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Tim Rice's Memory or Trevor Nunn's? 
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Post Tim Rice's Memory or Trevor Nunn's?
I guess many of you guys already know that Tim Rice had also submitted a set of lyrics to the "Memory" melody, which were actually sung in whole and in part during previews until they went with the Trevor Nunn lyrics that we all know.

They were eventually discarded because they made Grizabella seem a little too human (but then again, aren't all of the cats rather humanized?) and because her apparent reference to suicide was a little too dark.

(It also appears to have no second bridge.)

Street lights, and the darkness between them,
Like the good and the bad sides,
Of a life almost done,
Shake the memory of my passions returning to me,
None forgotten, no not one.

One life, is there only the one life
That we lose in the living
In an endless decline?
No complaining for no one else has seen what I've seen
One existence, only mine

Don't look back no don't look back
So hard to heed that warning
Such temptation but the past is past
And the night makes way for morning

Daylight, I won't care if it finds me
With no breath in my body
With no beat in my heart
For I'm certain that now I know what happiness is
Wish I'd known that from the start

Touch me, is there no one to touch me
It was easy to love me
In my glamorous past
As I leave you, a shadow of the light I once was
May my memory sleep at last.


The thing is, I think these lyrics have a lot of merit as well...they flow very nicely and are very evocative. Which isn't to diss Trevor Nunn's lyric, which is also gorgeous, and has more outright references to Eliot's Rhapsody on a Windy Night and Preludes. (The latter contains the line "burnt-out ends of smoky days" and "withered leaves about your feet.")

So what do you think? Which set do you like better?

On a somewhat similar what-might-have-been note...we know from Valerie Eliot that TSE left the Grizabella poem out of the book. Her comments on it ("only the last eight lines were written because TSE realized she was developing along the lines of Villon's 'La Belle Heaulmiere' who fell on evil days* and he felt it would be too sad for children") seem to imply that it was to have been a longer poem, around the same length as the others, and give a more detailed history for Grizabella. So it's interesting, isn't it, to wonder what the full poem would have been like? I'm surprised no fanficcers have ever tried their hand at it. Even if Valerie said that the fragment was the final stanza, I like to think the poem would have begun with it, with the rest of it flashing back to her glory days and explaining how she ended up this way.

*"Lament of La Belle Heaulmiere" is a poem by Francois Villon, about a beautiful courtesan who had all the town's men in the palm of her hand, but took up with a ne'er-do-well who abused her, and is now dead, while she is left alone in old age to lament the loss of her beauty.

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Tue Aug 26, 2014 10:52 am
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Post Re: Tim Rice's Memory or Trevor Nunn's?
The one reason why Nunn's lyrics were chosen over Rice's is that Nunn's version was taken either directly or indirectly (paraphrased) from various poems of TS Eliot. This is what most playbills place in the credits: “Memory” includes lines from and is suggested by “Rhapsody On a Windy Night,” and other poems of the Prufrock period (1910-1917). All other words in the show are taken from the Collected Poems.” (Nunn 1981) In Michael Walsh's autobiography of ALW, Nunn made the actual decision, and chose his own lyrics. His reason was that he felt that "Rice had characterized Grizabella as entirely human and that her suicide later in the song was too depressing."

My reason for siding with Nunn is that the use of Eliot's poetry as strings of lyrics keeps the song within the show. In Peter Ackroyd's 1984 book, T. S. Eliot: A Life, the author makes an observation that Eliot had an observed tendency with “a preoccupation with the passage of time – time running away, flowers that wither. . . His [sic] seems to have a temperament acutely aware of waste, of the emptiness of passing days, of the need to use time, to put a stamp on it” (Ackroyd, 1984:31). In “Memory,” that tendency was mirrored throughout the song by references to memories of better days, and wishing for what might have been.

Rice's lyrics are indeed dark and maybe a truer reference to her character, but we are talking about a song that is placed in the initial climax (Act One) and the final resolution (Act Two). This song has to be the one to outclass the others, and cause the audience to leave the theater with that song on their minds. If the Grizabella actress is worth her salt, her Finale will blow people away... I cannot feel that the lyrics Rice used would do that...

Respectfully submitted,
Rumblepurr
The Old Writer Cat.

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Wed Aug 27, 2014 10:55 am
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Post Re: Tim Rice's Memory or Trevor Nunn's?
it's an interesting read for sure...
I would've liked to hear a mix of both actually...with the TS Elliot lyrics thrown in, so the connection would've been there still...

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Sat Aug 30, 2014 11:05 am
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Tony Winner
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Post Re: Tim Rice's Memory or Trevor Nunn's?
I confess to have mixed feelings for Rice's lyric. I know that we've imbibed Nunn's words each and every time we hear the song. They just flow naturally as speech. Rice offers a rather depressing side to Grizabella and it can be fascinating to know the nuts and bolts that go on behind the scenes. However, I think that Nunn's lyric was the correct choice. It just allows Grizabella to just stand up and hold her own. The past (i.e. her memory) seems to keep her alive. It also ties the song in to the rest of the show and to Eliot's work. Nunn successfully maintained the tone of Eliot in his text and bonded his song better to the Old Possum poems and the rest of Eliot's works.


Mon Sep 22, 2014 1:39 am
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