Classical Gas

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"Classical Gas"
Single by Mason Williams
from the album The Mason Williams Phonograph Record
B-side "Long Time Blues"
Released 1968
Format 7"
Genre Easy listening, classical
Length 3:00
Label Warner Bros.
Writer(s) Mason Williams
Producer(s) Mike Post
Music sample
Classical Gas
Studio album by Mannheim Steamroller with Mason Williams
Released August 15, 1987
Recorded 1987
Genre Easy listening, classical
Mannheim Steamroller with Mason Williams chronology
Saving the Wildlife
(1986)
Classical Gas
(1987)
A Fresh Aire Christmas
(1988)

"Classical Gas" is an instrumental musical piece composed and originally performed by Mason Williams. Originally released in 1968 on the album The Mason Williams Phonograph Record, it has been re-recorded and re-released numerous times since by Williams. One later version served as the title track of a 1987 album by Williams and the band Mannheim Steamroller.

Williams was the head writer for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour at the time of the piece's release and premiered the composition on the show. Williams performed it several times over several episodes. After the piece had reached the Top Ten, Williams asked an experimental filmmaker named Dan McLaughlin to create a video montage of classical art works edited in time to the music, using the visual effect now known as kinestasis. The pioneering work, 3000 Years of Art, premiered in 1968 and may have helped push the song high on the charts; it peaked at number 2 for two weeks in August that year.[1] On the US Easy Listening chart it went to number one for three weeks.[2]

Williams re-recorded "Classical Gas" as a solo guitar piece on his 1970 album Handmade. This version was re-released by Sony in 2003, after being featured in the film Cheaper by the Dozen[3] (which starred Williams's Smothers Brothers protégé, Steve Martin).

During the 1970s and early 1980s, many television stations (such as KIRO-TV in Seattle, WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh, WBAL-TV in Baltimore, KNTV in San Jose, WFTV in Orlando, and WNEP-TV in Wilkes-Barre) used the composition - or a version of it re-recorded by Telesound - as their news theme.

There is a common misconception that "Classical Gas" was composed and performed by Eric Clapton.[4] Clapton has never recorded a cover of the song. This misconception may possibly be attributed to the fact that Clapton was musical director of, and played much of the guitar music for, the feature film The Story of Us. The version of the song on the film's soundtrack is actually Williams's own solo-guitar re-recording of it, from his 1970 album Handmade.[5]

Awards[edit]

Covers[edit]

  • Ronnie Aldrich played the instrumental version for two pianos with The London Festival Orchestra on his 1969 album Destination Love.
  • Area Code 615 covered "Classical Gas" on their 1970 album Trip in the Country, played by Bobby Thompson on banjo, parts of which were sampled and featured in a 2010 Guinness TV commercial.
  • The Scottish progressive rock band Beggars Opera recorded a version of the song on their 1973 album Get Your Dog Off Me.
  • Larry Fast recorded an electronic version for his Synergy sequence album Sequencer in 1976.[7]
  • The Shadows's 1979 album String of Hits contains a cover.
  • Les Fradkin's 2009 album Baroque Rocks! contains a cover performed entirely on the Star Labs Ztar Midi Guitar.
  • Cozy Powell performed a version of the song on his 1992 solo album The Drums Are Back.
  • Australian musician Tommy Emmanuel performed a version of the song on his 1995 album Classical Gas, backed by the Australian Philharmonic Orchestra.
  • Zlatko Manojlović, Serbian guitarist, covered the song on his 1995 album Zlatko.[8]
  • Vanessa-Mae, British violinist, covered "Classical Gas" in November 1995.
  • A live rendition by Glen Campbell is included on 20 Greatest Hits and on the 3-CD set Classic Campbell.
  • Instrumental band California Guitar Trio covered "Classical Gas" on their 1998 album, Pathways.
  • Chet Atkins played an instrumental version on his Street Dreams album.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

External links[edit]