Wednesday, September 26, 2007

50 years ago: West Side Story debuted on Broadway

West Side Story

Leonard Bernstein (music), Stephen Sondheim (lyrics)

The Musical

Opened on Broadway: September 26, 1957


Number of Performances: 732


Opened at London’s West End: December 12, 1958


Number of Performances: 1040

Cast Album


Recorded: September 29, 1957


Charted: March 17, 1958


Peak: 5 US


Sales (in millions): 2.5 US, 0.6 UK, 3.1 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: show tunes


Soundtrack


Charted: October 23, 1961


Peak: 154 US, 113 UK, -- CN, -- AU


Sales (in millions): 8.0 US, 0.1 UK, 8.1 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: show tunes


Songs on 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


Songs on 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


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:

  • “Maria” – Johnny Mathis (#78, 1960), Roger Williams (#48, 1962)
  • ”Tonight” – Ferrante & Teicher (#8, 1961), Eddie Fisher (#44, 1961)
  • ”Somewhere” – P.J. Proby (#91, 1965), Len Barry (#26, 1966), Barbra Streisand (#43, 1986)

Rating:

4.909 out of 5.00 (average of 12 ratings for cast album and soundtrack combined)


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


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


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


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

About the Show:

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

About the Cast Album:

The cast album was recorded three days after West Side Story opened on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theatre on September 26, 1957. It was recorded in New York City at CBS 30th Street Studio. Leonard Bernstein oversaw the orchestration and the cast included Carol Lawrence as Maria and Larry Kert as Tony. The album spent nearly four years on the Billboard album chart.

About the Soundtrack:

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. Like the cast album, the soundtrack spent almost four years on the Billboard album chart.


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

Resources and Related Links:


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

Sunday, September 23, 2007

50 years ago: Buddy Holly hit #1 with “That’ll Be the Day”

That’ll Be the Day

Buddy Holly & the Crickets

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


Released: May 27, 1957


First Charted: July 27, 1957


Peak: 11 US, 4 HP, 3 CB, 3 HR, 2 RB, 13 UK (Click for codes to singles charts.)


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


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 3.0 radio, 10.46 video, 52.15 streaming

Awards:

Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

“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

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.” BR Technically, Holly wasn’t contractually permitted to re-record the song. However, Holly & company could cut it under a group name. KL After rejecting the name The Beetles, they settled on The Crickets “because of their happy, chirping sound.” KL

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

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:

  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for Buddy Holly
  • AMG All Music Guide review by Bruce Eder
  • BR Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 26.
  • HL Michael Heatley and Spencer Leigh (1998). Behind the Song: The Stories of 100 Great Pop & Rock Classics. London, England: Blandford Books. Page 12.
  • KL Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh (2005). 1000 UK Number One Hits: The Stories Behind Every Number One Single Since 1952. London, Great Britain: Omnibus Press. Page 46.
  • NRR National Recording Registry
  • SF Songfacts


Last updated 10/4/2021.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Hooters reunited for Time Stand Still

Time Stand Still

Hooters


Released: September 14, 2007


Peak: --


Sales (in millions): --


Genre: rock


Tracks:

Song Title (Writers) [time]

  1. I’m Alive [4:08] (single, --)
  2. Time Stand Still [3:52] (single, --)
  3. The Boys of Summer (Don Henley, Mike Campbell) [4:58]
  4. Until I Find You Again [4:08]
  5. Until You Dare [4:47]
  6. Morning Buzz [3:38]
  7. Where the Wind May Blow [3:42]
  8. Catch of the Day [3:03]
  9. Ordinary Lives (Hyman, Bazilian, Lilley) [5:04]
  10. Free Again [6:54]
  11. White Jeans [4:08]

Songs written by Rob Hyman and Eric Bazilian unless noted otherwise.


Total Running Time: 48:35


The Players:

  • Eric Bazilian (vocals, guitar, mandolin, harmonica, saxophone)
  • Rob Hyman (vocals, keyboards, accordion, melodica)
  • John Lilley (guitar, mandolin, dobro, keyboards, backing vocals)
  • Fran Smith Jr. (bass, backing vocals)
  • David Uosikkinen (drums, percussion)

Rating:

3.564 out of 5.00 (average of 8 ratings)


Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

The Hooters got their start in Philadelphia in the early ‘80s. They “mixed a wide range of musical styles from pop, ska, folk and new wave” ACF through five studio albums, before going on hiatus. Rob Hyman and Eric Bazilian, the pair of singer/songwriters at the core of the group, continued to write and play for other musicians including Mick Jagger, Bon Jovi, Journey, Ricky Martin, LeAnn Rimes, the Scorpions, and Patty Smyth. They even helmed a few projects of their own, Hyman spearheaded 1998’s Largo project with a slew of guest musicians. Bazilian released a couple of solo albums and wrote Joan Osborne’s 1996 Grammy Record of the Year nominee “One of Us.”

14 years later, they return with Time Stand Still. “For a moment, it sounds like time has done just that as the opening track, I’m Alive, jolts listeners back to the group’s heyday in 1985 when they had a multi-platinum album, top 40 hits like ‘And We Danced’…and the world at their feet.” MG

Part of the reason for the seamless transition from then until now is the consistent lineup. Eric Bazilian, Rob Hyman, and David Uosikkinen were original members of the band. John Lilley joined in 1983 and Fran Smith Jr. in 1987. As Hyman says, “we took a long break and finally over various years and for various reasons, it became obvious that it’s time to make another record.” We had 10 or 12 years of stuff we were playing live, ideas we had accumulated – demos here and there.” ACF As Bazilian says, “‘When Rob and I got together in June of ‘06 to take stock of songs we had done separately and together, it was pretty obvious whatever creative blocks the two of us had we had gotten over…We have our – I wouldn’t even call them battles, we have our struggles. But it’s so clear now we have the same goal, the same vision.’” MG

Hyman commented on what it’s like to take so much time between albums. “It almost feels like another debut, after that much time away from really writing…You have all these years to make your debut album. So you have all this music stored up, then all of sudden you have to crank them out faster.” ACF

The reunion was sparked by a handful of tours in the new millennium and the VH1 Save the Music Foundation show in New York City. Groups from the ‘80s were asked to perform their own material and a song from the ‘80s they wished they’d written. As Hyman says, “Eric and I loved the invitation and we started scratching our heads trying to find a song we both liked and that we could do justice to…We landed on [Don Henley’s 1984] Boys of Summer…and we did a duo version at this gig. It was fantastic and over the years we started playing it live in the show. So when we went into the studio, enough people had been bugging us to record it and see what happened. And finding a different take on the song, a sadness, as a ballad worked for us.” ACF

It turned into an “excellent acoustic cover” ACF that was “more haunting than Henley could have ever conceived.” ACF As Hyman says, “It also get in with the themes of the record. Time Stand Still is…about being a band for 25 years and being alive literally and time standing still. And ‘Boys of Summer’ had a whole nostalgic feel to it.” ACF

That song and “their original Ordinary Lives showcases the softer side” ACF of the Hooters. Hyman describes it as “a simple song about books, music and experiences that feel your life, how art affects you and friendship affects you. Things that take you out of your ordinary world. There’s that line ‘extraordinary moments, ordinary lives.’ That one came together quickly, the good ones always seem to happen that way. Eric and I were playing acoustic guitars at his house one day, we were like ‘hey let’s record that.’ And the band enjoyed cutting it. That was really a live take. I don’t remember if it was a first take, it might have been. It felt so natural and easy in a way.” ACF

“Most of the album is in full-on rock mode” ACF marked by “uplifting, positive songs and excellent musicianship that showcases their skills as a tight unit.” ACF “Unlike some artists who think staying relevant means running from what makes you unique, the Hooters weren’t afraid to make use of what they do best. Within reason. ‘There are times when we’ll do something and say, ‘That sounds too much like us. It sounds like us in 1986,’ laughs Bazilian. ‘It has to sound like us, but not sound like something we've done already.’” MG

The Hooters previewed some of the songs during live shows in 2005 and 2006. WK One cut, Until You Dare, first surfaced on Eric Bazilian’s 2000 solo album The Optimist.

“Even though time has passed, their music has stood the test of time and this release…solidifies them as a band that hasn’t lost touch both musically and spiritually to what made The Hooters one of the most interesting and hard-to-peg acts of the last 20 years.” ACF

Resources and Related Links:


Other Related DMDB Pages:

Last updated 8/9/2021.