It’s Sunday, February 15, and I hope you enjoyed the live performance that D’Arcy and I recorded as the culmination of my Valentine’s Day medley on Project 194. Today’s post is a song about what happens when love ends, and seems fitting for the day after Valentines Day: Concrete, from Gemini the Musical. The recording is from the 2004 Prince Music Theater production, and features Bob Picardo as Fran and the orchestrations of Lars Halle. Read more about Bob and the song below the lyrics…
It keeps a backyard neat.
It’s smooth beneath your feet.
When we first bought this place,
You shoulda seen the weeds.
My wife she looked around and said
I know just what it needs—
It rarely needs repairs.
We’ll get some plastic slipcovers
To put on all the chairs,
And a big Amana freezer
That’s full of frozen meat
But first of all we need concrete.
She dreamed a Sears and Roebuck life.
She had no stomach for us Geminiani men.
Time and time again
She’d say, you’re rough and way too loud,
You stand out too much in a crowd.
She had enough of us, I guess.
She found a man and headed south.
She was a bird who had too much of winter.
They always seem to leave.
You love someone and when it’s done
That’s unavoidable, I know
Just like a tree, we all need room to grow.
And so that night, the night she went away…
I remember like it was yesterday.
I fought to keep from crying
As her car drove down the street,
And then I got a hammer
And I smashed that damn concrete!
Next day I went to the one guy in the neighborhood would give me the time of day, borrowed thirty dollars, and I planted that fig tree.
Having Bob Picardo play Fran in the Gemini the Musical was an exceptionally resonant casting choice. Bob, a native Philadelphian, played the part of Francis, the son, in the premiere production of Gemini (the play) on Broadway in 1977, the beginning of what turned out to be a substantial career on film and TV. When he got wind of the plan to produce a musical version of Gemini 27 years later, he contacted the Prince Music Theater to indicate his interest in the role of Fran, the father (originally played by Danny Aiello on Broadway). Since he was on the West Coast and unavailable to meet with us, he made a recording of “Concrete” as his audition, and we were convinced this was a winning idea. Gemini the Musical brought Bob home to his birthplace and home to a play that had figured importantly in the launch of his career. You can see more of Bob and this song in this TV news story produced by the Philly NBC-TV affiliate.
Much of this lyric came right from Albert Innaurato’s play, in which Fran told the story of how he came to plant the fig tree during a spaghetti dinner in his backyard. Concrete backyards are a common feature of South Philly row homes, as are fig trees, many of which were planted by Italian-American immigrants who were cheered by this reminder of their native agriculture. I’ve always loved the power of concrete as a metaphor in this song, and the long-lined Neapolitan melody (complete with accordian embellishments courtesy of orchestrator Lars Halle) seems to capture perfectly the personality of the rough-yet-tender patriarch of the Geminiani family.
If you missed them, these are the songs already posted on Project 194; the links on the right are songs chosen at random from previous posts. Want to contribute to my interactive composition, “Hear My Song?” Read more here. Want to receive daily songs delivered direct to your inbox? Sign up here!