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The Cutting Room Floor: Songs Forgotten and Unfinished

When Viva Virtuoso creator and host Warren Peterson brought a slew of us creative types on board to put together a simple, old-school variety show that would showcase fun, familiar tunes in new ways and on contemporary online channels, we never imagined it would turn into such a consuming and invigorating project.

Everyone involved in making Viva Virtuoso a reality has at least two things in common – a passion for music and a day job unrelated to the show. It’ll be easy, they said. Just point a camera in the right direction and hit record, they said. Everyone’s doing it these days, they said.

Well, as fresh creators of an original YouTube show, we’re here to tell you different. Planning, scheduling, organizing, shooting, and finally putting together and publishing a half-hour show ain’t easy. It’s a month-long, time-consuming, complex and glitch-ridden process throughout. And we’re loving every minute of it.

As we entered the final steps of the post-production process, which alone went on for over three weeks, we couldn’t help but ponder on the months of work behind us. It just so happens that the Viva Virtuoso team has some of the most modern amenities available to create this “simple” half-hour show.

But what of all the artists, musicians, and creators who didn’t and still don’t have all of these nifty gadgets, phenomenal broadband connections, and studio equipment at their fingertips? And, perhaps more importantly, what of all the scenes and songs that have been left on cutting room floors across the world?

Unfinished songs

There are plenty of musical masterpieces that will never see the light of day. And then there are those that weren’t meant to be published, but have become audience favorites.

Arguably the best example of an unfinished song ever is Otis Redding’s Dock of the Bay. In it, Redding went far and beyond the RnB sounds and soulful shouts that he had built his career on. Yet, it was his most soulful work ever and the song that comes to mind for most people when his name is mentioned.

It all began ahead of a European tour, when Redding and his road manager, ‘Speedo’ Sims, decided to get away from the planning and pre-production of it all on a rented houseboat near Sausalito in June of 1967. Over those several days, Redding took time to relax, sitting by the ocean and gently strumming his acoustic guitar, mumbling just two lines over and over.

Sittin’ in the morning sun
I’ll be sittin’ when the evening comes…

After an entire summer of touring and working on the song, a song that many felt was too far from anything he had done in the past to ever be recorded, Redding had most of the track ready for the studio. Despite complaints from both producers and some of the musicians he was working with on his next album, Redding insisted on recording as much of the song as he had at that point when he stepped into the studio.

That was Redding’s last recording session. He died, tragically, only three days later. The whistling we hear at the end of that now legendary song was Redding’s way of replacing the spot where a yet unwritten verse was supposed to go. He aimed to finish it when he got back.

Knowing Dock of the Bay as we do today, writing that last verse may have been a mistake. And leaving the song on the cutting room floor, as his producers aimed to do had he lived, would have been a downright crime.

For reasons we will never be able to explain, the song was released a month after Redding’s premature passing.

The cutting room floor

Then there are the tunes we’ll never hear or know of. Some might make their way to us decades after they were meant to, after an already known musician’s or composer’s timely death, but with much less pomp and circumstance than they probably deserve. They’ll be nothing but remnants of something that we once knew or that was popular for a time.

The Beatles originally recorded I’ll Cry Instead for the famous breakout scene in A Hard Day’s Night, where the foursome famously barely escapes their hordes of screaming fans. Director Richard Lester decided to replace the track with the slightly more upbeat Can’t Buy Me Love. Though I’ll Cry Instead wasn’t completely cut from the film’s soundtrack and was later included in a re-release of the film with a photo montage, it never quite “took” with audiences the way that Can’t Buy Me Love did.

No song left behind

While pondering all of this, we decided to do our best in not leaving anything on the cutting room floor – a tough task when we’re tasked with rolling a couple of hours of outstanding material into a half-hour show. That’s another thing we’re fortunate enough to have available these days – enough room for it all, in one way or another.

While we work on the next episode of the show, with more strings attached than the first (hint), we’ll also be releasing a number that was cut from the first full episode, just because we felt we needed to stay within the half-hour time frame of the show. Look out for the bonus track on the official Viva Virtuoso YouTube channel in the coming days and subscribe to be notified as soon as it hits the wifi waves!