Wednesday, February 02, 2022

EP260: Bathtubs Over Broadway

Under the radar of Broadway from the ‘50s-‘80s were extravagant Industrial Musicals.  Major corporations would hold sales conventions highlighted by these razzle-dazzle salutes to cars, cat food, and bathroom fixtures.  BATHTUBS OVER BROADWAY is a hilarious and touching documentary about this fascinating world (available on Netflix).  David Letterman writer, Steve Young is your guide and also Ken’s guest this week.  

Get Honey for FREE at

More podcasts at WAVE:

Listen to the Hollywood & Levine podcast!


Brian Phillips said...

I have collected a couple of these records. Among them are:
- Volkswagen '76, a musical about the trials and tribulations of a VW salesman and his family
- The Going Thing from Ford (1969), which has the LONNNNGEST version of the Everly Brothers' "Bye Bye Love". They lengthened the ending:

I think I'm gonna die-iii,
I got something in my eye-iii,
Do ya think it's gonna stye-iii?
No, it's just a teensy fly-iii...

There was also a Bossa Nova Medley dubbed a Bossananny, like a Hootenanny, but far worse. The link for the BM is cued to a particularly awful spot, it's up to you if you want to hear the whole thing.

Brian Phillips said...

To add what I said previously: I just found a whole TV special for "The Going Thing"!

Pat Reeder said...

Great film, book and CD series! Steve is a good friend, and we attended the premiere of the movie here in Dallas and had dinner afterwards. My wife's late dad worked in the production music industry, so she grew up around this. She also once did a show for Mary Kay, and we wrote and performed in one together for GTE. We met when we were both working at TM, which later became MPT and produced big shows for Coca-Cola. And my "Hollywood Hi-Fi" co-writer, George, who is a major record collector, just sent Steve a cache of tapes of Dallas-produced industrial show soundtracks for companies like 7-11.

One of the best things about Steve's movie is that it's funny, but it also gives sincere props to the people who created these shows. It's easy to laugh at the crazy subject matter (you try writing a catchy, heartfelt ballad about toilet fixtures), but some incredible talents worked on them. Not just writers, composers and performers who later went on to TV and Broadway stardom, but people who mostly worked in that field for their whole careers, including some of the best musicians who ever lived, my wife's dad among them. He worked with Tommy Dorsey, Tex Beneke, Ray McKinley, Freddy Martin and many more, but spent his later years playing in showrooms behind icons like Tony Bennett and Ella Fitzgerald by night and doing production music and jingle sessions by day.

Tom said...

Could the Going Thing version of "Bye Bye Love" be any longer (or more excruciating) than the version that ends the film "All That Jazz"? Yikes -- the most 70s thing ever filmed, and not in a good way....

gottacook said...

I happened to see this on one of the major streaming services, and it was well worth my time.

Some years ago on Youtube, I came across one of these produced on film, all about the 1967 Dodge cars, and starring (of all people) Tom Lehrer. Must be seen to be believed. There are separate short films for the Dart, Polara, etc., preceded by an 8-minute edit including bits of them all, at

Bob Waldman said...

I know the genre first-hand. In the mid-‘70s, I wrote a breakfast industrial show for Nescafé…had to make an audience of salesman laugh at 8am in, of all places, Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey. There was a live band, original musical numbers, sketches all in the service of introducing Decaf Nescafé.

Cringeworthy now, but here’s the joke that had the salesguys rolling in the aisles:

ACTRESS DRESSED AS A NESCAFÉ JAR: …And they’ve made the label smaller so you can see more of my glass.

Hanging my head in shame now.

Jeff Boice said...

Thanks- that was great. And thanks to Steve for all the time and work he's given to this subject.

slgc said...

Thanks for the recommendation - my husband and I just checked out Bathtubs Over Broadway and found it fascinating :)

Breadbaker said...

I loved the podcast and turned on the documentary on Netflix tonight. My wife and I both loved it.

I saw that Steve O'Donnell, former Letterman head writer, appeared in the production number a the end of the show. That gives me just two degrees of separation from the rest of the cast. Steve and I appeared together in "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead" at Harvard in 1975. Mind you, Steve played Guildenstern and I played the upper left stage courtier.

Roger Owen Green said...

This reminds me, more broadly, about just how many talented people there have been, not on TV, or Broadway, or at an arena's rock concert, but just folks plugging away at their craft, wherever it may have taken them.