Somewhere in My Memory: Songs of Leslie Bricusse and John Williams

While listening to John Williams scores, one name pops up across the years - Leslie Bricusse. In case you don't know the name, you might be familiar with his works across stage and screen. He became well known writing with Anthony Newley for the stage musicals Stop the World - I Want to Get Off (1961) and The Roar of the Greasepaint - The Smell of the Crowd (1964). Working with fellow Brit John Barry, Bricusse provided lyrics to the title songs for Goldfinger (1964) and You Only Live Twice (1967). He wrote the score and songs for Doctor Doolittle (1967) which earned him the Academy Award for "Talk to the Animals". He also wrote the songs for the hit Scrooge (1970). Bricusse and Newley's biggest hit was Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971). He wrote lyrics for composer Henry Mancini on Victor/Victoria (1982) and Santa Claus: The Movie (1985), the former earning Bricusse an Oscar for Best Adaptation and Original Song Score.

Now onto John Williams.
Williams (still going as Johnny), jumped between many styles but worked on several caper and sex comedies in the 1960s. Bricusse first collaborated with Williams with How to Steal a Million (1966), providing lyrics to the love theme and released as "
Two Lovers". Penelope (1966) had a typical groovy main title song with lyrics by Bricusse and performed by The Pennypipers. Next in their comedy list was the swinging main title song for A Guide for the Married Man (1967) performed by The Turtles.

After the flop musical version of Doolittle, producer Arthur P. Jacobs brought Bricusse to write music and lyrics for the musical remake of Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969). Andre Previn suggested Williams to be music supervisor (a role he also did for Previn's Valley of the Dolls in 1967). For the film, Bricusse provided the songs as Williams provided the underscore, orchestrations, conducting, and source music. The songs have rich orchestral arrangements and the underscore has many of his musical stylings and familiar flourishes. Bricusse and Williams would be Oscar nominated for Best Music, Score of a Musical Picture (Original or Adaptation).

By 1978, Williams was at the top of his symphonic game and had several blockbusters under his belt. With Superman (1978) the producers had a tough time deciding what the flying sequence needed: an instrumental love theme or pop vocal version. Bricusse was brought in to add lyrics to the already written love theme in what became "Can You Read My Mind" to be sung by Toni Tennille. Director Richard Donner wanted actress Margot Kidder to sing it, but instead Kidder spoke the lyrics. The song was a hit on the pop charts as sung by Maureen McGovern.

Williams again turned to Bricusse to add lyrics to some Christmas-style songs for Home Alone (1990). The lyrics to "Somewhere in My Memory" and "Star of Bethlehem" were written over a weekend. Both were featured in the film itself, end credits and subsequent sequel. At the Academy Awards, Williams was nominated for Best Original Score and the duo was nominated for Best Original Song for "Somewhere in My Memory". As Bricusse tells it, while going over the drafts, Steven Spielberg called to discuss their next big collaboration.

Spielberg had a plan to make Peter Pan into a old-style Hollywood musical. Songs for Hook would be of course written by Williams and Bricusse. Plans changed, and the musical idea was scrapped and most of the unused song melodies became part of the score. For example, "Low Below" became pirate material and "Childhood" became the major theme of the film. A few song snippets remain - "Pick 'em Up" the Lost Boys chant, and "We Don't Want to Grow Up" for the opening elementary school presentation. "When You're Alone" is used in full during the film (sung by actress Amber Scott). The song would garner Williams and Bricusse another Oscar nomination.

The team naturally came back together for Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. Both songs from the original made their way into the sequel as two new songs were added. We hear "Christmas Star" sung by a choir as Kevin says goodnight to his family. The other new song, "Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas" is given a full choral rendition for the end credits.

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  3. Maybe the legendary film composer John Williams had been worked with British lyricist Leslie Bricusse over the years. I'm very surprised when Leslie Bricusse wrote the songs from the movies "How to Steal a Million", "Penelope", "A Guide for the Married Man", "Goodbye, Mr. Chips", "Superman", "Home Alone", "Hook" and "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York". At the same time, when John Williams and Leslie Bricusse are legendary film composers in history.