April 24 – Offenbach, Hammond ‘A’, Del Shannon ‘Runaway’


Offenbach 1850

Paris premiere of French composer, cellist Jacques Offenbach‘s first opera comique, L’alcove. (*) (*)
Such popular works are among those on the path leading to modern musical theatre. (At the time music hall is popular in England, with Victorian burlesque also popular in New York theatre.)

Orpheus poster, 1858

In 1850 Offenbach becomes the conductor at the Comédie-Française. His first full-length effort, 1858’s Orpheus in the Underworld (Orphee aux enfers — famous for its can-can galop) — is well-received and remains popular.
Orpheus (10m)  Barcarolle (1881) 
Offenbach’s work — including nearly 100 works in the operetta or ‘light opera’ form — influences many later composers, among them Johann Strauss II (1870s-80s) and Arthur Sullivan.
French composer Herve is credited with inventing the operetta genre. Other earlier forms of musicals include burletta, extravaganza, spectacle, comic opera, pantomime, parlor opera. ▷M101:1800s musicals▹

See also: List of opera genres


Hammond and Model A

US engineer and inventor Laurens Hammond(*) is awarded a patent (US#1,956,350) for his ‘Model A’, the first pipeless organ. (*) Medley 
His name for it is ‘Electrical Musical Instrument’.

His tonewheel designs (*) use 91 rotating, toothed steel disks, along with guitar-like pickups, to create additive synthesis of ‘organ’ waveforms (*) — genius!

Hammond marketed their instruments with claims that they could not be differentiated from the mechanical pipe equivalent. He was taken to court by the US FTC for misrepresentation, (*) finally winning his case using a doubleblind competitive test against a pipe organ, in a cathedral, with speakers mounted behind the organ pipes and an array of music scholars, students and professionals listening.


Del Shannon

US sing/songwriter Del Shannon‘s (*) song Runaway begins 4 weeks at US#1, and makes UK#1. ▷Songfacts▹
In all Shannon has nine top-40 hits. Another great song by Shannon, ‘I Go to Pieces’, is a US#9 hit for UK act Peter and Gordon in 1965. In 1986 a revised ‘Runaway’ becomes the theme song for NBC TV drama series Crime Story. In 1999 he’s inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame.
 ( Shannon site ▷Big Top discog▹ Strange Sounds


Part of the ‘Runaway’ magic is its bridge, with a famous Max Crook ‘Musitron’ solo — years before Moog.

Shannon and bandmates performed the song that night for the first time before a live crowd. Before they began playing the song Shannon said, “Max, when I point to you, play something.” What Crook played on his Musitron is now considered one of the most famous instrumental breaks in rock ‘n’ roll history. Parker threw his drumsticks in the air and exclaimed, “Boy! I can’t believe what a great song you guys just wrote!”

Reportedly the Musitron is all over behind the Marvelettes album Please Mr. Postman. ▷Making of Runaway▹