Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Vinyl Magic: The First Official Album

Today it's common to find yourself in a shop at Walt Disney World or Disneyland and be confronted with a variety of music Compact Discs all themed to a particular facet or aspect of your visit to the park: there are Magic Kingdom Event CDs, Haunted Mansion CDs, and of course the ubiquitous "Official Album of the Walt Disney World Resort". Today these 2 CD sets are well produced, high quality source audio presented just for the occasion.

Music to remind you of your visit to a Disney theme park has always more or less been a part of the theme park experience, as early as the early days of Disneyland when 78 records were distributed through Mattel on durable cardboard about "Your Trip to... Disneyland! (On Records)", or the seminal if hokey "Walt Disney Takes You to Disneyland" LP from 1955. Later this evolved to include such full length long playing records like "Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room" with the full show on one side and an audio rendition of the Jungle Cruise on the other side with Thurl Ravenscroft as your skipper, or the full-show Hall of Presidents LP from 1971.

The first time the now-venerable term "The Official Album of..." appeared was in 1980, on this 12 inch long playing record which includes such classic tracks as "Grim Grinning Ghosts" from the Haunted Mansion, as well as some more obscure items like a track from "The Blue Grass Boys" who once haunted the eastwardly portion of Frontierland at the Magic Kingdom. It's really a compilation of a variety of different, already published material, culling tracks from records like the 7-inch "Main Street Electrical Parade Picture Disc", "Walt Disney World's The Hall of Presidents", "Walt Disney Productions' America Sings", and others.

But it is a uniquely satisfying musical experience, and one of the few park music overviews which was made widely available on vinyl record. The recordings are well chosen and some have become conventions of such releases - such as choosing, for example, the singing busts music loop to represent The Haunted Mansion, which continues to this day. There is a satisfying medley of the sounds of Main Street and a fairly satisfying condensation of Country Bear Jamboree into a few minutes on side one and America Sings on side two. There is even a snippet of the very end of the Hall of Presidents to bring out the record on a fairly strong note, itself a snippet taken directly from the 1978 4-LP set "The Magical Music of Walt Disney".

Side One:
Main Street Electrical Parade
Pirates of the Caribbean
The Music of Main Street
- The Dapper Dans
- The Saxophone Quartet
- The Main Street Pianist
The Enchanted Tiki Room
The Blue Grass Boys
Country Bear Jamboree

Side Two:
The Disneyland Band
It's A Small World
The Steel Drum Band
The Haunted Mansion
The Royal Street Bachelors
America Sings
The Fife and Drum Quartet
The Hall of Presidents - Mr. Lincoln

A lot of this material is culled from a fairly obscure little 1973 picture disc called A Musical Souvenir of Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, an impressive looking but fairly dull compilation of tracks performed by the various park musicians of the day:

Side One:
1) The Walt Disney World Band - Walt Disney Medley
a) Hi To You
b) Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah
c) Whistle While You Work
2) The Dapper Dans - The Coney Island Washboard
3) The Saxophone Quartet - Medley
a) Minnie's Yoo Hoo
b) Hurry
4) The Main Street Pianist - Maple Leaf Rag
5) The Pearly Band - Mary Poppins Medley
a) A Spoonful of Sugar
b) Chim Chim Cheree
c) Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious
6) The Banjo Kings - Swanee River
7) The Fife and Drum Corps - Medley
a) Liberty Tree
b) British Grenadiers
8) The Kids of the Kingdom - I Love a Parade

Side Two:
1) The Town Band - Mickey Mouse March
2) The Tavern Singers - Medley
a) How Great is the Pleasure
b) To Our Musical Club
3) The Polka Band - Snow White Medley
a) Heigh-Ho
b) Whistle While You Work
4) The Blue Grass Boys - Tennessee
5) Mariachi Chaparral - Guadalajara
6) The Steel Drum Band - Adventureland Jump
7) The Walt Disney World Band - It's A Small World

As much as "The Official Album of Walt Disney World / Disneyland" reminds us of a simpler time in the Company's history when the two castle parks were her primary offering to us, the "Musical Souvenir" album takes us back even further, to days when very little of the park's in-house entertainment was pre-recorded, organized, or even planned. Costumed characters used to wander in and out of areas at will, and it wasn't an uncommon sight to see a lone musician or two wandering about, spreading the simple pleasure of live music. This is one thing sorely lacking in the parks today.

"The Magical Mystery Tour is coming to take you away!"

A handful of first year performing groups are missing from the lineup - notably absent is Karen Anders and Tommy Russell, who performed at the Mile Long Bar, and a small nautical trio who performed near 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Many of these groups undoubtably consisted of the same people, who then would go on to change clothes and put in appearances at the Golf Resort, or The Contemporary, or Fort Wilderness. The fate of many of these acts is fairly unknown, and photographs are even less common. The Steel Drum Band became known as J.P. and the Silver Stars and even was relocated to Disneyland for some time (the bandstand atop the Jungle Cruise queue was built for them) and some of the original musicians from this group perform in Animal Kingdom today. The Fife & Drum Corp - The Ancients - moved to EPCOT Center in 1982, and brought the Tavern singers along with them to become The Voices of Liberty. The Banjo Kings relocated out of Liberty Square and performed on Main Street in the late 80's, and the Saxophone quartet was reborn many years later, in a fashion, as today's "Toontown Tuners".

Perhaps best of all, better than the performances (by far..), is a little blub on the bottom of the LP sleeve, explaining who all of these groups are that we're having a Musical Souvenir of.

"THE WALT DISNEY WORLD BAND: This band of on-the-go musicians provides Magic Kingdom guests with plenty of Sousa marches, turn-of-the-century oldies, Disney classic favorites, and humorous arrangements of today's top show tunes. THE DAPPER DANS: These four 'happy men of Main Street' can be found in the shops and on the streetcorners singing your favorite barbershop melodies. THE SAXOPHONE QUARTET: (Keystone Kops) Dressed in nostalgic costumes of the 1920's, these talented saxophonists are ready for a musical chase down Main Street USA just when you least expect it! THE MAIN STREET PIANIST: Whether playing your favorite ragtime tune or leading a sing-along, this piano player is always adding to the happy mood of Walt Disney World's guests. THE PEARLY BAND: This versatile sextet from 'Mary Poppins' is forever ready with a fun treatment of a Disney classic while strolling through Fantasyland. THE BANJO KINGS: Sounding much the same as the original banjo 'pickers' of the 1800's, this duo takes guests back to those good old days on the riverboats. THE FIFE AND DRUM CORPS: Providing the authentic sounds of 1776, Walt Disney World's fifers and drummers give visitors to Liberty Square the feeling they are sharing a famous moment of American History. THE KIDS OF THE KINGDOM: This lively group of young singers entertains Tomorrowland guests with exciting production numbers and the latest hit songs. (Author's Note: THE WORST!!!!!!!)

THE TOWN BAND: The butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker all get together for some musical fun in Town Square. THE TAVERN SINGERS: Dining at Magic Kingdom restaurants is also a listening pleasure as these delightful voices sing a merry catch. THE POLKA BAND: It's always dance-time in Fantasyland when these 'old-world musicians' play your favorite polkas, waltzes, and schottisches. (Author's Note: you all have a favorite schottishe, right?) THE BLUE GRASS BOYS: Foot-tappin' mountain music has never sounded better than what you hear from this group in Walt Disney World's Frontierland. MARIACHI CHAPARRAL: Guests find themselves 'south of the border' when enjoying the music and songs old old Mexico performed by these authentic Mariachis. THE STEEL DRUM BAND: The energetic performances of this top Adventureland group of entertainers are much too captivating to be forgotten."
"Why? Because we like you!"

These two records, although now obviously out of print, are common enough finds on the secondary market, and provide enough entertainment and historical interest to make them worth seeking out for those of us who still enjoy dragging needles across slabs of plastic to make music.


Todd said...

Wow. This post was a happy slap of memory for me. I got the 1980 "Official" album as a souvenir on my first trip to Walt Disney World. It was six years before we went back, and I had listened to that album nonstop in the interim. Thanks for bringing it all back to me!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this great post. We too have the 1980 Official album, in addition to the Official Album of EPCOT Center. I so wish Disney would release all this old material on CD, and also make a compilation of the old Jack Wagner announcements from the parks and the monorail. Your Website is much appreciated, particularly your attention to detail when you reference a park by its name at a given point in time, such as EPCOT Center in 1982.

Zanna said...

I have that first album pictured! That and the original EPCOT Center album...but alas, nothing to play them on! Those were the days though...♥

BM said...

I also enjoyed the Official Disneyland/Walt Disney World album as a kid. My parents got it on a family trip to Disneyland shortly before I was born. As much as we played it, I'm surprised it still plays as well as it does (and I still do play it).

When my sisters and I weren't doing our own interpretive dances to the Baroque Hoedown I was usually listening to it alone while sitting on the living room couch and staring at the pictures on the back. This record and shows on The Disney Channel were all I knew of the parks until my first trip at age 8.

Anonymous said...

Disney is finally exhibiting some of its vast archives:

Terrance T said...

IMO, the 1980 Official Album of Disneyland/WDW is probably my all-time favorite theme park album and for two reasons: It was an audio souvenir of my very first trip to Disneyland that introduced me to the Park and classic attractions that are no longer with us-America Sings and Country Bear Jamboree. That first visit couldn't have ended with the parade that has touched my life forever-The Main Street Electrical Parade.

The other reason this LP stands out is the fact that there are TWO versions of the album. One version has a longer MSEP track and the Country Bears medley has Teddi Beara's song whereas the later versions have Terrance the Shaker's song and a shorter MSEP. I still play this album (yes, I have a turntable) while I have the updated versions on CD.

philphoggs said...

Oh yea forgotten I even had this album! Literally blew the dust off the jacket and cranked up the opening Main Street Electrical Parade for memories. No wonder why we are all hooked. By the way, the dust jacket has survived way better than the vinyl... original price on the plastic seal covering the jacket?.... $4.98

Kevin Kidney said...

I love these albums, and the "live" music selections are really good. More than ANYTHING, I miss hearing live Dixieland Jazz in New Orleans Square. I want banjos! I want clarinets! My adoration for classic Dixieland today is directly a result of the happy sound at Disneyland as a child. It was the best!

Anonymous said...

Things have obviously changed somewhat in the two years since you wrote this article, because you say they are "common enough finds on the secondary market"; yet the Souvenir Picture Disc LP just sold recently on eBay for $100.00 (non-auction), with the much more rare Adventureland Steel Drums LP selling for almost half that price (non-auction). I've found that virtually none of these 1970s park discs are what I would call plentiful in number any longer.

I also take issue with your criticisms of some of the performances on the Souvenir Picture Disc LP as "the worst" (referring to The Kids of the Kingdom, whose sound and arrangements I personally adored); you also refer to the printed description of the performers on the album's back sleeve as "better than the performances (by far)". The performances are no better or no worse, certainly, than any other recording featuring these exact same tracks.