Walter Murphy and the Big Apple Band – A Fifth of Beethoven

First hit #1: October 9, 1976

Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is one of his most famous, the distinct dundundunduuun being one of the most dramatic and well remembered calling cards in classical music. I wouldn’t quite call it catchy, but it is the kind of thing that snaps you to attention and it has the sheer force to make an impression on the listener. It’s famous because it’s memorable, dramatic and intense. It’s also slightly ominous, since it is a work of force, and something which has that much force is bound to be threatening.

Ludvig van Beethoven died in 1827, however, and as a result many of the innovations in music we take for granted did not exist in his time. Luckily, Walter Murphy and the Big Apple Band were able to do what Beethoven never could, and put a funky disco beat under one of his defining works. Godspeed you merry gentlemen.

Seriously though, while the power of the orchestra is not in question, it doesn’t exactly mix with the disco sound, leading to a track which sounds like an angry classical music fan getting in a sound war with a disco-loving neighbor. The songs compete with each other, and Beethoven wins pretty much every time, the orchestra shutting out the disco beat before the quieter sections allow it to be heard again. It’s an uncomfortable marriage, but it is oddly entertaining, since the styles mix so poorly.

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2 Responses to Walter Murphy and the Big Apple Band – A Fifth of Beethoven

  1. RBerman says:

    The 70s were all about classical music in many ways, reacting against the folk and blues influences of the 60s. There were rock bands playing classical and baroque compositions (Emerson, Lake, and Palmer); rock bands using symphonic instruments (Electric Light Orchestra); rock bands attempting long-form compositions (Frank Zappa, Rush, the whole prog rock genre); burgeoning electronica versions of classical music (Tomita, William/Wendy Carlos). One strand of disco came from funk, but another was very orchestral. The “Hooked on Classics” series in the early 80s would simply put a dance backbeat to orchestal medleys, enlivening grade school gym shows and dance routines around the country. But the advent of cheap synthesizers helped put the nail in the coffin of large-ensemble rock music, for a while anyway.

  2. Pingback: Amii Stewart – Knock on Wood | We Are Number Ones

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