Alf Clausen's 'Simpsons' Songs Hit The Right Note

Excerpted from the magazine for

Now in its 14th season on Fox, "The Simpsons" has yielded four full-length albums, numerous books and videos, and countless toys and related merchandise. Add to that Warner Bros. Publications' newly released folio "The Simpsons Songbook," featuring 26 original songs from the first 13 seasons, many of which also appear on the two Rhino Simpsons soundtrack albums, "Songs in the Key of Springfield" and "Go Simpsonic With the Simpsons."

The $18.95 piano/vocal/chords title -- which was compiled by series creator Matt Groening and Simpsons composer Alf Clausen -- was released quietly last month, but according to Warner Bros. Publications CEO Fred S. Anton, it is already in a "reprint situation" as a result of surprising strong demand. It comes as no surprise, as "The Simpsons" will reach its 300th episode milestone in February, and Fox has contracted the popular series for two more seasons. (In 1997, "The Simpsons" surpassed "The Flintstones" to become the longest running animated show in television history; next season's launch will make it the longest running fictional show, passing the 14 year run of "The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet.")

"There has been various sheet music in print for many years, but this is the first official Simpsons songbook," says Mary Jo Mennella, senior VP/GM at TV/film-music supplier Fox Music Publishing, which worked closely with Clausen and Warner Bros. Publications in The Simpsons Songbook's conception. "Some good things are worth waiting for."

She notes that the folio also offers new "Simpsons" artwork from Groening's Bongo Comics Group, as well as "authentic arrangements" from Clausen.

The song highlights include Clausen's Emmy Award-winning "We Put the Spring in Springfield," with lyrics by Kenneth C. Keeler, and "You're Checkin' In," another Emmy Award-winner from the duo. Danny Elfman's "Theme From the Simpsons" is also present, as are the Bryan Loren-penned 1991 hit "Do the Bartman," Terry Cashman's "Talkin' Softball," Beverly and Jeff D'Angelo's "Bagged Me a Homer," and Jeff Martin's "Capitol City," which featured Tony Bennett in the series' first guest singing role.

Many of the songs are full-fledged, Broadway-styled, animated musical productions and rank high among favorite moments prized by the devoted fan base of "The Simpsons."

Indeed, Clausen says he assembled the set from fan requests received on his Web site through the years for sheet music to the tunes on the Rhino CDs. "'Senor Burns' was very popular," Clausen says, picking out other included fan faves. "'Dr. Zaius' keeps coming up, 'We Do (The Stonecutters' Song),' and the entire 'Shari Bobbins Medley' -- everybody howls when they hear it."

Best about the book for Clausen, though, is that it presents "very accurate arrangements of the songs as they occur on the show and CDs. We pulled the scores from our files and sent them to [Miami] Florida, where Warner Bros. Publications is based, and they have a staff skilled in reducing the full orchestral scores into three-line [piano/vocal/chords] arrangements, so people who are used to listening to the music on the shows or CDs can sit down and [find that] they match top-to-bottom: I supervised and proofread four drafts of material to make sure all the transcriptions of the chords, symbols, and lyrics were correct."

Clausen hopes that response to the songbook will generate second and third volumes "and get all the songs out eventually," he says. "There are that many-though it's hard to realize that we've accumulated this huge library of original stuff -- and there's so much to choose from."

Having been up until 3 a.m. scoring a future "Simpsons" installment, Clausen adds, "I'm not even taking into consideration the whole slew of new songs for this season!"

The Feb. 16 airing of "Barting Over" will mark the 300th episode of the series. Guest starring will be professional skateboarder Tony Hawk, as well as Blink 182, the show's eighth musical guest of the season.

Excerpted from the Jan. 25, 2003, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the members section.

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