April 28, 2004

Industrial Musicals
(Originally aired 13th Oct 2003)

In the days before training videos, team-building workshops and Anthony Robbins, corporations routinely entrusted top Broadway producers with the task of motivating employees and inspiring company loyalty.
To achieve this, the producers devised lavish, high-quality stage musicals; usually based around new product lines or the joys of working for the company. In some cases, A-list composers, like Raymond Scott, or Kander and Ebb (of Cabaret fame), were called in to write the music. And the companies who commissioned them would even go to the expense of pressing albums of the soundtracks... All this for something that would generally only be staged once - at an annual conference or national convention...

Although the staging of these "industrial musicals" was a fairly widespread practice that continued well into the 1980's, the music from them is relatively hard to come by. (This is largely because the recordings of these "events" were kept in-house, and only ever given away to employees as souvenirs.)

The material that is out there, however, is seriously... out there. Take this track, for instance - the legendary classic My Bathroom Is A Private Kind Of Place (originally posted on 365 Days). It comes from a 1969 musical commissioned by bathroom fitting maker, American Standard. The show revolved around a mythical goddess called Femma - "the leader of all women's movement" - and her efforts to bring about a "bathroom revolution"... In the song, which serves as a bit of a scene-setter, a woman croons about her bathroom being "a very special kind of place" in which she can "dream and cream all day".

If you like this and want to hear more corporate whimsy, then you can either track down a copy of the almost-impossible-to-find compilation, Product Music (on Japanese boutique label Honest-Abe) or sample some of the streamed audio on The David Letterman Show site. For a good background on the genre, check out this article on Perfect Sound Forever.

Posted by Warren at 01:42 AM