What Is This Site All About?
This site arose out of a passion, some would say an obsession, for show music obscura. A definitive, comprehensive discography of show music recordings is probably a physical impossibility and, in any case, is a project that is beyond my limited resources and capabilities. Fortunately, the subject of cast recordings is already fairly well documented in the literature, and the need to catalog every recording of a particular hit song from a given hit musical is of dubious value. Accordingly, within certain semi-arbitrary boundaries, it is the webmaster's intent to collect in one place a growing collection of discographical information about show music recordings other than (with a few exceptions) original cast, foreign, revival, or full studio cast albums. This would include demos, certain live show recordings, highlights discs, and pop covers of individual songs from musicals that, for various reasons, never received the cast album treatment. I also list recordings of songs cut from shows that did get a cast recording (or that were for some reason omitted from the cast album), as well as songs subsequently added to the score of the musical.
The reasons for a lack of a cast album are many.
The most likely reason is because the musical was not successful or
sufficiently long-lived so as to encourage or permit record companies to record
the show's score with the original cast. Indeed, under the current economic
climate, a show might be able to run for many months on Broadway without any
record label expressing interest in recording the show's score simply because
the costs involved in producing a cast album recording may greatly exceed the
profit likely to be made from anticipated sales of such a recording. Moreover,
many musicals close on the road or get abandoned at some point during their
developmental stage. These shows may not have worked, but they often contained
a number of wonderful songs by talented composers and lyricists. In the case of
older musicals, they may have been produced prior to the advent of the "long
playing" cast album, at which point only individual recordings of the show's
big hit numbers were likely to have been recorded or, in rare cases, a 45 rpm
extended play or 78 rpm album of show highlights may at best have been
released. In addition, there were recording bans and musician's strikes in the
1940s that prevented certain shows in that period from being recorded, leaving
notable gaps in our recorded history of musical theatre.
The first recordings of a musical's score are usually in the form of one or more demonstration recordings used to drum up investor and producer interest in a show. Prior to the advent of rock and roll or, at least, during the period when show music rather uneasily co-existed with rock music in the popular music scene, demonstration recordings were also used as a means to plug songs in the hopes that a record company might want to record either the official cast album or have one of their stable of artists record one or more of its songs. These recordings were generally performed either by the composers themselves or by uncredited and often anonymous studio singers. These demos are of particular interest to show music collectors because they represent the show's songs in their earliest and purest forms, frequently with lyrics slightly different from those eventually used in the show. In addition, they often contain the only cially available renditions of numbers that never made it into rehearsal, or numbers that might have been cut during tryouts.
However, more often than not, demos exist only in the form of work tapes, mp3 recordings, and CDrs which generally are not available to the public. I have elected to concentrate only on the commercial demos and to ignore such working demos unless they have been commercially issued (such as a bonus track on a commercial CD), with one exception. If a cast album for a musical exists, I have tried, for sake of completeness, to note demo recordings of any cut or omitted songs of which I am aware. Working demos for shows that were never recorded, however, generally are not included on this website.
As avid show music collectors are aware, there are often unauthorized live (i.e., bootleg) recordings of original or replacement cast performances. For the most part, such recordings are of dubious legality and not generally available through commercial channels. Occasionally, however, such recordings have been transferred to vinyl or compact disc (usually a CDr), sometimes with the authors' permission, and have been available to a limited extent through commercial channels. While it is not the intent of this site to promote bootleg recordings, the existence of such recordings is occasionally noted, particularly if they are of particular historical significance.
The original (or revival) cast album is an important, but hardly the sole, means for promoting and preserving a musical's score. In the LP period, even musicals that were only moderately successful were often recorded by studio casts (both vocal and instrumental). In recent times, there has been efforts in some quarters to produce studio cast albums of important scores by major songwriters that had, for whatever reason, gone unrecorded (e.g., musicals by the Gershwins) or studio cast albums of flop musicals that had developed a certain cult status over time. Such albums are generally outside the scope of this website. However, promo discs, medleys and highlight selections, and singles, especially those with original cast members, will be documented for shows that failed to receive a cast album of one kind or another.
In the past, the public's first exposure to a musical's score often was not via a cast album but through one or more pop singles recorded prior to the show's opening. Radio airplay of these singles might be used to promote the show during out-of-town tryouts and generate business for a show prior to its opening. Whether or not a show was commercially successful, it was hoped that certain songs from a musical might become extractable hits that could be sung by various popular singers of the day. The hits, of course, would be widely recorded and, if they became standards, recorded by subsquent generations of singers as well. If, however, the songs selected were subsequently cut from a show or the show itself was not recorded, they might well become the only recordings or one of a handful of recordings of that song. The orchestrations and performance styles for these pop singles, however, were usually very different from those encountered on cast albums.
Pop music is, of course, notorious for having a short
shelf-life. If a song didn't catch on with the record-buying public, it
generally faded into obscurity. Certain adventurous singers, however, looking
for fresh material to record may, from time to time, unearth and record songs
on an album that for some reason were never recorded or, if recorded, failed to
catch on with the general public yet deserved a second hearing. This is often
the case when the singer's album is devoted to the songs of a given lyricist or
composer where, in addition to spotlighting the songwriter's greatest hits, a
certain novelty or freshness to the proceedings is insured by including some
lesser known or change of pace material.
As noted above, there are a number of books and on-line resources that compile information about cast album recordings and many of these references are listed in the "Acknowledgements" section of this website. This project owes a great debt to David Hummel's grounding-breaking work "The Collector's Guide To The American Musical Theatre," perhaps the first attempt to compile information about demo, bootleg, and cover recordings in addition to cast album information. However, Hummel's book has been out of print for almost thirty years, and thus does not include any entries about more recent shows. Moreover, since it predates the advent of the CD, it does not include any information on CD reissues of 78 r.p.m. recordings, and concentrates mainly on American musicals. Robert Seeley and Rex Bunnett's book, "London Musical Shows on Record 1889-1989," provides counterpart coverage for commercial recordings of material from British shows. However, it likewise has not been updated in more than two decades and like, Hummel's book, does not purport to compile comprehensive information on show covers. Jack Raymond's landmark work, "Show Music On Record: The First One Hundred Years," is probably the most complete reference for U.S. original cast, studio cast, and musical soundtrack recordings, and painstakingly attempts to compile comprehensive reissue information for its original cast member recordings. However, it largely eschews pop cover recordings, as well as instrumental and jazz cover albums of Broadway shows which often contain recordings of cut songs. Consequently, the aim of this site is to compile information that fell through the cracks of the established reference books, to update existing information to reflect new releases and reissue efforts, and to otherwise attempt to provide reasonably comprehensive information on show music covers.
It was decided early on that, if a cast album existed for a given show, no attempt would generally be made to compile information about covers of songs on the cast album. Thus, the focus in that case would only be on cut songs and songs omitted from the cast album, on the theory that there was limited utility in compiling all known records of a song like "The Impossible Dream" and the major recordings of such a song could be easily found in the literature. If no cast album exists, then an attempt has been made to compile information about all known covers for songs from that score. However, in the event that a song became a "standard" (which I've arbitrarily defined as one having roughly a hundred or more recordings), I have not attempted to compile discological information for such a number (except, in some case, original cast or composer recordings of standard). Also, no attempt has been made to compile discological information for every format or reissue of a given song or album. Generally, only the earliest known recording of a particular cover is listed (if reasonably available or known to the author), followed in brackets by the most recent, important, and/or conveniently available reissues of that song or album.
For this site to be useful and as comprehensive as possible, I encourage visitors to suggest contribute information about recordings not found on this site for the shows covered so far.
There are two basic ways to navigate through this site. The first is to review listings show by show. Clicking on the "Musical Index" link on the index page will call up a page where the show titles are sorted alphabetically in the left frame. Song title and recording information will appear in the right frame.
The second way to navigate throught this site is to use the search engine. Clicking on the "Search This Site" link on the index page will call up a search engine in the right frame. You can search not only for a show title but for any text on this site, such as the name of a singer or a given song title.