Sunday, March 16, 2008
The Man Who Sang "Liberty Valance"
Both the movie and the song of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance were big hits back in 1962, when Gene Pitney's record went to Number Four. But the song - one of the first collaborations between a composer named Burt Bacharach and a lyricist named Hal David - doesn't appear in the film, which seems a little strange since the song (actually titled "[The Man Who Shot] Liberty Valance") clearly couldn't exist without the movie. I mean, if Phil Collins' "Against All Odds" hadn't appeared in Against All Odds, no one would have noticed, because who would be surprised by Phil Collins titling a song with a cliche?
The bigger question is, why didn't Gene Pitney's song make it into the movie? I have found four distinct explanations:
1. John Ford, who directed Liberty Valance, hated the song and decided not to use it. I can buy this; it's not hard to imagine John Ford disliking contemporary pop music.
2. There was a dispute between the Paramount Pictures, which made the film, and the song's publishing company, Famous Music, over the rights to the song.
3. Pitney, Bacharach and David got the song done too late - the story goes that while he was in the studio cutting the track, Pitney heard that the movie had already been released. It's possible: The film was released on April 22, 1962, and though I don't know when the single came out, it entered the Top Forty on May 19, 1962. Given the speed with which pop music was created back then, I could believe Pitney was in the studio less than a month before the single crashed the charts. But I doubt it.
4. The song was never intended to be used in the movie, but was just intended as kind of a synergistic way to promote the film, as the film would simultaneously promote the record - just like Will Smith's terrible "Wild, Wild West" theme song, which went to Number One in 1999 despite being nothing more than a commercial for the equally lame film. Except that one did actually get played in the movie, because you know the Civil War era was just a hotbed for pop rap.
So I don't know why "(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance" did not get played in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. I do know that, as good as the song is, the movie is even better. If you haven't yet, I urge you to check it out.