That Was the Year That Was

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That Was the Year That Was
That Was The Year That Was.jpg
Live album by Tom Lehrer
Released 1965
Recorded July 1965
Genre Satire
Length 37:11
Label Reprise/Warner Bros. Records
Producer Jimmy Hilliard
Tom Lehrer chronology
Revisited
(1960)
That Was the Year That Was
(1965)
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[1]

That Was the Year That Was (1965) is a live album recorded at the hungry i in San Francisco, containing performances by Tom Lehrer of satiric topical songs he originally wrote for the NBC television series That Was The Week That Was, known informally as TW3 (1964–65). All of the songs related to items then in the news.

Track listing[edit]

Side one:

  1. "National Brotherhood Week" – 2:35
  2. "MLF Lullaby" – 2:25
  3. "George Murphy" – 2:08
  4. "The Folk Song Army" – 2:12
  5. "Smut" – 3:15
  6. "Send the Marines" – 1:46
  7. "Pollution" – 2:17

Side two:

  1. "So Long, Mom (A Song for World War III)" – 2:23
  2. "Whatever Became of Hubert?" – 2:13
  3. "New Math" – 4:28
  4. "Alma" – 5:27
  5. "Who's Next?" – 2:00
  6. "Wernher Von Braun" – 1:46
  7. "The Vatican Rag" – 2:14

Topics of songs[edit]

  • "National Brotherhood Week" – race relations in the U.S.; specifically, a week-long program sponsored by the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ) held generally during the third week of February from the 1940s through the 1980s. The song criticizes liberal hypocrisy. (Lehrer: "It's fun to eulogize the people you despise, as long as you don't let 'em in your school.")
  • "MLF Lullaby" – An ultimately failed U.S. proposal for a multilateral nuclear force as part of NATO
  • "George Murphy" – George Murphy, dancer, actor, U.S. Senator from California, and Robert F. Kennedy (D, NY), the putative third senator from Massachusetts. Democratic voters of the time questioned whether an actor with no political experience could function as a Senator. (Lehrer: "Oh, gee, it's great: at last we've got a Senator who can really sing and dance!")
  • "The Folk Song Army" – Topical songs as part of the folk revival of the 1960s; also alludes to songs of the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War, especially "Venga Jaleo" which it excerpts musically (Lehrer: "Remember the war against Franco / That's the kind where each of us belongs / Though he may have won all the battles / We had all the good songs")
  • "Smut" – Censorship of obscenity, and the 1957 U.S. Supreme Court case Roth v. United States, which coined the expression "redeeming social importance" (Lehrer: "Give me smut and nothing but / A dirty novel I can't shut / If it's uncut / And unsubt...tle")
  • "Send the Marines" – the United States Marine Corps (USMC), and, in particular, militarism in United States foreign policy.
    In 2003, former chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix told a Swedish radio program that he did not think that the Iraq War, "in the way it was justified, was compatible with the UN Charter," then had the station play this song.[2]
  • "Pollution" – Environmental pollution
  • "So Long, Mom (A Song for World War III)" – Nuclear war, Mutually Assured Destruction, nostalgia over past wars, and television news coverage. (Lehrer: "I feel that, if there's going to be any songs coming out of World War III, we'd better start writing them NOW.") In this, he references a 1904 George M. Cohan song and show, Little Johnny Jones.
  • "Whatever Became of Hubert?" – Hubert Humphrey, then U.S. Vice President under Lyndon B. Johnson. The song underscores the idea that going from any office to that of Vice President was actually a step down, because of traditional restrictions imposed by the President. (Lehrer: "Second Fiddle's a hard part, I know, when they don't even give you a bow.")
  • "New Math" – New Math, a trend at the time in the teaching of mathematics. Like today's Common Core Math, the New Math of that time often baffled even the experts. (Lehrer: "In the new approach, as you know, the idea is to understand what you're doing, rather than to get the right answer'!"
  • "Alma" – Alma Mahler, who had recently died. Composer and painter; wife, successively, of Gustav Mahler, Walter Gropius, and Franz Werfel. (Lehrer: "It's people like that who make you realize how little you've accomplished. It's a sobering thought, for example, that when Mozart was my age, he had been dead for two years." Lehrer was 37 at the time of this recording; Mozart died at the age of 35.)
  • "Who's Next?" – Nuclear proliferation An example of one of Lehrer's favorite styles, the List Song, it rattles off numerous places that might get The Bomb, including a U.S. state ("We'll try to stay serene and calm, when Alabama gets the bomb!") In later years, Lehrer replaced "Alabama" with "Nieman-Marcus."
  • "Wernher Von Braun" – Rocket scientist Wernher von Braun (Lehrer: "And what will make it possible to spend $20 billion of your money to put some clown on the moon? Why, it's good ol' American know-how, that's what! Led by good ol' Americans like Dr. Wernher Von Braun.") (Another Lehrer quote: "Once the rockets are up,/ Who cares where they come down?/ That's not my department,/ says Wernher Von Braun".) Contrary to popular belief, Wernher von Braun did not sue Tom Lehrer for defamation, nor has Lehrer been forced to relinquish all of his royalty income to Von Braun. Lehrer firmly denied those claims in a 2003 interview.[3]
  • "The Vatican Rag" – The Second Vatican Council and the reform of Roman Catholic liturgy (Upon performing this song in the hungry i nightclub in San Francisco, Lehrer was harshly criticized by actor Ricardo Montalban, who happened to be in the audience that night. Montalban shouted, "How dare you make fun of my religion! I love my religion! I will die for my religion!" To which Lehrer responded, "That's fine with me, as long as you don't do it here.")

References[edit]

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