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New Podcast! The Baton: A John Williams Musical Journey


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Happy New Year to my fellow JWFan members! I am embarking on a new venture that I know will appeal to all of you. I am the host of the podcast “The Baton: A John Williams Musical Journey.” The po

Update: The podcast is available on iTunes and Spotify. It is also on the Podbean app, so there are plenty of places for you to hear the show and subscribe. Next episode online Wednesday!

John Williams was performing with the Houston Symphony in the fall of 1983. I was unable to go to the concert, but I knew one of the trombonists and had a heads up on the rehearsal. I waited outside t

Cool little news blurb, airman (a bit different than the article, but seemingly taking its information from there), but I still believe they have the date wrong. Here's the graduate yearbook photo from 1950 (presumably June or whenever the school year finished):

 

williams-1950-portrait.jpg

 

Then there's the summer vacation (presumably late June-mid August), and then you'd have to jam UCLA and LACC studies between August-December in order for the Jan '51 date to make sense. I just don't see it. 

 

We know he's an UCLA alumni of '53. Notice the alumni page signals what I believe is true -- that he entered the air force in '52:

 

https://alumni.ucla.edu/stories/john-williams-53/

 

In 1953, he was stationed at Newfoundland, so there's no question he finished his degree through long-distance studies.

 

Surely, it's not impossible that he served 3 years rather than 4 in the air force, airman?

 

(btw, I've asked both UCLA and LACC for information about when he studied there, exactly, but the same privacy rules applies here as in the air force archives. It's not information they're at liberty to disclose).

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1 minute ago, Jurassic Shark said:

What I'm wondering about, is why JW chose to enlist before completing his studies - could it be a money issue?

 

I think airman talked about this awhile back...that if you enlisted, you were let off with a shorter period of service than if you had to be drafted. That could certainly have been an issue. That's why I think he only did 3 instead of 4 years.

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Probably not, during the Korean war. As long as the air force allowed long-distance studies, halting studies would not be an issue.

 

I know that was certainly the case for me. I had studied for 1 and a half year at the university when I was drafted into the army in 1998. I had to put the studies on hold while I completed the mandatory 1-year service.

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3 minutes ago, Thor said:

I know that was certainly the case for me. I had studied for 1 and a half year at the university when I was drafted into the army in 1998. I had to put the studies on hold while I completed the mandatory 1-year service.

 

That's strange, as they usually give a postponement for people to complete their studies. If you did apply for it, that is. 

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I don't think I applied, stupid me. But it was a different time back then; more difficult to get "out of" the service than it is today, unless you were in poor health or had pacifist convictions. I'm assuming it was even stricter in Williams' time, especially since the country was at war.

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7 minutes ago, Thor said:

 

I think airman talked about this awhile back...that if you enlisted, you were let off with a shorter period of service than if you had to be drafted. That could certainly have been an issue. That's why I think he only did 3 instead of 4 years.

 

No, the enlistment periods were for four years. We didn't have three-year enlistments then. 

 

The reason someone would have signed up voluntarily (instead of being drafted) would be to have more control over the career field ("job") you would do. The AF Bands were a hot ticket at the time because so many musicians from LA and NY were joining it to beat the draft - therefore, you would be in a band with a lot of talented folks. This stemmed from the decade before when Glenn Miller took his act into the Air Force and became Captain (later Major) Glenn Miller; this created an incredibly talented pool of musicians in the AF Bands and the reputation still persists even now - it certainly would have in the early 1950s.

 

Also, the audition process at the time wasn't like it is now (which is highly competitive), but it WAS somewhat political. You often had to know somebody who knew somebody to get a spot you wanted in the career field. You can hear Sandy Courage talk about this in an interview he did with Jon Burlingame years ago. (I'd have to dig up that link, but it was rather comical how he had to know-people-who-knew-people to get into an AF Band - when they were still the Army Air Force Bands.)

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2 minutes ago, Thor said:

I don't think I applied, stupid me. But it was a different time back then; more difficult to get "out of" the service than it is today, unless you were in poor health or had pacifist convictions.

 

Where are the health problems when one needs them?

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20 minutes ago, Thor said:

 

I think airman talked about this awhile back...that if you enlisted, you were let off with a shorter period of service than if you had to be drafted. That could certainly have been an issue. That's why I think he only did 3 instead of 4 years.

 

One thing I know we can agree on, Thor: it's incredibly frustrating that JW couldn't recall his exact enlistment date in the interview he did with Col. Lang a few years ago. I wanted to pull my hair out over that! haha :lol:

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So, to get this thread back on topic, I want to thank @airmanjerm for the clarifications. 

 

And thanks to all those who are new to the podcast. I urge you to start at the beginning and catch up with us on this journey. You will hear music you've never heard before and learn new things about John Williams!

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You guys who are so into researching JW's life - you should team up and write a book about the man! I'm looking at you, @TownerFan, @Miguel Andrade, @Thor, @airmanjerm, @Trumpeteer, +++. I'm particularly looking forward to the discussions in the chapter JW's Time in the Air Force. :)

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There's at least two possible solutions to this. One of you could take on the role of an editor and have final say on everything. Or, you could divide the chapters between yourselves, and then you have final say on your own chapters (even if you have received input from others). And when some part of JW's life is unclear, such as how long he served in the AF, this could be made clear to the reader.

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 6/26/2019 at 6:47 PM, Yavar Moradi said:

This thread is worth a bump...I'm happy to say that thanks to a little matchmaking on my part, fellow Goldsmith Odyssey co-founder (and former host) Jens Dietrich has joined Jeff on his latest podcast installment:

https://thebatonpodcast.podbean.com/e/episode-29-images/

 

Yavar

Thanks for recommending Yavar for the Images episode. He had a lot of wonderful insights!

On 6/27/2019 at 1:57 AM, Jurassic Shark said:

Wow, already at episode 29!

About 80 more to go!

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  • 2 months later...
12 minutes ago, bollemanneke said:

Congrats! You finally arrived at the JW scores I do know, so I can't wait for this and future episodes.

You should go back and learn about the scores you don't know. In this journey, it has helped me understand the evolution as a composer and how JW worked to find his voice. To be honest, I might have done the same thing you are doing if someone else was doing this podcast, but I would have obeyed the host and started at the beginning! :P

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20 hours ago, Montre said:

I’ve been enjoying your podcast a lot, Jeff. It’s crazy to me how long JW’s career has been that only just now are we getting to Jaws and the point where his fame started to really take off. 

It only took 40 films and about 15 years!!! Very few become successful in a shorter time.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'd like to join the praise here, I'm enjoying your podcast immensely. On mondays I've got 2-3 hours of commute, which is always enough time for a couple of episodes. There are so many of JW's old works I've only heard of in name, so thanks a lot for finally giving them an audible "face". And still, I'm really looking forward to the episodes covering the better known soundtracks of his, and I hope your Star Wars episodes will crack the 2-hours mark ;)

 

 

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"The Missouri Breaks" is arguably the worst film to feature a John Williams score ... at least up to that point in his 17 years as a film composer. Though it starred Oscar-winning actors Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson, it was a misfire from the start, ." from the Baton podcast.

 

--------------------------

 

I really love the "Missouri Break" film and soundrack.

 

Jeff,

I am not agree with the last podcast and judgment on the quality of the score, the composing work.

Not agree with the postulat that "the guitar parts and Harmonica ones doesn't work together".

For me it is a really good love theme.

And the "cartoon style" for some pieces reflect an ordinary "routine work" for the robbery men team.

 

It is a strange movie, disturbing, but not a bad one. Arthur Penn is a major film director.

Brando and some parts of the movie are in a Parodic tone (as the music). Nicholson is in restrain. I love the result.

 

Not the worst film in the Williams career.

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Wow, is that really a statement in the podcast? THE MISSOURI BREAKS is a fine film and score, far from being 'the worst' of anything.

 

If he has any worsts, I'd rather pick films like DADDY-O, JOHN GOLDFARB, DADDY'S GONE A-HUNTING or HEARTBEEPS, for example.

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Everyone is entitled to their opinions, and I understand why you think "The Missouri Breaks" stands up as a good film. I enjoyed hearing the score for the first time, but I was not enjoying whatever Brando was doing. As opposed to those other films that Thor referenced, I had such high expectations for the film, based on the involvement of Brando, Nicholson and Penn. I received a few emails from listeners who also had major issues with the film.

 

As you will hear in the episode, I do praise some parts of the score.

 

On 10/2/2019 at 3:11 AM, Laserschwert said:

I'd like to join the praise here, I'm enjoying your podcast immensely. On mondays I've got 2-3 hours of commute, which is always enough time for a couple of episodes. There are so many of JW's old works I've only heard of in name, so thanks a lot for finally giving them an audible "face". And still, I'm really looking forward to the episodes covering the better known soundtracks of his, and I hope your Star Wars episodes will crack the 2-hours mark ;)

 

 

I am glad you're enjoying it! I regret to inform you that the "Star Wars" episode will not be two hours long. It might be the longest to date, but barely. As of now, I have a 65-minute show planned, which is longer than I want but necessary given the special guest who will be on the show.

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 10/4/2019 at 1:01 PM, Yavar Moradi said:

I'm still grateful you let our episode on Jane Eyre go for almost an hour! :)

Sorry I wasn't able to join you on Family Plot, as that's another real favorite of mine (top 10 Williams for sure)! Hope Jens has the time to join you again sometime. Keep up the good work and best wishes from me and The Goldsmith Odyssey!

 

Yavar

October has been a busy month, and very fun!

 

Family Plot was a better score than I expected. And the movie was OK, too.

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