2007   JANUARY 31   #031

J.C. Penney Company - Spirit of '66

1 Overture (Instrumental) (2:09)
2 Rockin' With The Mods (2:55)
3 Give Me An American Girl (2:51)
4 Looks Like You're Falling In Love (2:15)
5 How Would We Look Without Zippers? (2:33)
6 He's A Penney Man (2:45)
7 There's Gonna Be A Party Here Tonight! / I'm Home / R.S.V.P. / There's Gonna Be A Party Here Tonight! (6:12)
8 Opening Day At The Golden Rule (7:13)
9 The Spirit Of '66 (1:57)

Spirit of '66 is a great intro to the world of the always upbeat, corny, bizarre, privately-pressed 1960s Industrial Musical. It's a findable record, and it's a perfect example of the outrageous expense corporations took on when staging these monstrosities during the 1960s. It's got a large cast of Broadway and Off-Broadway actors, one of the top composers in industrial theatre, and a gatefold cover. And all that for what normally was a one-night affair, or perhaps at most a two-week affair, with the show touring to several cities where the company had a corporate presence.

Michael Brown (pictured in the bow tie on the front cover) composed this show, and this was not his first musical for the J.C. Penney Company. In 1962, he composed and staged Penney Proud, on the advent of the company's 60th anniversary (and if you're lucky enough to find a fully loaded copy of that LP, you'll find lyric sheets and sheet music given out at the performances), and in 1960, he penned A Birthday Garland for Mr. James Cash Penney, an exceptionally rare industrial show.

In fact, Brown in his heyday was actually a renaissance man – his numerous musicals for corporations (DuPont, Belk's stores, Singer, Woolworth's, Talon zippers (!), Holiday Magazine) are all charmingly written and performed with utmost professionalism. Each has at least one if not several standout cuts. He also got the most out of his material. Case in point: in Penney Proud there's a song titled “The Penney Manager's Work Song” – in his 1965 Woolworth show Mr. Woolworth Had a Notion, there's the “Woolworth Manager Work Song” and the same goes for Belk's. In fact, in Brown's 1967 Talon zipper show, he repeated the track “How Would We Look Without Zippers?” from this show for Penney's.

Brown began his career on Broadway in Leonard Sillman's New Faces for 1952, and New Faces for 1956, both of which featured his original songs. Lest you think he was square, in 1962, he released an LP on Impulse titled Alarums and Excursions. He's also known for the popular series of children's books about Santa Mouse. And, he and his wife Joy entered literary history during the 50s when they gave writer Harper Lee a gift: enough cash to quit work for a year and write To Kill a Mockingbird. Of course... I love him for “He's a Penney Man.”

- Contributed by: Jonathan Ward

Images: Front Cover, Back Cover, Credits, Titles

Media: 12" LP
Album: J.C. Penney Company presents An Evening With Michael Brown And His Friends (Spirit of '66)
Credits: Words and Music by Michael Brown. Musical Director Norman Paris.


•  Visit WFMU's Beware Of The Blog to view this post and comment  •