Sunday, May 21, 2017

Setting the record straight ... again!

The argument was driving me into sputtering incoherence.

Many fans and I were overjoyed, back in late summer 1998, with the unexpected arrival of Fantasy’s Charlie Brown’s Holiday Hits: the first collection of (mostly) new Vince Guaraldi Peanuts themes in 30 years. And, like many of those same fans, I was puzzled by the CD’s first track: a cue titled “Joe Cool,” which most assuredly was not the iconic tune that boasted Vince’s richly expressive vocal. This new disc’s so-called “Joe Cool” wasn’t even close to the actual item: clearly, a mistake. One of two unfortunate things had happened: Either somebody had put the wrong track on the disc, intending to lead off with the actual “Joe Cool,” or the existing track had been mis-labeled. The former seemed unlikely, because the disc’s entire purpose was to present previously unreleased tracks (aside from the final three, lifted from A Charlie Brown Christmas). But the latter hypothesis also didn’t feel right, because the mysterious Track #1 didn’t sound like Guaraldi. A close approximation, perhaps, but not the real deal.

But that was 1998, years before I even considered writing Guaraldi’s biography, and therefore years before I established contacts, colleagues and friends at Fantasy/Concord. I filed the matter as a vexing conundrum, and forgot about it.

Now, however, it was early 2010; I had just been hired by Fantasy/Concord to write liner notes for the impending release of a new Guaraldi anthology, the character-themed Peanuts Portraits. A few days earlier, I had been sent the track list and corresponding music files. There were ... issues.

Three biggies, to be precise:

1) One Guaraldi track, “Jennie L,” was lifted from the 1975 prime-time special Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown. It’s a lovely little tune, but the Peanuts neighborhood never featured a character named Jennie, with or without the “L.” Guaraldi frequently gave his cues unusual, whimsical and even puzzling names, and I’ve never been able to source the reason behind this particular title.

2) Charlie Brown’s sister Sally was represented by a track titled “Sally’s Blues” ... but the corresponding music file was not the cue of that title found within the 1974 prime-time special It’s a Mystery, Charlie Brown. Frankly, the track didn’t even sound like Guaraldi.

3) To my horror, they also lifted the same bogus “Joe Cool” track from Charlie Brown’s Holiday Hits.

Additionally, I spotted some lesser issues concerning the cue titles “Charlie’s Blues” and “Blue Charlie Brown,” but Guaraldi himself bears some of the blame there, because of the numerous variant cues he delivered with different combinations of the words “Charlie” and “Blue” in the title. (For a more detailed explanation of those two tracks, see my Guaraldi discography.)

Anyway, I began what soon became an incredibly frustrating, weeks-long argument with several people. Diplomacy (on my end) was essential, because this was my first commission from Fantasy, and I didn’t want to blow any future gigs. Sadly, I quickly learned that a) corporations — and certain individuals within them — simply refuse to acknowledge mistakes; and b) will justify said mistakes by repeating them, in an effort to “make them true” (a method of “lie perpetuation” that seems to have become rather popular, these days).

I made the initial mistake of citing all five problems in a single letter, which overwhelmed everybody, and made me sound like a nit-picky crank; it became necessary to tackle the errors individually. I started with “Jennie L,” figuring that All Concerned would accept the word of a recognized Peanuts historian with several books under his belt. Not hardly. I finally had to get a note from a colleague at the Charles M. Schulz Museum, on their letterhead, verifying my insistence that no such character ever had appeared in the strip. At which point, “Jennie L” was axed. One down.

Flush with that success, I tackled the bogus “Joe Cool,” and you won’t be surprised by Fantasy’s initial response: “No, that must be right, because we lifted it directly from Charlie Brown’s Holiday Hits.” I lost track of the number of times I heard variations on that reply, from several different people. I finally sent everybody an MP3 of Guaraldi singing the actual “Joe Cool,” which silenced argument from all but one individual, who then took a new tack: “Maybe Guaraldi used the title twice.” And, to lend further weight to his stubborn unwillingness to cede the point, he added, “Besides, when Charlie Brown’s Holiday Hits came out, back in ’98, not one person wrote or called us, to say that that track was wrong.”

“I didn’t know you then,” I replied, having taken a deep breath, in order to remain as calm as possible. “Believe me, if I had, you’d have gotten a call the day it was released.”

We went back and forth a few more times, and — thankfully — he finally surrendered. They subbed in an actual Guaraldi “Joe Cool.” Two down.

I then concentrated on the so-called “Sally’s Blues,” but — weirdly — met a wall of refusal. The impression I got was that the Fantasy folks were taking this personally, and, having been “shamed” into making changes twice, they weren’t about to do it a third time. I also had less leverage with this one, because while I could say what the track wasn’t, I had no idea what it actually was (which also was true, at that point, of the bogus “Joe Cool”).

The major point I kept hammering was that — having studied Vince’s music extremely closely — I was pretty sure that the so-called “Sally’s Blues” and “Joe Cool” weren’t even Guaraldi. But, vexingly, I couldn’t prove it.

(Not then, anyway.)

So, that’s why Peanuts Portraits includes a “Sally’s Blues” that isn’t, and why “Charlie’s Blues” and “Blue Charlie Brown” are something else (but at least something else by Guaraldi). As the credited author of the liner notes, I took the heat from half a dozen individuals, a couple of them quite impolite, who wrote and wanted to know why I was dumb enough to make such “obvious mistakes” with the three cues and their titles. One can but shrug and move on.

But the bigger mystery remained. I had a strong suspicion that both questionable tracks came from the Saturday morning Charlie Brown & Snoopy Show, which aired from 1983 to ’86, years after Guaraldi had died; those episodes featured music by Ed Bogas and Desiree Goyette, who also were scoring the prime-time specials at that point. Some of their cues definitely tried to imitate Guaraldi’s style. But I kept putting that project on the back burner, because of the time required to watch all 18 episodes of the show.

Years passed.

Then, a few days ago, I was prodded into action by a fellow Guaraldi fan named Christopher, who commented on an earlier blog post and pointed me to a YouTube video with a brief clip from an episode of The Charlie Brown & Snoopy Show, featuring — happy surprise! — a portion of that bogus “Joe Cool” cue.

But only a portion, which made it a challenge.

And, thanks to some assistance from my buddy — and fellow 5CP website author — Scott, victory has been achieved.

Let’s first analyze the bogus “Joe Cool” cue. It’s actually “built” from three shorter cues, in an A-B-A format. The first portion, running just over a minute, is a spritely bit of “traveling music.” Then, at 1:05, it shifts to a brief, marching-style “fanfare” that concludes with a piccolo (?) trill, at 1:23. Finally, the initial “traveling cue” repeats until the song concludes, at 2:03.

Watching even a few episodes of The Charlie Brown & Snoopy Show quickly reveals that Bogas and Goyette wrote a library of cues — some very short, none running longer than about a minute — that weren’t scene-specific, and were designed to be used interchangeably: often connected, back-to-back, for longer segments. A few different arrangements of the “traveling music” are heard many times, in different segments; similarly, the “fanfare” also is heard several times, generally attached to other cues.

The goal, thought, was to find something close to the exact arrangement/combination that got published on Charlie Brown’s Holiday Hits.

It has been found.

Snoopy’s Football Career, the 10th episode of the first season, debuted on November 19, 1983. The final segment, titled “Teaching,” finds Peppermint Patty trying to teach Marcie how to run a football play. Toward the end of that sketch, the “traveling” cue begins: the precise arrangement heard on the Holiday Hits CD. When Marcie walks home and Peppermint Patty turns her attention to Charlie Brown, the music segues to the “fanfare” cue, again just like on the CD. After the fanfare concludes, the music shifts to something different.

Note that the CD track’s repeat of the “traveling” cue — after the “fanfare” — is virtually identical, for the most part, to the first version; it’s simply shorter, and concludes more quickly.

The ersatz “Sally’s Blues” also is heard several times, during the course of various Charlie Brown & Snoopy Show episodes. The best version — an arrangement identical to the track used on Peanuts Portraits — can be found in It’s That Team Spirit, Charlie Brown, the 12th episode of the first season, which debuted December 3, 1983. The cue is used in the segment “Peppermint Patty,” a bit before the eight-minute mark. It’s definitely the same arrangement, although the TV version cuts out a bit sooner.

To sum up, then, and in the interest of setting the record straight for posterity:

• The first track of Charlie Brown’s Holiday Hits, contrary to what the disc claims, is a mash-up of two short cues written by Ed Bogas and Desiree Goyette, for The Charlie Brown & Snoopy Show.

• The second track of Peanuts Portraits, contrary to what the disc claims, also is a cue written by Ed Bogas and Desiree Goyette, for The Charlie Brown & Snoopy Show.

Neither track, to be emphatic, is written or performed by Guaraldi; ergo, the sidemen listings for both tracks also are incorrect.

Not that most of the world will ever know, because Shazam, Soundhound and related apps will continue to mis-identify both tracks until our sun winks out...


Doug A. said...

Excellent sleuthing, as usual! Glad to have that vexing mystery solved, at least for those of us with our ears to the ground for all things Guaraldi.

I can also think of another reason why record label types might be hesitant to concede errors: Royalty payments. Presumably they mis-paid to the estate of the (incorrectly) presumed composer and performer, and then would now owe past due royalties to Bogas and Goyette (who, it seems, would have an interest -- and standing -- to try to correct the information used by Shazam, Soundhound, and other apps).

Derrick Bang said...

Very astute, and you're right; this could open a vexing can of worms. I wonder if Ed and Desiree read this blog...?