Friday, February 04, 2011

Chicago - That Wonderful Windy Town

For over a week I have had the song "Chicago" trapped in my head. No matter how many Gang Of Four, David Bowie, James Brown, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lady Gaga, or Rolling Stones songs I listen to, "Chicago" keeps coming back to the top of my mental play list.

So, I had to get it out of my system:

This clip looks like it was made for television, but the sound is rather high-quality for television. It doesn't have the dramatic flourishes that Judy used in the Carnegie Hall version (which I can not find on video), but it is an amazing performance.

One of Judy's most well-known performances is her gig at the London Palladium, in 1960. Famous because it was filmed, not because her performance was necessarily any better than previous performances. She had been diagnosed with acute hepatitis and was told that if she kept-up at the pace she was going she would be dead or invalid in five years.

The Palladium show featured duets with her daughter, Liza Minelli, where the two of them showed that they are some of the best hoofers and singers of their respective generations.

In this version of Chicago, Judy takes the lead vocal for a verse while Liza dances a Broadway-style number, showing of her amazing skills. I wonder nothing about the performance, only if it is Peter Allen on the piano behind her. Allen being the gay man that Liza would marry at Judy's urging.

This show at the Palladium preceded one of Judy's most remarkable performances, her show at Carnegie Hall on April 23, 1961.

Considered a highlight of her career and by one reviewer the greatest night in show biz history, the show was recorded and released as the "Judy at Carnegie Hall" album. The record spent almost two years in the Billboard charts, was certified gold, and won four Grammy Awards including Album of the Year and Best Female Vocal of the Year.

Remarkably the album has never been out-of-print. My mother had a copy of it. Did yours?

I can find no video recording of this performance, but this video slide show includes what I consider the greatest version of this great song:

A few years later, the Judy Garland Show began a run on CBS. Archival footage of shows from this era share one characteristics: terrible audio quality. In this video, Judy sings "Chicago" on her show.

All videos and recordings used without permission.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Palladium Concert with Liza was in 1964, not 1960. Garland's 1960 Palladium Concert was not filmed.
If only it had been. Her 1960 European tour was a huge success. That would really be something to see. The Amsterdam and Paris concerts from 1960 are available on CD.