A Fifth of Beethoven
|"A Fifth of Beethoven"|
|Single by Walter Murphy and the Big Apple Band|
|from the album Saturday Night Fever: The Original Movie Sound Track|
|Released||June 1, 1976|
|Writer(s)||Ludwig van Beethoven, Walter Murphy|
|Producer(s)||Thomas J. Valentino|
|Walter Murphy and the Big Apple Band singles chronology|
"A Fifth of Beethoven" is a disco instrumental recorded by Walter Murphy and the Big Apple Band. It was adapted by Murphy from the first movement of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. The record was produced by noted production music and sound effects recording producer Thomas J. Valentino. It was one of the most popular and memorable pieces of music from the disco era. The "Fifth" in the song's title is a pun, referencing a liquid measure approximately equal to one-fifth of a gallon, a popular size for bottles containing hard liquor, as well as Beethoven's Fifth Symphony from which the song was adapted.
The song when released entered the Billboard Hot 100 at number 80 on May 29, 1976, and took 19 weeks to reach number 1, where it stayed for one week becoming Murphy's best known work and his only Top 40 hit. Early in 1977, it was licensed to RSO Records for inclusion on the soundtrack to the movie Saturday Night Fever.
Even though Murphy played nearly every instrument on the instrumental, his record company cautioned that the record would stand a better chance if credited to a group rather than an individual. To Murphy's annoyance, they came up with the name Walter Murphy and the Big Apple Band, only to discover two days after its release that there was already a Big Apple Band. The name on the label was changed to The Walter Murphy Band and then simply to Walter Murphy.
In 1974, Murphy was in the process of writing a disco song for a commercial, when the producer gave him the idea of "updating classical music," which "nobody had done lately." He then mailed a demo tape to various record labels in New York. Although response was unimpressive, a rendition of Beethoven's "Symphony No. 5 in 'C' Minor" generated interest from the owner of Private Stock Records, Larry Uttal. Murphy agreed to produce the song under contract and recorded it in 1976. The song was a smash hit, and reached number 80 on the Hot 100 on May 29, 1976, eventually reaching number 1 within nineteen weeks, where it stayed for one week. An album under the same name was released later during the year; the album notably featured a rendition of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee" entitled "Flight '76", which reached number 44 on the Hot 100.
Robin Thicke's 2002 song "When I Get You Alone" is based on "A Fifth of Beethoven", as is "Enjoy Yourself" (1999) by A+. It was also featured in the game LittleBigPlanet 2, mixed with "Welcome To Jamrock" on DJ Hero 2, the movies Mystery Men, Semi-Pro, and The Stepford Wives.
A snippet of "A Fifth of Beethoven" can be heard during Chicago Bulls games, whenever the opposing team loses possession of the ball.
Charts and certifications
- "Thomas J. Valentino Is Dead; Early Sound Effects Producer". The New York Times. August 6, 1986. Retrieved April 23, 2010.
- Campbell, Mary (October 15, 1976). "Beethoven Arranger Having Ball". The News and Courier: 48.
- "Walter Murphy & The Big Apple Band – A Fifth Of Beethoven – Austriancharts.at" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
- "A fifth of Beethoven in Canadian Adult Contemporary Chart". Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved June 3, 2013.
- "A fifth of Beethoven in Canadian Top Singles Chart". Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved June 3, 2013.
- "Walter Murphy & The Big Apple Band - A Fifth Of Beethoven". Charts.de. Media Control.
- "Indice per Interprete: M". HitParadeItalia (it). Retrieved June 29, 2013.
- "Nederlandse Top 40 – Walter Murphy & The Big Apple Band search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40.
- "Dutchcharts.nl – Walter Murphy & The Big Apple Band – A Fifth Of Beethoven" (in Dutch). Mega Single Top 100.
- "Charts.org.nz – Walter Murphy & The Big Apple Band – A Fifth Of Beethoven". Top 40 Singles.
- "Norwegiancharts.com – Walter Murphy & The Big Apple Band – A Fifth Of Beethoven". VG-lista.
- John Samson. "A fifth of Beethoven in South African Chart". Retrieved June 3, 2013.
- "Swedishcharts.com – Walter Murphy & The Big Apple Band – A Fifth Of Beethoven". Singles Top 60.
- "Walter Murphy & The Big Apple Band – A Fifth Of Beethoven – swisscharts.com". Swiss Singles Chart.
- "1976 Top 40 Official UK Singles Archive - 14th August 1976". Official Charts Company. Retrieved June 3, 2013.
- "Walter Murphy Album & Song Chart History" Billboard Hot 100 for Walter Murphy. Retrieved June 1, 1976.
- "A Fifth of Beethoven awards on Allmusic". Allmusic. Retrieved June 3, 2013.
- "Canadian single certifications – The Walter Murphy Band – A Fifth of Beethoven". Music Canada.
- "American single certifications – Murphy_ Walter and The Big Apple Band – A Fifth of Beethoven". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH
"Play That Funky Music" by Wild Cherry
|Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
October 9, 1976
"Disco Duck" by Rick Dees and His Cast of Idiots