Monday, January 18, 2010

Who Are You? I Really Wanna Know!

One of my favorite moments in one of my favorite Woody Allen films, 1987's "Radio Days," came early on as Allen's narration set up the story line and locale for this sweet, autobiographical tale of a young boy growing up during World War 2 and getting through the days thanks to the radio and its players. As Woody Allen sets the stage on a windswept rainy day in Far Rockaway, we hear a simple, yet gorgeous piano trio version of the Kurt Weill/Maxwell Anderson classic "September Song."

There are so many moments in this movie where the songs and visuals just make minced meat out of your emotions, but this particular scene really hit home for me. I don't believe the era should make a difference. If you were brought up around music, you will appreciate the song and story associations, even if you were born after World War 2. Woody's "September Song" could just as well be your "Elenore" by The Turtles.

I remember seeing and loving this film on opening day. I also remember being preoccupied with "September Song," occasionally drifting off from the movie, trying to guess who it was that performed this version. Art Tatum? Bud Powell? There is a bit of violin, but it is not Django and Stephane Grappelli. I paid very close attention to the closing credits, which listed what seemed like 200 songs and performers. Of course, the only....I REPEAT... THE ONLY song that did not list a performer, just a composer credit, was "September Song."

I kid you not.

Almost 25 years later, and no one has been able to give me an answer better than, "Maybe it was like the RKO orchestra or something."

Speaking of "Elenore" by The Turtles, cut to a few weeks ago:

I am watching a screener of "Pirate Radio," which is also filled with a ton of music, this time from the sixties. (The movie was fine. I didn't shut it off, which is a huge accomplishment for me.) There is a wedding scene, and "Elenore" by The Turtles is playing. As my friend, bass player extraordinaire Sal Maida would say, "That is an 'in the coffin' song. It's coming with me when I go."
I feel the same. "Elenore," just randomly slapped into any part of "The Missouri Breaks," would have taken that movie from 2 to 3 stars for me, but I digress.

As the scene unfolds, so does "Elenore," into a wonderful instrumental, that was part muzak-y, part Pet Sounds-y, and absolutely infectious. There went the rest of the movie. I started drifting. I couldn't wait to get to the closing credits to find....NOTHING!


This shouldn't be allowed.

Here is an audio clip of that scene from "Radio Days." Don't have one from "Pirate Radio."


Can anyone help with either?


Anonymous said...

There's a jazz pianist that works with Woody a lot named Dick Hyman.

Here's an NPR Piano Jazz session in which Hyman plays September Song.

Sal Nunziato said...

I considered Dick Hyman, possibly recording the version strictly for the movie, but nothing I've found sounds close.

FD13NYC said...

I saw Pirate Radio on the flight back from Sicily in September. I wondered what that Elenore piece was too, very nice. I searched but, no go. I liked the version of 98.6 by the Bystanders, wondered why they didn't use the Keith version though, oh well.

Here's another, was there ever a soundtrack to one of my favorite Woody movies Broadway Danny Rose? I always wanted to have the few songs Lou Canova sang as a goof. Any thoughts??

Good version of September song. At least Radio Days had a soundtrack.

Anonymous said...

Sal --

In "Radio Days," "September Song" is performed by Dick Hyman and studio musicians.

Dick Hyman
September Song: Plays The Music Of Kurt Weill
Music Minus One PR 01


Don't know if this is the same one -- the short cut doesn't have other players on it.

Sal Nunziato said...

Thanks for this. It's not the same version, but I guess we're getting closer.

Paul in Brentwood said...

I have a European two-disc collection titled "Woody Allen's Movie Music" and the performance is credited to Harry James and His Orchestra from 1947. Record label is The Sound Track Factory and the disc was made in Spain.

Sal Nunziato said...

The performance on the CD may be credited to Harry James, but there isn't a trumper to be heard on the version in the movie.

Thanks for trying.

Onur said...

That's my favorite scene from the movie as well. I hope you can figure out who it was.

Anonymous said...

I too have searched for years to find a fully recorded version of "September Song" from "Radio Days" as it plays in the film. Hyman only plays the opening notes, but they are devastating and set the mood perfectly. All my research has uncovered is pretty much what else is here: it was recorded only for the film and was never a part of the released soundtrack or used on another recording. It almost seems like a cruel joke considering that just about everything ever recorded is available somewhere.