A tragic hit record

A day or two ago, Roger observed:

I know at least two people born in 1966 who know WAY more about the music of the year they were born than I do about 1953. I suppose it’s because I was born in the “pre-rock era.”

And all that “pre-rock” stuff was banished to the so-called “middle of the road” radio stations; any station claiming “We play the hits” conducted itself as though time began in 1955.

While scanning the charts for that forgotten year of 1953, I came across one item that I knew, but that I never knew was a chart single. Background:

[William] Kapell played the final concert of his Australian tour in Geelong, Victoria, on October 22, 1953, a recital which included a performance of Chopin’s “Funeral March” Sonata. Days after the concert, he set off on his return flight to the United States, telling reporters at Mascot Airport he would never return to Australia because of the harsh comments from some Australian critics. He was aboard BCPA Flight 304 when on the morning of October 29, 1953, the plane, descending to land in fog, struck the treetops and crashed on Kings Mountain, south of the San Francisco airport. Everyone on board died.

On October 31, RCA Victor put out an actual William Kapell single: an excerpt from Kapell’s recent recording of Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, the eighteenth variation (of twenty-four), arguably the best-known section of the piece.

The actual single (49-4210) seems to have vanished, but the entire Rhapsody is accessible: the 18th variation runs from about 14:02 to 16:40.

Unexpectedly, RCA found itself with a pop hit, reaching #19. And much later — in 1998 — RCA saw fit to release a nine-CD set of the complete Kapell.


  1. Roger O Green »

    15 July 2019 · 3:30 am

    I’m not positive but I think that Rach piece was among the longest titles (by name) ever to chart.

  2. CGHill »

    15 July 2019 · 1:51 pm

    I can certainly believe that.

  3. Lynn Baumann »

    16 July 2019 · 5:32 pm

    It is so neat to know what happened on your birth date. Thank for the wonderful consideration. Lynn

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