November 17, 2010

Beatle Cassette Continuity

In honor of the Beatle catalogue FINALLY being available for download on iTunes (which is of minimal interest to me as I already have virtually everything they ever did), I look at a very odd chapter in Beatle history.

The accounting staff of EMI (the Beatles' label in the UK) appeared to value material expenses over artistic integrity, and so in order to save a few inches of tape (and thereby a few pence per unit), released the UK albums on cassette in the 1970's with the song order hopelessly scrambled in order for side A to be equal in length with (or a few seconds longer than) side B.

To add insult to injury, the tracks are arranged with no logic whatsoever. Their debut album Please Please Me no longer opened with Paul's iconic count-off "1-2-3-FAWR!" at the start of "I Saw Her Standing There," but with the tinkly piano chord at the start of "Misery," even though they were placed on the same cassette side! "Good Night" was inexplicably moved to the middle of side B on the cassette of The White Album, which closed with "Revolution 9"

American fans got a taste of this travesty in the mid/late 80's when the Beatles' catalogue was first released on CD, as the UK albums were also released on cassette in the US with this same deplorable running order.

Below are the Beatles' EMI cassette releases, with the vinyl album order in parentheses ("B3" = track 3 on side B)

Please Please Me
One of the greatest album openings of all time, Paul's count-off "1-2-3-FAWR!" at the start of "I Saw Her Standing There" gets pushed to the middle of side A. For No Reason Whatsoever, since it's still on Side A.
Side A
(approx 16:33, vinyl timing 17:13)
1 - Misery (A2)
2 - Chains (A4)
3 - PS I Love You (B2)
4 - Do You Want To Know A Secret (B4)
5 - I Saw Her Standing There (A1)
6 - Ask Me Why (A6)
7 - Baby It's You (B3)
Side B (approx 16:24, vinyl timing 15:44)
1 - Please Please Me (A7)
2 - Love Me Do (B1)
3 - A Taste of Honey (B5)
4 - There's A Place (B6)
5 - Anna (Go With Him) (A3)
6 - Boys (A5)
7 - Twist And Shout (B7)

With The Beatles
Side A (approx 16:56, vinyl timing 15:54)
1 - All My Loving (A3)
2 - Little Child (A5)
3 - Devil In Her Heart (B5)
4 - Not A Second Time (B6)
5 - Please Mr. Postman (A7)
6 - Hold Me Tight (B2)
7 - You Really Got A Hold On Me (B3)
Side B (approx 16:56, vinyl timing 17:58)
1 - It Won't Be Long (A1)
2 - All I've Got To Do (A2)
3 - Till There Was You (A6)
4 - I Wanna Be Your Man (B4)
5 - Don't Bother Me (A4)
6 - Roll Over Beethoven (B1)
7 - Money (B7)

A Hard Day's Night
The album's original running order put the songs from the movie on side A, and new non-movie songs on side B. Now they're mixed around willy-nilly.
Side A
(approx 15:49, vinyl timing 16:46)
1 - I Should Have Known Better (A2)
2 - When I Get Home (B4)
3 - I'll Be Back (B6)
4 - I'm Happy Just To Dance With You (A4)
5 - Tell Me Why (A6)
6 - Any Time At All (B1)
7 - I'll Cry Instead (B2)
Side B (approx 15:06, vinyl timing 14:09)
1 - A Hard Day's Night (A1)
2 - Can't Buy Me Love (A7)
3 - Things We Said Today (B3)
4 - If I Fell (A3)
5 - And I Love Her (A5)
6 - You Can't Do That (B5)

Beatles For Sale
Side A (approx 17:23, vinyl timing 16:56)
1 - No Reply (A1)
2 - Baby's In Black (A3)
3 - Eight Days A Week (B1)
4 - I Don't Want To Spoil The Party (B5)
5 - I'll Follow The Sun (A5)
6 - What You're Doing (B6)
7 - Honey Don't (B3)
Side B (approx 17:12, vinyl timing 17:39)
1 - I'm A Loser (A2)
2 - Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby (B7)
3 - Rock And Roll Music (A4)
4 - Mr Moonlight (A6)
5 - Words Of Love (B2)
6 - Kansas City/Hey Hey Hey Hey (A7)
7 - Every Little Thing (B4)

Ditto ditto with A Hard Day's Night - movie tracks had been just on side A, but not anymore.
Side A (approx 17:19, vinyl timing 17:25)
1 - I Need You (A4)
2 - Another Girl (A5)
3 - I've Just Seen A Face (B5)
4 - Yesterday (B6)
5 - The Night Before (A2)
6 - Ticket To Ride (A7)
7 - Act Naturally (B1)
Side B (approx 17:11, vinyl timing 17:05)
1 - Help! (A1)
2 - You've Got To Hide Your Love Away (A3)
3 - You're Going To Lose That Girl (A6)
4 - It's Only Love (B2)
5 - You Like Me Too Much (B3)
6 - Tell Me What You See (B4)
7 - Dizzy Miss Lizzy (B7)

Rubber Soul
Side A (approx 18:13, vinyl timing 18:46)
1 - Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) (A2)
2 - You Won't See Me (A3)
3 - Think For Yourself (A5)
4 - I'm Looking Through You (B3)
5 - Nowhere Man (A4)
6 - Michelle (A7)
7 - Wait (B5)
Side B (approx 18:00, vinyl timing 17:27)
1 - Drive My Car (A1)
2 - If I Needed Someone (B6)
3 - What Goes On (B1)
4 - Girl (B2)
5 - In My Life (B4)
6 - The Word (A6)
7 - Run For Your Life (B7)

Side A (approx 17:24, vinyl timing 18:38)
1 - Good Day Sunshine (B1)
2 - And Your Bird Can Sing (B2)
3 - Doctor Robert (B4)
4 - I Want To Tell You (B5)
5 - Taxman (A1)
6 - I'm Only Sleeping (A3)
7 - Yellow Submarine (A6)
Side B (approx 17:46, vinyl timing 16:32)
1 - Eleanor Rigby (A2)
2 - Here, There And Everywhere (A5)
3 - For No One (B3)
4 - Got To Get You Into My Life (B6)
5 - Love You Too (A4)
6 - She Said She Said (A7)
7 - Tomorrow Never Knows (B7)

Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
No difference between vinyl and cassette running order.

The Beatles (aka "The White Album")
Good God, why couldn't they just have switched "Long Long Long" and "Happiness is a Warm Gun" and left the remaining tracks unscrambled? WHY?
Side A (approx 46:37, vinyl timing 46:16)
1 - Back In The U.S.S.R. (A1)
2 - Dear Prudence (A2)
3 - Glass Onion (A3)
4 - Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da (A4)
5 - Wild Honey Pie (A5)
6 - The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill (A6)
7 - While My Guitar Gently Weeps (A7)
8 - Martha My Dear (B1)
9 - I'm So Tired (B2)
10 - Blackbird (B3)
11 - Piggies (B4)
12 - Rocky Racoon (B5)
13 - Don't Pass Me By (B6)
14 - Why Don't We Do It In The Road? (B7)
15 - I Will (B8)
16 - Julia (B9)
17 - Long Long Long (C7)
Side B (approx 46:30, vinyl timing 46:51)
1 - Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except For Me And My Monkey (C4)
2 - Sexy Sadie (C5)
3 - Helter Skelter (C6)
4 - Revolution 1 (D1)
5 - Honey Pie (D2)
6 - Savoy Truffle (D3)
7 - Goodnight (D6)
8 - Happiness Is A Warm Gun (A8)
9 - Birthday (C1)
10 - Yer Blues (C2)
11 - Mother Nature's Son (C3)
12 - Cry Baby Cry (D4)
13 - Revolution 9 (D5)

Yellow Submarine
Side A (approx 19:30, vinyl timing 21:40)
1 - Yellow Submarine (A1)
2 - Only A Northern Song (A2)
3 - All You Need Is Love (A6)
4 - Hey Bulldog (A4)
5 - It's All Too Much (A5)
Side B (approx 20:09, vinyl timing 17:59)
1 - All Together Now (A3)
2 - Pepperland (B1)
3 - Sea of Holes (B2)
4 - Sea of Time (B3)
5 - Sea of Monsters (B4)
6 - March of the Meanies (B5)
7 - Pepperland Laid Waste (B6)
8 - Yellow Submarine in Pepperland (B7)

Abbey Road
The only difference is that opening tracks of vinyl side A ("Come Together") and B ("Here Comes The Sun") are flipped on the cassette.
Side A (approx 23:34, vinyl timing 24:49)
Side B (approx 23:42, vinyl timing 22:27)

Let It Be
Side A (approx 17:33, vinyl timing 19:14)
1 - Two Of us (A1)
2 - I Me Mine (A4)
3 - One After 909 (B2)
4 - Across The Universe (A3)
5 - Dig It (A5)
6 - Let It Be (A6)
Side B (approx 17:36, vinyl timing 15:55)
1 - Maggie Mae (A7)
2 - Dig A Pony (A2)
3 - The Long And Winding Road (B3)
4 - I've Got A Feeling (B1)
5 - For You Blue (B4)
6 - Get Back (B5)

A Collection of Beatles Oldies (But Goldies)
Side A (approx 19:40, vinyl timing 19:01)
1 - She Loves You (A1)
2 - From Me To You (A2)
3 - We Can Work It Out (A3)
4 - Ticket To Ride (B5)
5 - Help! (A4)
6 - Yesterday (A6)
7 - Day Tripper (B3)
8 - I Want To Hold Your Hand (B8)
Side B (approx 19:29, vinyl timing 20:08)
1 - Michelle (A5)
2 - I Feel Fine (A7)
3 - Can't Buy Me Love (B1)
4 - Bad Boy (B2)
5 - Yellow Submarine (A8)
6 - A Hard Day's Night (B4)
7 - Paperback Writer (B6)
8 - Eleanor Rigby (B7)

Beatles 1962-66 (aka "The Red Album")
No difference between vinyl and cassette running order.

Beatles 1967-70 (aka "The Blue Album")
The only difference between vinyl and cassette is that "Revolution" and "Back in the USSR" are switched.
Side A: (approx 50:30, vinyl timing 51:06)
Side B: (approx 48:52, vinyl timing 48:16)

So how much did the EMI beancounters save? Given that the standard playback speed of a cassette tape is 1 7/8" per second, we can determine the length of the cassette tape that EMI saved by the track re-ordering.

Please Please Me: 40 seconds difference = 75 inches of tape saved per unit
With the Beatles: 62 sec = 116.25"
A Hard Day's Night: 57 sec = 106.875"
Beatles For Sale: 16 sec = 30"
Help!: 6 sec = 11.25"
Rubber Soul: 33 sec = 61.875"
Revolver: 52 sec = 97.5"
Sgt Pepper: no savings
White Album: 14 sec = 26.25"
Yellow Submarine: 91 sec = 170.625"
Abbey Road: 67 sec = 125.625"
Let It Be: 98 sec = 183.75"
A Collection of Beatles Oldies: 28 sec = 52.5"
1962-66: no savings
1967-70: 36 sec = 67.5"

If someone knew what the EMI production factory's cost was per inch of cassette tape, as well as the amount of cassettes pressed per album, we could actually determine the dollar amount (well, GBP amount) of EMI's overall savings. I'd be interested to learn this.

I'd also be interested to know from the EMI powers-that-be from that time just who it was who made this decision, and who oversaw the track re-ordering. George Martin took great care in ordering the original tracks for their vinyl releases, so I want to find this person and ask just what his/her logic was in, say, putting "Good Night" in the middle of side B on the cassette of the White Album.

Did EMI do this for their other artists' releases? Pink Floyd appears to also suffer at their hands, if Ummagumma's track ordering is any indication.

Anyone know anybody who worked at EMI back then?

Doctor Who DVD Geekery

On pre-order:
Jan 2011 - The Dominators (#44), Meglos (#111)
Feb 2011 - The Mutants (#63), The TV Movie
March 2011 - The Ark (#23), The Seeds of Doom (#85)
April 2011 - Kinda (#119), Snakedance (#125)

Remaining classic-era serials unreleased on DVD:
Releasable (no more than two missing episodes) serials only
Red shading - released or confirmed to be released in the UK

William Hartnell era:
  • The Sensorites (#7)
  • The Reign of Terror (#8, reconstruction of eps 4 & 5 required)
  • Planet of Giants (#9)
  • The Crusades (#14, reconstruction of eps 2 & 4 required)
  • The Gunfighters (#25)
  • The Tenth Planet (#29, reconstruction of ep 4 required)
Patrick Troughton era:

  • The Moonbase (#33, reconstruction of eps 1 & 3 required)
  • The Ice Warriors (#39, reconstruction of eps 2 & 3 required)
  • The Krotons (#47)
Jon Pertwee era:

  • The Ambassadors of Death (#53, re-colorization of B/W material required)
  • Terror of the Autons (#55, fresh re-colorization required)
  • The Mind of Evil (#56, complete re-coloration required)
  • Colony in Space (#58)
  • The Dæmons (#59, fresh re-colorization required)
  • Day of the Daleks (#60)
  • Invasion of the Dinosaurs (#71, re-colorization of ep 1 required)
  • Death to the Daleks (#72)
  • Planet of the Spiders (#74)
Tom Baker era:

  • Terror of the Zygons (#80)
  • The Android Invasion (#83)
  • The Face of Evil (#89)
  • The Sunmakers (#95)
  • Nightmare of Eden (#107)
Peter Davison era:

  • The Awakening (#132)
  • Frontios (#133)
Sylvester McCoy era:

  • Time and the Rani (#148)
  • Paradise Towers (#149)
  • Dragonfire (#151)
  • The Happiness Patrol (#153)
  • The Greatest Show in the Galaxy (#155)

The Ones We'll Never See Again, Barring A Miracle


  • Marco Polo (no surviving episodes)
  • Galaxy Four (no surviving episodes)
  • Mission to the Unknown (no surviving episodes)
  • The Myth Makers (no surviving episodes)
  • The Daleks' Master Plan (only eps 2, 5 and 10 are known to exist)
  • The Massacre of St Bartholemew's Eve (no surviving episodes)
  • The Celestial Toymaker (only ep 4 is known to exist)
  • The Savages (no surviving episodes)
  • The Smugglers (no surviving episodes)

  • The Power of the Daleks (no surviving episodes)
  • The Highlanders (no surviving episodes)
  • The Underwater Menace (only ep 3 is known to exist)
  • The Macra Terror (no surviving episodes)
  • The Faceless Ones (only eps 1 and 3 are known to exist)
  • The Evil of the Daleks (only ep 2 is known to exist)
  • The Abominable Snowmen (only ep 2 is known to exist)
  • The Enemy of the World (only ep 3 is known to exist)
  • The Web of Fear (only ep 1 is known to exist)
  • Fury From the Deep (no surviving episodes)
  • The Wheel in Space (only eps 3 and 6 are known to exist)
  • The Space Pirates (only ep 2 is known to exist)

November 14, 2010

More Cassette Continuity

More Cassette continuity issues, following up on an earlier post. If you know of others, let me know and I'll add them to the list.

The Who - Tommy
I swear growing up my dad had a single-cassette release of Tommy that faded out "Sparks" early and skipped a couple other tracks ("Eyesight to the Blind" was one, I think), but I can't find any corroborating evidence on Google.

Moody Blues - On The Threshold of a Dream
"Never Comes The Day", which opens side B on the LP version, is moved to the end of cassette side A, creating a lengthy gap at the end of side B.

Led Zeppelin II
All screwed up. Side A closer "Thank You" and Side B opener "Heartbreaker" are swapped on cassette, as are "Moby Dick" and "What Is And What Should Never Be." The natural link between Heartbreaker and "Livin' Lovin' Maid" which motivated FM dj's consistently to play the two songs together is lost.

Cream - Wheels of Fire
The side-closing tracks, "As You Said" on vinyl side A and "Deserted Cities of the Heart" on side B, are swapped on the original cassette release.

Beatles - Abbey Road
One of the less egregious track re-orderings in the Beatles' cassette catalog (subject of a forthcoming blogpost), but still odd. The opening tracks on either side, "Come Together" and "Here Comes The Sun", are swapped on cassette. This means that cassette listeners get both Harrison songs over and done with at the start.

U2 - Boy, October & War
I had these three albums on cassette in the 80's, and it's worthy to note that in all three releases, each side contains the entire album. Although it used twice as much cassette tape (how EMI's accountants would've blanched at such a notion!), it completely solved the track re-ordering dilemma.

Pink Floyd - Ummagumma
The concept of "One album live, one album studio" goes to pot on the cassette release, with the songs scrambled out of any semblance of order. It's an EMI release; go figure.

Monty Python - Contractual Obligation Album
They left the running order unchanged, but since side A was six minutes shorter than side B, Michael Palin bookends the six silent minutes at the end of side A with opening and closing narration. (The intervening silence is about as funny as most of the rest of the album, particularly "Finland" and "I Like Traffic Lights.")

November 6, 2010

More Civil War Ancestors - C. W. Gray

Out of the four Gray brothers (Robert H, Clarendon W, Augustus L and Madison J) of Stockton, Maine, who enlisted in the Union cause in the Civil War, only Clarendon returned, having seen every major battle from Bull Run to Appomattox. After the war, he served as a Boston police officer. This article, in a September 1897 issue of the Boston Evening Record (a precursor to the Boston Herald), features his Civil War service and his being awarded the Kearny Cross.
[Septe]mber 18, 1897

Patrolman Gray Has Kearney Cross.

One of the possessors of the coveted “Kearney Cross,” awarded for especial and conspicuous bravery at the battle of Fair Oaks or Seven Pines, as it is sometimes called is Patrolman C. W. Gray of station 3.

It is a simple maltese cross, dangling at the end of a strip of red, white and blue ribbon, with the words “Kearney Cross,” engraved upon its face, but it is rich in signification, and its value to Mr. Gray cannot be estimated in terms of this world’s riches.

Mr. Gray comes from a family of men who were foremost in answering the call for the defence of the Union. Three brothers, with him entered in the army at the first summons of President Lincoln.

Three of the four brothers left their lives upon southern fields. Mr. Gray alone returned home after the bloody conflict.

And strangest of all the father of these four gallant men was a staunch democrat, bitterly opposed to the war and all that it signified.

It was a bitter irony that three of his sons should have given their lives for the cause to which he was so entirely hostile.

Mr. Gray was but 18 years of age when he entered, and two of his brothers were one and two years younger, respectively. Patrolman Gray is still a young man, and few people who see him on his daily beat would deem it possible that a man so youthful in appearance should have undergone such hardships and attained so great a proof of gallantry as the Kearney Cross.

When I questioned at the station house about the cross and the circumstances under which he gained it he was extremely loath to talk of the matter, preferring, as he said, to leave the relation of the facts to others.

He invited me, however, to come to his home, and see the trophy, and finally I obtained a recital of the circumstances from his own lips.

Mr. Gray and his brothers were of good old Maine stock, and they enlisted in the Third Maine volunteers. Their first experience under arms was at the first battle of Bull Run, in which engagement Mr. Gray was wounded in the thigh.

His corps was commanded by the gallant Gen. Howard. Mr. Gray fought in all the battles in which his regiment took part, but it was at Fair Oaks that he received the cross for his notable gallantry.

It was after a fierce engagement when the troops were resting after the heavy labor of the day. Mr. Gray, then a sergeant, with two other men of his regiment named Roper and Millano started out to do a bit of independent reconnoitering.

They went far beyond their own lines, and had almost reached the lines of the enemy when they noticed, under a tree a group of Confederate soldiers, who afterwards proved to be a Georgia colonel who was wounded, with five of his men as a body guard.

Their weapons were stacked against a tree nearby, and the men were reclining about apparently with feelings of great security.

“We slowly circled about them,” said Mr. Gray, “through the woods, and suddenly, when we were as near as we could safely get, we leaped out with a great shout and commanded to surrender.

“They were absolutely dazed, and almost before they knew what we were or what they were about, we had them ‘yarded up’ and on the way to our lines.

“But when that Georgia colonel came to his senses, and especially his sense of speech, the language he used was almost as focible as a charge of musketry.

“It was the most picturesque swearing I ever heard, and if profanity could have availed we would have left our captives then and there and fled in terror to our lines.

“We were proof against his wordy assaults, however, and marched him and his men straight to camp, where, as you may imagine, we were received with great ovations.

“This was on May 3, 1863, and May 16 Gen. Braney, who commanded the Third Army Corps, issues a general order commending the splendid gallantry of our corps.

“At the same time the Kearney crosses were presented to the favored few. We were drawn up in line of battle, and Gen. Sedgwick, our division commander, passed along and pinned the crosses on the breast of our coats.

“We were told to wear them continually, and to keep them free from disgrace. We did not have to be told that, and my cross was never removed until the day Lee surrendered at Appomattox.”

So far as Mr. Gray knows, there are but two other men in this city who have the Kearney cross. They are George Woods, a baggage master at the B. & M. depot, and George Flynn, the janitor of the Lexington School at East Boston.

Both the other men who assisted in the capture of the Georgia colonel and his men were killed in later engagements. Millano was a wealthy Spaniard who left Spain for some political reason. He was killed one month before the expiration of his term of service.

Mr. Gray has, besides the Kearney cross, other tokens of his fighting days, which he values only less highly. Among these are the adjutant general’s report of the records of his three brothers.

R. H. Gray, major of the Fourth Maine, was killed in the battle of the Wilderness. The youngest of the brothers was killed at Fredericksburg, and Mr. Gray buried him with his own hands. The third brother was also killed at Fredericksburg.

Other mementoes are Mr. Gray’s corp badge, a diamond of red cloth which was worn on the cap, and a badge which was given him by his comrades when he was made lieutenant.

Mr. Gray is of the opinion, and it can hardly be disproved, that the record of his family cannot be duplicated among the soldiers of the United States who fought in the Civil War.

At the close of the war his corps was commanded by Gen. Miles, and thus, beginning with Howard, one of the most gallant of the surviving generals, he ended with Miles, no less gallant, who commands the army of today.

My Great-Great-Great Grandfather at Bull Run

I spent the afternoon at the Houghton Library with my uncle Bob, transcribing documents from the MOLLUS Civil War archives. While he worked on our ancestor Major Robert Henry Gray's 1863 war diary, I transcribed two newspaper clippings. What follows below is then-Lieutenant Gray's first-hand account of his experience at First Bull Run, originally printed in the Rockland (Maine) Gazette sometime in 1862, and re-printed in an unknown newspaper some time later (source unknown).
Statements of Lieut. R. H. Gray
[From the Rockland Gazette]

EDITOR GAZETTE: – Agreeably to my promise, I make some remarks concerning the affair at Bull Run.

Of the general features of the battle you have probably before this been well informed. Our brigade commenced moving at about 2 o’clock P.M. We were kept waiting for other troops, who fell in so slowly that at sunrise we had not advanced one mile from our camp. This was a fault. – Had we advanced promptly, we should have taken the northern batteries, as the enemy were not expecting an attack in that quarter. But as our column was some 5 or 6 hours in marching a distance we might easily have gone in two, the enemy, who watched our movements, and saw where the blow was to fall, had time to throw reinforcements into those batteries from Manassas, only three miles distant.

The force detailed to storm the batteries was insufficient. The army generally halted a little short of the battle field, and the battle was fought by detachments from the main body, and marching from one to three miles on a “double quick.” These detachments, after fighting as only brave men will fight, and performing, in many instances, deeds of valor which will never be written were compelled, by being outflanked by superior numbers, and for want of support, to fall back, and abandon the advantages they had gained.

The most glaring fault on the field that day was that, with a few exceptions, our attacking columns were not supported. I make no comments; I am not allowed to censure the conduct of a General, but men will think.

On arriving at a point about one mile from the centre, and about two and a half miles from the right of the enemy’s line, we halted in a wood. While there Major Nickerson was ordered forward to reconnoitre, I got a horse and went with him. Major N. advanced to where Ayer’s battery (formerly Sherman’s) was playing into a [w]ood, where were stationed a body of the enemy’s riflemen and cavalry. They were finally driven out. I passed through this wood later in the day. The havoc was fearful. The trees were splintered and limbs cut off, the ground plowed up, and horses and men dead and dying, lay thickly scattered about. Major N. having finished his reconnaissance, gave me permission to remain a little longer, and returned. – Hitching my horse I climbed a tree and saw Hunter’s brigade engage the enemy. They were about a mile distant, in an open field inclining toward me. I had a fair view. – They had an equal number, no outflanking, and the fight was with musketry alone. – They advanced until the lines were very near, and for about fifteen minutes the roll of musketry was unceasing. The lines of the rebels then began to waver and break, and finally they rallied in four or five confused masses. The rebels were between me and our men. In a moment more the glistening bayonets of our troops came bursting through the smoke-cloud, and rushing on the confused rebel masses. The slaughter for a moment or two was great. The rebels ran to the wood; where they were reinforced and advanced again, and again, after a smart fight, were driven by the bayonet to the wood.

Mr. Russell, the correspondent of the London Times, who pretends to have been an eye-witness of the Battle of Bull Run says there were no bayonet charges on that day. This writer prefers sarcasm to truth, and states what is false.

Thinking I had staid too long, I hastened to join my regiment which was marching by a circuitous route, over to attack the enemy’s left. Before getting into position, […] to [peer? pass?] some distance over a hill.
[column break; two columns of newsprint have been cut and pasted together, and some text is lost here]
[…] missed me, but [reeling? feeling?] so badly, I was some-what indifferent as to the result. I had almost reached my friends, when I was cut off by rebel cavalry, who came charging back, cutting down stragglers. I turned, went into a house used by our troops for a hospital, and lay among the wounded. – The cavalry came up, shot two men who were unwounded, rushed in and took all the guns, pistols, knives and watches they could get, and left. A guard was soon placed over us, which prevented personal violence, but not wordy abuse, for which the rebels have a particular gift. The officers were gentlemanly, but the questions of most of the soldiers showed them to be extremely ignorant. One said to me, “I spose ye are all starvin’ up North, now you don’t git our cotton.” “We do not eat cotton, sir.” “Well, ye wont git any corn up there, neither.” Another, the poorest specimen of humanity I ever observed, ragged, dirty, and ignorant, said to me, “What are you down here for, meddlin’ with out instooshuns?” Our “instooshuns!” I pitied him. The poor class of whites at the South ignorantly worship the Juggernaut “institution,” whose wheels crush them into the mire of society.

A certain rebel colonel belonging in Richmond, after making himself agreeable, as he thought, tried his hand at pumping. – He asked me how many men we had in the fight? I replied, “We had 60,000. How many did you have?” He told me “they had 45,000 at 1 o’clock P.M., besides a reserve,” the number of which he did not inform me, “and at 4 P.M., Johnson arrived with 15,000” I then told him we really had only 32,000 including the reserve, He said I “knew nothing about it, the Yankees had 80,000.” The loss of the enemy must have been severe. An Alabamian remarked with a deep sigh, “If this is war, by —— I want to go home, for our regiment was almost wiped out!” On of their orderlies told me that his company consisted of between ninety and a hundred in the morning, and only forty came out of the fight unhurt.

We received no bad treatment. The good woman of the house made us some goose broth. The good soul was fearful that a bit of the meat would hurt us, and so she kept it for herself and family, giving us only the broth. Whether it was gratis, or the paid her in “Virginia scrip,” I do not know. The dish was without much salt, and being strongly flavored with goose grease, we could not appreciate her kind gift.

The arms of the rebels are generally good, but most of their clothes are cotton, and their shoes are thin and unserviceable. If they stay in Virginia they will suffer much this winter. They have a numerous cavalry and but little of the hay in that State was cut.

I was with the rebels seven days. My condition, to me, was intolerable, and I determined to escape or die in the attempt. I made what little preparation I could, taking some biscuit, (which got wet and I threw away,) and some bandages and salve to dress my wounds, and also a secession blanket. I was thirty-four hours in reaching Georgetown, during twenty-four of which I was saturated with water. I crossed the Potomac by wading and swimming, using a rail to compensate for my arm. I had a slight fever when I started. I was seen several times by soldiers and others, but my blanket deceived them. For the first fourteen hours I repeatedly saw their pickets and sentinels, but they did not see me. – However, I escaped, assisted by a chain of fortuitous circumstances, and a little of that peculiar wit with which Nature kindly furnishes a Yankee.

UPDATE: An 1899 book about Maine Major General Hiram G Berry by Edward K Gould, published by the Rockland Courier-Gazette, contains an account of Lt Gray's escapades at Bull Run that appear to be drawn directly from the above article. It includes information about his wounding that is ostensibly drawn from the missing section:
"Lieutenant Robert H. Gray [...] was wounded and taken prisoner at Bull Run. He received his wound just before the order came to retreat. On his way to the rear Lieutenant Burgin of the Searsport company found him and bound up his wounded arm, and afterwards sent some men to conduct him to a place of safety. They did not find him, however, as his wound commenced bleeding soon after the lieutenant left him, and he started for a stream near by for water. Before he reached it he fainted from loss of blood, and on reviving, saw the retreating column of the Union army nearly a mile away. Replenishing his canteen at the brook, he attempted to rejoin his comrades by a short cut, but soon came in view of rebel troops who began firing on him, but he escaped further injury. His wound was so painful that he was indifferent to the danger he run, and continued steadily on his course until he had nearly reached his friends, when he beheld rebel cavalry rapidly approaching. Hastily entering a house which had been converted into a hospital by the Union forces, he lay down among the wounded, and had just made himself comfortable, when the cavalry dashed up, shooting two unwounded men."

November 4, 2010

Theatre Review: I AM HAMLET

"Never eat at a place called Mom's. Never play cards with a man named Doc. And never sleep with a woman whose troubles are worse than your own." - Nelson Algren.
Very sound advice, that. I would add a codicil: never go to plays (especially Shakespearean adaptations) written and directed by someone who bills himself as "The Shakespeare Guy." Would that I had heeded that advice this evening. Having seen the list of Joe "Shakespeare Guy" Siracusa's other Shakespearean adaptations, including "A Midsummer Knight's Ice Cream" and "The Bard and the Bear," a creeping sense of dread set in as I awaited the curtain.

A wise man once said, "The play's the thing." It's a quote that both writer/director Siracusa and actor Brian Morey should know well, and it's a pity that they put the focus elsewhere, on a self-indulgent production that puts the focus on the actor, the performance, and a grab-bag of gimmickry rather than on the play itself. I found it to be a rather intolerable display of ego, both of the writer and performer. What does it add to our understanding of the play, or of its title character? Nothing.

This is a one-man show; and no, it's not a re-telling of Hamlet from the perspective of a single character. Morey plays everybody, so inevitably the show won't be about Hamlet (the play), or Hamlet (the character), or for that matter Shakespeare. It's all about Morey's bag of actor tricks, and not a single one goes unused. His entire vocal range is utilized, as are a dozen distinct stereotypical characters and physicalities, he dons all manner of costumes, masks, and wigs, and he sings his heart out in a variety of styles and pitch ranges. He makes sure he shows us the length and breadth of his substantial talent and training, and won't let us go until we know just how hard he's working. And that's the problem here; this show is not built for the audience to appreciate the psychological profundity of Shakespeare's humanist masterpiece, it's built for us to marvel at the efforts of a single actor.

The strength of an actor, we're told, is his or her ability to lose one's sense of ego, and go boldly and fearlessly into situations of emotional vulnerability or extreme ridiculousness. And Morey certainly finds himself in such situations. As the Ghost, wearing a giant horned helmet, wearing platform shoes and bearing an enormous shield, I'm sure he felt fearsome indeed, but it was all I could do to suppress the urge to shout "NI!!"

And as Ophelia, which he performs in a white dress and blond wig, I really wish the burly brunette actor had shaved his full beard, especially when he launched into an earnest falsetto (and self-composed) love ballad. High camp? Apparently not. If he was daring us to laugh, it was a dare I only resisted by biting the inside of my cheek to the point of bloodletting.

Siracusa's adaptation doesn't do Morey any favors either. Shakespeare's text has been re-assembled in order for Morey to only have to play one character at a time, turning dialogue into monologue, but in some places Siracusa cops out and has Morey shout to offstage characters and converse with a pre-recorded voice (also Morey). The Players sequence is done as a pre-filmed silent movie - quite cleverly, actually - in which Morey of course plays every character (and provides, thankfully, a beardless Ophelia), including the watching courtiers, while the actual solid flesh actor gets to take an early intermission. This is a solo show, so I call "cheat."

Siracusa also takes some liberties with the wording, adding in his own original contributions which jar. Really, why does Ophelia say "Oh, my lord, I have been so scared of Hamlet's madness!" Does he think we wouldn't know what "affrighted" means? And we really don't need the updates: "I am Hamlet. I am being watched. People are trying to kill me." And when Morey namedrops both himself and the BCA in the "What A Rogue And Peasant Slave Am I" speech, it's Brechtian in the worst sense of the word, and to no apparent purpose.

A scene most telling in its absence is Act Three, Scene Two, Hamlet's advice to the players. It's sound advice that Siracusa and Morey seem to have deliberately chosen to avoid, to their peril: "Oh, it offends me to the soul to hear a robustious periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters, to very rags, to split the ears of the groundlings, who for the most part are capable of nothing but inexplicable dumb-shows and noise". And later on, he famously counsels "for anything so o'erdone is from the purpose of playing, whose end both at the first and now, was and is, to hold as 'twere, the mirror up to nature."

Would that they had.

PS - A recurring line, both spoken and sung, is "Something's Rotten in Denmark. Something Stinks." Although they open the door for me, I won't take the bait. It's just too easy.