"Pure Imagination" (Don Ward)

By: Don Ward
By: Don Ward

How a quick snippet of a memorable song can take us instantly back in time.


Have you seen and heard the commercial yet?  Does it take you back?

During the newscasts we can hear all of the commercials that air in the breaks.  Sometimes one of them will really catch my attention, and one in particular grabs me by the ear.  AT&T has a new campaign called "rethink possible", and at least one of the spots uses the song "Pure Imagination."  Remember that?   Just the dream-like, jingly intro music instantly starts taking me back to the time when the song was new.  When the words come in the trip back in time is complete.

"Pure Imagination" is from the original movie "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" released in 1971.  In the movie it's sung by Gene Wilder, and the words and music are by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley.  Here's my point.  I hadn't really thought about that song in a long time, but the moment I heard it I knew what it was and what it was from.  Now when the commercial comes on, I want the song to keep going!  I want to hear the whole thing!

Music can do that.  It's powerful.  One short musical phrase can trigger an instant memory of a time or place, good or bad.  In this case it's good.  I probably first saw the movie when I was about 6 or 7 years old. I loved It then.  I've seen it a few times since and liked it almost as much through adult eyes, and ears. 

Here's the scene.


Hearing it again reminds me that Anthony Newley is someone we don't hear much about.  He and his composing partner also wrote "The Candy Man" and all the other Wonka songs.  He's credited with writing 150 songs including an old hit, "What Kind Of Fool Am I".   As an actor he starred with Rex Harrison in the original movie version of Dr. Doolittle.  That's the first movie I ever remember seeing!

Newley, who died in 1999, also co-wrote another song most of us have heard.  "Feeling Good" has been recorded in the last few years by a slew contemporary singers..Nina Simone, Michael Buble, The Pussycat Dolls, Adam Lambert, they've all performed it.  The song was originally written for a musical called "The Roar Of The Greasepaint - The Smell Of The Crowd" which many of us probably haven't heard.  Here's my favorite more modern version of "Feeling Good"...it's by Muse, this is live at Wembley Stadium.


It is "Pure Imagination" though, that got me thinking about the work of Anthony Newley...

"If you want to view paradise
Simply look around and view it
Anything you want to, do it
Wanta change the world?
There's nothing to it."

I'm not going to endorse the AT&T commercial (or any commercial) but I will give them high marks for picking a wonderful song.  (BTW - I'm a rock-n-roll fan, but I appreciate other kinds of music too, especially if it's tied to good memories as a child)

So hats off to the late Mr. Newley for some great music, for one song in particular, "Pure Imagination" that was so good way back then, and just as good on this latest trip back in time...whenever that commercial catches my ear.

We'll talk again soon.

Don Ward

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