Monday, October 4, 2010

Vinyl find: Boston Pops Orchestra, conducted by Arthur Fiedler, "Saturday Night Fiedler"

(Check out the first post in this series for the back story.)

Let me summarize my thoughts about this album at the outset: in a way, I am really glad that this album exists, but in no way does that make me want to listen to it more. Between the photos on the album covers and the blurb on the back and the music itself, I can't help but laugh when trying to imagine all of the effort and time devoted to this project. Try it with me. Imagine you're Arthur Fiedler, renowned long-time conductor of The Boston Pops, one of America's most famed orchestras, and it's 1978. John Travolta had recently swept the nation with his sextastic moves and all the hip youngsters were donning their dancin' shoes and bell bottoms instead of going out to the latest performance of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor. What do you do? You arrange and score an orchestral performance of two songs by the Bee Gees and one song by The Trammps and one song by a-ha (three of which appear in the film Saturday Night Fever), as well as some old classical standards ("Night On Bald Mountain" and the aforementioned Toccata and Fugue) that have been run through a disco-ifying filter, then force the members of the Boston Pops to learn these songs, then record one such performance live at Boston's Symphony Hall and release it as an album. Of course! That's what you would do, isn't it?

Admittedly, this album is hilarious, but I really don't know how much of that was intentional, if any. Certainly, Fiedler's poses in the cover photos suggest that he's got a flamboyant sense of humor, even with his stereotypically stuffy position and age, so I'll give him credit for that. The description on the back cover, though, leads me to believe that either he or people around him or both somehow thought this would be successful. He writes:

"One thing I have always believed in is music as a universal language, and my years with the Boston Pops reflect the range and scope of this interest as we work through a vast repertoire from Country to Classics. Young people are always a key to the success of the Pops season, and keeping up with the forward motion of their tastes and preferences is both a challenge and a great privilege for me to pursue. From the moment I conducted the "Saturday Night Fiedler" suite on Television this May, I knew that youngsters had done it again: disco - a marvelous, insistently rhythmic dance form to which all manner of music can be adapted from Bach to the Bee-Gees. And this span of musical poles truly accents the universality of music."

Okay, Arty, you've got a way with words, sure, but riddle me this: did you really write the closing sentence, "I wish you the joy of listening and dancing to the first disco record with the Boston Pops", and truly MEAN IT? Did you imagine people were at home spinning this on their turntables and dancing around the living room. pausing only to comb their Afros and flip the record to hear that sweet Johann Sebastian Bach cover song they'd heard all about down at the discotheque?! Did you really mean that this was the Pops' "first disco record", implying that somehow there might be MORE of these?! If so, you are truly a manlier man than me, because only a veritable lunatic or someone with great big, ballsy, embarrassment-be-damned testicles could truly put forth such a crazy statement. Also, you played this on television? And who capitalizes Television, even in 1979?

I listened to this album once through in the name of science (well, this blog, really) and judging by the absolutely mint condition of the disc, I can't imagine that the previous owner played it any more than once, either. This one will forever live in my collection, if only to be brought out just to prove to a visitor that it really does exist and maybe to subject them to the groan-inducing strains of Mussgorsky à la disco and the Bee Gees à la symphonia. In that way, Monsieur Fiedler, you have succeeded. Regrettably, you passed away a mere month after this album's release and yet, I'm sure this helps you to believe that you were truly a trendsetter with a finger on the pulse of the American youth musical culture. May you forever continue to believe that you nailed it, that disco was the next big thing, and that today we are still pointing one finger heavenward, tilting one bell-bottom-clad knee towards the other as our gold chains and chest hair fall outwards from our wide-open leisure suit shirts, that we're all dancing along to "Night on Disco Mountain", and that all is right with the world.

In case you're curious, you can find here an mp3 of the first 6 minutes of the "Saturday Night Mever Medley" and you can find here an mp3 of the subsection thereof entitled "Night on Disco Mountain". Enjoy, I guess?

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