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Thursday, 19 November 2009

The Cult of Manhattan Tower

6a00d8341c85cd53ef00e54f5c5cfe8834-640wi Two or three times over the life of this blog, I have written about a 1945 recording titled Manhattan Tower. I was a little girl of no more than five or six when my parents obtained it when it was first released, and I adopted it as my own. I played those two 78s hundreds of times and I am convinced it is what began my love affair with New York City – nothing else explains my yearning to live there from earliest childhood.

The album is a love story to New York City, a suite composed and conducted by Gordon Jenkins with the lead performances sung by Eliot Lewis and Beverly Mahr. Never heard of them? Me neither – except on this album.

For the longest time, decades, I believed Manhattan Tower was a private obsession. But ever since I blogged about it in 2005, people regularly stop by having, I assume, googled the title. Some leave comments about how happy they are to rediscover an old favorite, and many others turn up in the blog stats having visited the page, but not left a comment. There is, apparently, a cult surrounding Manhattan Tower.

Having long lost the album, I found it a few years ago on a CD of old, old New York songs, some much older than these. A check yesterday at Amazon turned up a newer CD titled Manhattan Tower, but because it references the 1956 release, I can't tell if it is the version made in that decade with a different cast, or the original 1945 release. The one I bought is still available at Amazon, but only from outside vendors at a horrendously high price: $63.66 and $39.69.

Jenkins' arrangement is, by today's standards, overblown, grandiose and almost-but-not-quite sticky sweet. But that doesn't matter to me and other members of the Manhattan Tower cult. And the story, in a way, matches my own New York story, a city a still miss every day.

Now that audio is possible on this blog, I've posted the entire suite below. There are four movements, each about four minutes long. For those of you who don't find it too treacly – enjoy.

Magical Tower

Party

New York's My Home

Love in a Tower


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Dani Ferguson: What's Up, Doc?


Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:35 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

Too treacly? No, just the right amount of music,sound effects,
schmaltz,love and longing.

I enjoyed listening to this suite and I am now officially a member of the Manhattan Tower Cult.....

Somewhere in the recesses of my old brain I have the name Gordon Jenkins and Manhattan Towers stored. They 'ring a bell' and I believe Gordon Jenkins orchestrations were similar to Morton Gould's.

I wish I could hear music the way it should sound because I can't remember what Manhattan Tower sounded like. There is just so much storage in this old brain. ;-) (This is the second time I have commented, but the first one didn't appear. If this is a duplicate, forgive me.)

Here's a link to a re-mastered version of the original from Sepia Records ... www.tower.com/complete-manhattan-tower-gordon-jenkins-cd/wapi/106159167#product_details

Miki

I absolutely love Manhattan Tower and remember it well from my youth so long ago. Nostalgia city.

Thank you, Miki, but to be clear:

That CD is the 1950s re-recording on which Bill Lee and Shirley Mitchell sing the lead roles.

The original version from 1945 with Elliot Lewis and Beverly Mahr are what I have included in today's post.

Some people may remember and like the 1950s version; I prefer the original which is what I grew up with.

Even though it has been said above, my first reaction was pure schmaltz with a major touch of nostalgia. I too, remember with fondness for a different era; though as we all are aware, life does move on.
Thanks Ronni from another ex-New Yorker.
Cheers,

Warren

Nice schmaltz, Ronnie. :) Thank you.

I managed to finally listen and... Oh my gosh, Ronni!! What DRAMA!! There's no question that it would've had a huge impact on you at the age of 5-6! It's like an entire Hollywood movie made with the sole purpose of selling NYC! I wonder what was behind it at the time. Who financed it and why? Well, the WHY seems obvious. Selling NYC, as I said. But still... why? Why just then? Man-oh-man, they could've sold Cleveland with that backup! No offense, Cleveland. What fun to listen to that! Imagine what a typical teenager of today would think of something like that!

Ronni,
Thank you so much for this! I appreciate it immensely.
I saw the made-for-television movie in 1956 (?) not certain if that was the year it was on television. But for years and years I have wondered what ever became of that movie. There doesn't seem to be a copy of it at all. The only part I really remember was the Never Leave Me part. The song has remained with me all these years. I think the couple might have been in the Empire State Building when it was playing.
Funny thing, though, in my memory the man stayed in New York and the woman left. Don't know if that was really the way it ended on television, or if in my mind I "fixed it," because I would rather he had stayed. (As I believed I would, if I ever had the chance to live in Manhattan). I think this work had a lot to do with my deep love for the City as well.
Lucy (fellow Manhattan Tower Cult member)

Yes, I adored MT too; when I was young I first heard it on the radio. Though I am 62, I was not yet born when the original came out. Yet somewhere... in my childhood days of radio listening, some announcer must have loved the Gordon Jenkins piece...for they played it often. My favorite line? "'cause we're havin' a party, and the people are nice, and the people are nice!" What a heartwarming, evocative musical memory. Thanks, everybody!!

Thank you!! I have often thought of the lines "Never leave me. Never leave me." and related them to "Mahhatten Tower" on the radio in my young years with some sadness and yearning. I'm pleased to have found it at last. Thank you again.

I first listened to the old 78 at the public library with my first girl friend. Now I know what she was really trying to tell me.

Thanks for opportunity to hear the lyrics once again.

I'm 82 y/o and have remembered that music since I was a small kid. Only just now(2011) have I heard it again. What a joy.
I remembered Eliot Lewis too. He did a lot of radio work with his wife Cathy Lewis. Old radio adventure shows, but I don't recall which.

I was lying in bed on the threshold to sleep, reviewing these tunes, and wondering why? I think I was a teen when they played this on the radio.
So I got out of bed and tried an Internet search, and there you are!
Well, I ordered the CD from Amazon, it should arrive next week.

Wanted to swing by again to mention: I just saw "The Big Store" an old Marx Brothers movie, which I had forgotten contains an incredibly hokey version of a love song to a NY place - "The Tenement Symphony in Four Flats" sung by Tony Martin. If you are a fan of NY music...don't miss it. It's a hoot, and nowhere near as melodic and sublime as MT, but worth an ear and a giggle. And, you know, there was a time when the City of NY took on an identity all its own, and music writers like Aaron Copland, (Quiet City) Betty Comden-Adolph Greene (On The Town) and Richard Rodgers (Slaughter on Tenth Avenue) paid that notion homage. And music like this, even the corniest... never fails to tug at the heartstrings when we listen!

My father bought this album for my mother on their 15th wedding anniversary and sent my sister and me over to friends while they listened to it on the record player. I know it was the 1946 version because it was that year and they were married in 1931. I remember thinking "how romantic" but in retrospect, no boy friend or my husband was ever that romantic and years later, I am jealous of what my parents had. The music is still hauntingly beautiful. Gordon Jenkins did many arrangements for Frank Sinatra. I think Frank made a recording of Never Leave Me from MT. Thanks for the memories.

For decades, WVNJ used to play entire musical scores from 8 to 9 pm. When I was about 12,(1951),at home in Washington Heights, I heard MT and ever after remembered the line "I left my heart in that Tower, that Tower in Manhattan." Tonight, in my 10th floor condo in San Diego, I walked to close my balcony door, and the quote rushed into my mind along with GJ's name. A touch of Google, and here I am amid my fellow cultists. How warm and wonderful!
I lived in Manhattan (Wash.Hts.and Stuyvesant Town)until I was 34, then spent 29 years in Chicagoland before moving West. I empathize with all those hearts left in Manhattan where I must go at least annually to honor us all. Eileen Ward

Cindy again - and now, I am sad to reveal, my mom at 91 is showing early signs of dementia, which strongly points to Alzheimer's. Mother spent her younger years post WW2 singing with Tex Beneke and Saxie Dowell, and had a real gift for music. Interesting about Alz: many who have it cannot recall what they had for breakfast..BUT they can sing or recite entire chunks of dialogue from old movies, sing songs from that time, and mother's Doctor encouraged me to get her to play piano and sing whenever she feels the urge to do so. The other day, coming into the room I distinctly heard her picking out notes on the piano and, singing the "never leave me" segment - from MT. And she got well along into it before fading out. Her appreciation of this wonderful piece of music has not faded one bit, despite advancing dementia. Touching, really..

Great to find this site. I remember this from college and when I first heard it I was" mesmerized". Didn't get to NY til I was 27 & spent 10 yrs there, but still like the city and especially that music. EL


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