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|Single by Mason Williams|
|from the album The Mason Williams Phonograph Record|
|B-side||"Long Time Blues"|
|Genre||Easy listening, classical, Baroque pop|
|Studio album by Mannheim Steamroller with Mason Williams|
|Released||August 15, 1987|
|Genre||Easy listening, classical|
|Mannheim Steamroller with Mason Williams chronology|
"Classical Gas" is an instrumental musical piece composed and originally performed by Mason Williams with instrumental backing by members of the Wrecking Crew. 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 adjust a student video montage that he had created of classical art works using Beethoven's 5th Symphony and edit it in time to "Classical Gas", using the visual effect now known as kinestasis. The work, 3000 Years of Art, premiered in 1968 on the Smothers Brothers. The song peaked at number 2 for two weeks in August that year. On the US Easy Listening chart, it went to number one for three weeks.
It is sometimes erroneously thought that "Classical Gas" was performed, or even composed, by Eric Clapton. This may be due to the fact that Clapton was musical director of, and played much of the guitar music for, the feature film The Story of Us in which Williams' own solo-guitar re-recording of it, from his 1970 album Handmade, appeared. Clapton has actually never recorded the song.
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, 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, WMGC now WIVT in Binghamton, WKYC in Cleveland, WBAL-TV in Baltimore, KNTV in San Jose, WXII-TV in Winston-Salem, WECT in Wilmington (NC), WIS-TV in Columbia, WCHS-TV in Charleston (WV), 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.
In the late 2000's a banjo version was used in an advertisement campaign by the Irish beer Guinness.
Awards and honors
- In 1969, the piece won three Grammy Awards: Best Instrumental Composition, Best Contemporary-Pop Performance, Instrumental, and Best Instrumental Arrangement.
- In 1998, Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI) awarded Williams a special Citation of Achievement. The piece has logged over five million broadcast performances to become BMI's all-time number-one instrumental composition for radio air play.
Cover versions and later versions
- Midnight String Quartet covered the song on their 1968 album The Look of Love and Other Rhapsodies for Young Lovers. In Canada, this version was co-charted with the Mason Williams version and they reached #2 in the RPM Magazine charts.
- Under the name of "Synergy", Larry Fast recorded an electronic version for the album Sequencer in 1976.
- Zlatko Manojlović, Serbian guitarist, included the song on his 1995 album Zlatko.
- Vanessa-Mae recorded the song for her 1994 album The Violin Player
- Hartman, Kent (2012). The Wrecking Crew. St. Martin’s Griffin. pp. 261–263. ISBN 978-1-250-03046-7.
- Williams, Mason. "Writing "Classical Gas"". ClassicalGas.com.
I envisioned it as simply repertoire or "fuel" for the classical guitar, so I called it Classical Gasoline.
- "Classical Gas Original Video". Classicalgas.com. 2013-04-08. Retrieved 2016-10-01.
- Whitburn, Joel (2002). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961-2001. Record Research. p. 259.
- "Classical Gas FAQ". Classicalgas.com. 2013-04-08. Retrieved 2016-10-01.
- Screenshot of credits from The Story of Us
- Bianculli, David (2010). Dangerously Funny. Simon & Schuster. pp. 193–194. ISBN 978-1-4391-0117-9.
- "The RPM 100" (PDF). Collectionscanada.gc.ca. Retrieved 2016-10-01.
- "Synergy (3) - Sequencer (Vinyl, LP, Album)". Discogs.com. Retrieved 2016-10-01.
- "Zlatko - To One Woman (CD, Album)". Discogs.com. Retrieved 2016-10-01.