My Favourite Musical Songs: #20
Quite a few years ago I wrote a list of my favourite songs from musicals so today I thought I would start posting them to my blog. If you are not a musicals fan this may not interest you. Just a thought. As always these are my personal favourites and not what I consider to be the best compositions. I assure you if I were writing that list the results would be very different.
I was recently asked if I had a super power what it would be. I didn’t even think about it: The power of musical. Easy. Why fly/teleport/read minds if you can express your emotions through song and dance? It is my favourite way of communicating and musicals have been one of the most consistent loves of my life ever since I was too small to fully realise why the man on the stage was wearing such a garish coat of many colours. So this is my small tribute to the world I love so much: I wrote it down because they won’t let me sing it to you.
So here is how it works: To cut down the numbers I decided to leave out any songs which were NOT written for the purposes of a stage/movie musical. To put this decision into context, this means nothing from Moulin Rouge, Return to the Forbidden Planet and Tommy. All of those contained major contenders for the top 10 but I felt that they were all missing an element of authentic musicallness as they are pop/rock songs adapted to fit the genre rather than classic examples of musical numbers. You could argue Tommy and Quadrophenia were always designed to be musicals but I was introduced to both as rock albums so therefore don’t view them as part of the same club. Anyway, there are no official rules I was just trying to make it easier on myself.
Another brutal choice was to remove any and all Disney musical tracks as it just made cutting it all down too difficult. This was especially hard as ‘What’s This?’ from the Disney produced ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ and ‘Circle of Life’ from the stage version of The Lion King were top 5 contenders and there were many many more nostalgic favourites from the cartoons that could have made the list if I had been kind enough to let them in. But it was all too much. Don’t cry though. I am reviewing all the Disney films right now so eventually I might make a list of my favourite Disney Songs. And then you will all be happy. I am sure this means that much to you. Then we can go to the zoo. And have an ice cream. Whatever you want but just stop crying ok?!
A theme of me enjoying female belting songs in the mid range emerged but this is not all that surprising really as part of the fun is singing along. I tried to spread the list across several musicals which means only one musical gets two songs in the top 20. As I fine tuned the list I discovered that, surprisingly, a lot of my favourite songs don’t actually come from my favourite shows. However I compiled a list of honourable mentions to pay sufficient tribute to the songs/shows that just missed out on the honour of me awkwardly trying to explain why I love them:
Honourable Mentions in Alphabetical Order (By Show. Again, I am not knowingly including songs that were not written with a musical in mind and I am not knowingly including any Disney. If I changed that rule it would be a top 100 list and I would be writing it for the rest of my life.)
I’m not that Smart, The I Love You Song : 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist: Avenue Q
Easy Terms, Kid’s Game, Long Sunday Afternoon & I’m Not Saying a Word: Blood Brothers
I Believe: Book of Mormon
Tomorrow Belongs to Me: Cabaret
Mister Mistoffelees & Memory: Cats
I Know Him So Well: Chess
Cell Block Tango & Mr Cellophane: Chicago
Doll on a Music Box: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Getting Married Today & Being Alive: Company
There She Goes & These Are My Children: Fame
By My Side: Godspell
There are Worse Things I Could Do: Grease
Fugue for Tinhorns, Sue Me, Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat: Guys and Dolls
Ain’t Got No, I Got Life, Hair & Let the Sunshine In: Hair
I Don’t Know How to Love Him: Jesus Christ Superstar
So Much Better & Legally Blonde: Legally Blonde
Stars & Empty Chairs at Empty Tables: Les Miserables
Somewhere That’s Green: Little Shop of Horrors
When I Grow Up: Matilda
American Dream: Miss Saigon
As Long As He Needs Me & Who Will Buy?: Oliver
I Wanna be a Producer: The Producers
Over at the Frankenstein Place & I’m Going Home: The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Ol’ Man River: Showboat
Mama Who Bore Me & Bitch of Living: Spring Awakening
A Little Priest: Sweeney Todd
America: West Side Story
Popular, No Good Deed & For Good: Wicked
My New Philosophy & Happiness: You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown
In case you want to tell me what your personal favourites are but are blanking on all the names of all the shows you have ever seen, I have included a very useful link that give you a list of all the musicals so you don’t accidentally miss any important entries. I notice there are no musicals beginning with Q. We should sort this out. Now.
Anyway, let us kick off at number 20:
20. Summer Nights from Grease (version included: The 1978 movie ‘Grease’ performed by John Travolta, Olivia Newton John and the whole gang)
I feel I have outgrown Grease in many ways and it does not give me the thrill it did when I was in my youth when it was far and away one of my favourites. Also I resent it for setting my expectations too fucking high for high school. ‘You mean we don’t get a fairground at the end of the year?!’- Emma, aged 13.
And yet it still works as a film and a musical if you are willing to embrace the terrible life lessons and ignore the plot holes (Kenickie got Rizzo pregnant with a busted condom on the first week or so of school and yet she is still not showing or anything in the last semester and then it turns out it was all a false alarm…but to what end???) and I couldn’t bring myself to leave it off the list in favour of something…classier.
Of the many catchy 50’s love letter tracks, Summer Nights is one of the most memorable, catchy and easy to start a spontaneous sing a long. Don’t believe me? Try asking someone for more gossip without finding your self saying ‘tell me more, tell me more’ I enclose the definitive version as evidence of how brilliantly it captures the absurdity of the movie musical.
A group of 30 year old’s having lunch and talking about their respective summers turns into a massive production number ending with a high note off between Travolta and Newton-John that Travolta wins hands (or balls) down.
I love the way it builds, the joy of the phrase ‘Just turned eightee-ee-een’ the too cool and indeed too old for school Rizzo, Travolta’s funky chicken dance and the fact that all the boys are very, very excited about their friend making out with a girl. Just saying. I am not totally sure what I am accusing them of…But something is not right.
And of course there is Travolta’s ‘oh’ which is just magnificent.
Also couldn’t they hear each other? They are in the same school yes? Brilliant end to the scene could have been:
Sandy: Summer dream ripped at the seams…but*OH* those su-um-mer…NIGHTS…
Danny: Summer dream ripped at the seams….but *OH* those su-um-mer…NIGHTS…
Respective gangs: TELL ME MORE…TELL ME MORE…
Danny: Guys, guys shut up a sec…I think I hear something…Sandy?
Sandy: Oh! Hi! Yeah…I’m over here!
Danny: I am up by the sports field!
Sandy: See you in 5!
OTHER NOTABLE VERSIONS: I saw the national tour for one of my birthdays and this was very exciting as I got to leave school early for it. (It was a small primary school in the country. Everyone was very laid back about the whole child’s right to an education thing) I have seen/been involved in school and stage school versions that are nowhere near as fun as the film, which just shows how talented the Class of ’78 were. Or how much school productions tend to suck. Take your pick.
When I wrote this all the cast members of the film were still alive. I wrote it a while ago and this is sadly no longer the case. So I would like to take this chance and very small platform to pay tribute to Jeff Conaway who considering he wanted to play Danny and resented Travolta as a result, brought a brilliantly manic and very likeable energy to his Kenickie. Kenickie was the first ‘boy’ I ever fancied from a film and for that alone Jeff Conaway will always hold a very special place in my heart. I hope wherever he is, there is singing and dancing. And if not, he gets to stay young(ish) forever through this film so that is special. Love you man. If you ever need a Rizzo, you know where I am.
BEST MOMENT: Easily the end from about 3:28. This moment is the bit that so many school productions fail to nail but in the film it is brilliant. TELL ME MORE!