Monday, June 1, 2015

A rather confused 'Boy'

Silly me: Until a few hours ago, I thought Fantasy's Max Weiss was solely responsible for the error-prone liner notes on Guaraldi's LPs, back in the day.

Turns out Columbia Records is equally guilty.

The Rod McKuen album
The past several hours of research and careful listening were prompted by a recent discussion in the Film Score Monthly message board, which undoubtedly resulted from the recent announcement of the CD re-issue (at long last!) of a Rod McKuen LP that is significant with respect to the Peanuts/Guaraldi oeuvre. The FSM thread's initial post is an honest attempt to distinguish between the Guaraldi combo's A Boy Named Charlie Brown album, with music drawn from the 1963 Lee Mendelson documentary that he never was able to sell to television; and the 1970 Columbia Records story-score LP, also titled A Boy Named Charlie Brown, and which served as the closest thing to an actual soundtrack for that 1969 film; and Rod McKuen's 1970 LP, also rather deceptively titled A Boy Named Charlie Brown, which appears to be a film score but actually is a collection of McKuen's music from the Peanuts film and three other movies he scored, Joanna, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and Me, Natalie. It's worth noting, as well, that the McKuen album tracks are re-recordings and different performances, and not actual music from the film(s) in question.

Got all that?

Unfortunately, the initial FSM post and subsequent dialogue revealed misinformation regarding how many songs McKuen actually contributed to the 1969 Peanuts film, which piqued my curiosity ... and led to my discovery that the Columbia Records story-soundtrack LP is guilty of serious errors.

And, sadly, these mistakes have been repeated by no less an authority than the American Film Institute's Catalog of Feature Films 1961-1970, which has a blatantly wrong entry regarding A Boy Named Charlie Brown; this was duly cited by an FSM message board contributor who certainly had no reason to suspect an AFI publication.

All of which goes to show how pernicious bad data can become, once it migrates to the Internet.

This blog post, then, is an effort to set the record straight.

The film story/soundtrack album
First of all, the source of the problem: The Columbia LP is a condensed, storybook-style adaptation of the film, with excerpts of the dialogue heard above the score. For the most part, the LP employs the film's existing music cues, sometimes in the same places — sometimes not — and sometimes re-tracked behind newly recorded narrative "bridges" that describe primarily visual action. The LP also uses a few alternate takes not heard in the movie.

Each of the LP's two sides is a single long track. On the back of the LP sleeve, in the third column, an anonymous author attempted to divide each of these two tracks into distinct sections, by assigning sometimes arbitrary titles to each short "chapter." Each of these titles, in turn, is credited to one of five composers (or combined composers). And this is where the errors crept in, because McKuen is cited for all sorts of things that seem to be different songs ... but actually are reprises of the three songs he actually wrote for the film.

The misleading information, in part
To make matters even more confusing, these LP tracks employ the music in a way that has nothing to do with either the film's cue sheet, or a much more recent true score project which, alas, never saw the light of day (a lamentable situation I detailed in an earlier post).

I've therefore done what I obviously should have done years ago, and sussed out the actual contents of the Columbia LP, in terms of what you're hearing when, and who wrote it.

Starting with the latter, let's establish authorship.

As mentioned, McKuen contributed three songs: the title tune ("A Boy Named Charlie Brown"), "Failure Face" and "Champion Charlie Brown."

A fourth song, "I Before E," is by conductor/arranger John Scott Trotter (music) and Bill Melendez and Al Shean (lyrics).

Guaraldi used six of his own compositions throughout the film: "Charlie Brown's All-Stars," "Baseball Theme," "Blue Charlie Brown," "Linus and Lucy," "Skating" and "Lucifer's Lady."

Trotter delivered four of his own original compositions: "Cloud Dreams," "Catatonic Blues," "Bus Wheel Blues" and "Blue Puck." He also orchestrated "broader" instrumental versions of the songs by McKuen and Guaraldi.

Finally, one track must be credited to a certain Ludwig Van Beethoven.

The following lists give the LP's "chapter titles" first, followed by the actual compositions employed — which, in some cases, match the chapter titles — and who performs them.

So, let's begin with...


0:00  "A Boy Named Charlie Brown" — vocal, sung by McKuen
2:45  "Cloud Dreams" — performed by the orchestra
3:49  "Charlie Brown and His All-Stars" — actually "Charlie Brown's All-Stars," performed first by Guaraldi's combo, which then is joined by the orchestra
6:30  "We Lost Again" — actually "Baseball Theme," performed first by Guaraldi's combo, and then orchestrated; at 8:00, this segues to an orchestral instrumental version of "A Boy Named Charlie Brown"
9:31  "Blue Charlie Brown" — performed by Guaraldi's combo
13:27  "Time to Go to School" — actually "Linus and Lucy," performed by Guaraldi's combo
14:17  "I Only Dread One Day at a Time" — actually an orchestral version of "Charlie Brown's All-Stars"
15:27  "Failure Face" — vocal, sung by the Peanuts gang
16:12  "By Golly, I'll Show 'Em" — actually "Catatonic Blues," by the orchestra
19:20  "Class Champion" — actually an orchestral instrumental version of "Champion Charlie Brown"
19:42  "I Before E" — vocal, sung by Charlie Brown and Linus
24:36  "School Spelling Bee" — a brief orchestral instrumental reprise, with mouth harp, of "I Before E"
25:14  "Champion Charlie Brown" — vocal, sung by the Peanuts gang


0:00  "Start Boning Up on Your Spelling, Charlie Brown" — dialogue only; no music
1:45  "You'll Either Be a Hero ... or a Goat" — actually an orchestral instrumental version of "Champion Charlie Brown"
2:50  "Bus Station" — also a piano/orchestral instrumental version of "Champion Charlie Brown"
4:27  "Bus Wheel Blues" — orchestral version
5:42  "Do Piano Players Make a Lot of Money?" — actually a snatch of the third movement of Beethoven's Pathétique Sonata in C minor, Op. 13
6:18  "I've Got to Get My Blanket Back" — actually a minor-key orchestral version of "Linus and Lucy," which segues (at 7:28) to an orchestral instrumental version of "A Boy Named Charlie Brown," and then segues back (at 9:02) to a slow combo version of "Linus and Lucy"
10:44  "Big City" — actually a slow combo version of "Linus and Lucy"
11:48  "Snoopy on Ice" — actually a combo version of "Skating," which segues (at 13:24) to an orchestral presentation of "Blue Puck"
15:54  "Found Blanket" — actually a combo and orchestral version of "Linus and Lucy"
16:28  "National Spelling Bee" — actually an orchestral instrumental version of "Champion Charlie Brown"
17:03  "B-E-A-G-E-L" — dialogue only, no music, until it segues (at 21:01) to a string-heavy orchestral instrumental version of "A Boy Named Charlie Brown"
21:52  "Bus Wheel Blues" — orchestral reprise, with mouth harp
22:26  "Homecoming" — actually an orchestral instrumental version of "Champion Charlie Brown"
24:17  "I'm Never Going to School Again" — actually an orchestral instrumental version of "A Boy Named Charlie Brown"
24:49  "Welcome Home, Charlie Brown" — a combo rendition of "Lucifer's Lady"
25:45  "A Boy Named Charlie Brown" — vocal, sung by McKuen

And there you have it. If anybody ever untangles the legal rights and re-masters this LP for CD release, let's hope they get it right...

MAY 2016 UPDATE: Although no progress has been made with respect to such a CD, I'm happy to report that gentle nudging has resulted in the AFI database information being corrected, which can be verified via the AFI's online Catalog of Feature Films. We can't do anything about the incorrect information in the print edition cited above, but maybe this more accurate online entry will overtake the existing errors that have been migrating via the Web.


Bob DiMucci said...

I’m the original poster from the Film Score Monthly message board that started this recent discussion of A BOY NAMED CHARLIE BROWN. I appreciate all the information you’ve provided regarding what actually appears on the various releases. You could probably do all a favor by communicating with Bob Birchard, the current editor of the American Film Institute Catalog, and give him the benefit of your research.

The AFI Catalog has moved strictly to an online format, so that errors that appeared in earlier printed versions may be corrected. (The volume on 1960s films was published nearly 40 years ago in 1976.) But a look at the current online entry for A BOY NAMED CHARLIE BROWN reveals the same errors:

AFI Catalog editor Bob Birchard can be reached at

Bob DiMucci

Derrick Bang said...

Bob ... many thanks for your kind words. I'm also grateful for your involvement in the "gentle nudge" that encouraged me to finally set this situation straight. Until reading the FSM discussion that you initiated, I honestly hadn't considered how misleading those Columbia LP "credits" could be. I'll definitely get in touch with Bob Birchard, and hopefully we can establish a better information pool, moving forward.

Jim M. said...

Derrick -- do you think the recent release of McKuen's album could, in any way, help to start untangling issues that killed the other soundtrack/score release?

Derrick Bang said...

Unlikely. Considerable experience suggests that rights issues become more entangled after an artist's death, not less. Anything is possible, of course — and I'll certainly never give up — but I'm not holding my breath over anything happening soon.

Bob DiMucci said...

In checking the AFI Catalog entry today for the film A BOY NAMED CHARLIE BROWN, I see that the entry has been corrected to reflect that only three songs were composed by Rod McKuen and one by John Scott Trotter.

Derrick Bang said...

Indeed yes, and thanks for passing that along. It took some time and a few email exchanges, but Truth finally has been established. Bob, thanks again for initially bringing this situation to our attention.