44 years ago this Thursday, the only Peanuts big-screen “book” musical premiered, capturing the talents of three creative giants on film and records. Here’s a closer look.
SNOOPY, COME HOME
Original Soundtrack Recording Columbia Masterworks S-31541 (12” 33 1/3 RPM LP / Stereo)
Released in 1972. Arranger/Conductor: Don Ralke. Liner Notes: Charles M. Schulz. Engineer: Stan Ross, Gold Star Recorders, Hollywood. Running Time: 31 minutes.
Singing Voices: Shelby Flint (Lila); Linda Ercoli (Clara); Guy Pohlman (Charlie Brown), Thurl Ravenscroft, Don Ralke, Ray Polman.
Speaking Voices: Chad Webber (Charlie Brown); Robin Kohn (Lucy); Stephen Shea (Linus), Chris DeFaria (Peppermint Patty).
Songs: “Snoopy, Come Home,” “Lila’s Theme (Do You Remember Me?),” “At The Beach,” “No Dogs Allowed,” “The Best of Buddies,” “Fundamental-Friend-Dependability,” “Getting’ It Together,” “It Changes” by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman.
Instrumentals: “Woodstock’s Samba,” “Charlie Brown’s Calliope,” “Lila’s Theme (Instrumental Reprise)” by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman.
The music of Peanuts was beginning to change in the early ’70s. The premiere of the first Peanuts animated feature, A Boy Named Charlie Brown, saw Rod McKuen’s songs and more expansive orchestrations behind the gang’s trials, tribulations and triumphs. Even Vince Guaraldi was looking for new sounds for the TV specials, with Play It Again, Charlie Brown presenting a jazz sound that was very different (and even a little startling).
On stage, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown gave Off-Broadway audiences full-scale musical numbers accompanied by simple arrangements—if they sounded a little like Sesame Street, it was because legendary Sesame composer/arranger Joe Raposo was responsible.
But it was Snoopy, Come Home that took the most spectacular leap into another musical approach. None of the characters sang the Sherman Brothers songs on screen, but they either were “thinking” their lyrics (a technique used in Goodbye, Mr. Chips and Tom Sawyer) or the chorus was expressing the emotions (à la Bambi).
The selection of Don Ralke as musical director added to another unique touch to Snoopy, Come Home. Very much in-demand as a arranger/conductor of pop music and easy listening records for major record labels and television, Ralke is perhaps most famous (or infamous) for his appropriately bizarre arrangements on William Shatner’s notorious record albums (“Mister tambourine man!!! Mister tambourine man!!!!!”). Coincidentally, he also directed music for the Golden Records LP, Dream Along with Bozo.
Ralke’s orchestrations and choral work created a shift in style for the Shermans, delivering a musical setting quite different from the brothers’ work with Tutti Camarata, Jack Elliott and Irwin Kostal. It’s Ralke’s only film score, which is a shame because it has such a distinctive, appealing sound. The instrumentals on this album are just as much a treat as the vocals (“Woodstock’s Samba” is a personal favorite).
The songs exemplify the Shermans firing on all cylinders, during a very prolific independent period in their careers. Bedknobs and Broomsticks had been released a year earlier. Charlotte’s Web and Tom Sawyer on their way to theaters in 1973, to be followed by their Broadway debut with Over Here! in 1974 (read about that score over here). Few if any composing team has tallied as many written-for-the-screen musicals as these two brothers.
Running the gamut of jaunty tunes and touching ballads, Charles Schulz was pleased enough with their work to write one of the most moving album notes of all time about his experience: “I shall never forget standing in a sound booth listening to ‘It Changes’ for the first time. When I said it was perfect for the crucial scene in the movie, Dick [Sherman] grabbed my hand, and we laughed, and rejoiced in that wonderfully rare feeling that people have who are in different fields, but fit together perfectly in a common endeavor.”
Interestingly, there is just one sequence in Snoopy, Come Home in which the music suggests the jazz of Vince Guaraldi: in Snoopy’s farewell party. One has to wonder if that was done to evoke the familiar feel of the early specials, deepening the sorrow of a scene in which these friends say goodbye to Snoopy. If that was a deliberate move, it sure worked.