Almost two weeks ago, I went over to my friend Kenny’s house to hang out and play some geeky games I would not otherwise admit to playing. He really likes Indiana Jones. He was wearing an Indiana Jones t-shirt with, “Where there’s a whip, there’s a way” written on it. I looked at it, laughed and complimented him on a double geek reference well done. He also laughed, then stopped and said, “Wait, what?” At which point I had to show him this video.
And then I had to explain where it came from. The short answer: it came from the 80’s.
The longer answer: Rankin/Bass, the same guys who made all those christmas specials my wife loves, made “The Hobbit” in 1977. With that in mind, you should not be surprised there are musical numbers. Someone else started making “The Lord of the Rings” into a two-part film, but they only finished the first film, which pretty much got you to the part where The Company breaks apart. So Rankin/Bass decided they would get the team from “The Hobbit” back together and finish the story. Although, since it was another company, they could not simply label this “Part Two” and move on with the story. Between that and their target audience of grade schoolers, they had to cut a lot of the story down.
Real Tolkien fanatics may be surprised Rankin/Bass did some things better than Peter Jackson, and I do not often whip out the italics.
So now we have the first (as far as I know) and, until Peter Jackson, only attempt to capture J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic high fantasy adventure. And it has musical numbers: “Frodo of the Nine Fingers and the Ring of Doom,” “The Bearer of the Ring,” “The Cracks of Doom,” “Where There’s a Whip, There’s a Way,” “The Things I Can’t Do Without,” “Leave Tomorrow ‘Til it Comes,” “The Eye of the Storm,” “The End of the Ring,” and “Roads Go Ever, Ever On.” That last song, of course, comes from one of Tolkien’s most famous poems, and the overarching themes of the whole epic. Tolkien wrote a lot of poems and songs into the story, so it actually fits. Mostly. Maybe it is the placement in the film or maybe it is the style (that Disco Funk sure is infectious), but I do have to remind myself this was absolutely great when I was a kid. Except for the weird dream sequences. That was when I took my potty break.
Having grown up (a little) and actually read the series, I noticed that my favorite song (see video above) actually has source material in the book:
Where there’s a whip there’s a will, my slugs! … Don’t you know we’re at war? – A slave driver, Return of the King, Book VI, Chapter 2.
A week ago, I showed my friends a song I wrote. Incidentally, it is about a volcano. They felt the chorus had a structure similar to “the song at the end of one of the Lord of the Rings movies.” Maybe it was because of my previous experience with Kenny, but my mind immediately went to Glenn Yarbrough‘s “Roads Go Ever, Ever On,” with that distinct tenor vibrato, and not “Into the West,” which is what they were thinking of. However, they are both rather bittersweet and do an excellent job of ending their respective film. So twice in a week I found myself having to explain why my thoughts are not what everyone else was expecting.
If you have never seen this, the whole thing is on YouTube. Because the internet, and the people on it, are awesome.