I was watching the new series on Netflix titled The Queen’s Gambit that deals with a female chess prodigy entering that world that is even now highly male-dominated but was even more so in the 1960s, the period in which the show is set.
In one episode, we see her walking though a college campus and the soundtrack plays the instrumental Classical Gas by guitarist Mason Williams. It is a great piece that I know well and as soon as I heard it, I said to myself “Ha! The writers made a mistake because that music came long after the time represented in the film.” But later I looked it up and it is from 1968. I had no idea so much time had passed since I first heard it,
Here’s the tune. It is really good.
There are soooooo many songs of my childhood and teens that are now 50 years old. 1980 is now 40 years in the past, the music of my teens. But at least 80s revivals keep coming back, unlike other music.
Here’s one you might remember, from 1979: Frank Mills, “Music Box Dancer”. It’s another instrumental that spread like wildfire (or viral, as people say now) and then he never had another hit.
Mano Singham says
Thanks for that! I did not recognize the name of the composer or the title but as soon as I heard the first few notes, it all came back in a flash.
We had quite a few pretty-good guitarists on board the Bainbridge (CGN 25) during my Navy days and one of the marks of mastery was playing Classical Gas on a 12-string.
Just another reminder: Mason Williams was a major comedy writer on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (that dates it fairly well). He was the one who created the “Pat Paulson for President” campaign.
Seems to be odd how time flows and feels. Some things I remember as if it were yesterday and yet they are clearly scores of years old. Other things fade immediately. I have to think hard to remember what I had for breakfast today. What I had a week ago is gone completely no matter how hard I try. The key seems to be emotion. I don’t typically get emotionally involved in breakfast.
Born in the middle on 1960 I still vaguely remember impressions around the JFK assassination in 63. I didn’t understand what was going on. But clearly everything changed. For days confidence was replaced by uncertainty and confusion. The assertions that it was all going to work out and everything was under control suddenly sounded half-hearted. The adults were clearly not confidently in control.
Classical Gas was one of the first pieces of music I could lose myself in. My older sister had a recording on vinyl and we wore out several copies.
Wonderful song. The same artist (who was not exactly a serious guy) also wrote this song, the Tomato Vendetta. Both lovely and hilarious. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGdYoVm8OVU
I found this to be a tonic, “3000 Years of Art” set to Classical Gas. A reminder that sometimes humans do good stuff. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=viyufRQKlto
@1: Same age, remember getting pretty tired of that playing endlessly on WJR-760, The Voice of the Great Lakes, here in Detroit.
Mano Singham says
Wow, that was a trip! On the one hand, I would’ve liked the art to have gone by slower so that I could get a better look but have to admit that that speed seemed to fit with the music well
Mano Singham says
That was a cute and silly song indeed!
Coincidentally, I just said to my wife the other day, in reference to a video of Come As You Are by Nirvana, do you realise if we were still going to the same alternative rock venues we used to go to when this was a hit, almost everyone there wouldn’t have been born when this song was released?
Because to my generation the death of Kurt Cobain feels like a recent thing. In reality, it’s nearly the case (nearly, next year) that Kurt Cobain has been dead longer than he was alive.
Oh well, you know what they say. Getting old ain’t fun,… but it’s better than the alternative.
I’ve always enjoyed Mason Williams art book of a Greyhound Bus (featured on the cover of his debut album: ‘The Mason Williams Phonograph Record’). The art book folds out to the actual size of the bus.
The first time I ever heard “Classical Gas” was on the summer replacement for the Smothers Brothers Show hosted by Glen Campbell in 1968. It was an accompaniment to a video showing three thousand years of art in three minutes or something like that. I found the whole presentation riveting, even on our crappy black and white set with its tinny three-inch speaker. It’s one of those moments that — for me at least — is etched into my memory as belonging to a particular piece of time and space.
I remember reading a piece many years ago, probably in the early 1970s, where a critic was complaining about the music used in some movie or play as being wrong for the era depicted. 1940s music used in a scene set in the 1930s, or something like that. It seemed kind of nitpicky to me at the time, but now, when I hear music from the wrong era being used to set the scene for a time I actually lived through it tends to grate on me a bit.
Reginald Selkirk says
You like guitar music, do you?
Gah, my fingers still twitch at that song… I played it back when I was taking piano lessons many years back.
I love Classical Gas but I’ve always hated the brass bridge in the middle. It reminds me of the ABC Movie of the Week theme or something of that ilk.
A better goofy song about fruit