John Wilson and The John Wilson Orchestra at the BBC Proms, the Royal Albert Hall, 29 August 2011: The Complete Concert of Hooray for Hollywood Including the Overture Arranged by John

For their show at the 2011 BBC Proms, called Hooray for Hollywood, John and The JWO begin here with an overall satisfying medley of tunes from the picture—inconveniently called the “Hooray for Hollywood” overture—tunes selected, arranged and orchestrated by my self-satisfied darling himself. Starting with John’s cribbing from Ray Heindorf’s execrable arrangement (that hard downbeat!) of the Gershwin brothers’ 1919 “Swanee” (Jolson turning in his grave), it does get better: “Lullaby of Broadway” by Al Dubin and Harry Warren, very nifty and swingy; Rudy Friml and Herb Stothart’s 1924 “Indian Love Call”, a lot more lyrical and moving (he included the birds and the waterfall!) than you remember it (especially when leader Andrew Haveron takes the soulful melody); Jerry Kern and Yip Harburg’s glorious 1944 “Can’t Help Singing” (written for Deanna Durbin); Kern and Ira Gershwin’s 1944 “Long Ago and Far Away” (Howard McGill on tenor sax and Matthew Regan on piano—I’ve never heard it played any lovelier): Frank Loesser’s 1950 “Guys and Dolls” done in Big Swing style; then, in a weird leap, “Chim-Chim-Cheree” by the Sherman brothers, 1963 (for which our John cribs 2 bars from Shostakovich’s Jazz Waltz No 2); and ending with “Hooray for Hollywood” from 1937 by Richard Whiting (who wrote “On the Good Ship Lollipop”) and Johnny Mercer.

Hooray for Hollywood,
Where you’re terrific if you’re even good
Where anyone at all from Shirley Temple to Aimee Semple
Is equally understood
Go out and try your luck, you might be Donald Duck
Hooray for Hollywood

My Beloved John Wilson 2012Dates are of composition, not the date of the movie. Because it contains John’s own actually-pretty-good arrangement it’s one of my favorite numbers of The JWO (although I would’ve swapped the timpani for a little chord coloring at the beginning of the “Swanee” melody).  He seems to have nailed down the Andre Previn sound in his strings, which is okay by me. Plus extra points @7:40, where my self-satisfied darling shimmies like a brazen hussy yet again.


The entire 2011 BBC Proms concert Hooray for Hollywood with The John Wilson Orchestra is available here



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“Chanson de Maxence” from Les Demoiselles de Rochefort by Jacques Demy and Michel Legrand, Sung by Anne Sofie von Otter

Je l’ai cherchée partout j’ai fait le tour du monde
De Venise à Java de Manille à Angkor
De Jeanne à Victoria de Vénus en Joconde
Je ne l’ai pas trouvée et je la cherche encore

Je ne connais rien de lui et pourtant je le vois
J’ai inventé son nom j’ai entendu sa voix
J’ai dessiné son corps et j’ai peint son visage
Son portrait et l’amour ne font plus qu’une image

Cleansing my aural memory of John Wilson’s recording of Legrand’s “Chanson de Maxence” (in English clumsily rendered as “You Must Believe in Spring” or some such) in his awful 2000 album, Orchestral Jazz, with Anne Sofie van Otter‘s 2010 version (Brad Mehldau, pianist). Bonny John conducts his eponymous orchestra in an arrangement by Richard Rodney Bennett, who had absolutely no feel for this song. With such a strong melody (reminiscent of Fauré) and strong lyrics, all it needs is a strong emotive singer and a backup piano. I note with some distress that John himself did some other arrangements in this album, particularly for “Miss Otis Regrets”. With no lyrics! What the hell good is such a hilarious song without the words???

Anne Sofie von Otter

John and The JWO are okay, but just okay. I suppose when he was 28 my bonny’s loftiest ambition was to be the next Sidney Torch.


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My First Music: “I Have Confidence” from The Sound of Music by Rodgers & Hammerstein and the Day I Moved to NYC, 3 June 1973

And right around the time in history James “Smiling Cobra” Aubrey was turning MGM’s historical music scores into LA landfill and my beloved John Wilson was home in Gateshead falling out of his baby chair in excitement over the brand-new BBC news theme, forty-five years ago today—even down to the day of the week—I fled Minneapolis for New York and took a shared room at Sage House, a genteel women-only boarding house on 49 West 9th Street in Greenwich Village, New York.

With 2 meals a day included it came out to $33 a week. You read that right. A place in Greenwich Village, breakfast and dinner, for thirty-three dollars a week. Try to imagine the mischief I got into with all the money I had left over from my weekly paycheck from my first job as a solfeggist at ASCAP, that it’s summer in NYC, it’s 1973, I’m eighteen, cute as a button and old enough to drink, and gorgeous men are everywhere. And imagine too that I’m singing a song (in my heart and sometimes aloud while bounding down the street) that every American girl of my generation inspired by Julie Andrews sang:

I have confidence in confidence alone
Besides which you see I have con-fi-dence in meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Sage House NYCAbove my old abode: “I Have Confidence” sung by Sierra Boggess backed by John Wilson and His Eponymous Orchestra , 2010.


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Get-a-Room Sexy with Bernadette Peters and Conductor John Mauceri

I’m a pot of joy for a hungry boy,
Baby, I’m cookin’ with gas.
Oh, I’m a gumdrop,
A sweet lollipop,
A brook trout right out of the brook,
And what’s more, baby, I can cook!

The Queen of Broadway Bernadette Peters entices conductor John Mauceri with her many, many assets, courtesy of Leonard Bernstein and the great lyric team of Adolph Green and Betty Comden. “I Can Cook, Too” from On the Town. Fun starts here at 4:45.

Peters MausceriAbove Peters and Mauceri: Nancy Walker from the original Broadway cast sings this showstopping number.



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The Music I Hear When I Gaze Upon Conductor John Wilson: “Glück das mir verblieb” from Erich Korngold’s Die tote Stadt, Sung by Beverly Sills

4 May, 2018—Everybody, go away. I’ve fallen in love with this man.

My Beloved John Wilson

Glück, das mir verblieb,
rück zu mir, mein treues Lieb.
Abend sinkt im Hag
bist mir Licht und Tag.
Bange pochet Herz an Herz
Hoffnung schwingt sich himmelwärts.

Wie wahr, ein traurig Lied.
Das Lied vom treuen Lieb,
das sterben muss.

Ich kenne das Lied.
Ich hört es oft in jungen,
in schöneren Tagen.
Es hat noch eine Strophe—
weiß ich sie noch?

Naht auch Sorge trüb,
rück zu mir, mein treues Lieb.
Neig dein blaß Gesicht
Sterben trennt uns nicht.
Mußt du einmal von mir gehn,
glaub, es gibt ein Auferstehn.


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My New York: 13 Essex Street, The Lower East Side, 1976

And tell me what street
Compares with Mott Street in July

Here in the same neighborhood on 13 Essex Street was my second apartment in New York; fourth floor walkup, one bedroom, tub in kitchen, $85 a month.

“Manhattan”
music by Richard Rodgers
lyrics by Lorenz Hart
sung by Ruth Tester
and Allan Gould, 1929

13 Essex StreetThis picture’s from the 90s. When I lived here in the 70s, the boutique was a kosher grocery that stayed open till 11pm. Above: Ella!

From the 1925 revue Garrick Gaieties. The song was introduced in the Gaieties by Sterling Holloway (eventually a Rocky and Bullwinkle stalwart) and June Cochran.



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