The British Film Institute describes Ronald Neame’s 1963 film I Could Go on Singing as a “made-to-measure portrait of a singer grappling with her many demons before a London Palladium concert.” With the singer in question portrayed by the incandescent Judy Garland in what would turn out to be her final film role, it’s only natural to wonder just how much of the film was art imitating life. Or was it the other way around? Garland herself had performed triumphantly on the famed London stage as early as 1951, with one stand preserved for posterity as the 1964 LP Live at the London Palladium (with her daughter Liza Minnelli co-headlining). Indeed, the streets of London played a crucial role in the career of the beloved entertainer. Years before four Liverpool lads named John, Paul, George and Ringo immortalized EMI’s Abbey Road Studios, Judy Garland was making her own singular magic there. The London recordings of Judy Garland – primarily three sessions taking place in 1960, 1962 and 1964 – are being compiled this fall by First Hand Records as a 2-CD set, The London Studio Recordings: 1957-1964. (The 1957 session yielded just one track. It, appropriately enough, was Roger Edens’ “It’s Lovely to Be Back in London.”)
By mid-1960, Judy Garland had completed sessions for her Capitol LP That’s Entertainment! with arranger and conductor Jack Marshall. She was on the mend from a stressful 1958 and 1959, and travelled to London to both recuperate further and prepare for a series of concert and nightclub appearances throughout Europe. While there, she stayed at the home of producer and bandleader Norrie Paramor (1914-1979) who would perhaps become best-known for guiding the career of Cliff Richard. Paramor was slated to conduct Judy’s tour, but he also guided her into Abbey Road for a series of sensational performances. The studio’s soon-to-be-famous sound quality was in evidence on these tracks which showed off Garland’s remarkable voice in its full splendor on such favorites as “The Man That Got Away,” “Over the Rainbow” and a reprise of her 1951 Palace Theatre medley.
The London recordings were mixed down to 2-track and duly sent along to the Tower in Hollywood. Yet, for reasons perhaps lost to time, Capitol allowed them to languish until 1962, when six selections (out of twenty) appeared on the LP The Garland Touch. It took another decade for the rest of the sessions to emerge, and even then only on a limited Capitol Record Club release. The twenty cuts were finally brought into the digital realm in 1991 via Capitol’s The One and Only box set (D 217007).
To those original twenty recordings, First Hand is adding much more. Hit the jump to find out just what’s being included, as well as what’s not!
In May 1962, Judy was back in London starring with Dirk Bogarde and Jack Klugman in I Could Go On Singing, and she returned to Abbey Road, this time with her usual conductor Mort Lindsey at the podium. (Garland was hardly sitting on her laurels, however. In between the 1960 sessions and the movie’s filming was the evening of April 23, 1961, or Judy at Carnegie Hall. ‘Nuff said!) For the film, Garland recorded Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz’ “By Myself,” Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson’s wistful “It Never Was You,” Cliff Friend’s “Hello Bluebird” and the thrilling title song, written to order by Harold Arlen and E.Y. “Yip” Harburg, the same men who penned “Over the Rainbow.” All are heard on the new collection.
After completing I Could Go On Singing, Garland returned to the U.S. where she soon launched on another famed venture, CBS-TV’s The Judy Garland Show. Although the program wasn’t renewed for a second season, it committed to tape a number of historic performances with a host of the greatest talents show business had to offer. Among those performers were Liza Minnelli, Ethel Merman, Barbra Streisand, Tony Bennett, Count Basie, Jack Jones, Bobby Darin, Vic Damone and Mel Torme, who also provided arrangements.
After the series wrapped, Garland continued to perform, mainly in live settings. Her two nights with Minnelli at the London Palladium in 1964 formed the basis of her final Capitol LP, but while abroad she recorded an EP of four songs from Lionel (Oliver!) Bart’s musical Maggie May, with Harry Robinson’s orchestra. All four songs from Maggie May appear on First Hand’s set. There were still triumphs to come for Judy Garland, such as a 1967 return to the Palace Theatre in New York, a terrific 1966 guest appearance on The Perry Como Show, and a five-week engagement in late 1968 back in London at The Talk of the Town. And of course, Judy Garland was the talk of the town. Tragically, it was in the city that had given Garland so many of her finest moments that she passed away in 1969 at the age of 47.
The London Studio Recordings adds numerous previously-unissued tracks to the originally released 28 sides. These include eleven alternate takes from the Paramor sessions plus a couple of tracks of studio chatter and one completely unreleased song entitled “Please Say Ah!” This track is performed with an old friend from Garland’s MGM days, Saul Chaplin. Every track has been remastered at Abbey Road, and the CDs are accompanied by a 32-page book featuring an essay by Garland historian John Fricke.
What’s missing? None of the alternate takes previously issued on various CDs of these songs are present. 2007’s 3-CD box set The Very Best of Judy Garland (EMI 0946 3 79219 2 0) offered alternates of “Stormy Weather” and “Over the Rainbow.” Alternates of “Why Was I Born” and “It Never Was You” premiered on The Essential Judy Garland (Capitol 09463 59451 2 6, 2006). In addition, “I Could Go On Singing” was remixed in 2007 for The Very Best. Despite those omissions, this is the most comprehensive package to date collecting some of the most celebrated tracks by this American legend.
You can mark your calendars for October 11. That’s when The London Studio Recordings 1957-1964 arrives from First Hand Records. Till then, you might wish to check out JSP Records’ Smilin’ Through: The Singles Collection, documenting the singer’s Decca years, 1936-1948. You’ll find full coverage of that box set here!
Judy Garland, The London Studio Recordings 1957-1964 (First Hand FHR12, 2011)
- It’s Lovely to Be Back in London
- Lucky Day
- I Can’t Give You Anything but Love
- Stormy Weather
- Medley: Judy at The Palace
- You Go to My Head
- Rock-a-Bye Your Baby (with a Dixie Melody)
- Happiness is a Thing Called Joe
- It’s a Great Day for the Irish
- I Happen to Like New York
- Medley: You Made Me Love You/For Me and My Gal/The Trolley Song
- Why Was I Born?
- Do it Again
- Come Rain or Come Shine
- The Man That Got Away
- You’ll Never Walk Alone
- San Francisco
- After You’ve Gone
- Over the Rainbow
- Hello Bluebird
- By Myself
- It Never Was You (previously unissued alternate take)
- I Could Go On Singing
- The Land of Promises
- It’s Yourself
- Maggie May
- There’s Only One Union
- Lucky Day (take 1)
- Stormy Weather (take 4)
- Why Was I Born (take 6)
- After You’ve Gone (take 3)
- It’s a Great Day for the Irish (take 2)
- You’ll Never Walk Alone (take 1)
- It’s Yourself intro chat
- It’s Yourself (take 6)
- The Land of Promises (take 4)
- Maggie May (take 1)
- Hello Bluebird (take 9)
- I Could Go On Singing (take 1) interrupted partial take
- It Never Was You intro talk to guitarist
- Please Say ‘Ah’! (with Saul Chaplin)
Disc 1, Track 1 recorded at Abbey Road Studios, 11 October 1957 (Geoff Love, cond.)
Disc 1, Tracks 2-21 recorded at Abbey Road Studios, 2-9 August 1960 (Norrie Paramor, cond.)
Disc 2, Tracks 1-4 recorded at Abbey Road Studios, 9 May and 9 July 1962 (Mort Lindsey,cond.) from the film I Could Go On Singing
Disc 2, Tracks 5-8 recorded at Abbey Road Studios, 6 & 12 August 1964 (Harry Robinson, cond.) from the EP Maggie May
Disc 2, Tracks 9-22 previously unreleased (Tracks 9-14 Paramor sessions, 15-18 Robinson sessions, 19-22 Lindsey sessions)