Soundtrack versus Studio Recordings

Posted by Robert Ingves on April 28, 1999 at 20:00:05:

I noticed recently that Judy Garland recorded two versions of "Over The Rainbow" in the late 1930's. One version was recorded for playback during the filming of "The Wizard of Oz" and the other was recorded for Decca Records. This discovery has got me wondering if Bing Crosby's movie songs were recorded twice - once for playback during the making of his Paramount films and then again for Decca. If anyone has any knowledge about this subject, I would appreciate hearing from you. (If the songs were recorded twice, there must have been some legal requirement to do so.)

Posted by Thane on April 28, 1999 at 20:54:49:

In Reply to: Soundtrack Versions versus Studio Versions posted by Robert Ingves on April 28, 1999 at 20:00:05:

Hi Robert,

Bing virtually invariably re-recorded his movie songs for commercial release - probably because the film studio owned the soundtrack recordings - not Decca. Interestingly, to my ears the film soundtrack versions are better than his commercial recordings - I've never known why - it's quite a curiousity really.

I have often wondered what has happened to all the material that must Bing must have recorded for film soundtracks (alternate takes etc) that have never seen the light of day. Do they still exist somewhere or have they gone forever? For example I recall reading that in the film 'White Christmas' complete versions of all Bing's duets with Danny Kaye were recorded even though only excerpts were included in the film. I don't know whether or not this is true - I certainly haven't heard them. Can anyone shed any light on the subject?

Posted by Arne on April 28, 1999 at 21:27:57:

In Reply to: Re: Soundtrack Versions versus Studio Versions posted by Thane on April 28, 1999 at 20:54:49:

To understand this concept, I think a person has to cast their mind back to a time when commercial release of "soundtrack" performances hadn't even been conceived of yet. In those days, the film studios were not in the record business (and vice versa), and it would've never occured to the studio heads, or artists to use these performances for retail sale. In the first years of talkies, singers sang "live" on the set to "live" accompaniment off-camera. When this proved unweildy, singers started lip-syncing to playbacks. Only then were performances pre-recorded in "studio" situations that could conceivably have been suitable for release-- but as I say, it just hadn't occured to them yet. Also, it was technically unfeasable: many musical performances as they exist on film are too long to fit on the traditional 78-rpm disc, the only format available at the time. Also, to a dance-happy public in the 30s & 40s, the tempos in film performances would've been too uneven. Simply put: Bing (and Frank and Judy and Jolson and Cantor and Chevalier and Powell and Faye...etc. etc.) all recorded under contract for record companies who had them record their hit film songs the same way as they recorded their other records -- because they would never have thought to do otherwise! MGM records started tentatively releasing soundtrack performances in the late 40s (and they were the only record company that was a subsidiary of a movie studio at the time, as far as I know, although I think Warner Bros. had some tie-in with Brunswick in the early 30s - not sure about this). Anyway, the advent of "Soundtrack" performances being released on records really coincides with the introduction of the 33 1/3 "Long Play" record in the late 40s-early 50s.

Posted by Lars on April 29, 1999 at 01:13:09:

In Reply to: Re: Soundtrack Versions versus Studio Versions posted by Arne on April 28, 1999 at 21:27:57:

On CD a couple (at least) years ago the soundtrack recordings from both HOLIDAY INN & BLUE SKIES were released (on the same CD). And with great sound! Even a few songs that were never recorded for record by Bing (and a instrumental with Bob Crosby for HOLIDAY INN). Here they used the recordings Bing mimed to in the movies (which means that the few bars he did 'live' is not here - i.e. it's not identical to the BLUE SKIES directly from the soundtrack released on LP even earlier). I think this CD was labeled as 'Bing's Hollywood volume 1' (that's an imaginative title)- unfortunately no volume 2 showed up. Wished it would...It was very nice put together, great sound and a useful booklet with many details (as I remember).

Posted by Wayne Martin, Club Crosby on April 29, 1999 at 10:36:03:

Arne, you are right about Warner Bros. acquiring Brunswick records. In 1929, the first year of the Great Depression, W.B. leased the right to use the Brunswick label and press records from their masters. W.B. had big plans for their record venture, but after a couple of years, they pulled out of the business. As far as I know, the movie and record businesses were kept separate. However, they did sign up several Hollywood performers, including Bing.

In 1931 W.B. sold out to the American Record Corporation, which owned several labels, including the old Columbia Phonograph Co. . The A.R.C. was later sold to the Columbia Broadcasting System. As it turned out, the new Columbia label had no rights to the masters that were recorded for Warner Bros. (or previous masters). These were purchased by Decca. That is why Columbia to this day has the rights to part of Bing's recordings, and Decca/MCA has the rights to the earlier masters.

People ask every once in a while why Decca has the rights to some masters, Columbia to others. Thought I'd explain it here.

Posted by Jim Kukura on December 21, 1999 at 19:51:03:

In Reply to: Re: Decca & Introduction of Tape Recording posted by Greg Van Beek on December 19, 1999 at 09:15:02:

One thing I have never understood is how did they record sound on movies before the late 40s. Wasn't that a sound track on the film, which is tape? Somebody enlighten me.

Posted by Steven Lewis on December 21, 1999 at 20:58:18:

In Reply to: Re: Decca & Introduction of Tape Recording posted by Jim Kukura on December 21, 1999 at 19:51:03:

The first "talking picture," The Jazz Singer starring Al Jolson in 1927, was recorded direct to disc and the discs were shipped to theaters for synchronized playback with the film. This means of sound recording and playback proved cumbersome and was replaced in the early 1930s by optical recording -- sound waves were recorded as optical patterns that could be edited and then placed on the finished film where the soundtrack was read by light and translated back into sound. Until the early 1950s films had optical track(s) for sound as well as for pictures. The Walt Disney film Fantasia, originally released in 1940, had 4 optical soundtracks! Not only was it the first stereo film, but the first quadrophonic film. In the early 1950s the optical soundtrack was replaced by the magnetic soundtrack, which offered higher quality sound and greater ease of recording and playback.

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