Friday, July 3, 2009

Smile: The Cheshire Cat Song

Gilbert Hetherwick: The Cheshire Cat Song

[purchase, by download only]

I wasn’t about to let this week go by without honoring the most famous smile in western literature. But I also didn’t know of any particular songs on the subject, and I certainly didn’t have any. So, I went hunting. And I found that there seems to be a rule that, in order to tackle this subject, you have to be someone I never heard of. Try it yourself, and see if you get the same result. Obviously, however, I did find something I like.

Gilbert Hetherwick was once a record store manager in a shop that sold classical music to the people of Louisiana. He began writing to people at the record companies, telling them how to improve their albums. Soon enough, Hetherwick had a job at one of these companies, and in due time, he rose to be the head of the classical division at Sony/ BMG. So what would someone like that do with his spare time? Why, he would write and record a psychedelic rock musical, based on Alice in Wonderland and the life of Lewis Carol. Oh yes, of course.

The Cheshire Cat Song comes from that musical, Dreams For Alice. And the song is on the soundtrack album, from 2002. The songs were written over a ten year period, and given to friends, before the whole thing was released as an album. I can find no information to indicate that the show was ever staged. The version of The Cheshire Cat Song on Dreams For Alice is marred by a production full of the worst cliches of psychedelic rock; here are corny electric guitar parts and heavy reverb on the vocals, for starters. But, in 2008, Hetherwick returned to these songs for a live album. Now The Cheshire Cat Song has a nice mostly acoustic arrangement, and the quality of the songwriting comes through much more clearly. This is the version I chose.

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