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A Fantasmagorical Second Disc Interview! Bruce Kimmel Talks New, Expanded 2-CD “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”

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When Richard M. Sherman introduces his Academy Award-nominated song “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” in concert, he often has to remind his audience that the film of the same name wasn’t a Walt Disney production.  Producer Albert R. Broccoli, best-known for the James Bond series of films, signed Richard and his brother Robert M. Sherman for their very first film score outside of the Disney sphere.  Like the Bond films, United Artists’ Chitty was based on the writing of Ian Fleming.  For Fleming’s story of a most fantasmagorical flying car, “Cubby” Broccoli envisioned an extravaganza that could even top Disney’s 1964 Mary Poppins.  With something of a “James Bond-Meets-Mary Poppins” mindset, Broccoli enlisted heavy hitters from Disney’s 1964 classic: the Sherman Brothers, musical director/arranger Irwin Kostal, choreographers Dee Dee Wood and Marc Breaux, and pivotally, star Dick Van Dyke in the central role of Caractacus Potts.  From the world of 007, the producer brought aboard production designer Ken Adam and cast members such as Desmond Llewellyn and Goldfinger himself, Gert Frobe.  Beloved children’s author Roald Dahl was tapped for the screenplay.  Though the big-budget film didn’t match the success of Poppins at the time of its release in 1968, it’s as beloved today as many of Disney’s best films.

The profiles of both Richard and Robert Sherman and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang itself have been high in recent years.  The musical stage adaptation of the movie (with additional songs penned by the brothers) concluded runs in both London and New York.  The Shermans were the subjects of 2010’s acclaimed documentary The Boys, and Chitty was released on Blu-Ray the same year.  In May of this year, Richard Sherman took the stage at the Walt Disney World Resort to perform the title song to Chitty for the crowds at the Destination D convention held by the Walt Disney Company fan community, D23.  It sat comfortably alongside his Disney songbook.  At Anaheim, California’s D23 Expo in August, Van Dyke performed both “Chitty” and “Me Ol’ Bam-Boo” with Sherman beaming from the audience.  Of course, nobody minded that the film isn’t actually a Walt Disney movie!  Now, thanks to the efforts of producer Bruce Kimmel and Richard Sherman himself, another jewel is being added to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’s considerable crown.

Hot on the heels of the Kritzerland label’s landmark 100th release, Kimmel today announced a Very Very Special Special Edition release as No. 101, and the producer isn’t one known for hyperbole.  Kritzerland’s remastered and expanded Chitty Chitty Bang Bang will pack a wealth of unreleased and new-to-CD material over two compact discs in a limited edition of 1,200 copies:

  • The original soundtrack recording, remastered from the first generation album master and expanded by the film’s Entr’acte, original Main Title (with sound effects) and film mix of the Exit Music;
  • The Leroy Holmes-conducted Song and Picture Book album released concurrently with the soundtrack, featuring Richard M. Sherman himself on vocals, opposite Lola Fisher;
  • Richard M. Sherman’s original demo recordings; and
  • Several of the mono playback tracks utilized by the cast to lip-synch on set, including another version of the title song (with quite a long instrumental), an instrumental called “The Vulgarian Anthem,” an instrumental of the “Chu-Chi Face” waltz, and a bit of the “Doll On A Music Box” not included on the original LP.
  • The first 100 copies ordered at Kritzerland will be signed by Richard M. Sherman!

That means you’ll hear multiple versions of Sherman classics sung by a cast including Dick Van Dyke (Caractacus Potts), Sally Ann Howes (Truly Scrumptious) and Lionel Jeffries (Grandpa Potts).  The memorable songs include the showstopping “Me Ol’ Bamboo,” charming “Truly Scrumptious,” delightful “Toot Sweets” and haunting lullaby “Hushabye Mountain.”  That’s not even mentioning the title melody, which like Fleming’s onomatopoeia, was inspired by the actual sounds of a sputtering car.  The songwriters added “fantasmagorical” to the lexicon, one in a long line of uniquely Sherman words like “fortuosity,” “gratifaction,” and of course, “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”  (Not to mention phrases like “substitutiary locomotion,” “protocoligorically correct” and the wizard Merlin’s favorite exclamation, “Higitus Figitus!”)

Just prior to the release of this fantastic and comprehensive 2-CD set, available now from the label at a special single-disc price, Kimmel spoke to The Second Disc about the process of assembling his labor of love.  Hit the jump for the complete interview!

Thanks for taking time out of your schedule to chat with us, Bruce.  I know you have quite a history with the Sherman Brothers’ music, professionally speaking.  Could you tell us a little about that?

I go into it at length in the liner notes, but basically I recorded a CD called Cinderella, telling the story by using songs from all different musical versions of the tale, including the Disney, Rodgers and Hammerstein, and, of course, the Sherman Brothers’ The Slipper and the Rose.  [2001’s Cinderella: Songs from the Classic Fairy Tale, on Varese Sarabande VSD-5875, features top-tier stage performers like Crista Moore, Jonathan Freeman, Liz Larsen, Christiane Noll, Jason Graae and the mysterious Mr. Guy Haines.]  Dick heard the CD and absolutely loved the way we did the Slipper and the Rose songs; he’d bought it at Borders on La Cienega and a gal who worked there knew me and passed along his kudos.  He wanted to meet me and tell me in person, so he came to the Varese Sarabande offices and we had a wonderful chat and really liked each other.  Eventually, I got the idea to do an all Sherman Brothers album, which I finally did, but not with Varese.  [More on that album later.]  I’d also recorded many of their songs on the various Michelle Nicastro CDs I’d done.

So how long has this expanded Chitty been in the offing?

Normally, I annoy other labels when I reveal this sort of information because normally I get these out really fast.  We’ve had this in the pipeline for six months; we had to wait until the Varese sell-off period was complete.  Once we started, though, it all went pretty quickly.

Wow.  All too often we’re reporting here on projects that are delayed and delayed again.  Were there any particular challenges in assembling a set as comprehensive as this one?

Well, trying to make it sound decent was the biggest.  The original LP masters were very reverb-heavy and the way in which musical film soundtracks were mixed and released was never that optimal; I think they were assembled very quickly and they got what they got.  Obviously there were two previous CD releases [on both Rykodisc and Varese Sarabande].  I have no idea which set of tapes they used – there were several – but we went back to the earliest dated set and used those.  Our wonderful mastering engineer [James Nelson] worked as much magic as he could, which, in my opinion, was considerable, especially given what we had to work with.  We asked if there were separate music stems from the film, but were told repeatedly there weren’t.  It was the same with It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World – no separate music stems, just music and effects tied together.  So, sadly, we couldn’t use any underscore.

We were able to rescue the Entr’acte from the Blu-ray, and we’ve included the original film version of the Main Title – with effects, but they’re kind of fun – and the film versions of the Finale and Exit Music.  Also, the original LP and CD releases had the main title music as the last track.  We put it back where it belonged, at the top of the album.  We moved the LP’s original first track, which was the Exit Music, to the end.

That additional material alone is pretty exciting, but the icing on the cake has to be all of the songs sung by Richard Sherman, including his original demos.  I know nobody was expecting that wonderful surprise!

We had all of Dick’s demos so we knew we’d be going to two CDs, because we also had the tapes for the Song and Picture Book album that was released concurrently with the soundtrack.  That album was conducted by Leroy Holmes, and had vocals by Dick and Lola Fisher.  And, way into the process, MGM found three boxes of tape – the original on-set playback tapes the actors lip-synched to.  Those, of course, were mono and didn’t sound that great, but there was material there not on the original LP and so we included those tracks, too – you get the “Vulgarian Anthem,” more of “Doll on a Music Box,” and another reprise of the title song.  That one has a nice, long instrumental section leading into it.

Whenever Dick performs “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” in concert, the song always receives a wonderful, warm response.  Why do both the movie and its score still endure today for kids of all ages?

You know, the movie was not a success when it came out.  Big-budget musicals were on their way out, and there’d been a string of them that had not done well.  No need naming names – you know who you are!  But never underestimate the power of children seeing a film like this because the children who saw it loved it – and then the children who discovered it on TV loved it.  And the film slowly became beloved as it was introduced in the video era to the children of those children – and changing tastes of movie audiences are ultimately meaningless in the scheme of things, so that many films that didn’t do all that well when they were released have gone on to become beloved classics just like Chitty.  Most of the “with-it” films of that era are long-forgotten, while Chitty endures.

Very well said.  What will be the biggest discovery for listeners on this new set?

For me it was the utter charm of the Richard Sherman demos.  There’s just a purity and sweetness there that’s absolutely endearing.

Was there anything you’d hoped to include that wasn’t available to you?

Of course: the underscore and the longer versions of the songs.   Maybe someday a miracle will happen and all that stuff will show up somewhere.

Here’s hoping.  Not to get ahead of myself, but might any future projects with The Sherman Brothers be on the way?

One never knows.  We do a monthly series of concerts here in LA, called Kritzerland at the Gardenia; our most successful evening was the Sherman Brothers evening.  Completely sold out and the audience just ate it all up like candy.  Dick was there and played “Feed the Birds.”  And the sons [Richard’s son Gregory V. Sherman and Robert’s son Jeffrey C. Sherman] who made the marvelous documentary The Boys were there, too.

I’ve always hoped to buy back the Sherman Brothers album I did, because the recording and arrangements and singers were amazing, but sadly the label for which it was recorded and I came to a parting of the ways and that album wasn’t mixed yet.  I offered to finish it for free, but the offer was refused – rather stupidly, if you ask me.  And so the dimwit who did mix it just made a mess of everything.  He left off half the orchestra tracks; he couldn’t find them!  So, in essence, you get half an orchestra and half an orchestration!  He used full takes of vocals, and usually early ones; I do several takes of each song and comp the best vocals out of those takes – that, he couldn’t be bothered to do.  Both Dick and I talk about it all the time, but even though that company is effectively out of business, they are so consumed with their own weird demons that they just won’t sell it back.  Their son sells their CDs on Amazon – it’s very obvious it’s him.  I wrote him and asked him to pass on my request about buying back the album to his mother and he actually kind of denied who he was; it’s weird.  That’s the sad tale of woe about that album.  [Kimmel’s fine efforts on 2003’s Believe: The Songs of the Sherman Brothers still shine through, despite the unfortunate, slapdash manner in which the label “finished” it off.]

Well, we’re all hopeful that someday you might be able to make that happen.

On a happier note, I would work with Dick anytime, anywhere, on anything.

Thanks for speaking with us, Bruce.  Congratulations, too, on the 100th Kritzerland release, and here’s to the next 100!

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: The Very Very Special Special Edition is available for pre-order now from Kritzerland.  CDs are scheduled to ship the first week of December, but pre-orders from the label most often arrive an average of four weeks early!  The complete track listing and pre-order link follows.

Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: Original MGM Motion Picture Soundtrack (United Artists UAS-5188, 1968 – reissued and expanded, Kritzerland, 2011)

CD 1

  1. Main Title
  2. You Two
  3. Toot Sweets
  4. Hushabye Mountain
  5. Me Ol’ Bamboo
  6. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
  7. Truly Scrumptious
  8. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (Reprise)
  9. Entr’acte
  10. Lovely, Lonely Man
  11. Posh
  12. Hushabye Mountain (Reprise)
  13. The Roses of Success
  14. Chu-Chi Face
  15. Doll on a Music Box and Truly Scrumptious
  16. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Finale
  17. Exit Music
  18. Main Title (Film Version with Sound Effects)
  19. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Finale (Film Mix)
  20. Exit Music (Film Mix)
  21. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
  22. You Two
  23. Toot Sweets
  24. Hushabye Mountain
  25. Me Ol’ Bamboo
  26. Lovely, Lonely Man
  27. Posh
  28. Doll on a Music Box and Truly Scrumptious
  29. Chu-Chi  Face
  30. The Roses of Success

CD 2

  1. You Two
  2. Toot Sweets
  3. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
  4. Truly Scrumptious
  5. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang 2
  6. Lovely, Lonely Man
  7. Posh
  8. Hushabye Mountain
  9. TheVulgarian Anthem
  10. The Roses of Success
  11. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (Children’s Reprise)
  12. Hushabye Mountain (Grandfather’s Reprise)
  13. Fun Fair
  14. Lovely, Lonely Man/Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (Finale)
  15. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang 1
  16. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang 2
  17. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang 3
  18. The Vulgarian Anthem
  19. Chu-Chi Face Waltz
  20. Doll on a Music Box Parts 1-3

Disc 1, Tracks 1-17 based on the original album presentation from United Artists LP UAS-5188, 1968
Disc 1, Tracks 18-20 from the original film, previously unreleased on CD
Disc 1, Tracks 21-30 from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: Song and Picture Book, United Artists LP SLP-108, 1968, previously unreleased on CD
Disc 2, Tracks 1-14 previously unreleased demos by Richard M. Sherman
Disc 2, Tracks 15-20 previously unreleased original playback tracks

Written by Joe Marchese

October 24, 2011 at 11:04

3 Responses

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  1. Fantastic! Or should I say Fantasmagorical! One of my all-time favorite soundtracks. I’m thrilled it’s finally getting an expanded release. Thanks for the great news.


    October 24, 2011 at 13:10

  2. Wow! I agree with ozianscott. What great news! The perfect Christmas gift, too!


    October 24, 2011 at 20:51

  3. I have the United Artists original soundtrack on a pre-recorded, AMPEX, reel to reel tape (cat. #UAC-5188).

    James Hoover

    January 2, 2014 at 18:13

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