Monday 25 March 2013

AAA Musicals (News, Views and Music Issue 187 Top Six)

Good news! That awful Spice Girls haven’t-got-a-clue-what-the-plot-is-because-we’ve-stung-a-lot-of-songs-together-randomly musical ‘Viva Forever’ might be about to close! Phew! I thought we had another Mama Mia on our hands there but at least the music was good in that one (even if it was ruined – ruined!!!! – by poor song choices, awful actors trying to sing and a storyline so weak it would have made a soap opera weep). Before I get too carried away, however, it’s worth noting that there have only been five fully fledged AAA musicals to date (plus one planned that’s so bonkers it’s well worth talking about again...) and none of them have exactly been runaway successes...Ah well, at least these AAA groups used their brains when writing all-new musicals (barring one based on a concept album with a great deal of extra material) instead of just copying plotlines! (All of these are listed in chronological order!)

The Beatles “Pilchard” (Planned 1963, never completed)

Sadly this idea never got past the drawing board, but back in the early days of the moptops whenever John and Paul were asked what they were going to do when the ‘bubble burst’ often said that they’d probably write a musical together (‘A full West End production with our words and music – we were thinking of starting it in Liverpool but someone’s already beaten us to it with ‘Maggie Mae’). On one occasion (talking to the NME in August 1963) Lennon said that the pair had even come up with an idea which would have been like a lot of the nonsense prose from his books about ‘Jesus coming back to the Earth today and living in the slums’. Only this character was named ‘Pilchard’ for reasons best known to the band. The pair were serious, though, talking about putting on any sort of musical play in interviews until 1966, although the ‘bigger than Jesus’ comments meant that this idea itself was dropped rather hastily from interviews that year.

The Beatles “John, Paul, George, Ringo and Bert” (1974)

Some four years after the Beatles break-up another Liverpudlian was on hand to have a go at crafting their story, only this one – disowned by the band themselves but given some kudos when it was revealed Brian Epstein’s successor Robert Stigwood had had a hand in the production – was more like ‘The Rutles’ than The Beatles’ true story. Willy Russell was still a few years away from ‘Blood Brothers’ when he wrote this musical, premiered in Liverpool though it moved quite quickly to London’s West End and he was making quite a name for himself in the North West at the time. Officially this is a ‘play’ rather than a ‘musical’, but we’ve included it in our list because it does involve an awful lot of music (15 songs), most of them from late in the Beatles’ career which had never been heard on stage before (in the ‘missing years’ when the Beatles had stopped touring and tribute acts like the Bootleg Beatles hadn’t go going yet). The plot – what there is of it – runs like this; Bert is a huge fan, has a hallucination when watching a Wings concert that he’s actually seeing the Beatles perform and gets into a tussle outside with a load of punks (telling them to go and see a ‘real’ band). Intrigued by a picture of the band in leathers, the punk gets Bert to tell him their full story... Review of the musical were mixed (not least an undercover George Harrison, who was so annoyed by the musical he walked out at half-time and refused permission for the production team to use his songs), but the musical ran for some time and even won an award for the ‘best stage production of 1974’, presumably because it was about the only year in the 1970s no one was doing ‘Godspell’ (now there’s a truly great musical in the AAA tradition...) A cast album is available, but without the visual elements simply sounds like a poor Beatles’ covers album.

Ray Davies “80 Days” (1988)

Sadly Ray Davies’ big dream of making a musical ran into so many statistical and artistic problems that it closed within weeks, long before the company had a chance to settle down and show how good this musical could have been. Loosely based on Jules Verne’s novel ‘Around The World In 80 Days’ (although told from Verne’s point of view and mirrored in flashback by the events in the novel), it’s actually less about plot and more about class and rule-breaking, the Victorian setting giving Davies full reign to prick pomposity and champion the underdog (as in all the best Kinks songs). Ray recorded several demos for the work (a full hour of which are available on Youtube), but without getting the success he wanted a cast album was never released. None of the songs are up to his best work but some are well worth digging out (‘One Empire’ is such a Kinks-like song its amazing to think it only existed in 1988, not 1969 during the ‘Arthur’ album about the decline of the British Empire and ‘Ladies Of The Night’ is Ray’s catchiest song since ‘Lola’). Kinks fans know some of the songs better from their appearance in the 1988 album ‘UK Jive’ (although the lovely ‘Loony Balloon’ is the only one taken from the musical for definite), although even that album’s hardly well known and – shockingly in this day and age – hasn’t appeared on CD since its release in 1988. San Diego critics liked it though, awarding it the ‘best new musical of 1988’, so perhaps a revival is due about now? Interestingly the ‘book’ (or ‘adaptation’ given that the story already comes from a book) was by Des McAnuff, who also worked on the next entry on our list...There is apparently a Kinks version of ‘Mama Mia’, titled ‘Come Dancing’ and with a plot linking many Kinks songs around, but I don’t know much about it!

Pete Townshend “Tommy” (1993)

‘Tommy’ had already been adapted into a bonkers film and a rather dull all-star-with-orchestra performance by the time this musical appeared in 1993. Although I only know this fifth (counting studio and live performances) version of it as an audio not visual experience its fair to say this is the weakest. ‘Tommy’ is such a wonderfully vague and spiritual peace (leaving the listener to do most of the work) that any adaptation that pins the story down is asking for trouble and the addition of extra material into the score (written by Pete some 35 years after the rest) only works marginally better than it did in the film soundtrack. It’s odd, too, to hear so many powerful Who songs done in such a ‘musical’ type manner, with choirs and weedy instruments (although actually they still sound a lot better than the album Ray Davies did backed by a choir!) and promising as many of the youngsters are you badly miss Roger Daltrey’s voice. All that said, the plot is much easier to follow than any previous version (with dialogue passages for the first time and a ‘set’ cast of characters who stick to one person, instead of playing half a dozen as Pete, Roger and John all did on the original).There’s one valuable addition to ‘Tommy’ as well in the new song ‘I Believe My Own Eyes’, sung by Tommy’s mother in between the recitatives ‘Go To The Mirror’ and ‘Smash The Mirror’ that really heighten that scene. Whether hearing that one song is worth sitting through a laughable attempt to recreate The Who’s roar on career highlight ‘Sparks’ on what sounds like a school orchestra, though, is up to you!

Pete Townshend “The Iron Man” (1995)

The second half of Pete’s autobiography ‘Who I Am’ (out at the end of 2012) is obsessed by Ted Hughes’ story of the same name, giving us far more detail about it than his own vastly superior solo albums. For me personally Ted Hughes is a huge con – a load of empty symbolism that’s ripped off other people (Pete Townshend included) and has nothing new to offer except a load of crows popping up every now and then (already done far better by Edgar Allan Poe and ravens). Therefore I’m not really the audience this musical for impressionable youngsters was aiming at and to boot I’ve only seen snippets of the show and a few musical nuggets out on Pete’s ‘Scoop’ demos. I can’t say my interest had been piqued though – this idea about a boy wearing a robotic suit to school so no one else can hurt him is stolen whole-heartedly from Isaac Asimov and isn’t up to the often rickety story of ‘Tommy;, never mind the superb ‘Lifehouse’ and ‘Quadrophenia’. Pete recounts in his book that he’s struggling with putting the musical on and asks some big names for help (including Tom Stoppard), who politely decline getting involved because there’s just ‘too much wrong’ with the work. Frankly that’s the fault of the original work more than Townshend’s music and the whole project is a waste of his immense talent. Rant ends.

Paul Simon “The Capeman” (1998)

Paul Simon’s musical was some 20 years in the making and while the best on this list in some ways (the story about a teenage Puerto Rican rebel gone bad, whipped up by the press into the murderer of the age and everything wrong with society, is a good one that needs to be told), is so uninspired and had so little in common with Paul Simon’s work that its no wonder it closed so early and with such a loss of money. When Paul, bored with music, tried making a film (‘One Trick Pony’ in 1980) the results were fabulous, if poorly received (personally I think it’s one of the three greatest things he ever did). That project worked because, while obviously fictional, Paul was writing about what he knew or might have known in some alternate reality (a musician down on his luck and with a fragile marriage watching other younger, hipper acts passing him by). With ‘Capeman’ he only knows the story by press reports and the difficulty of making the central character likable whilst still everything the papers made him out to be is a strain too far. It doesn’t help that Paul’s never written for the Puerto Rican genre before (despite a commercial success with the African ‘Graceland’ and an artistic success with the largely Brazilian ‘Rhythm Of The Saints’) and then writes an entire 90 minutes of the style, none of which sounds anything like his past work. The revealing DVD documentary of the show (with the cast falling out with the creators) reveals what a gulf there is between the two cultures, although thankfully the casting of Marc Anthony in the lead role is a good one and the split use of the ‘cast’ and Paul Simon himself tackling the songs on the ‘soundtrack’ album at least shows what the show was like and what it might have been like as just another Paul Simon album. I long for the day ‘Capeman’ gets a revival, actually, by a theatre director whose given free reign and doesn’t have to please so many people – songs like ‘Trailways Bus’ are too good to lose on a project this bland and there’s not that many tweaks needed to make this work, although its never going to be anyone’s favourite Paul Simon project I don’t think.
That’s all for now for the answers you seek, perhaps next time we’ll write this in Greek, anyway don’t forget to take a peek, when we come back again next weeeeek! Thankyou! *Applause*

A NOW COMPLETE List Of Top Five/Top Ten/TOP TWENTY  Entries 2008-2019
1) Chronic Fatigue songs

2) Songs For The Face Of Bo

3) Credit Crunch Songs

4) Songs For The Autumn

5) National Wombat Week

6) AAA Box Sets

7) Virus Songs

8) Worst AAA-Related DVDs

9) Self-Punctuating Superstar Classics

10) Ways To Know You Have Turned Into A Collector

11) Political Songs

12) Totally Bonkers Concept Albums

13) Celebrating 40 Years Of The Beatles' White Album

14) Still Celebrating 40 Years Of The Beatles' White Album

15) AAA Existential Questions

16) Releases Of The Year 2008

17) Top AAA Xmas Songs

18) Notable AAA Gigs

19) All things '20' related for our 20th issue

20) Romantic odes for Valentine's Day

21) Hollies B sides

22) 'Other' BBC Session Albums

23) Beach Boys Rarities Still Not Available On CD

24) Songs John, Paul and George wrote for Ringo's solo albums

25) 5 of the Best Rock 'n' Roll Tracks From The Pre-Beatles Era

26) AAA Autobiographies

27) Rolling Stones B-sides

28) Beatles B-Sides

29) The lllloooonnngggeesssttt AAA songs of all time

30) Kinks B-Sides

31) Abandoned CSNY projects 'wasted on the way'

32) Best AAA Rarities and Outtakes Sets

33) News We've Missed While We've Been Away

34) Birthday Songs for our 1st Anniversary

35) Brightest Album Covers

36) Biggest Recorded Arguments

37) Songs About Superheroes

38) AAA TV Networks That Should Exist

39) AAA Woodtsock Moments

40) Top Moments Of The Past Year As Voted For By Readers

41) Music Segues

42) AAA Foreign Language Songs

43) 'Other' Groups In Need Of Re-Mastering

44) The Kinks Preservation Rock Opera - Was It Really About The Forthcoming UK General Election?

45) Mono and Stereo Mixes - Biggest Differences

46) Weirdest Things To Do When A Band Member Leaves

47) Video Clips Exclusive To Youtube (#1)

48) Top AAA Releases Of 2009

49) Songs About Trains

50) Songs about Winter

51) Songs about astrology plus horoscopes for selected AAA members

52) The Worst Five Groups Ever!

53) The Most Over-Rated AAA Albums

54) Top AAA Rarities Exclusive To EPs

55) Random Recent Purchases (#1)

56) AAA Party Political Slogans

57) Songs To Celebrate 'Rock Sunday'

58) Strange But True (?) AAA Ghost Stories

59) AAA Artists In Song

60) Songs About Dogs

61) Sunshiney Songs

62) The AAA Staff Play Their Own Version Of Monoploy/Mornington Crescent!

63) What 'Other' British Invasion DVDs We'd Like To See

64) What We Want To Place In Our AAA Time Capsule

65) AAA Conspiracy Theroies

66) Weirdest Things To Do Before - And After - Becoming A Star

67) Songs To Tweet To

68) Greatest Ever AAA Solos

69) John Lennon Musical Tributes

70) Songs For Halloween

71) Earliest Examples Of Psychedelia

72) Purely Instrumental Albums

73) AAA Utopias

74) AAA Imaginary Bands

75) Unexpected AAA Cover Versions

76) Top Releases of 2010

77) Songs About Snow

78) Predictions For 2011

79) AAA Fugitives

80) AAA Home Towns

81) The Biggest Non-Musical Influences On The 1960s

82) AAA Groups Covering Other AAA Groups

83) Strange Censorship Decisions

84) AAA Albums Still Unreleased on CD

85) Random Recent Purchases (#2)

86) Top AAA Music Videos

87) 30 Day Facebook Music Challenge

88) AAA Documentaries

89) Unfinished and 'Lost' AAA Albums

90) Strangest AAA Album Covers

91) AAA Performers Live From Mars (!)

92) Songs Including The Number '100' for our 100th Issue

93) Most Songs Recorded In A Single Day

94) Most Revealing AAA Interviews

95) Top 10 Pre-Fame Recordings

96) The Shortest And Longest AAA Albums

97) The AAA Allstars Ultimate Band Line-Up

98) Top Songs About Sports

99) AAA Conversations With God

100) AAA Managers: The Good, The Bad and the Financially Ugly

101) Unexpected AAA Cameos

102) AAA Words You can Type Into A Caluclator

103) AAA Court Cases

104) Postmodern Songs About Songwriting

105) Biggest Stylistic Leaps Between Albums

106) 20 Reasons Why Cameron Should Go!

107) The AAA Pun-Filled Cookbook

108) Classic Debut Releases

109) Five Uses Of Bird Sound Effects

110) AAA Classic Youtube Clips Part #1

111) Part #2

112) Part #3

113) AAA Facts You Might Not Know

114) The 20 Rarest AAA Records

115) AAA Instrumental Songs

116) Musical Tarot

117) Christmas Carols

118) Top AAA Releases Of 2011

119) AAA Bands In The Beano/The Dandy

120) Top 20 Guitarists #1

121) #2

122) 'Shorty' Nomination Award Questionairre

123) Top Best-Selling AAA Albums

124) AAA Songs Featuring Bagpipes

125) A (Hopefully) Complete List Of AAA Musicians On Twitter

126) Beatles Albums That Might Have Been 1970-74 and 1980

127) DVD/Computer Games We've Just Invented

128) The AAA Albums With The Most Weeks At #1 in the UK

129) The AAA Singles With The Most Weeks At #1 in the UK

130) Lyric Competition (Questions)

131) Top Crooning Classics

132) Funeral Songs

133) AAA Songs For When Your Phone Is On Hold

134) Random Recent Purchases (#3)

135) Lyric Competition (Answers)

136) Bee Gees Songs/AAA Goes Disco!

137) The Best AAA Sleevenotes (And Worst)

138) A Short Precise Of The Years 1962-70

139) More Wacky AAA-Related Films And Their Soundtracks

140) AAA Appearances On Desert Island Discs

141) Songs Exclusive To Live Albums

142) More AAA Songs About Armageddon

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159) A (Not That) Short Guide To The 15 Best Non-AAA Bands

160) The Greatest AAA Drum Solos (Or Near Solos!)

161) AAA Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame Acceptance Speeches

162) AAA Re-Recordings Of Past Songs

163) A Coalition Christmas (A Fairy Tale)

164) AAA Songs About Islands

165) The AAA Review Of The Year 2012

166) The Best AAA Concerts I Attended

167) Tributes To The 10 AAA Stars Who Died The Youngest

168) The First 10 AAA Songs Listed Alphabetically

171) The 10 Best Songs From The Psychedelia Box-Sets ‘Nuggets’ and ‘Nuggets Two’

172) The 20 Most Common Girl’s Names In AAA Song Titles (With Definitions) 

180) First Recordings By Future AAA Stars

185) A Tribute To Storm Thorgerson Via The Five AAA Bands He Worked With

188) Surprise! Celebrating 300 Album Reviews With The Biggest 'Surprises' Of The Past Five Years Of Alan's Album Archives!

190) Comparatively Obscure First Compositions By AAA Stars

193) Evolution Of A Band: Comparing First Lyric With Last Lyric:

200) The Monkees In Relation To Postmodernism (University Dissertation)

202) Carly Simon's 'You're So Vain': Was It About One Of The AAA Crew?

217) AAA 'Christmas Presents' we'd most like to have next year

221) Dr Who and the AAA (Five Musical Links)

222) Five Random Recent Purchases

223) AAA Grammy Nominees

224) Ten AAA songs that are better heard unedited and in full

225) The shortest gaps between AAA albums

226) The longest gaps between AAA albums

227) Top ten AAA drummers

228) Top Ten AAA Singles (In Terms of 'A' and 'B' Sides)

229) The Stories Behind Six AAA Logos

230) AAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!! The Best Ten AAA Screams

231) An AAA Pack Of Horses

232) AAA Granamas - Sorry, Anagrams!

233) AAA Surnames and Their Meanings

234) 20 Erroneous AAA Album Titles

235) The Best AAA Orchestral Arrangements

236) Top 30 Hilariously Misheard Album Titles/Lyrics

237) Ten controversial AAA sackings - and whether they were right

238) A Critique On Critiquing - In Response To Brian Wilson

239) The Ten MusicianS Who've Played On The Most AAA Albums

240) Thoughts on #CameronMustGo

241) Random Recent Purchases (Kinks/Grateful Dead/Nils Lofgren/Rolling Stones/Hollies) 

242) AAA Christmas Number Ones 

243) AAA Review Of The Year 2014 (Top Releases/Re-issues/Documentaries/DVDs/Books/Songs/ Articles  plus worst releases of the year)

244) Me/CFS Awareness Week 2015

245) Why The Tory 2015 Victory Seems A Little...Suspicious

246) A Plea For Peace and Tolerance After The Attacks on Paris - and Syria

247) AAA Review Of The Year 2015

248) The Fifty Most Read AAA Articles (as of December 31st 2015)

249) The Revised AAA Crossword!

251) Half-A-Dozen Berries Plus One (An AAA Tribute To Chuck Berry)

252) Guest Post: ‘The Skids – Joy’ (1981) by Kenny Brown

254) Guest Post: ‘Supertramp – Some Things Never Change’ by Kenny Brown

255) AAA Review Of The Year 2018

256) AAA Review Of The Year 2019 plus Review Of The Decade 2010-2019

257) Tiermaker

258) #Coronastock

259) #Coronadocstock

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