Friday, May 29, 2015

A Musical Souvenir of Walt Disney World - Tomorrowland Pt 2

By Keith Mahne

Welcome travels to our trip through Walt Disney World's past. Today, we'll continue our walk through vintage Tomorrowland with some Michael Iceberg songs, a ride on the 1975 version of the General Electric Carousel of Progress, and more. Let's not waste another second, here now is part 2 of our vintage Tomorrowland tour as we continue on our Musical Souvenir of Walt Disney World...

Part 11: Tomorrowland Pt. 2

(If you haven't had a chance to listen to Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9 and Part 10 of our musical journey of vintage Walt Disney World, please check them out before continuing. Also, be sure to pause the Disney Avenue Music Player in the top left-hand corner of this page if you are on a desktop computer.)


Here are Foxx's notes on the creation of Track 11 - Tomorrowland Pt 2:

11) Tomorrowland, Part Two
This is the second track in the project which is entirely unaltered from version 1. Because why mess with perfection?
Michael Iceberg burst onto the Disney scene in mid-July 1976 and was from the first an immediate sensation. Rising from the Utilidor of the Magic Kingdom surrounded by buttons and knobs and backed by a huge reflective mirror, Iceberg (then Iseberg) looked the very definition of a “geek”: bottle cap glasses, scraggly hair, an absurd outfit that looked like it was swiped from Forbidden Planet between takes. As he sang and played rock ditties which flowed into each other like a stream of consciousness on his homemade synthesizer, he’d grimace and mumble lyrics amid swirling fog machines and strobing lights. Eyes and Ears had no idea how to describe the act: “ is best for you to drop by and catch a performance yourself …then you try describing it to your friends!”
Iceberg was an immediate fixture of the Magic Kingdom. Gradually, his act was refined. He focused less on rock music and more on Disney tunes and classical numbers, played more gracefully. The glasses went away. His hair was neatly combed and he wore a black suit and tie, looking like a dignified mad scientist overseeing an experiment. Eventually the look of the Iceberg Machine was simplified into a mirrored pyramid, which opened at the top like an erupting volcano revealing Iceberg working the keyboard. Steve Birnbaum called Iceberg a “Disney superstar”. Hunter S. Thompson wryly observed: “Now there’s somebody crazier than I am.” It is all true, yet none of it is enough.
This sample Iceberg performance is edited down from his LP “Michael Iceberg Does It Live! 100th Week at Walt Disney World”. Because most of Iceberg’s act is a simple demonstration of what synthesizers can do, this record is quite dreadful and often unlistenable as Iceberg produces farm animal noises and wind effects for the amusement of his audience. In later years, one part of his act involved re-recording his synthesizer’s “audience boos”, encouraging his audience to jeer him and playing the sounds back with a satisfied comment about how enthusiastically they’ve booed him. But when Iceberg gets into the musical groove on this record, astonishingly strange and wonderful music can result. This track is the combined best parts of his concert. Other synthesizer adopters of the era produced music that was either frankly experimental and spare or in a classical style, taking advantage of the device’s ability to produce an entire symphony of sound. Iceberg plays music that seems to come from another dimension, simultaneously recalling 60s and 70s pop while looking forward to techno, electro-pop and house. It is a bizarre space-age mélange perched on the edge of hysteria.
Whether he be in the Tomorrowland Terrace or the Tomorrowland Theater built in 1980 south of the Carousel of Progress, Iceberg’s music was an essential part of night time at Walt Disney World, between dizzying spins on Space Mountain and laps on the Grand Prix. I am pleased to bring this unique sensory pleasure back to the world through this music set.
The General Electric Carousel of Progress – The 1975 version of the Carousel of Progress has never really gotten much attention. I don’t know if this is because it was moved out of Disneyland after only a short stay and ended up “down in Florida”, out of sight and mind. Maybe it was because this was the first attraction to depart significantly from a Walt Disney original, or perhaps it’s because of Richard Sherman’s disparaging remarks about the quality of the “Now is the Time” song – remarks which only ever reflected his affection for the original tune it replaced, which was bound up in his relationship to Walt Disney. It’s actually a shame that Sherman made those remarks, because they deflect attention away from the 1975 show itself, and it’s really good. It’s a very solid show which finds an amenable middle ground between the rosy-hued optimism of the 1964 version and the realities of post-Watergate, post-Vietnam America without descending into condescending sophistry like the 1994 version.
The truth is that the 1975 show was a very strong effort with a superb script, and put up against something like, say, the Shermans’ “Computer Song” for EPCOT Center, “Now Is The Time” has nothing to apologize for. Buddy Baker’s score is simply excellent, one of his best efforts, very much in the vein of the work he did for America Sings just a few months earlier. Probably the biggest problem with the 1975 show is that Andrew Duggan, the new actor in the “Father” role, simply isn’t very good at singing. His enthusiasm carries the show passably, but you’ll notice he occasionally lags somewhat behind the music. Then again, this may be the fault of the unknown mixer who compiled all this music somewhat carelessly. Recording sessions are available on WaltsMusic.Com, but I ended up using the versions uploaded to MouseBits.Com under the name “Carousel of Progress – Collection” uploaded by use poogy71, which have superior sound quality.
The final Carousel cue is unique to the ‘75 show, an arrangement of “Now Is the Time” performed in calliope style, which perhaps hits the “carousel” note too much on the head but which I find delightful anyway.  It circulates in some places as “exit music”; actually this incidental cue played under Father’s welcome in the Loading scene.
Wasn't that wonderful?!? What I wouldn't give to hear another live Michael Iceberg performance in Tomorrowland. Tomorrow we'll take a ride on the beloved and long gone If You Had Wings attraction...

...I can't wait! This wonderful Tomorrowland track has been added to the Disney Avenue Music Player for you to listen to whenever you'd like. See you right back here tomorrow where we'll continue our tour of vintage Walt Disney World and revisit the If You Had Wings attraction!
Keith Michael Mahne is the owner and editor of Disney Avenue and the host of the Disney Avenue Podcast. He has made countless trips to the Walt Disney World resort since his first trip in 1989 at the age of four.

Keith has a strong passion and respect for Walt Disney, the parks and resorts, and the men and women who help create them. He started Disney Avenue as a way to inform and entertain readers and to repay all those who make dreams come true every day.

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