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The Scarlet Pimpernel

Saturday Night Fever

Camille Claudel

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31 March 1999

Part Four of Eight. Back to Part Three...

NR: In the UPN special, The Making of The Scarlet Pimpernel, you talked about how you did the "Creation of Man" like a big jigsaw puzzle. Do you usually write that way or was that just unique for that song?

NK: Comic songs I do. There's a certain kind of song called a "list song," which is certainly very much the way "Creation of Man" started out anyway. It's a song where part of the fun you're having is listing things. In the case of "Creation of Man" it's listing different types of clothing. With a list song or a comic song, what I like to do is to have enormous fun ahead of time compiling these huge lists of different possibilities of things to use, so that I did have, (and I still have. I keep all my work sheets. I still have all these lists), so I had six or seven pages that were nothing but different kinds of fabrics and buttons and frills - you know, every kind of word I could come up with and words to describe clothing, and different types of clothing. Then, once I had all those, I would start looking through and trying to find fun rhymes. Yeah, it's like a jigsaw puzzle, absolutely. You're putting together these pieces, and the moments where you find, "Oh, my God, I can rhyme haberdashery" are just so much fun. I did the same kind of thing with "The Scarlet Pimpernel" song. We've had so many different versions now of the title song, some you don't even know about. I think the workshops had a whole different version with a whole different melody even. But it was the same thing there where I would make lists and lists of every different type of person that they would speculate that the Pimpernel might be. That he might be a hunchback, he might be a cobbler, he might be a baker...and I would have all these pages of lists and things and then I would just sit there and giggle at my desk while I put together different combinations and rhymes and stuff.

I don't do that with the emotion songs. With the emotion songs I listen to the music over and over and over and just start jotting down notes of what it makes me feel, or images or phrases that come into my mind and then just start drafting and drafting, but it comes from a different ... the comic songs come from my head and the ballads come from my heart. That's a very different process of writing.

NR: Did Frank hand you a song and say "This is what I want for these characters" Or, "This is the love song" or did he just hand you music and leave it up to you?

NK: After I had written the book I would often go to him with requests as opposed to him giving me a piece of music. "Where's The Girl?" is a very good example. I had on tape zillions of motifs and things that Frank's written over the years that he's never done anything with. He would come over here and he would start playing different things on the piano and I would tape record them. Then he would forget he had written them. After I had written this book, I knew that I wanted a really sensual song for Chauvelin to sing to Marguerite and that I wanted it to have a French sound to it, and before just calling him up and telling him that I wanted that, I decided to go back and listen to these tapes to see if there was anything he'd already written. I found this one melody that was...(Nan sang the opening measures to what we now know as "Where's The Girl?") and I loved it. I thought, "Oh, my God, this is so beautiful. This is so French." So I called him up and said, "Do you remember it?" Well, he didn't at all. He didn't have a clue. So, I said, "I really love it and I'm going to send you a copy of the tape. See if you think you can develop it into a song because I think I want to call it `Where's The Girl?' and I think I want it to be Chauvelin saying to Marguerite, `Where'd you go? You're not the person that I used to know' and kind of tempting her and trying to lure her back in, reminding her the way it used to be and the passion they used to share." He got the tape and he called me back and he said, "Yeah, I love it. I'm going to work on it." Within about a week I had the tape with him having fleshed it out with all the bridge and chorus parts. The first time I put it on, I just started to tremble. I loved it so much and I called him up and woke him up out in California and said, "I just want you to know I'm trembling. I'm sitting here trembling and I cannot wait to start writing it." And I did, and the whole thing was done in about a week.

"Falcon in the Dive" was somewhat similar too, where I found a motif that he had written that I loved. He said, "Well, actually I kind of used that in Jekyll & Hyde, but I can do something similar to that." So, Frank is a very flexible person and he and I, artistically, just work together so smoothly. Particularly, after I had written the book, it was a situation where I would go to him and would say, "I think we need a song here, and I think it needs to be this kind of song" and often I would go to him and say, "And here's a piece of music that you wrote in 1990-whatever that I would like to use." Often, he would say, "OK, we'll give it a whirl." We also have tons of songs that we did that we never used as well. He's enormously flexible.

On to Part Five...

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