The Universe of Discourse

Thu, 27 Jan 2022

One song to the tune of another

I just randomly happened upon this recording of Pippa Evans singing “How Much is that Doggie in the Window” to the tune of “Cabaret”, and this reminded me of something I was surprised I hadn't mentioned before.

In the 1939 MGM production of The Wizard of Oz, there is a brief musical number, The Lollipop Guild, that has the same music as the refrain of Money, also from Cabaret. I am not aware of anyone else who has noticed this.

One has the lyrics “money makes the world go around” and the other has “We represent the lollipop guild”. And the two songs not only have the same rhythm, but the same melody and both are accompanied by the same twitchy, mechanical dance, performed by three creepy Munchkins in one case and by creepy Liza Minelli and Joel Grey in the other.

Surely the writers of Cabaret didn't do this on purpose? Did they? While it seems plausible that they might have forgotten the “Lollipop Guild” bit, I think it's impossible that they could both have missed it completely; they would have been 11 and 12 years old when The Wizard of Oz was first released.

(Now I want to recast The Wizard of Oz with Minelli as Dorothy and Grey as the Wizard. Bonus trivia, Liza Minelli is Judy Garland's daughter. Bonus bonus trivia, Joel Grey originated the role of the Wizard in the stage production of Wicked).

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Sun, 14 Mar 2021

Synthesizer bands

Many years ago I bought tickets to see Depeche Mode live, and I wondered if I wasn't making a mistake. Would they appear on stage, press “play” on the sequencers, and then stand around doing nothing while Dave Gahan sang?

And yes, it was pretty much like that. They were definitely overstaffed. I think there were four people on stage and at any particular time one or two of them were standing around looking bored.

I hadn't thought of this in a long time, but I was reading a Washington Times article about the German synth-pop band Alphaville, contemporaries of Depeche Mode. The article is from 2017, and includes this exchange:

Question: How is it possible that you’ve never played live in America before?

Answer: In the ‘80s we didn’t play live at all because we couldn’t play.

Meaning, they couldn't play any actual instruments. Marian Gold sang, but the rest of the music was preprogrammed on sequencers or assembled in an editing studio. The group composed and produced the music, but there simply was no "performance" in real time. I have to credit Alphaville for refusing to pretend to be performers and instrumentalists.

(For an contrasting approach, consider The Residents, who face the same issue and have dealt with it in a completely different way. The Residents’ stage show is elaborate and spectacular. You hear the music, but there's no way to know who's playing it. There are people on the stage, but are they the composers? Are they instrumentalists? Are they even in the band? Who knows? And does it matter? No, not really. The Residents have never had names or separate identities anyway. I imagine that Daft Punk took a similar approach.)

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