Friday, February 18, 2022

Bits & bobs

Followers of this blog will recall that the various special releases promised for last year's Record Store Day — on Saturday, June 12 — included Guaraldi's “Baseball Theme,” pressed for the very first time as a stand-alone, 7-inch single. Alas, supply-chain issues and the ongoing vinyl shortage resulted in numerous titles being postponed or canceled; the Guaraldi single was one of the casualties.

Good news, folks: It now has been promised for Record Store Day 2022: Saturday, April 23. Mark your calendar!

By way of a reminder, the A-side features 1964's original soundtrack version of the song, while the B-side is an alternative studio take never before available on vinyl (although it is included on the album's 2014 CD re-release). 

“Baseball Theme” was one of many tunes Guaraldi wrote for the never-released 1964 documentary, A Boy Named Charlie Brown: to be used in a sequence devoted to Charlie Brown’s ill-fated efforts on the ball field. Guaraldi deftly leads his trio through the up-tempo instrumental track, accompanied by bassist Monty Budwig and drummer Colin Bailey. 

The limited-edition single is pressed on white vinyl and housed in a colorful jacket, featuring whimsical, baseball-themed images of Charlie Brown and Snoopy. Visit for a list of participating indie retailers. 


The San Francisco Chronicle recently published an excellent article concerning an honor bestowed to the famous Hyde Street Studios: a bronze plaque recognizing it as a legacy business in San Francisco, for its contributions to the history and identity of the neighborhood, and to the pantheon of pop music.

Way back in the day, when it was known as the Wally Heider Studios (and following his breakup with Fantasy), Guaraldi recorded many of his scores for Peanuts specials within its walls, starting with You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown, and concluding — on February 6, the day he later died — with It's Arbor Day, Charlie Brown

On February 6, 1974, Guaraldi and his trio were in that studio to record a live concert broadcast by KPFA and KPFB, much later released as the CD Live on the Air.

Guaraldi also spent several studio sessions, over the course of his final few years, recording tracks for a never-completed album: among them "Autumn Leaves," "Billie's Bounce," "No. 1 Snoopy Place," "Special Song" and "Your Song."


This isn't fresh news, but it was new to me.

Back in 2009, Fantasy released the two-disc Definitive Vince Guaraldi, which is a marvelous 31-song collection of Guaraldi's best work for that label, from early tunes such as "Calling Dr. Funk" to later Peanuts efforts, such as the title theme to A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. The package also included two previously unreleased tracks: "Blues for Peanuts" and an alternate take of "Autumn Leaves."

I somehow missed the fact that, in July 2019, Hal Leonard released a massive 216-page book in its "Artist Transcription" series, devoted to the music in this two-disc set, and bearing the same title.

It contains all 31 songs.

Let me assure you, these are not trivial arrangements; as promised by the series, they are "authentic, note-for-note transcriptions." Many of them — I'm looking at "On Green Dolphin Street" and "Manha de Carnaval" — are impressively dense; you'll need serious piano chops to play these puppies.

(But everybody loves a challenge, right?)

This is, without question, the most impressive Guaraldi song book released thus far. Better work on those finger exercises!

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Credits where due

By now, most avid fans know that all existing copies of A Charlie Brown Christmas, going back half a century — whether broadcast on television; or purchased on VHS, DVD or Blu-ray, or from iTunes and other such sources; or streamed — are absent the title credits acknowledgment of Coca-Cola's sponsorship. The credits now conclude after Snoopy blanket-whips Charlie Brown into a tree, with a vocal chorus of "Christmas Time Is Here" fading into silence rather abruptly.

But television viewers back in 1965 — and during the 1966 re-broadcast — got a bit more; Snoopy then blanket-whips Linus into a sign that reads, "Brought to you by the people in your town who bottle Coca-Cola." We also get a more reasonable fade of the song.

Perhaps a bit less well known is the fact that the same thing happens during the end credits, which — in all existing prints — conclude after acknowledging director/producer Lee Mendelson, animator Bill Melendez, and United Feature Syndicate; the gang's cheerful delivery of "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing" similarly fades rather abruptly. We no longer see the final title card, which reads "Merry Christmas, from the people who bottle Coca-Cola." And, needless to say, the song concludes properly.

Happily, these artifacts have been resurrected by intrepid Internet elves; they can be seen here and here.

Ah, but how many of you know that such shenanigans also compromised the next two Peanuts specials?

After Charlie Brown drops the high fly ball during the opening sequence of Charlie Brown's All-Stars, he dejectedly walks along a fence that credits Charles M. Schulz; he pushes a board up, to walk through the fence ... and that's all we see these days, as the music fades. But the sequence continues for another 10 seconds, as — now on the other side of the fence — poor Chuck trudges past signs that credit Coca-Cola and co-sponsor Dolly Madison Cakes. Check it out here.

(One suspects similar co-sponsor acknowledgments in the end credits, but — if true — they've yet to surface.)

The long-absent bits from It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown are even more fun. In all existings versions of this special, the title credits and music fade out after acknowledging Schulz, as an owl flies directly toward the screen. Ah, but the original sequence continues for an additional 17 delightful seconds: first crediting Coca-Cola via a scarecrow, as the panicked gang flees behind it; and then Dolly Madison Cakes, as Snoopy dances atop a pumpkin. Again, the conclusion of Guaraldi's title theme is much more satisfying, as can be seen (and heard) here.

Existing end credits conclude after acknowledging Mendelson, Melendez and United Feature Syndicate; the musical fade is quite abrupt and clumsy. But the infuriated Linus continues to berates Charlie Brown for another 10 seconds, during which Dolly Madison and Coca-Cola are acknowledged ... and, more crucially for us Guaraldi fans, his perky arrangement of "Charlie Brown Theme" comes to a proper conclusion. Check it out here.

I believe this practice ceased when the next special, You're in Love, Charlie Brown, came along in June 1967; by this point, fewer shows and specials were being sponsored by just one or two entities. But I won't be certain until somebody verifies having seen an archival copy of that original broadcast.


Speaking of A Charlie Brown Christmas, did sharp-eared viewers of the recent Marvel Universe series Hawkeye catch the use of the Guaraldi Trio's "Christmas Time Is Here"? The holiday-themed storyline included quite a few Christmas songs in each episode; Guaraldi's tune — the vocal version, sung by Charlie Brown and his friends — is the first heard in the fifth episode, "Ronin." it begins at 13:40, as Clint walks New York City's late-night streets to Grills' apartment, and continues for about 30 seconds while Grills welcomes him inside.

Needless to say, those showrunners have superb taste in music!


Shortly after this blog's previous post, the folks at Lee Mendelson Film Productions added seven more online folios of Vince Guaraldi's Peanuts themes. I supplemented the original list, but of course that post wasn't sent a second time via email, so you wouldn't necessarily know about the additions. Ergo, this is fresh notification that these titles have been added:

• "Bon Voyage"
• "It's a Mystery, Charlie Brown"
• "Charlie Brown's Wake-Up"
• "Charlie Brown's All-Stars"
• "Sassy Sally"
• "Schroeder's Wolfgang"
• "Woodstock's Dream"

You'll find links within the previous post.