Friday, July 24, 2020

Classical Gas - 3000 Years of Art

This is one of the earliest "music videos," meaning an artful illustration of a song instead of a filmed performance. And I do mean art. Strangely, the music and the film existed separately before coming together in 1968. Mason Williams, who wrote and performed "Classical Gas," tells the story at the YouTube page.
During the time that CLASSICAL GAS was a hit I was also the head writer for THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS COMEDY HOUR on CBS. I had seen a film titled "GOD IS DOG SPELLED BACKWARDS” at The Encore, an off beat movie house in L.A. The film was a collection of approximately 2500 classical works of art, mostly paintings, that flashed by in three minutes. Each image lasted only two film frames, or twelve images a second! At the end of the film the viewer was pronounced "cultural" since they had just covered "3000 years of art in 3 minutes!"

The film was the work of a UCLA film student named Dan McLaughlin. I contacted Dan and told him that I was interested in the idea of using his film as a visual for CLASSICAL GAS to air on THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS COMEDY HOUR. (His original sound track had been Beethoven's 5th Symphony.) THE COMEDY HOUR offered him the money to finance a new film he wanted to make in exchange for the right to change the original soundtrack from Beethoven's 5th Symphony to CLASSICAL GAS and air it on the show. As a “music video" it was first shown on THE SUMMER BROTHERS SMOTHERS SHOW (Glen Campbell was the host) in the summer of 1968.
You can read the rest of the story here. We can quibble with the "3000 years of art" because there are Lascaux cave paintings included that are around 17,000 years old. (via Nag on the Lake)


Debra She Who Seeks said...

The glaring problem with it, of course, is its almost completely Euro-American Christian male definition of "great art." Japan and those ancient cave painters say "thanks for the nod" though.

Anonymous said...

I was looking at this thinking-- I've seen this before. Heh. I saw it on the Smothers Brothers show! Classical Gas has always been in my top 10. Thanks for the memory, A