Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Good-bye, Yellow Brick Road

For more than four years now Emerald City Radio has been bringing you Oz music twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

But no more.

How the story of Emerald City Radio came to an end:

Live365, the internet radio website that hosts Emerald City Radio and hundreds of other internet radio stations of all varieties, is being forced to shut down at the end of January 2016.

The broadcasters that Live365 hosts are largely not radio professionals. They tend to be people who simply want to share their taste in music with the world. For awhile the internet made that possible at a reasonable cost. Each broadcaster pays a small yearly fee to Live365 for the ability to broadcast their chosen programming. Live365 in turn tracks and pays royalties for all proprietary music broadcast by the hundreds of stations they host.

At the end of 2015 provisions for small webcasting were not renewed by the US Copyright Royalty Board. These provisions had allowed small to mid-sized internet broadcasters to pay lower royalty rates. As of 2016 these rates have increased to such an extent that most of these broadcasters will find them prohibitively expensive.

As a result, Live365 will cease broadcasting at the end of January 2016. Unless an alternative presents itself, the majority of the stations that Live365 brought to the world will cease to exist.

Including Emerald City Radio.

So if you want to get your fill of the widest variety of Oz music on the internet, you have a few days remaining to tune in. It's free and easy to listen to Emerald City Radio on Live365. Just go to the Live365 website and register your account for free. Here's the link. Click the magnifiying glass on the upper right of the Live365 home page, search for Emerald City Radio (or any other genre of music you're interested in), and start listening. But hurry, you have less than a week left.

It's been an enjoyable four years collecting and broadcasting Oz music from the sublime to the ridiculous, conducting radio interviews, and figuring out how long a playlist we could fit into the space Live365 allotted to Emerald City Radio (more than fourteen hours!). If you've been a listener, thank you. We hope you've enjoyed it.


Monday, January 18, 2016

The Boy in the Robot Suit


Well, here's a treat! I had known for many years that the performer inside Tik-Tok in Disney's Return to Oz was an adorably cute guy named Michael Sundin. I also knew that Michael died of AIDS in 1989. He was only twenty-eight.

It was quite a job being strapped into the Tik-Tok costume. Sundin had to fold himself in half, curled up inside Tik-Tok's spherical body. He then had to walk backwards to make Tik-Tok move forward. Sundin's only view of where he was going was a small video monitor.

I had later discovered that Michael Sundin was also connected with a BBC children's television show called Blue Peter. This info has been rattling around in my brain for years and I had never thought to look up the show online . . . until now! And what a nice few treats I found!

First up is an episode of Blue Peter from 1985. And what do you know, it's an Oz episode! Sundin, delightfully cute in a Christmas sweater and yellow slacks, introduces a group of seven kids who have put together a Wizard of Oz dance - performed to the Meco disco album! After the dance Sundin talks to them about their costumes and tells a bit about his time on Return to Oz. Followed by a segment on the cut "Jitterbug" number from the MGM film, complete with Harold Arlen's 1939 home movies. Have a look!

And I can't resist sharing one more sample. Michael Sundin's Blue Peter interview with Elton John. Michael begins the interview climbing out of Elton John's swimming pool wearing a Speedo! What more need be said!

Friday, January 8, 2016

The Wicked Witch does Sondheim

I always find it interesting when my various passions intersect. Such things always pack a little extra fun or satisfaction, despite the difficulties in deciding which collection the thing goes into. The latest cross-pollination is between my Oz collection and my Stephen Sondheim collection.

I have been a Sondheim fan since my early teens. My first exposure to Sondheim was the 1977 film version of A Little Night Music. It is a flawed film, but no where near as awful as legend states. Anyway back to today's blog - I just got a copy of the lovely souvenir program from the National tour of the original Broadway production of the show.

A Little Night Music Souvenir program featuring Boris Aronson's set design.

The handsome program is large and packed with photographs. The Oz connection is that Margaret Hamilton played Madame Armfeldt. It was her final stage role. The tour began February 26, 1974 in Philadelphia and closed February 15, 1975 in Boston.

Incidentally, Hamilton was performing in the tour of Night Music in Los Angeles when she was interviewed by Aljean Harmetz for The Making of The Wizard of Oz (1977).

Madame Armfeldt is an aged demimondaine, a high-end courtesan, (now retired). If you've seen the film Gigi, it was the "occupation" Gigi was being groomed for: a cultured, educated, and lovely woman who would be "kept" in style by an upper-class gentleman - for,.  uhm . . . "favors."

I'm not going to go into the whole plot of A Little Night Music, but you sort of need to know at least that much to understand the song Hamilton sings in the sound clip below.

This is Margaret Hamilton's solo in the show, a song called "Liaisons," in which she recounts her triumphs and losses in love and luxury - and the seeming decline of style, culture, and civilization.

On the one hand, Margaret Hamilton may seem an odd choice for a musical. She does not have a beautiful voice. And in this song she shifts between speaking and singing. But it's a great performance nonetheless. Hamilton did play in at at least two other musicals over the years: as Aunt Eller in Oklahoma! and as Parthy Ann Hawks in Showboat - neither big singing parts.

Below are a few more photos of Hamilton in A Little Night Music.