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Album cover for The Bathrooms are Coming!, a 1969 American-Standard musical (Blast Books)

I heard a great Studio360 show today. It was on the industrial musicals once used by corporations to get the sales team charged up to go out and sell.

“In the 1950, 60s, and 70s, a subgenre of musical theater entertained thousands. It had showstoppers composed by some of the brightest talent in the business. But instead of selling out Broadway houses, these shows played to packed hotel ballrooms and convention halls. …

“ ‘It was to build morale and build a sense of being on a team,’ explains Steve Young. ‘You weren’t isolated, you were a part of a greater whole that was looking out for you.’ A writer for David Letterman, Young has made himself the curator of the world’s largest collection of corporate musical theater performances. ‘Sales Training,’ a groovy number from 1972, includes specs for York air conditioner’s new line. ‘Once in a Lifetime’ breathlessly heralds the arrival of the 1958 Ford Edsel.

“Writing these musicals was no simple task and corporations spent lavishly to attract top talent. In 1966, John Kander and Fred Ebb wrote Go Fly a Kite for General Electric (in which Benjamin Franklin meets modern utility executives) — they went on to win a Tony for Cabaret. …

“Steve Young is co-author of the book  Everything’s Coming Up Profits.”

If you like musicals, you really must listen to the whole Studio360 show. It’s too funny.

You don’t want to miss “PDM (Power Distribution Management) Can Do”
from Go Fly a Kite — General Electric, 1966, by John Kander, Fred Ebb, and Walter Marks, or “An Exxon Dealer’s Wife.” Be sure to catch the song composed to sell Edsels and the haunting American-Standard number “My Bathroom” from 1969. (“My bathroom, my bathroom is a private kind of place.”)

Studio360’s show,”Curtain Call: Industrial Strength Musicals,” may be found here.

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Photo: Getty Popperfoto
L.S. Lowry, (pictured in 1957), the artist from Manchester, is the subject of a major new show at the Tate Britain gallery.

Some years ago when my husband was in England on business, he acquired a print of workers coming and going outside a factory. The original was by L.S. Lowry, whose paintings of industrial Britain turn out to be very popular in the UK.

Popularity, however, is not a ticket to being shown at the Tate Britain. Belatedly, Lowry will receive a retrospective in 2014.

Oliver Wainwright at the Daily Mail writes, “Clouds of smoke belch from forests of chimneys, while armies of spidery figures scuttle to and fro between narrow terrace houses and imposing factory gates.

“Crowds of fans shiver on the edge of a football field, a fist-fight breaks out, and barefoot children tease a stray cat on the street corner.

“These are the scenes depicted in the haunting paintings of L.S. Lowry who, more than any other artist, managed to capture the strange, bleak beauty of daily life in northern industrial towns.

“His dream-like images captured the popular imagination, adorning chocolate boxes and biscuit tins, tea towels and jigsaws.

“Yet they are scarcely to be found on the walls of our major national galleries. The Tate owns 23 of his works, but has only ever exhibited one on its walls in the past 20 years — and then only briefly. …

“Why has it taken so long?

” ‘He’s a victim of his own fan base,’ said Chris Stephens, Tate Britain’s Head of Displays. ‘What makes Lowry so popular is the same thing which stops him being the subject of serious critical attention. What attracts so many is a sort of sentimentality about him.’

“This is a strangely inverted piece of art world logic,” Wainwright comments, “where the popularity of an artist is seen as an obstacle to showing their work.”

If you’re an artist, be careful to stay off “chocolate boxes and biscuit tins, tea towels and jigsaws” — or wait to be discovered by art experts of a future generation.

More here and here.

 © The estate of L.S. Lowry
L.S. Lowry, Coming out of School, 1927

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