The following is a bit of a prehistoric piffle that I found taking up space in the bottom of one of my knick-knack drawers. I wrote it many, many moons ago and had completely forgotten all about its existence. I puzzled over what to do with it, and lacking any large bird cages or fish in need of wrapping, I thought I'd post it here. Enjoy!

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Stranger Than You Meant It

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(a fleeting glimpse into the hidden world of musical genius)

with Foreword by Ms. Absinthe Minded

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As anyone involved in the Arts is aware, the creative process can oft-times be a long and arduous business. Many, many hours of hard, exhausting and even tortuous labour go into the production of a single work before it is finished and presented to the public. Who can know the true extent of the effort put into any work of art or entertainment, save those inspired and inspirational souls directly involved, themselves?

The creation of the now-legendary musical, "The Phantom of The Populaire", provides us no exception. It didn't suddenly burst forth out of nowhere, complete and unchangeable, every word and note soaring upward from out the score in perfect symbiosis.

Oh, mais non!

Those who have seen the music-videos produced during the nascent stages of the show's development are well aware that there was at least a trifling bit of fine-tuning that went on before the curtain went up on opening night at Her Magistrate's.

As sheer, blind, incredible luck would have it, we have recently discovered a series of correspondences between the composer and lyricist which includes what we assume to be the earliest draughts of the title tune yet seen!

We have decided to include for our readership's perusal these heretofore undisclosed correspondences in order to cast a tiny light upon the miracle of the creative process in its tireless quest for beauty and pursuit of perfection.

Ms. Absinthe Minded
Editor and Chief Archivist
10 October, 1994


17 July, 1985

Dear Mr. Charles Harpy,

Words fail to express how impressed I was by your entry in the song-writing contest. I was particularly taken with the level of wit and linguistic virtuosity you expressed in your lyrics. Such style! Such grace! Such depth-of-meaning and unsparing sharpness of focus! Truly, I shall never be able to look at another bottle of Wish-bone salad dressing the same way again.

In case you are unaware, I have already begun writing the score for my next show, which I intend to be an opera; something in the mode of Puccini, in fact. I was really very keen on doing this new project, as was my lyricist... until the fellow showed the extreme poor judgment to drop dead without so much as a by-your-leave.

Since, at this time, I would prefer to refrain from working with my last lyricist, (a certain Mr. Richard Spillflow who, in writing the words for "Starfright Excess", gave the world such gems of pure drivel as, "feet is neat") this turn of events has quite naturally placed me in a bit of a bind.

So, to make a long story short, I am enclosing with this letter a copy of the written score extant, along with a rough synopsis of the story and comments regarding character. I'm glad to have you on board working on the show and look forward to seeing the results of your inspiration, soon.

Sincerely,

A. Lloud Wimper


21 July, 1985

My dear, dear Mr. Lloud Wimper,

I am so pleased and flattered that you have chosen me to write lyrics for your new show! I think the portion of the score you sent me would make a great title tune. I was inspired immediately!

Enclosed, you will find the results of that inspiration. I hope they conjure up the same deep feelings and images for you that your wonderful, beautiful, utterly ethereal music did for me.

Your friend,

C. Harpy

THE PHANTOM SONG

PRISTINE
I'm just a dancer here,
My name's Pristine.
I'm just the nicest girl
You've ever seen.
There is this ugly git;
Bad to the core!
The Phantom of the Populaire
Is there...
Under the floor...

(etc...)


24 July, 1985

Dear Charles,

I think that perhaps I should have expressed my intentions for the lyrics a bit more clearly. It's not that the examples you sent me are bad, mind you. It is just that... well, they could stand a trifle improving. As is, I'm afraid they fall something short of the feeling of magic I'd hoped to convey.

Perhaps you could play up the tone of mystery and danger a bit more, or stress Pristine's innocence and naïveté? I have enclosed a copy of your lyrics with some possible suggestions for changes.

I look forward to your second draught.

Sincerely,

Andrew


05 August, 1985

Dear Mr. Lloud Wimper,

I have received your letter and list of suggestions. Well, I am so sorry that my lyrics fell short of the "magic" you spoke of. But, to be honest, the music that you wrote is, shall we say, somewhat awkward and abrupt for that sort of delicate and refined lyric-writing.

Nevertheless, I have taken your comments in the spirit I'm sure you intended and have rewritten the song entirely. I hope this version is more to your liking.

Yours,

C. Harpy

THE PHANTOM SONG
(2nd Draught)

PRISTINE
Beneath the Opera House,
Across the lake,
I hear a creepy voice...
Oh, goodness sake!
He's calling, "Hey, Pristine!
You deaf, or what?ļ"

The Phantom of the Populaire
Is...um,...
Oh, I forgot...

(etc...)


08 August, 1985

Dear Charles,

Forgive me if I'm wrong, but I have the certain feeling that we are failing to communicate on some crucial level.

First of all, Pristine should, as I mentioned in my last letter, appear innocent and naïve, not developmentally disabled. And the individual calling to her is the Opera Ghost, not Stanley Kowalski.

This is intended to be a romantic fantasy, after all, and I think you could improve upon these lyrics tremendously if you took a less, well, colloquial approach to the phrasing. Also, you might consider emphasising the "dream-like" quality of the scene and the sense of omnipresence so essential to the Phantom, himself.

I enclose a copy of your last draught, on which I have included further comments and suggestions. Please take your time with this.

- Andrew


12 August, 1985

Dear Sir,

I have received your letter, along with the "corrected" copy of my lyrics. Well, this is certainly a first for me. I have seldom seen so much red ink splashed across a single rectangle in all my life. Had you merely included a hammer and sickle in the upper left-hand corner, I would have taken it for a Soviet flag!

No matter.

We are both adults, both professionals, and as such, we - supposedly - give and take criticism constructively. So, you find my latest efforts wanting? Well, que sera, sera! I have once again rewritten the lyrics as you have instructed. I do hope that I have achieved that sense of "omnipresence" you went on about. I wouldn't want to think I'd fallen short of your picky little standards yet again. Heavens, no!

Still,

C. Harpy

THE PHANTOM SONG
(3rd Draught)

PRISTINE
Beneath the Opera House
I saw him there.
He's in my dressing room,
He's in my chair.
He's in the ticket booth,
He's in the loo...
And if you're cute and sing a lot
I know
You'll see him, too!

(etc...)


16 August, 1985

Dear Charles,

Far be it from me to put in question any level of professionalism on your part, but I am sensing a certain note of displeasure (may I go so far as to say petulance?) contained in your latest missive.

I realise that there are pressures and problems involved in the writing of a full-length opera which composing an advert for a New Creamy Dijon could not have prepared you for. Nevertheless, if we are to continue working together I must insist that you not allow ego to put a strain on our partnership.

I wish (believe me, I really, truly wish) that I could say that your latest draught was exactly perfect. However, I still think the lyrics are missing the mark a bit. It's still a touch simplistic and rather belaboured. Remember too, there is a sexuality to the Phantom. The words should convey a feeling of the sensual. I can't stress this enough.

Again, I enclose a copy of your lyrics, along with new notes and suggestions... on a separate page!

- A.L.W.


19 August, 1985

D- Sir,

Well, how very niice! Now, I am not only incomptitant as a Smithee-of-words, but I am unprofessional, egomanaical, and what was it, again?...oh, yes!...Petulant! Yes, I believe taht was teh word... Petulant! Me! Petulant!

Welll, waht a big vocabul;ary we suddenly have, don't we, Mr. I-Just-Write-Teh-Music? And now we want everything sexual, do we?إ Well, I can undertand taht. Not enough smut on teh stage these days, after all!

Well, fine! You want sexual, lovey?إ You got sexual! I hope it pleses Yor Majesty!

- Teh Drone

TEH PHANTOM SONG
(4th Draught - impossble as it may seme!)

PRISTIne
In slep, he sang too me.
In dreams, he came.
He had fresh towels, though,
To clean teh stain.
Oh, waht a night of love
And wild romance!
The Phantom of teh Poppulaire
Is hear...
Inside my pants!

(etc...)


23 August, 1985

Dear Richard,

As per our phone conversation of the other day, I am sending you the written score of my new opera. I am also sending you copies of the current lyrics. As you will no doubt see, they may be in need of some small bit of polishing, here and there.

It's really awfully good of you to take a look at this, Dicky. It's been much too long since our last collaboration and I'd really look forward to working with you, again. Have I ever told you that I always thought "feet is neat" to be one of the finest lyric turns in musical theatre history? Well, I do. It's been tragically underrated. Honestly.

That said, I again wish to thank you and say that I look forward with great anticipation to your response. I know you won't let me down.

Sincerely,

Andrew

P.S. Please, please, please, Dicky...don't make me ask Tim.