"The Liberty Bell", at the time a new composition as yet untitled, was written for Sousa's unfinished operetta "The Devil's Deputy" before financing for the show fell through. Shortly afterwards, while attending the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Sousa and his band manager George Hinton watched the spectacle "America", in which a backdrop depicting the Liberty Bell was lowered. Hinton suggested "The Liberty Bell" for the title of Sousa's unnamed march. Coincidentally, Sousa received a letter from his wife saying their son had marched in a parade in honor of the Liberty Bell. Sousa agreed, and he sold "The Liberty Bell" sheet music to the John Church Company for publication; the new march was an immediate success. The march is played as part of an exhibit in the Liberty Bell Center.
The United States Marine Band has played "The Liberty Bell" march at five of the last seven presidential inaugurations: the 1993 inauguration of President Bill Clinton, the 2005 inauguration of President George W. Bush, the 2009 and 2013 inaugurations of President Barack Obama, and the 2017 inauguration of President Donald Trump.
The march follows the standard form of AABBCDCDC. The trio (sections C and D) uses tubular bells to symbolize the Liberty Bell ringing. The bells usually begin during the first breakstrain (section D), but some bands use them at the first trio (section C).
This is scored for 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, cymbals, bass drum, snare drum, and strings.
Use in Monty Python's Flying Circus
The march is best known today for being associated with the British TV comedy program Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969–1974), which used the version performed by the Band of the Grenadier Guards and published in 1938 as its opening theme. Cast member Terry Gilliam, the only American member of the troupe, argued for the use of "The Liberty Bell" because it had fallen into the public domain by that time and could thus be used without the need to pay royalties. He has said the piece was chosen because the troupe thought it would not be associated with the program's content, and that the first bell strike and subsequent melody would give the impression of getting "straight down to business."
The Monty Python mode of presenting the tune was with a single strike of the bell, lifted from the third section and increased in volume, followed by a strain of each of the first two sections, followed by the famous stomping foot animation and a noticeably flatulent "splat" sound reminiscent of a whoopee cushion (the first 13 episodes used a "raspberry"). At the end of the film Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl, the entire march was played over the closing credits.
Uses in other popular culture
SpaceX used the march as background music for their video How Not to Land an Orbital Rocket Booster, a compilation of failed rocket landings to celebrate their efforts in pioneering orbital launch vehicle reusability.
- "The Works of John Philip Sousa". John Philip Sousa – American Conductor, Composer & Patriot. Dallas Wind Symphony. Archived from the original on 8 October 2010. Retrieved 29 September 2010.
- Baker, Rick (16 September 1994). "Liberty Bell March History". Skyways.lib.ks.us. Retrieved 26 May 2011.
- "Michigan State University Libraries – Vincent Voice Library". Vvl.lib.msu.edu. 20 January 1993. Retrieved 26 May 2011.
- Bill Clinton Presidential Inauguration 1993 (Part 1 of 3), see 6:21–9:10, on YouTube
- "2005". Setiathome.berkeley.edu. Retrieved 26 May 2011.
- Bralley, Jean-Marie (20 August 2017). "John Philip Sousa: 10 Things You Don't Know About The Man Behind the Marches". USO.org. Retrieved 17 April 2019.
- "CFAO 32-3 Regimental & Branch Marches of the Canadian Armed Forces by Timothy R. Groulx CD". Thunder Bay Telephone. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 9 July 2011.
- "Liberty Bell March" (PDF). parts for band, including the chimes part. John Church Company. 2014. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 April 2017. Retrieved 23 July 2016.
- Clark, Philip. "Monty Python: Sousa, two-sheds and musical subversions," The Guardian, Friday, July 11, 2014. Retrieved February 12, 2018
- "SpaceX Bloopers Video: 'How NOT to Land an Orbital Rocket'". VOA. Retrieved 8 March 2023.
- Space Exploration Technologies (14 September 2017). "How Not to Land an Orbital Rocket Booster". YouTube.
- The Liberty Bell (audio file) – In MIDI format; from the John Philip Sousa website maintained by David Lovrien, hosted by the Dallas Wind Symphony
- The Monty Python version (archived) – In MP2 format; from the same website
- An 1896 Recording (Probably the first) played by the Edison Grand Concert Band, from the Internet Archive
- Sheet music for a piano arrangement, courtesy of the Mutopia Project