“We all agree this is the worst topic yet, right?”
Boy oh boy did some of you need to share your feelings about musicals this week. I get it. You don’t like them. Part of me thinks declarations such as, “I detest musicals,” are equivalent to, “I don’t like black-and-white films,” or, “I don’t read fiction,” – sweeping statements that say more about the speaker than the subject – but another part of me is sympathetic to the idea that people breaking into song mid sentence can be jarring to some viewers (though I have always found that it’s things that push against the rules of a text rather than those that contradict reality which are the most difficult to ignore. I find the films that strive for verisimilitude are usually the most artificial.)
I didn’t ask you if you liked musicals. I asked you to recommend one song from a musical. And when you consider the amount of great singers who have recorded songs from musicals and the great musicians whose work has ended up in musicals, this wasn’t a very difficult task. (And before I hear anyone sniffing about jukebox musicals – Singin’ in the Rain is a jukebox musical and one of the greatest films ever made.)
So, you could have picked songs written or recorded by Billie Holiday, Radiohead, David Bowie, Bonnie Prince Billy, Louis Armstrong, The Beatles, The Supremes, Frank Sinatra, Jeff Buckley, Prince, John Coltraine, Tom Waits, The Kinks, Madness, Roxy Music, Teenage Fanclub, Sparks, Slade, Lou Reed, Ethel Merman, Bing Crosby, Iggy Pop, Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson, Abba, Liza Minelli, Fats Waller, The Temptations, The Who, Pink Floyd, Louis Prima, Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway, Gracie Fields, Noël Coward, Anita O’Day, Randy Newman, The Hollies, The Proclaimers. Sia, Nina Simone, Björk…
I mean, I could go on.
But I won’t, because most of you did manage to recommend something. In fact, despite none of you correctly suggesting Annie Ross’ version of Some People (from Gypsy), the standard of your choices this week was incredibly high. Maybe you like musicals more than you admit?
Not everyone could make the top thirty though. Them’s the breaks, kid. My commiserations to the following of you…
- Being honour bound to nominate Tom Waits every week (until he can’t nominate Tom Waits no more) means that Adam Farrer is already accommodated with taking the rough with the smooth. If he had requested Waits’ version of Somewhere, we could have had a serious chat about allocating points but he recommended Lullaby and, well, it’s a good tune but it wasn’t quite enough to score this week. Your time at the top of the table may be coming to an end…
- Dan took a bit of a risk by recommending Gershwin’s An American in Paris, *all of it*, all almost twenty minutes of it. My informed opinion of it? Good, but too long for our purposes this week, and perhaps pushing too far on the boundaries of what is and isn’t a song to make the top thirty this week.
- Fat Roland recommended Man or Muppet, which would have definitely made the top thirty if it hadn’t been for his request that I “please write your judgement pretending to be your favourite muppet otherwise I want no points. Thank you.” I didn’t have much issue with pretending to be my favourite muppet, but as I was about to light the fuse of the cannon I was lying in I realised there were possible real world side effects to my doing so. In conclusion, no points.
- Just as the egg obviously predates the chicken, the film of Billy Elliot clearly came before the musical. Therefore recommending a song from the film’s soundtrack (in this case A Town Called Malice by The Jam) is a bit of a stretch, eligibility-wise. If Tom. can make a stronger case for it, I’ll think about giving it a point or two next week, maybe.
- David Hartley recommended something of a Disney hipster choice in Be Prepared from The Lion King (the Jeremy Irons version). I don’t care for it. Soz. There are some proper bangers on that soundtrack too.
- Someone else who came close but not quite close enough was Nick Rayney, who recommended What Would Brian Boitano Do? from South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut. It’s a decent song but only one song from that film would have made my top thirty. All together now, wwweeeeeeelllllllllllllllllllllll….
- Mark G recommended Not My Father’s Son from Kinky Boots. I found this song perpetually on the verge of breaking into a song I used to have to sing during ‘hymn practice’ at school which featured the line, “and I wish that I could up to him and say…” [a song that, according to the internet, has never existed]. That missing ‘go’, sacrificed for the sake of metre, has nagged away at my subconscious for decades. Even in a case of vague correspondence I can’t let it slide. Soz.
- Plashing Vole recommended Brush up your Shakespeare from Kiss Me Kate. I haven’t seen the musical so I gave the more problematic lyrics the benefit of the doubt (context is everything) but even while doing so, even after finding a version featuring Sid James (and a better version not featuring Sid James) I couldn’t quite find room for it in my top thirty. [insert clever line about brushing up on your knowledge of musical theatre here?]
- Muskeg Mudsuck recommended The Rock from Quadrophenia and Nick recommended Comfortably Numb from The Wall. Both are fine pieces of music but… well… it’s Musicals Week. Go big or go home, yeah? Rightly or wrongly, I wanted pizzazz. I wanted sparkle. I wanted something fabulous. I probably should have mentioned that at some point. Soz.
- Sal Page recommended Oh What a Circus from Evita and Mat Pringle recommended A Man Without Love from Romance and Cigarettes. I liked them both. I did. But if I start throwing points at Andrew Lloyd Webber and Engelbert Humperdinck then where will it end? In chaos, that’s where. I can’t have that.
- Rebecca H recommended Hushabye Mountain from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Not available on my streaming service, I had to watch a clip of the song on YouTube. I was very near the end of it when I noticed it was Dick Van Dyke’s magnetism that was pushing me toward giving it points, not the song. God I love that man.
And while we are on the subject of Dick Van Dyke… The name of the programme is ‘Diagnosis: Murder’ not ‘Diagnosis Murder’. The colon is there for a reason. ‘Murder’ is Dr. Mark Sloan’s ‘Diagnosis’. If you don’t leave a brief pause between the words when you say Diagnosis: Murder then the title makes absolutely no sense. Stop saying Diagnosis: Murder wrong.
- I had four recommendations for songs from Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Tear Me Down from Justin Chisnall and Geisterhaus, Wicked Little Town from Rusty McGee and Sugar Daddy from Graham Watt). I really need to watch the film because people keep nominating songs from it and without the context of the movie they just sound like Def Leppard songs to me. I’m giving you all this week’s four bonus points (four each) because I strongly suspect that when I do manage to watch the film I’ll regret leaving them off the top thirty.
- There is no such consolation for the three people (Nicholas Royle, Henriette Pleiger and Sean Rhodes) who recommended songs from The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Sweet Transvestite, Hot Patootie, and Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch-a Touch Me) though. Not because I didn’t like the songs (I do) but because I couldn’t make room in my countdown for them. This was a really strong week. You have every right to feel hard done by.
The following recommenders/songs also very nearly made the chart but ultimately didn’t…
- Graham Cox – Tell Me It’s Not True – Blood Brothers
- Dan Williams – Under the Sea – The Little Mermaid
- Em – I Dreamed a Dream – Les Misérables
- Leighton – My Name is Tallulah – Bugsy Malone
- Donna Morris – Don’t Even Know It – Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
- Brontë Schiltz – Grandma’s Song – Billy Elliot
- Stephen May – Tomorrow Belongs to Me – Cabaret
- Michael Conley – Take Me or Leave Me – Rent
- Chris Bissette – Will I – Rent
Which illustrates neatly how tough the competition was this week. So many songs which could and should have made a top thirty didn’t. So much so that I have decided to make the advertised BATTLE OF THE MOTHERS an out-of-competition event. And here it is.
- Sue (aka my mother, aka mom) recommended Slipping Through My Fingers from Mamma Mia, boldly but somewhat foolhardily not taking the opportunity to pick the ABBA original in it’s stead.
- Pat (aka my step-mom) recommended the powerhouse of a song that is Bring Him Home from Les Misérables
- Lynn (aka my mother-in-law) recommended the rather lovely Some Enchanted Evening from South Pacific.
But there can only be one winner. And that winner is… all of them. It’s a tie. As if I was going to really pick a favourite. I mean…
OK. That has eased the tension a little. Let’s crank it up again.
IT’S ONLY THE TOP THIRTY AND EVERYTHING!!!!!!!!
Just making the chart, and collecting two points in the process, are Dan Edmonds (who recommended Happy from The Muppets Take Manhattan) and William Mallin (who recommended Rainbow Connection from The Muppet Movies). How much better would they have scored if Fat Roland hadn’t talked himself out of being lumped together with them? How much better would they have scored if either of them had recommended Marley and Marley? I’ll never tell.
Lil’ Vanni Byniaeth recommended One Night in Bangkok from Chess, sung by Murray Head, which is well 80s innit, all talking in the verse and everything. It pains me to allow Tim Rice into the top thirty but fair is fair, those guys from ABBA bring the music at a level significantly higher than Webber ever has. Two points for a Tim Rice song. What have we become.
I hate to be the bringer of bad news but if Ben Thomas had changed his choice from America (from West Side Story) to We Know the Way (from Moana) (as he considered doing this week) he would have got forty points this week. That song is insane – my favourite from one of my favourite films of the last decade. So close. So close. America will get you three points, and three points is three points, but I can imagine they will be like ash in your mouth now, knowing what might have been.
I have mostly grouped songs from the same musical together but I have split Grease into two because the two songs recommended were so different. Which is not to say I consider Grease by Frankie Valli, recommended by Steven Moss, a poor relation to the other song, exactly, but, [quit while you are ahead, Judge] FOUR POINTS! [runs away]
Two recommendations I am grouping together are Dentist! recommended by Graeme and Skid Row, recommended Daniel Carpenter (both from Little Shop of Horrors). They share a mood and a style and a vibe and a musical, yeah? I think so, anyway. I haven’t seen Little Shop of Horrors since I decided it was rubbish when I was teenager. [I’ve done some growing up since then of course, so it wasn’t a huge surprise when I liked these songs – which isn’t to say not liking musicals is a sign of immaturity or anything. Oh no. Oh no no no. Ohhhh no. No indeed. Not if it was ever so. Five points.
Picky Bastards and Jummo70 both recommended Louis Prima’s film-stealing performance of I Wanna Be Like You from The Jungle Book (choosing, wisely I think, to avoid the Christopher Walken update from Jon Favreau’s actually-it’s-pretty-brilliant remake). I discovered the music of Louis Prima via a Barclaycard ad btw, which is something of a rebuttal to the old ‘all advertising is evil’ cliché, I reckon. Sorry, got distracted there. Six points.
For the historical record, I would like to state that I believe that all adverts on podcasts and radio are evil, in case anyone was wondering. The odd tv and/or cinema one is ok, like the PG Tips monkey adverts and the original Churchill dog ones before they pissed around with the formula. I liked those ones.
Slugger recommended My House by Madness, a song which is used in the Our House musical. The rise of jukebox musicals that cynically cash in on a bands fanbase means there were lots of similar ‘classic pop song’ choices available, some of which I may have frowned upon more than this one. But Madness always had one foot in the music hall, so I have no qualms chucking seven points at this song.
Tom Mason recommended What Do You Do with a B.A. in English? / It Sucks to Be Me from Avenue Q, which is a song title (or pair of song titles) so long that I don’t have to type much more to get up to the four lines of text I need to write for each song so that my comments wrap around the chart numbers neatly and don’t start becoming a formatting nightmare. Yeah, that’s plenty. Word word word word word word word something something eight points something.
The days of recording artists covering songs from musicals en masse are long gone. The days of people trying to record the definitive version of a classic replaced (I guess) with the race to record the latest Bond theme or, I don’t know, have a Christmas number one? What even is kudos nowadays? And does kudos mean what I think it does? Anyway, in the days when people were recording covers of songs from musicals, jazz instrumentals of songs from musicals was a thing. Sex Police recommended one of those – I Feel Pretty by the Oscar Peterson Trio. It slaps to the tune of nine points (which, for the squares among you, is a good thing. Hashtag down with the kids).
Is Flight of the Conchords a musical? Arguably not, sure, but if you watched a series as one text it would be over two hours long and have about twenty songs in it. That sounds pretty musical-ly to me.
I don’t know why I’m justifying my own decisions. I’ve already made them. Long story short, Tom A recommended Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymenoceros by Flight of the Conchords and I gave him ten points as a thank you.
Sherri Turner recommended Losing My Mind from Follies, a song and a musical that I knew nothing about until this week. I still know nothing about the musical except for what the poster that advertised it (which became the cover for the album) looked like. It’s probably about Edwardian landowners constructing charming but ultimately useless buildings on their country estates or something like that? I’m guessing, sure.
I do know slightly more about the song, what with me listening to it and liking it and everything, so I can confidently give it eleven points.
A lot of you recommended a song without specifying a version, which may have harmed your chances in some cases (and boosted them considerably in one, but we’ll get to that later). Not so, David N Atkinson, who not only specified a song (So In Love) and a performer (Peggy Lee) but a version (the one found on her album I Like Men). It was a strategy that payed off very nicely. Twelve points nicely.
If you have only ever heard the version of September Song that played during the end credits of the long-running but largely unfunny BBC sitcom, May to December, then I really can’t recommend clearing your ear memory holes out with a quick blast of James Brown’s version of the song. I did so after it was recommended by Richard Jones and it did me a world of good. That’s why I’m giving him thirteen points. (oh yeah, the song is originally from the musical Knickerbocker Holiday, which you would think would be worth a few extra points but, weirdly enough, isn’t.)
James Battisson and Al Kennedy both recommended songs from Chicago (All That Jazz and Cell Block Tango respectively). I gave them both fourteen points for their choices. If you had been there, betcha would have done the same. They had it comin’ and all that jazz. Errrrrrmmmm… Chicago the Chicago of… Fine, I can’t remember any more of the lyrics. I’ve never seen the musical. I haven’t seen a lot of the musicals recommended this week. I have a lot of catching up to do. I might start with Chicago. It sounds like a lot fun.
When I said a ‘song from a musical’ I hadn’t anticipated anyone pushing the brief quite as far as recommending Rich Girl by Gwen Stefani but Rob Cutforth did and it is hard to argue against it having its origins in Fiddler on the Roof. It is even harder to argue against it being a banger because it is, obviously, a total banger. Fifteen points then. Would the Sound of Music-twisting Wind It Up have got him even more points? Perhaps controversially, yes, yes it would.
Has anyone ever put as much love and effort into a gag as Neil Innes did when he wrote The Rutles songs? They really didn’t need to be as good as they were. It is a tribute to him that they were. And good news for Nick Portnell, who recommended Let’s Be Natural and got himself sixteen points for doing so.
Those of you waiting for that second song from Grease, the moment is here. Jeanette Greaves recommended There Are Worse Things I Could Do, sung by future First Lady, Stockard Channing. It is a great recommendation, one of those songs in a musical where a non-lead gets a big number, and one of the more interesting moments of the movie. Honestly, I’d be a fool to offer any less than seventeen points for it.
I found this week’s lack of David Bowie selections perplexing given how often he turns up the rest of the time. Even the snobs who thumb their noses at the (let’s face it, truly magnificent) Labyrinth soundtrack could have selected something from Lazarus. Only Desmond suggested a bit of Bowie, selecting Absolute Beginners from Absolute Beginners. Eighteen points.
That reminds me of the babe…
The babe wi- alright, I’ll shut up.
I surprised myself a little bit by awarding Good Morning Baltimore from Hairspray, recommended by David Coates, nineteen points but it was just so big and bold and beautiful that how could I not. In hindsight, the makers of The Wire maybe missed an opportunity using Way Down in the Hole as their theme music when this was just sitting there. You live and learn, I guess.
As an aside, when I Googled The Wire to remind myself what the theme tune was called (brain like a sieve, mate) one of those questions that pop up now when you search for something was, “Can I skip season 2 of The Wire?” Of course you can’t. It’s the best season you absolute melon.
Weeman wasn’t messing around. He recommended Can’t Buy Me Love by The Beatles. Bang. It has become increasingly fashionable to ‘not like’ The Beatles during my lifetime. Almost as fashionable as electing self-obsessed man-children and abusing people on social media has become. As Quentin Crisp said, “Fashion is what you adopt when you don’t know who you are”. Fuck fashion. Twenty points.
If I gave out bonus points willy-nilly (which I don’t) I would have thrown more than a few at Sleepy this week for his passionate defence of musicals on Twitter. Never before had my need to remain neutral during the time when people are making their recommendations stung so much. I just had to sit there while people whose favourite bands had written musicals told me all musicals were bobbins. You are a bunch of silly sausages sometimes, you know. Happily, I don’t need to introduce extra points because Sleepy is getting twenty-two regular points for recommending Mama Who Bore Me from Spring Awakening, a song which I very much loved.
I thought more than one might person might mine the thick seam* of genius that is Purple Rain, but they didn’t, so only Chris *Wear Your Dang Mask* is getting twenty-four points for recommending When Doves Cry. It’s a beautiful piece of music, that When Doves Cry, isn’t it?
*yep, that thick seam bit was a vague Prince-inspired sex joke. Sorry.
There aren’t many weeks where a Björk song won’t score you a point or two. This week they could get you up to and including twenty-six of them. They did for Benjo, who recommended I’ve Seen it All from Dancer in the Dark.
For those of you who don’t know, the song is a duet with Thom Yorke and, frankly, if that sourpuss can get aboard the musicals train, there is no excuse for anybody else.
James Beck chose a song from The Blues Brothers. I don’t really ‘get’ the film. It is longer than the extended edition of The Two Towers and with only about half as many laughs. It hasn’t even got Sir Ian McKellen in it, for Ent’s sake. HOWEVER… Shake Your Tail Feather is mostly Ray Charles just doing his thing, which is obviously great, so… twenty-eight points it is.
There weren’t nearly enough recommendations from the pre-war period for my taste, so when Neal recommended Cheek to Cheek by Fred Astaire, from the near-perfect Top Hat (which is available on the BBCiPlayer if you are in the UK and haven’t seen it) I was all like, ‘have some points mate have some points have thirty points why don’t you yeah?’ and everything.
Seriously, if you haven’t seen Top Hat, put an evening aside this week, pour yourself a gin (or non-alcoholic gin-equivalent) and tonic, and fire up the iPlayer. You will not be disappointed.
OK. Right. I should explain the next choice slightly. A lot of you didn’t specify versions of songs and so I (somewhat randomly but with the best intentions) tried to find the best version I could. Sometimes I went with the film version, sometimes the ‘original cast recording’. When I looked for Pirate Jenny from the Threepenny Opera (recommended by Sam Whyte) my streaming service recommended a version by Nina Simone. I didn’t see any point looking any further.
So, I have decided to put her choice together with Tom Glennie‘s recommendation of Nina Simone’s version of Lilac Wine and award them both thirty-two pints. I may have been judging all your choices for a year now but I don’t feel nearly qualified to decide between Nina Simone songs. Genius is genius is genius.
Some may argue my methods are unfair but you did all have the option of recommending a particular version if you wanted AND if I had found a Joe Pasquale version of Pirate Jenny, things might have worked out very differently.
I didn’t though. Obvs.
Boon is on a roll you guys. Fresh from her win last week, Georgia is back in the top five again, this time with Singin’ in the Rain from Singin’ in the Rain, a song so wonderful that not even that nasty dance remix travesty from a couple of years ago could ruin it. You have to admire a song that can survive that sort of treatment. Face it, how many decades will it be until you can look a sea shanty in the face again without getting the taste of Cotton Eye Joe in your ears? Five? Six? But with Singin’ in the Rain it’s straight back in the saddle. Not many songs can do that. Thirty-four points.
I’m repeating myself, I know, but if you are going to recommend a song from a musical, go big or go home. And you don’t get much bigger than a Barbra classic, do you? Beth Woodward recognised this truth and recommended the pure hit of showbiz that is Don’t Rain on My Parade from Funny Girl. That gets you thirty six points that does. Boom!
There are two sorts of people in the world – those who recognise that The Greatest Showman is one of the finest movies ever made and those who haven’t seen it yet. (Fine, there are idiots as well, but I was trying to be positive). Bruno Di Gradi (unless he is being unfairly rewarded for misguided irony) is part of the first group. And while by not picking Rewrite the Stars he missed out on victory this week by a hair’s breadth, he can be proud of his thirty-eight points.
Which means our winner is Julie, who recommended Non-Stop from Hamilton. There are plenty of songs from Hamilton that wouldn’t quite have topped this chart but Non-Stop is an almost unfathomably brilliant piece of music. There are so many call backs to other songs in the musical weaved into it, so many themes and melodies re-used and re-combined that it boggles the mind. And that is just to think about the song on a technical level, which is (of course) only part of the equation. Those call backs also restoke emotions in the listener and restart narrative threads. The song is a marvel. Forty points.
Nice. I enjoyed that. Thanks all. Next week the theme is NEW YORK. One song, connected to New York in whatever way you like. Make it a good one, yeah. See you next week.