackwell had a proven track record, having written “the biggest record of the rock ‘n’ roll era” with Elvis Presley’s “Don’t Be Cruel.” CL-114 This poor kid from Brooklyn, New York, was the first black man to really tap into the Nashville sound, dominating the country and rock charts in the mid to late-‘50s. CL-116

As for Blackwell’s writing partner, Jack Hammer, there are contradictory stories. One account says his sole contribution is coming up with the title and selling it to Otis Blackwell, LW-118 while another account says the name is a pseudonym for Blackwell. AMG


Resources and Related Links:

Note: Footnotes (raised letter codes) refer to sources frequently cited on the blog. Numbers following the letter code indicate page numbers. If the raised letter code is a link, it will go directly to the correct page instead of the home page of a website. You can find the sources and corresponding footnotes on the “Lists” page in the “Song Resources” section.


Award(s):


Sunday, September 30, 2007

Fifty Years Ago Today: Elvis Presley charts with “Jailhouse Rock” (9/30/1957)

image from abaenglish.com


Elvis Presley “Jailhouse Rock”


Writer(s): Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller (see lyrics here)

First charted: 9/30/1957

Peak: 17 US, 11 CW, 15 RB, 14 UK (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 4.0 US, 0.79 UK, 9.0 world (includes US and UK)

Radio Airplay (in millions): -- Video Airplay (in millions): 106.3


Review: As bad as Elvis movies could be, the songs that soundtracked them were often worse. Still, Elvis had “his celluloid moments” and perhaps never better than in Jailhouse Rock. HL-88 Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, “the first important non-performing songwriters of the rock era,” TB-31penned the prison songs for The King’s third movie. It was their first movie score, SF but the pair were known for their R&B hits, one of which was the jail-themed “Riot in Cell Block #9” by the Coasters. CR-706 They’d also written a couple of Presley hits already – most notably “Hound Dog”, first recorded by Big Mama Thornton. RS500

Leiber and Stoller’s score “was perfect” but nothing could match the energetic title song. HL-88 Inspired by “Comeback” by Memphis Slim, KL-47 “Jailhouse Rock” sported a tongue-in-cheek nature on par with the Coasters’ material. However, Elvis ignored the lyrical jokes, such as the gay-prisoner-themed line about one inmate telling another “You’re the cutest jailbird I ever did see” and “sang it as straight rock & roll.” RS500

As for the dance routine involving dancing convicts in their cells, it was choreographed by Elvis himself, BR1-29 making it his only full-fledged example of such work in one of his movies. HL-88 It is often cited as an early influence on the development of music video. JA-108

The song was a huge hit, topping the U.S. pop, R&B, and country charts. It was the first #1 debut in the UK charts. While common today, it was considered impossible at the time. HL-89 It returned to the peak in January 2005 when released to commemorate Presley’s 70th birthday, making it the oldest single top ever top that chart and one of three to top that chart twice. The other two, also released posthumously, were Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord.” SF


Resources and Related Links:

Note: Footnotes (raised letter codes) refer to sources frequently cited on the blog. Numbers following the letter code indicate page numbers. If the raised letter code is a link, it will go directly to the correct page instead of the home page of a website. You can find the sources and corresponding footnotes on the “Lists” page in the “Song Resources” section.


Award(s):


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Sept. 26, 1957: West Side Story debuted on Broadway

Originally posted March 7, 2011. Last updated September 2, 2018.

West Side Story (cast/soundtrack)

Leonard Bernstein/ Stephen Sondheim (composers)

Opened on Broadway: Sept. 26, 1957

Cast Album Recorded: Sept. 29, 1957

Cast Album Charted: March 17, 1958

Soundtrack Charted: October 23, 1961


Sales (in millions):
US: 2.5 c, 8.0 s
UK: 0.6 c, 0.1 s
IFPI: --
World (estimated): 3.1 c, 8.1 s


Peak:
US: 5 C, 154-S
UK: 113-S
Canada: --
Australia: --

Quotable: “Takes up the American musical idiom where it was left when George Gershwin died.” – John Chapman, New York Daily News WK


Genre: show tunes


Album Tracks:

Cast Album:

  1. Prologue
  2. Jet Song
  3. Something’s Coming
  4. The Dance at the Gym
  5. Maria
  6. Tonight
  7. America
  8. Cool
  9. One Hand, One Heart
  10. Tonight
  11. The Rumble
  12. I Feel Pretty
  13. Somewhere (Ballet)
  14. Gee, Officer Krupke!
  15. A Boy Like That/I Have a Love
  16. Finale

Above track listing based on 2000 Decca reissue. Songs with an asterisk (*) are on original 1946 cast album.

c Songs unique to cast album.

Soundtrack:

  1. Overture **
  2. Prologue
  3. Jet Song
  4. Something’s Coming
  5. The Dance at the Gym
  6. Maria
  7. America
  8. Tonight
  9. Gee, Officer Krupke!
  10. I Feel Pretty
  11. One Hand, One Heart
  12. Quintet
  13. The Rumble
  14. Somewhere
  15. Cool
  16. A Boy Like That/I Have a Love
  17. Finale
** Songs unique to soundtrack.

Notes: The 1998 reissue of the cast album added nine instrumental tracks.

Singles/Hit Songs:

Click here for the chart codes for singles/hit songs.

Maria
- Johnny Mathis (1960) #78
- Roger Williams (1962) #48

Tonight
- Ferrante & Teicher (1961) #8
- Eddie Fisher (1961) #44

Somewhere
- P.J. Proby (1965) #91
- Len Barry (1966) #26
- Barbra Streisand (1986) #43

* As was common in the pre-rock era, multiple versions of a single song from a Broadway show would become hits. All chart positions are from the U.S. Billboard pop charts.

Review:

West Side Story is hailed as “one of the greatest musicals of all time.” RU Conceived by Arthur Laurents as a modern take on Romeo and Juliet, he recruited Leonard Bernstein for the music, Stephen Sondheim for the lyrics in what would become his Broadway debut, and Jerome Robbins as the choreographer and director. It opened on Broadway on September 26, 1957 at the Winter Garden Theatre and “ran for 732 performances (a successful run for the time), before going on tour.” WK It won Tonys for choreography and scenic design, led to an Academy-award winning film, and became a favorite of “schools, regional theatres, and occasionally by opera companies.” WK

Jerome Robbins first approached Leonard Bernstein and Arthur Laurents in 1949 with his idea of adapting Romeo and Juliet as a contemporary musical. A first draft called East Side Story focused on conflict between a Catholic family and a Jewish family living in Manhattan on the Lower East Side. It was shelved for its similarity to plays lie Abie’s Irish Rose, WK but revived in 1955 when Laurents was approached to adapt the novel Serenade by James M. Cain. That project didn’t make it either, but it connected Laurents with Stephen Sondheim. Along with Bernstein and Robbins, they decided to return to the East Side Story. WK

The musical faced understandably difficult challenges. Critics “said the score was too rangy for pop music” WK and with more dancing than any previous Broadway show WK it would be problematic to find a cast who could sing, dance, and act. Laurents wanted James Dean as Tony, but he died before even hearing about the role. WK

However, the eventual production was well received by audiences and critics. It “galvanized Broadway with its vivid reinvention as a parable of racial intolerance and generational conflict.” SS “The story appealed to society’s undercurrent of rebellion from authority that surfaced in 1950s films like Rebel without a CauseWK and “the musical also made points in its description of troubled youth and the devastating effects of poverty and racism.” WK

“The dark theme, sophisticated music, extended dance scenes, and focus on social problems marked a turning point in American musical theatre.” WK Musically, Bernstein “integrated Latin percussion and jazz into his electrifying score” EV alongside “symphonic grandeur” RU “and a rarely heard (in Broadway) toughness.” RU Bernstein’s efforts “dazzlingly translating New York’s unique vitality into a musical idiom.” EV

Set in the mid-1950s in New York City, the story explores the rivalry between two street gangs of different ethnicities. The Sharks are Puerto Rican and the Jets are working-class white. The protagonist, Tony, is a Jet and falls in love with Maria, who is the sister of Bernardo, the Sharks’ leader.

During a challenge dance (Dance at the Gym) between the Jets and the Sharks, Tony meets Maria. Bernardo breaks up their attempted kiss and sends her home, but Tony serenades her outside her bedroom (Maria) and they profess their love to each other (Tonight). WK

The next day at the bridal shop where Maria works, she asks Tony to stop a planned fight between the Jets and Sharks. Tony tries to stop the fight (The Rumble), but when Riff, the leader of the Jets, is stabbed by Bernardo, Tony kills Bernardo in a rage. Maria is devastated when she hears, but still decides to run away with Tony. “As the walls of Maria’s bedroom disappear, they find themselves in a dreamlike world of peace (Somewhere).” WK

After Maria’s friend Anita is nearly raped by the Jets, she claims Chino killed Maria in jealousy. When Tony hears, he decides he has nothing to live for. He confronts Chino, begging to die, and is shot by him just as he sees that Maria is actually alive. The Jets now move towards the Sharks, wanting to avenge the death of another friend. With Chino’s gun in her hand, Maria tells everyone that hatred is what killed Tony and the others and that now she too can kill because she hates. However, she drops the gun in grief and gradually the gang members on both side “assemble on either side of Tony’s body, showing that the feud is over.” WK

A film adaptation, directed by Robbins and Robert Wise, was released on October 18, 1961. As ground-breaking as the show was on Broadway, it became another animal entirely when transferred to film. It was the second highest-grossing film of the year in the United States and won 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. WK Natalie Wood was cast as Maria and Richard Beymer as Tony. The singing was handled by Marni Nixon and Jimmy Bryant. The “lavish widescreen presentation broke fresh ground by taking the story to its most impressionable audience, the teenagers who could identify directly with Tony and Maria, and opened up Jerome Robbins’ kinetic choreography through bravura camera work.” SS

While “the 1957 original Broadway cast recording still holds up today, …[it] isn’t as good as the movie soundtrack” RU which “was not merely a huge seller but a unique touchstone for an otherwise rock-oriented audience.” SS It “spent more weeks at #1 in the charts (54) than any other album in history” WR and “made more money than any other album before it.” WK It also won the Grammy for Best Soundtrack or Cast Album.


Review Sources/Related DMDB Links:

Awards:


Friday, July 27, 2007

Fifty Years Ago Today: Buddy Holly charts with “That’ll Be the Day” (7/27/1957)

image from youtube.com


Buddy Holly & the Crickets “That’ll Be the Day”


Writer(s): Buddy Holly/ J.I. Allison/ Norman Petty (see lyrics here)

Released: 5/27/1957, First charted: 7/27/1957

Peak: 11 US, 2 RB, 13 UK (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, -- UK, 1.0 world (includes US and UK)

Radio Airplay (in millions): 3.0 Video Airplay (in millions): --


Review: “That’ll Be the Day” came about as the result of a John Wayne movie. Buddy Holly and drummer Jerry Allison went to see the Western The Searchers. Whenever a character would suggest something that wasn’t likely to happen, Wayne would proclaim, “That’ll be the day.” SF One night at Jerry’s house, Buddy suggested that it would be nice if they could record a hit song, to which Jerry replied, “That’ll be the day.” SF

Holly recorded the song with Allison, guitarist Sonny Curtis, and bassist Don Guest AMG in Nashville in 1956 SF with a more country-oriented vibe than the version that would become a hit. NRR Allison has said that Decca producer Owen Bradley said, “That’s the worst song I’ve ever heard.” KL-46

When that contract expired in January 1957, Holly took the song to Norman Petty, who’d impressed him with his production on Buddy Knox’s “Party Doll.” BR1-26 Technically, Holly wasn’t contractually permitted to re-record the song. However, Holly & company could cut it under a group name. KL-46 After rejecting the name The Beetles, they settled on The Crickets “because of their happy, chirping sound.” KL-46

Later, the Beatles moniker re-surfaced for the Fab-Four – inspired by the Crickets, and especially “That’ll Be the Day,” since it was one of the first songs John Lennon learned. HL-12

A year after the second recording of the song, Holly was killed in a plane crash on 2/3/59, a tragedy often known as “the day the music died” because it also took the lives of fellow rock singers the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens. His career was short, but with the “endearing hiccup in Holly’s voice, the bouncy rockabilly beat, [and] an intriguingly enigmatic story line” AMG the song “That’ll Be the Day” would live on as one of early rock and roll’s most classic tunes.


Resources and Related Links:

Note: Footnotes (raised letter codes) refer to sources frequently cited on the blog. Numbers following the letter code indicate page numbers. If the raised letter code is a link, it will go directly to the correct page instead of the home page of a website. You can find the sources and corresponding footnotes on the “Lists” page in the “Song Resources” section.


Award(s):