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
RecordedJuly 1965
LabelReprise/Warner Bros. Records
ProducerJimmy Hilliard
Tom Lehrer chronology
That Was the Year That Was
Professional ratings
Review scores
Allmusic4.5/5 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.[2] The album peaked at #18 on Billboard's Top 200 Albums on January 8, 1966 and was on the chart for 51 weeks.[3]

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]

Side one
  • "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.")
  • "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")
Side two
  • "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 "Neiman-Marcus."
  • "Wernher Von Braun" – Before heading up the U.S. rocket development program during the 1960s Space Race with the Soviet Union, German-American rocket scientist Wernher von Braun had helped develop the infamous V-2 rocket for Nazi Germany. Hence the verse: "Once the rockets are up / Who cares where they come down? / That's not my department / Says Wernher Von Braun". (Said 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.") Contrary to popular belief, 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.[5]
  • "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 "Hey, no problem, as long as you don't fight for your religion.")


  1. ^ Allmusic review
  2. ^ Hiltzik, Michael. "A few words (wasted) about Tom Lehrer on his 90th birthday". Retrieved 2019-05-16.
  3. ^ "Tom Lehrer That Was The Year That Was Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved 2019-05-17.
  4. ^ "Iraq invasion violated international law: Blix". Sydney Morning Herald. August 7, 2003. Retrieved 2008-11-23.
  5. ^ "Stop clapping, this is serious". Sydney Morning Herald. March 1, 2003. Retrieved 2012-12-08.

External links[edit]