Wednesday, March 15, 2006

50 years ago: My Fair Lady opened on Broadway

My Fair Lady

Alan Jay Lerner (music), Frederick Loewe (lyrics)

The Musical

Opened on Broadway: March 15, 1956


Number of Performances: 2717


Opened at London’s West End: April 30, 1958


Number of Performances: 2281

Cast Album


Charted: April 28, 1956


Peak: 115 US, 119 UK


Sales (in millions): 8.0 US


Genre: show tunes


Soundtrack


Charted: October 10, 1964


Peak: 14 US, 19 UK


Sales (in millions): 1.5 US


Genre: show tunes


Songs:

  1. Overture: Orchestra/ Why Can’t the English?
  2. Wouldn’t It Be Loverly? *
  3. I’m an Ordinary Man
  4. With a Little Bit of Luck **
  5. Just You Wait
  6. The Rain in Spain
  7. I Could Have Danced All Night
  8. Ascot Gavotte
  9. On the Street Where You Live
  10. You Did It
  11. Show Me
  12. Get Me to the Church on Time
  13. A Hymn to Him
  14. Without You
  15. I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face

* 2 versions back-to-back on cast album
** appears only on soundtrack


Singles/Hit Songs:

As was common in the pre-rock era, songs from musicals were often recorded by artists not associated with the musical and released as singles. Here are some of the most notable hit singles resulting from the show:

  • “On the Street Where You Live” – Vic Damone (#4, 1956), Eddie Fisher (#18, 1956), Lawrence Welk (#96, 1956), Andy Williams (328, 1964)
  • ”I Could Have Danced All Night” – Sylvia Syms (#20, 1956), Rosemary Clooney (#49, 1956), Dinah Shore (#93, 1956), Ben E. King (#72, 1963), Biddu Orchestra (#72, 1976)
  • ”I’ve Grown Accustomed to Your Face” – Rosemary Clooney (#70, 1956), Gordon MacRae (#96, 1956)
  • ”With a Little Bit of Luck” – Percy Faith (#82, 1956), Jo Stafford (#85, 1956)
  • ”Get Me to the Church on Time” – Julius LaRosa (#89, 1956)

Rating:

4.462 out of 5.00 (average of 13 ratings for cast album and soundtrack combined)


Quotable: “The most perfect stage musical ever” – Colin Larkin, Virgin All-Time Top 1000 Albums


Awards (Cast Album): (Click on award to learn more).


Awards (Soundtrack): (Click on award to learn more).

About the Show:

My Fair Lady is “the crowning achievement” AZ for lyricist Alan Jay Lerner and composer Frederick Loewe. In fact, some consider it to be “the most perfect stage musical ever.” CL “It boasts a magnificent score…witty, intelligent, beautiful, and romantic.” NRR This is “a collection of performances that long ago became a ubiquitous and indispensable fixture of American musical theater.” AZ

Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner

After several productions in the 1940s, Lerner and Loewe first tasted major Broadway success with 1947’s Brigadoon. They next worked together on 1951’s Paint Your Wagon before adapting George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion into My Fair Lady. It was a story about “the mythic Greek figure who falls in love with his sculpture.” TM In My Fair Lady, the story focuses on “the relationship between an elocutionist” R-C and “pre-World War I London flower girl Eliza Doolittle, who aspires to a better accent and the social advantages that will come with it.” R-S

The show opened on Broadway on March 15, 1956. It ran for 2717 performances, closing on September 29, 1962. It had what was then the longest run in history for a major musical. W-M The production has been called “the perfect musical.” W-M

Julie Andrews was a “twenty-year-old revelation” ZS as “the fairest of all ladies,” ZS making the “loverly…score soar” ZS with her “glorious voice and emotional range.” ZS Rex Harrison is “effortlessly charming” ZS in his recreation of the stage role as “Professor Henry Higgins (he had also appeared in the film adaptation of…Pygmalion.” R-S He “enjoys every wink of his ironies: When he describes himself, in I’m an Ordinary Man, his exaggerated demeanor suggests his character is anything but ordinary. That Harrison caught this specific dynamic so early in what became a historic extended run is remarkable.” TM

“The show yielded an astounding number of songs that became standards, including the luminous I Could Have Danced All Night and I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face.” TM Among the other gems in this “embarrassment of riches,” AZ including The Rain in Spain, Wouldn’t It Be Loverly, Why Can’t the English?, and On the Street Where You Live.

As was common in the 1950s, the cast album “was recorded in one marathon fourteen-hour session on March 25, 1956.” TM “Producers tried to schedule the sessions as close to the opening of the musical as possible, thinking that the nuances of the work would be fresh in the performers’ minds.” TM This sometimes backfired, but here Harrison and Andrews “are beyond lively… and the supporting cast – which, as was often the case with Lerner and Loewe, got the meatiest songs – positively sparkles.” TM

“The recording established a new relationship between Broadway productions and record companies; the album’s critical success and popularity with the public were unrivaled at the time of its release.” NRR The cast album spent fifteen weeks atop the Billboard album chart, making it one of the biggest #1 albums in U.S. chart history. What’s incredible, however, is that those chart-topping weeks were spread out over four years time. Billboard magazine named it album of the year – in 1957 and 1958.

The album stuck around on the charts for a total of 480 weeks. Only Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and Johnny Mathis’ Johnny’s Greatest Hits have logged more weeks.

For the film version, Harrison and Holloway were back, but since they were making their third recordings of the score, they didn’t have much to add…The result was an acceptable recording that did not surpass the Broadway or London cast albums.” R-S However, despite starring in the Broadway and London stage productions, Julie Andrews was deemed “not enough of a star to carry the movie. (Embarrassingly, by the time the movie opened, Mary Poppins had made her more than enough of a star to do so.) Instead, Audrey Hepburn stepped into the role.” R-S

Hepburn’s singing voice was dubbed by Marni Nixon, who “was an accomplished Hollywood voice ghost, having previously sung for Deborah Kerr in The King and I, Natalie Wood in West Side Story, and Rosalind Russell in Gypsy.” R-S She “was fine…lacked the flair that Andrews would have given it.” R-S

A “1965 Best Picture Oscar capped the show’s decade of prominence.” AZ

Resources and Related Links:

  • R-C All Music Guide review of cast album by William Ruhlmann
  • R-S All Music Guide review of soundtrack by William Ruhlmann
  • AZ Amazon.com review of the cast album by Jerry McCulley
  • CL Colin Larkin (1998). Virgin All-Time Top 1000 Albums. Virgin Books: London, England. Page 201.
  • TM Tom Moon (2008). 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die. Workman Publishing Company, Inc.: New York, NY.
  • NRR National Recording Registry
  • ZS Zagat Survey (2003). Music Guide: 1,000 Top Albums of All Time. Coordinator: Pat Blashill. Music Editor: Holly George-Warren. Editors: Betsy Andrews and Randi Gollin. Zagat Survey, LLC: New York, NY. Page 170.


Other Related DMDB Pages:


First posted 3/7/2011; last updated 12/23/2021.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

James Blunt hit #1 in the U.S. with “You’re Beautiful”

Last updated 2/29/2020.

You’re Beautiful

James Blunt

Writer(s): James Blunt, Sacha Skarbek, Amanda Ghost (see lyrics here)


Released: May 30, 2005


First Charted: June 25, 2005


Peak: 11 US, 5 RR, 17 AC, 15 A40, 4 AA, 15 UK, 14 CN, 2 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 4.0 US, 1.2 UK, 6.35 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 0.6 radio, 580.0 video, -- streaming

Awards:

About the Song:

James Blunt released his debut album, Back to Bedlam, in October 2004. After two top 30 singles in the UK, the album’s third release, “You’re Beautiful,” struck gold, hitting #1 in the UK in July 2005. It would take eight more months, but the single would climb its way to the top in the U.S. as well. In 2006, the song won two of the British Ivor Norvello Awards – for most performed work and international hit.

Blunt wrote the song about former girlfriend, Dixie Chassay. She worked in film casting and got a mention in the thank you’s on Blunt’s album. He told VH1 he saw her on a train with a new man and, in his brief eye contact with her, shared a lifetime. SF As he told Radio Times, though, “I haven’t seen her since and then the press tried to find her. I’m not bothered enough to start acknowledging or denying whether they found her.” SF

When asked by The Daily Record if he’d tired of his hit, Blunt said, “If I had the radio on all the time and they kept playing that song then yes, I’d probably turn it off. But do I still like the song? Absolutely. It’s a really personal song about a moment which meant a great deal to me.” SF In October 2014, he said the song had become so ubiquitous that it was “force-fed down people’s throats.” WK

After Atlantic Records, Blunt’s record label, blocked Weird Al Yankovic’s parody of the song (“You’re Pitiful”), Al made the song available for free as a download. SF Blunt did, however, revamp the song himself as “A Triangle” for a 2007 episode of Sesame Street.

In a 2019 interview with Esquire, Blunt reflected on how iconic the song had become and seemed to make the bizarre claim that the song was bigger than anything ever done by the Rolling Stones. “I think most musicians and bands are searching for that one big hit…You know, I think the Rolling Stones are still looking, and I’m just lucky enough to have it out there right now, at the top of my career.” EQ


Resources and Related Links:

Friday, March 3, 2006

50 years ago: Carl Perkins charted with “Blue Suede Shoes”

Blue Suede Shoes

Carl Perkins

Writer(s): Carl Perkins (see lyrics here)


Released: February 1956


First Charted: March 3, 1956


Peak: 2 US, 2 CB, 11 HR, 13 CW, 2 RB, 10 UK (Click for codes to singles charts.)


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


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 2.0 radio, 2.98 video, 20.19 streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

The “most famous rockabilly record of all time” AMG owes its existence to Johnny Cash’s stint in the Air Force and a careless dancer. Cash, who at the time was a Sun Records label mate with Perkins, relayed the story to Perkins of servicemen lining up for food or pay with freshly-polished shoes HL and warn each other, “Don’t step on my blue suede shoes.” TC It was just a few weeks laterHL that Perkins heard someone in a crowd at a dance spit out a similar line TC to his date for scuffing his shoes. SA After the dance was over, Perkins supposedly scribbled down the song lyrics on an old potato sack. JA

In rock and roll’s infancy, many were convinced it was devil’s music. SF With lyrical references to drinking and stealing cars, SF Perkins’ debut Sun single was certainly not exempt. Regardless, or perhaps because of it, the song became Perkins’ biggest hit and the first song to hit the pop, R&B, and country charts in the U.S. RS500 and has become “one of the national anthems of ‘50s rock & roll” AMG

Carl Perkins missed out on a chance to perform the song on The Perry Como Show when his car crashed into a poultry truck while he was driving to New York for the performance. While laid up for a couple weeks, he helplessly watched Elvis perform the song on The Milton Berle Show. RS500 However, no one could take the song away from Perkins, who pulled off a feat even Elvis couldn’t do – he gave Sun Records a top 10 U.S. pop hit. SJ Elvis’ version only reached #20 and “The King” confessed that he couldn’t top the original by Perkins. RS500


Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for Carl Perkins
  • AMG All Music Guide review by Cub Koda
  • TC Toby Creswell (2005). 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time. Thunder’s Mouth Press: New York, NY. Page 379.
  • HL Michael Heatley and Spencer Leigh (1998). Behind the Song: The Stories of 100 Great Pop & Rock Classics. London, England: Blandford Books. Page 87.
  • JA David A. Jasen (2002). A Century of American Popular Music: 2000 Best-Loved and Remembered Songs (1899-1999). Routledge: Taylor & Francis, Inc. Page 25.
  • RS500 RollingStone.com (4/7/2011). “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time
  • SJ Bob Shannon and John Javna (1986). Behind the Hits: Inside Stories of Classic Pop and Rock and Roll. New York, NY; Warner Brothers, Inc. Page 218.
  • SF Songfacts

Last updated 4/30/2021.