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Saturday, 21 June 2014

Judy Garland Week: Favourite Performances on The Judy Garland Show

Those hours of The Judy Garland Show are a goldmine for Garland fans. I can spend hours on YouTube going from one song to another and, occasionally, discovering one I'd missed the last time around. While it's infinitely sad the show was cancelled so soon, I'm just grateful it existed at all. There are performances of songs on there that just blow me away. Of course, the duets are probably the most famous and, it's true, the collaborations with Barbra Streisand, Lena Horne, Peggy Lee, Bobby Darin, Tony Bennett and the hilarious one with Martha Raye remain some of the most engaging Judy performances available. However, this list is about Judy's solo performances and these are some of my favourites...

5. 'Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries'

On top of the jolliness of the message of the song itself, Judy's interpretation adds a new layer of wisdom. It's jolly, yes, but there's a nice undercurrent of experience in there. The way she pulls off the final note is brilliant and, to be honest, I can't resist when she tells me to wiggle my ears...

4. 'Seventy Six Trombones'

My first experience of this one was audio with no video. I liked it enough listening to it but seeing the video more than reaffirmed it. I love the outfit, I love the little dance, I love how energetic she gets with the song. But, too, there's the little touch of poignancy when she's talking about her leading the band which brings up memories of MGM and those Rooney films. 

3. 'You're Nearer'

This song, though it's about loving someone so much that they're always with you, manages to infuse a glimpse of a wish that they weren't in there too. Love's a double-edged sword when Judy sings about it. 

2. 'By Myself'

I think this was one of the songs that sealed my switch from a fan of the 'youthful' Garland to the 'wiser' one. I heard it first on the album of Capitol recordings then saw her perform it in I Could Go on Singing. In this version on The Judy Garland Show, she melds the conflicting emotions perfectly. At the beginning the battle is evident as she tries to argue with herself, alternating between acceptance and defiance. Then, after the tempo shift, defiance takes over - with some slips. This is a woman telling herself what she's going to do, bringing herself round to the idea in song. If ever there was a blueprint for acting a story via a song, Judy wins it with this one.

1. 'Too Late Now'

Perhaps I'm just being difficult, picking a lesser-known performance as my favourite here but 'Too Late Now' is another one of those songs that tell a tricky story. Once again, there's the tinge of 'why' in the interpretation but, ultimately, she accepts that's it's a good thing. Aside from being a gentle, gorgeous little song, I adore this performance for the way Judy sings the last few lines, with a twist of knowledge and satisfaction. Stunning.

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