07.27.12

The Olympics’ Greatest Hits

Posted in decomposing composers, Gymnastics, History's Great Hook-Ups, olympics, record collector disease at 5:37 pm by

The date is Friday, July 27, 2012. The time? 3:50 pm, EST. So, by my watch, the Games of the XXX Olympiad will open in about 10 minutes. I, for one, will not be watching. No, so long as this playlist takes on water, I’ll be watching something—anything—else. (The Orioles on MASN, HD maybe?) Duran or no Duran, whatever Danny Boyle decides there in Hype Park, here’s hoping I hear about one of these tomorrow morning:

“Barcelona”
Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé

Britain’s best Tanzanian rocker always had a penchant for drama and spectacle. So it made all kinds of sense for him to team up with the Barcelona-born Caballé for what was supposed to be the ’92 Summer Olympics theme. Unbeknownst to most, Mercury had contracted AIDS, and only a few hours after telling the world, he was dead at 45. And while Caballé did perform the sweeping, now bittersweet tune at the opening ceremony (with a terribly canned Mercury dubbed in, no less), it was officially replaced with some overwrought Andrew Lloyd Webber barf by Sarah Brightman and José Carreras for the closing of the games. The BBC, though, would have none of this disrespect and latent homophobia; they used Merc & Monty’s number throughout its coverage that summer.

Hymnen (Region III)
Karlheinz Stockhausen

A hallmark of electronic music—and perhaps the high-water mark of the late composer’s purely electro oeuvre—Hymnen takes as its main source material some 40 of the world’s national anthems and manipulates, maneuvers and massages them into one, two-hour “music of all countries and races.” A utopian conceit à la Milton, Hesse or James Hilton, Stockhausen divided his vision into four sections or regions, and according to his admittedly idiosyncratic directions, only “Region III” may be listened to separately. Dedicated to American iconoclast John Cage, “The Star Spangled Banner” is thus featured prominently here alongside Spain’s lyric-less “La Marcha Real,” as well as an entirely synthetic construction of the then USSR’s state hymn.

“Nadia’s Theme”
Barry De Vorzon and Perry Botkin, Jr.

Okay, stay with me here: Barry and Perry were nominated for a ’71 Grammy with a score that featured the tune “Cotton’s Dream” from Stanley Kramer’s film of Glendon Swarthout’s novel, Bless the Beasts and Children. (The Carpenters got nominated for an Oscar for the theme song proper.) Two years later, Botkin recast his and De Vorzon’s melody for a brand new half-hour CBS soap opera—a little show called The Young and The Restless. Three years later still, the 1976 Montreal Olympics are in full swing, and a 14-year-old Romanian by the name of Nadia Comaneci becomes the first gymnast to ever score a perfect 10. ABC’s Wild World of Sports begins airing montages of the lithe and nimble lil’ Commie accompanied by Botkin’s rehashing. A&M Records renames and re-releases the song as a single, fails to credit De Vorzon and is sued by him for nearly a quarter-of-a-million bicentennial dollars. A decade later, David Hasselhoff nearly kills the ditty on his album Lovin’ Feelings, while Mary J. Blige finishes the job in 2002.

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