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Bonus Episode - Beethoven's Birthday

Jimmy: Hey, everybody. Welcome back to the show. Today is an ode to joy because we are focusing on that legendary Peanuts character and real world composer Herr Beethoven. We're going to talk about music in Peanuts. We're going to talk about Schroeder and Lucy and all the good things we could possibly discuss here on this special Beethoven's birthday episode of Unpacking Peanuts. I'm assuming you all have your Beethoven shopping done and you've sent out your Beethoven cards and all that sort of stuff. So now just sit back, polish the bust of Ludwig that you have on your toy piano, and, join us for the next hour or so. 


I'm your host. I'm Jimmy Gownley. I'm also a cartoonist. I do things like Amelia Rules, The Dumbest Idea Ever, and Seven Good Reasons Not to Grow Up. Joining me, as always, are my pals, co hosts, and fellow cartoonists. He's a playwright, a composer, both for the band Complicated People, as well as for this very podcast. He's the original editor of Amelia Rules. He's the co creator of the original comic book Price Guide, and the creator of such great strips as Strange Attractors, A Gathering of Spells, and Tangled River. It's Michael Cohen 


Michael: Gutentag. 


Jimmy: and he is the executive producer writer of Mystery Science Theater 3000, a former vice president of Archie comics, the creator of the Instagram sensation Sweetest Beasts, and his new book, the Neat Before Christmas is out now. Harold Buchholz. 


Harold Wie geht es ihnen


Jimmy: You know what? a little behind the curtains thing. I actually wrote a little german introduction to this, and I thought, it's too much. I took four years of German in high school, and I know for certain if I end up in Germany on my birthday, I can ask someone where my birthday present is. Beyond that Id be lost. Wo ist mein Geburtstagsgeschenk?. No.


Harold: There you go.


Jimmy: No. I could also tell you Steven is a boy, okay. Which, by the way, might ge you t into trouble these days.


Harold: I play it safe, and I just ask where I can, if I may sharpen my pencil.


Jimmy: So when I was, trying to think about how to put this, episode together, I realized I wanted to talk to you guys about music and music in your life. And I noticed one of the sort of areas of my blind spots in my understanding of my good pal Harold, is we don't talk that much about the music you like, probably because I'm never shutting up about things like the Beatles and REM. So you don't get a chance. But, what's your favorite music? What's Harold go to when he needs to chill out or draw to?


Harold: This conversation never goes well for me because my approach to music is so different. And so I think, in some ways, so pedestrian. It's unique. I'll give me that. But, it's hard to describe, when you sign up for Pandora, you know, how you can build your own channels over a single song. I have such a hard time finding songs that I like that people will consistently give me what I like from a single creator. And there are so many people who absolutely adore a certain band or a certain group or for a period of years, there's multiple albums. They get to know them. my wife, Diane Cook, she's a huge connoisseur of rock from, England that kind of predates when she was like three and four years old, this stuff. That's what she loves it. And she can tell you exactly why she loves it. She can tell you how each member of the band contributes to the music. I'm not in that place. I played music in band. I played the oboe. I can play a little bit of piano. And I really appreciate music. But what I appreciate in music is not what most certainly what people would consider to be, connoisseurs of music. I'm the kind of seur-- That's how I feel in relationship to people who really, really know music. 


Just to give an example, my wife, Diane, I usually would go to her concerts because she knew what she liked. And there were a lot of opportunities when we were younger to see a lot of these bands that were big in the. They were touring the US, or we'd see them in England when we travel there. And so, finally I found somebody that I thought I really would like to go to this concert. And I was like, well, sure, let's do it. And the, artist is David Benoit. I don't know if you guys have heard of this guy. He's a jazz musician. He actually did the music post Vince Guaraldi. He's done, I think, as much music for Peanuts, actually. And I didn't know this when I first listened to him. I just loved him. But it's jazz. I think it would be considered kind of light California jazz that most jazz musicians would not, look up to very much. And Diane didn't know anything about it. This is like a world that she's not used to. And we went to this concert and she was politely sat through the whole thing. And not too long afterwards she went up to, one of the major, I don't know if it was BB King’s or whatever, in New York City to see Jack Bruce perform, who is super highly regarded in rock, but also was a jazz guy. And Diane's sitting around with these other people who are talking jazz and that's not really her thing. But she liked Jack Bruce a lot, with the rock stuff that he'd done. So she's going there to enjoy it. And she made the mistake of saying, oh, my husband and I just went to a concert like, oh, who'd you see? David Benoit. And she said it was almost know someone putting their finger on the button of the window in your car that took all of her street cred away by mentioning my choice of David Benoit. Because David's style is, he appeals think, you know, he can sell out like a stadium or at least he used to in California. But it's not considered a high jazz or whatever. 


And it's Weather Channel, your ten day forecast. Jazz, right? It's highly melodic. I love syncopation. And I'm looking at my stuff. What did I pick in Pandora and what is it? They used to have a thing where you could see what they were using, like which markers they used off of a song to pick other songs. And I remember it was like syncopated high sonority was one of the things. I love instrumentals, it's not the kind of music I can sit around with other people and talk about intelligently where people are going to say, oh yeah, okay, I get where you're coming from, man. It's not that at all. 


The album I've listened to the most in this decade, I think I've mentioned it before, maybe, was created to. It's a soundtrack album to a silent film starring Mary Pickford called Little Annie Rooney, written by a teenage genius musician named Andy Gladback. And he did a full feature length thing and he just knocked himself out. To me, it's so playful and creative. Instrumental, I absolutely love it and there's some really wonderful things in it. But that's not the thing I can bring up when I'm talking music with other people. And I love humor songs, parody songs. It's all kind of low. Consider low music, I guess, in the world of people who really, really live music. So I'm seeing people like, I built a station off a swinging on, you know, Bert Kaempfert, Roger Quilter, who did light music for.


Michael: I’m trying not to judge you.


Harold: Judge away, Michael. There's no avoiding this. I'm just coming clean for everybody.


Jimmy: Well, we appreciate the honesty.


Harold: And, Keith and Kristen Gaddy. there's probably the most famous hymn that's been written in the last. In the 21st century. It's called In Christ Alone. It just knocks me out. It's beautiful. So it's super eclectic, but I don't know what else to say other than how music serves me, is way different than I think most people, certainly people who I think would be considered connoisseurs. And in the world of the discussion of music, I'm on the outside looking in, for sure. I think the first single I bought was probably, like Music Box dancer or a Fifth of Beethoven, which is funny, since we're doing Beethoven here, which is kind of a-- I don't know what you call it, like an updated version of it, but it's just not considered great music by most people. So that's my world. I just kind of live in it, and I'm on my own. 

I've said my piece here, and, the one thing I will say, and I want to put to you guys, what Diane often likes to ask people is, what was your first concert that you chose to go to? And I will answer first, Chuck Mangione. All right, so I pass this back to the people who actually are the music connoisseurs to answer, in your own way.


Liz: That was great Harold.


Jimmy: Okay, Harold. I had to really think about how I was going to handle all of, the music stuff, because I will share with, since you were so honest and open, I will share a really dark, side of myself from back in my earlier days. We used to do, And people do all the time. Hey, what are your five desert island discs? What are your top three bands? Whatever it is, right? What's the best song on side two of a third album. All that kind of nonsense. So I had a roommate in college, and we were hanging out at the Sugar Bowl, which was the local hangout on campus, and I said, hey, let's do one of your top five favorite bands of all time or something. I guess it was favorite bands. And Brian goes, I don't want to do this. And, I go, come on, it's fun. And there was a bunch of people there. He goes, no. And I go, why not? He goes, because whatever I say, you're going to criticize. I am absolutely not going to do that. Brian. He goes, yes, you are. I go, no, I'm not. I promise you. He goes, fine. Well, number one would be Color Me Badd. And I go, oh, my God!


Harold: There is a man who knows himself and knows you.


Jimmy: But that was a long time ago. So you enjoy all the Benoit you want. It doesn't bother me in the least. I'm happy.


Harold: I appreciate it.


Jimmy: No problem, buddy. You bring other things to the table. Plus, also, if you were suddenly really interested in Keith Richards open G tuning, I would be worried. I would be very concerned.


Harold: Something is awry.


Jimmy: Yeah, something's wrong with Harold. Well, Michael, I imagine you're the polar opposite, particularly when it comes to jazz and how about this? Something I really don't know about you. How do you feel about Schroeder's love, Beethoven or classical music in general?


Michael: Well, I have to go way back, but I lived in a household where there was just a wide variety of music played. Like, neither of my parents were musicians, but they did have pretty wide range. So from being born till age ten or eleven, when I got my first transistor radio, I was pretty much subjected to what was in the house. And it turned out to be a real interesting mix. I mean, they were definitely into big band jazz. So there's a lot of that, there's a lot of classical. Edith Piaf, I mean, this was stuff I'd heard when I was little and I liked it all. Me and my sister listened to classical music and it was like a big deal. It wasn't like super serious, but Grand Canyon Suite and things like that. I remember I was sitting around playing these 78s.


Harold: Wow.


Michael: So, I was so much into this kind of music that when rock and roll came along, I was like, really negative about it because I remember the first time I heard Rollover Beethoven, I was actually offended. I went like, what do you mean, rollover Beethoven!?


Jimmy: At what age would you have been.


Michael: oh like 7 or 8


Harold: Interesting


Michael: And also show tunes, because everybody-- Fiddler On the Roof and South Pacific. So, yeah, I was exposed to all this stuff and I liked it. And then the radio, even though in the 50s, pre rock and roll was pretty bleak, they were still playing-- You'd occasionally hear Patsy Cline or some country music and things like that. It wasn't until I got the first transistor radio, which was the big deal. The first time I could listen to my music. I can go back and find the month I started listening to pop radio. Because those songs from that I looked. It was like June, 1962. Because all of a sudden those songs were like in glowing 3D and everything else was kind of plain. Suddenly like, oh, It's My Party. That was the month I started listening to rock and roll.


Jimmy: Yeah.


Michael: And then, so the course I did the usual Beatle Stones mania, I had an experience that turned me on to jazz. And then I just proceeded because--


Jimmy: Wait-- I actually know that experience. That's a different podcast. That's a great story.

Michael: Okay, well, let's not go into that.


Jimmy: No. Okay, but it's a great story.


Michael: But anyway, as a young adult, my friends were all musicians and pretty much drifted through a lot of periods where finding new stuff, and often it was old stuff was what we talked about and what we listened to. So I kind of draw a blank on the 70s. We were listening to Bessie Smith and old black blues players and Charlie Parker and John Coltrane and stuff like that. And then it just kept progressing. I hit a point where suddenly like, oh, country music, that's great. And then I was in a band playing country music for a while and then I started writing songs. And it was really important to me to try, at least attempt all these different styles, show tunes or jazz or classical. 


So it was an opportunity for me to start thinking about music because, oh, how do you do? You know, I was never formally trained, so I would just listen, know what Leonard Bernstein was doing, and eventually got to the point where we'd be performing and Liz would be singing and people would come up and say, oh, that sounds like show tunes. And I eventually decided, well, maybe that's what's interesting me the most. So I spent a period where I was writing musicals and writing show tunes. And, yeah, to this day, I keep finding things like, oh, Brazilian music. So that's a big passion. All of a sudden, I really like music that kind of crosses boundaries and it's not what you're ever going to hear on the radio. And it's just a big part of my life, know, writing and performing. Never made a living at it, hardly never made any money at it. But I don't have any regrets. 


It's, to me, the most interesting thing. And, Jimmy and I have had many, many conversations about Beatles and it's a well that goes down to the center of the earth. It's just like, it's all so interesting. And the more, you know, the more interesting it gets.


Harold: That's great.


Michael: So, to me, it seems like I'm, living in a world where most people do not see music this way. And I find it like torture to try to carry on a conversation about sports or anything, but talking about music is great. I love it.


Jimmy: Yeah, yeah, me too.


Harold: You triggered something with me, Michael. If I had a Beatles, if I had a band that I would just say, I just like what they did. Again, it's pretty pedestrian and it's a big band. It was Glenn Miller. He was--


Michael: Come on, that's not music.


Harold: He studied under, I think. Was it Joseph Schillinger who had a method of writing that was based on mathematics and stuff. And he was one of the students of that. There are many people that studied him, including mean, all those guys. The Green Acres guy brought the Green Acres music and the. Yeah.


Michael: Anyway, all those guys could play--


Harold: To me like really big band. That would be the band that. Most songs that I liked that I thought he crafted some pretty perfect songs.


Jimmy: Yeah.


Michael: I was really anti big band. I mean, I liked it when I was younger, but then afterwards I went like, they're playing dance music for people who aren't even listening to the music.


Jimmy: Yeah, you are super anti dance music if a song makes someone want to dance.


Michael: I've never danced in my. Anyway, talking about music, arguing about music. Because my friends were so judgmental, like Jimmy is. I remember saying once, like kind of like Donovan, more than Dylan. And I got absolutely destroyed. Yeah, people were brutal. So I learned when I left LA and ended up in Cheney, Washington, which is this backwater college. I learned pretty quick, know my roommate likes Led Zeppelin. I'm going to keep my mouth shut.


Harold: Yeah. In the ownership of music was a huge thing. I mean, people were tribes and clicques that were like traveling, the Who freaks. And everybody was..


Michael: I was really into Joni Mitchell and he was the Led Zeppelin guy and we ended up being great friends. But like Jimmy, I couldn't keep my mouth shut. 


Jimmy: How could you do that? Okay, so getting back to the questions, what was the first record you remember buying and what, was your first concert?


Michael: Okay, first record I, mean, I physically bought.


Jimmy: Yeah. That you paid for.


Michael: I joined like a record club to get the free ten albums.


Jimmy: Sure. great  American scams. I love that. Yeah.


Michael: Then it was like Best of the Four Tops. Best of-- it was a bunch of those things. And then a concert that I personally went to. I did see Donovan. I did see, Canned Hheat. I think those might have been the earliest ones I saw. I didn't have much money, which is unfortunate because 


Liz: you lived in LA and went to all those clubs.


Michael: Yeah, but later on. Yeah, I did. But at the time on the Sunset Strip, which was like ten minute drive away, Buffalo Springfield was playing. The Byrds were playing. I never saw any of those bands in those clubs, so I regret that.


Jimmy: All right.


Liz: Et toi.


Michael: Yeah, Jimmy.


Jimmy: Me? Well, I love Color Me Badd, obviously, right? here's one of my favorite things. Michael talking about our endless Beatles discussions. It was like, 1997 or 98, the small press expo. And the comic book industry was up in arms about something. Someone bought something. I don't remember what it was.


Michael: Distributor or something.


Jimmy: Distributor thing. And Bill Schanes, who at the time was the vice president of Diamond comics, was going to talk to all the self publishers in this, meeting. And he's rambling on about whatever baloney they're talking about. That's not going to make anyone, everyone. I remember Joe Chiapetta standing up and just begging. Can we please get a picture under our listing? It was ridiculous. So Michael and I are the corner talking, and Schanes is actually-- He's like, this is great. I can see there's people here already starting to plan with this new information. This is fantastic. We were discussing who played the guitar on Ticket To Ride. 


Yeah. I wouldn't describe myself as really a connoisseur because I basically only like rock music. I know a lot about the rock music I like, and I like the stuff that is tangential to that, like folk music or r and b. And even every once in a while as I get older, I try to make sure I didn't miss anything. So I went on, actually, it was during the pandemic. I listened to a bunch of the classic hip hop albums that I had missed. And I listened to, the early metal albums, like things like Black Sabbath, I'd never listened to, but I was sticking through it. I'm going to listen to the debut. I don't care how bad I want to turn it off after 12 seconds. I'm going to stick through to the end. I didn't miss anything because, all that stuff really wasn't for me.

Michael: But, you made an attempt to listen to some good jazz, though.


Jimmy: Well, I was going to say I did make many attempts in my life, to really understand jazz, because I'm also a person that likes to pretend he's smart, which is why I read these books that no one reads. Because then it makes me seem like I'm smart, when in fact, as we know. But I did have a moment that made me understand jazz. And I'll tell you later, though. I'm not going to tell you now. I'll tell you at the end of the episode.


Michael: Okay.


Jimmy: All right.


Liz: What about first album. And first concert.


Jimmy: My first record I ever bought for myself was Mickey. Oh, Mickey, you so fine. Because I had many records before then, but they were all given to me by my cousins. But that was the first one I paid for, and I got that and Maneater on the same day by Hall and Oates. I only saw three concerts.


Harold: It went across, the checkout counter first. So that has to be the first one. You couldn't have picked Maneater. It was Mickey.


Jimmy: Yeah, it was. Mickey was first. Actually, I do remember this because I believe Mickey was number one and Maneater was number two, and I bought the number one and two singles. 


I only saw three concerts when I was a teenager because I lived in the coal regions where there was nothing. My friend took me on a vacation when I was 13, and we saw the Pointer Sisters. and I had to pay for that ticket. so that would have been something I chose to do. And I loved it. It was one of the most exciting, fun things I'd ever happened in my life. a year later, I got to see the Monkees, and then I didn't see another concert until three years later, and it was Paul McCartney. So those are my first.


Jimmy: So. All right, so that's awesome. Ah, Liz, why don't you tell. What's your relation to classical? Are you a Beethoven person? You have an album out, for God's sake. We really should talk to you about that.


Liz: I mostly have listened to what the people in my house have listened to, and I don't have strong opinions of my own. My family listened to classical music when I grew up. I liked that. Okay. I really liked big bands and, music of the 30s,  then old rock and roll. I loved singing back up to. It was a life dream to sing back up in an oldies band. I really wanted to do that. Michael turned me on to jazz. I mostly listen to what Michael wants to listen to because he has really good taste. And, I really like Michael's music. my first album was Meet the Beatles. My first concert was John Sebastian.


Michael: Oh, I didn't mention Gilbert and Sullivan. The reason I became a Gilbert and Sullivan fanatic. This shows how narrow minded I am, because, Linda Ronstadt was in the production of Pirates of Penzance, and there was a movie of it, so I had no interest in that. And I saw that and I went like, I love Pirates of Penzance. This is the greatest thing. And then I met somebody else who was into Gilbert and Sullivan, and I said, what do you think of Pirates of Penzance? He says, well, I like the Gondoliers. And I remember thinking, why would anyone listen to any Gilbert and Sullivan other than Pirates of Penzance?


Jimmy: That is a hardcore opinion, boy.


Liz: You were deeply in love with, Linda Ronstadt.


Michael: That's true.


Jimmy: Oh, well, that's a good call. All right, so, with that, how about we take a break, we go get a drink and, snack, and then, we meet you on the other side of these very important messages?


Harold: Sounds great.


Jimmy: Now, this is a little outside of the Beethoven music theme, but our wonderful producer, Liz pointed something out. this is the. What is the 58th anniversary of the be of good cheer strip? Is that it?


Liz: 68th.


Jimmy: Oh, that hurt. It is the 68th anniversary of the be of good cheer strip. Today, when this drops. So be of good cheer.


Harold: Yes, be of good cheer.


Michael: Sure. Ditto.


Jimmy: And we're back. Well, so all I thought we should do to celebrate Beethoven's birthday is to hang out, talk music and talk Peanuts. So we're going to do that. We have selected. I have selected a random assortment, a sampler, if you will, of Schroeder slash Beethoven strips. 


And, if you want to know ahead of time what we were doing, here's how you could have done that. You block head. You go to our website, unpackingpeanuts.com. You sign up for the great Peanuts reread, and then, you will know what strips we're talking about. Otherwise, if you haven't done that, you can do it now. And, you'll be able to see, what strips I pulled. If you're not going to do that, I can't help you. It's just going to have to be an auditory only experience for you. 


So we're going to go in whatever order I feel like. Just as the conversation strikes me, this one cracked me up. This is 


October 26, 1955. Schroeder is listening as Charlie Brown reads him a book. Charlie Brown says, “finally, the day came for the rehearsal of Beethoven's new symphony. One of the soloists, complained about the difficulty of her part.” Schroeder at this point, has his hand to his mouth as, he's feeling the nervous tension. Charlie Brown continues. “She asked the composer if he would make a few changes.” At this point, Schroeder has both hands to his mouth and he jumps up from the seat and “screams, don't do it, Beethoven.” 


Jimmy: I love that one. I, obviously have had that relationship with, many people asking for suggestions and changes over the years. So I'm with Schroeder yelling, don't do it, Beethoven.


Harold: Wow. This makes me think of. I guess it's a music story. How unrelated it is, I don't know. But Hoyt Curtin, who did the music for a lot of the Hanna Barbera shows, he'd get a lot of ribbing from the trombonist. He would bring in to say, do the recording for the Flintstones or the Jetsons or whatever, doing an opening. And they said, yeah, you never give us anything hard enough. This is all basic. And this guy was like a master songwriter. And he wrote a lot of theme songs we know really well. Well, Johnny Quest was the next one he got after. I'm going to show him. And I don't know if you guys remember how that goes, but the trombone part in that is insane. He's like, okay, you want difficulty?


Jimmy: It's one of the all time great tv theme songs, actually.


Harold: Oh, my gosh.


Jimmy: Yeah. Be careful what you wish for.


Harold: We've talked about that little block where it says Peanuts in the upper left. That kept Schulz from ever putting, any lettering in the upper left, which in the, say, the Fantagraphic or the Go Comics versions has been removed. But the one we're looking at here, I guess this is from Go Comics. So there are Peanuts that do have that little triangular black box with the white letters of Peanuts. What I'm seeing here, though, is this is so bizarre. Peanuts is in quotes, quote unquote Peanuts.


Jimmy: Why did they do that? Yeah, they all are. No, not they all.


Harold: Some of them.


Michael: No, they're not the next one.


Harold: At some point, Schulz probably said, okay, guys, do we really need the quotation marks?


Jimmy: That's insane. talk about, unnecessary quotation marks.


Harold: Maybe it was Schulz's idea since he was so angry about being given the name Peanuts. It's like, all right, this is in quotes.


Michael: Well, definitely it was early because I'm flipping through these and the early ones have quotes.


Jimmy: That's so strange. Never noticed in a million years. All right, since we, had Schroeder and Charlie Brown, let's, skip a little bit ahead. We'll go to 


June 22, 1956, and we'll see Schroeder and his gal pal, Lucy. Schroeder is, practicing at his piano. Lucy is in her classic position, and she's looking at a picture of something. She says, “yes, sir, boy.” Schroeder says, huh? Lucy says, I said, “yes, sir, boy.” Then she turns to Schroeder, shows the picture to him and says, “look, Elvis Presley.” And Schroeder buries his face in his hands and says, “oh, good grief.” To which Lucy says, “yes, sir boy.”


Michael: Boy, I don't remember reading this one. That's a good one.


Jimmy: It is a good one.


Harold: finally, Schroeder's got a little competition going here.


Jimmy: One of the things I wonder is what he didn't interact with all of pop culture. There's, as far as I can remember, no reference to Star Wars, no reference to the Beatles. There's one Elvis, there's Dylan, Saturday Night Fever. Like it's-- Bo Derek. Really strange.


Liz: Joni James.


Jimmy:  Yeah, yeah. I wonder what, We'll talk about someone's personal taste. Maybe this is just the things that grabbed.


Michael: I mean, Life magazine, Look magazine, before you heard the music, you saw pictures of this guy, right?


Harold: Do you think he was-- This may sound weird, but that he was more cognizant of things that came out of the, you know, the art that came out of the US versus, say, the Beatles. I'm trying to think of an example of, obviously Beethoven didn't come out of the United States, but I'm talking about stuff that was contemporary. Not a whole lot of references to stuff from other countries.


Michael: Maybe.


Harold: I don't know.


Jimmy: Yeah, maybe, I don't know. You don't see the music of the 60s super reflected in Peanuts at the time when both of them were in the absolute center of the culture. If two things can be in the center of one culture and also at the time when he had kids in his house.


Harold: Right.


Jimmy: Yeah.


Michael: The absence of Beatles is puzzling.


Harold: And it is interesting that once he's known in the music that's attached to Peanuts is Vince Guaraldi's, which is. I don't know, how would you place Guaraldi in the world of jazz Michael? 


Michael: Bottom. No seriously.


Harold: his style is not like classical jazz, blues rooted.


Michael: No. I suspect. I don't know the story, but I suspect Schulz might have gone to some club in San Francisco and heard this guy.


Jimmy: Well, it's close.


Harold: Mendelson, I think. Ah, yeah, the producer of the special, heard Cast Your Fate to the Wind. Yeah, from song that was, I think, charting.


Michael: If you look at that, that is like jazz with orchestrated, with strings. it's total crossover, super light, fluffy jazz, which has nothing to do with what was going on at the time, but it's accessible.


Jimmy: And I would say though, to defend it just a second. The other thing is that it's a cartoon soundtrack, not the Cast Your Fate to the Wind. He's Melendez is doing, or, rather, when Guaraldi is doing the score for the Peanuts stuff. He has different aims. Yeah, whoever, Coltrane.


Michael: But I highly suspect that those songs, like Linus and Lucy, when they're written, had nothing to do with Linus and Lucy. 


Jimmy: That I don't believe.


Michael: I believe that.


Jimmy: I know you do. I know.


Michael: No, they probably listen to his albums and know that one's pretty good. Write something like, you know, from what little I've seen of those shows, it does work. I mean, it's a very nice. It sets an interesting mood.


Harold: no question.


Michael: Little bouncy, little melancholy. But no, he's not considered a real jazz musician. Even the worst jazz musicians are better musicians than the best rock musicians. But just in terms of what they can do, I'm always in absolute awe. Watching a jazz pianist like this is not humanly possible.


Jimmy: All right, well, here's something that I found. I didn't realize what this strip was, what was really going on in this strip until I was an adult. It was 


October 25, 1955. This, strip I actually misunderstood for years. So Charlie Brown walks up to Schroeder, who has his ear against a speaker on a hi fi cabinet. And Schroeder says “Shhh” to Charlie Brown, and then in panel two, Charlie Brown sits down with Schroeder, and Schroeder continues, “I'm listening to Beethoven's 9th.” Charlie Brown says, “in an overcoat?” because Schroeder is, in fact, wearing an overcoat. And then in the last panel, Schroeder says, “the first movement was so beautiful, it gave me the chills.” 


Jimmy: For some reason, when I was a little kid reading this, I didn't register that that was stereo speakers. Like a cabinet on a home hi fi. I thought he was sitting outside the door and someone was performing it, like in a hall.


Harold: Oh, my gosh.


Jimmy: And I thought that literally, until I was in my 30s, probably. 


Harold: that's interesting. Okay.


Jimmy: I mean, now that you see the leg on it, I see clearly what it is. But I didn't at the time. Was that, an interesting enough anecdote to justify everybody getting on the Internet and looking at that strip? Maybe not, but I did it anyway.


Michael: Well, it does look like a window, doesn't it?


Harold: Kind of, yeah, like a screen.


Michael: That's understandable. And plus, who sits on the floor with their head against a speaker these days?


Jimmy: All right, now, I want to do two back to back strips that I think are some of the nicest drawn Peanuts strips of all time. The first is 


December 26, 1954, and we see Charlie Brown. It's a beautiful Sunday and Charlie Brown has, visited Schroeder on the day after Christmas. And he says, in a beautiful gothic font, “merry day after Christmas. May I come in?” Schroeder lets him in and we see the inside of what looks like Schroeder's rec room. And he says, “you'll never believe this, I know, but I was hoping you'd come over.” And Charlie Brown's getting out of his winter gear. And, Schroeder says to him, “I want you to see all the nice Christmas presents I got Charlie Brown. Look, a new toy piano.” And, this is a new one. It even has some fancy decoration on the side that we'll never see again. And Charlie Brown observes it and says, “black keys still just painted on I see.” Schroeder shows him some more stuff. “A new statue of Beethoven.” “Very scowly,” says Charlie Brown. “A new Beethoven sweatshirt, a Beethoven ballpoint pen.” This. Oh, I would love this. “A twelve volume biography of Beethoven in comic book form and a year's supply of Beethoven bubble gum.” And then we see them looking at a little model train under the tree. And Schroeder says, “oh, yes, I almost forgot. I also got an electric train.” And Schroeder concludes with, “now what in the world am I going to do with an electric train?”


Michael: The true fanatic. I love this. That is a little disturbing about the black keys being painted on when he's playing a flat key.


Harold: It's got four flats in that.


Jimmy: he does explain it in one of the strips. They say, how do you play all those complicated pieces with the black keys painted on? And Schroeder says, you got to get the break.


Harold: He knows how to put a little English on that. That's a master, let me tell you.

Jimmy: What do you think of the drawing in this? I've been really enjoying looking at the fun zippy pop 70s. but boy, good. You go back and you see this. He's like, this is great, too.


Michael: He's working hard.


Jimmy: Working hard.


Michael: Yeah. No, I definitely feel at home in this style.


Harold: It's nice. It really is nice.


Jimmy: Well, I don't know if we have a pitch for Peanuts Worldwide, but I think we could do a twelve volume biography of Beethoven in comic book form. I think that could be fun. And this is one of my all time favorites. And also, I think, beautifully drawn. 


July 17, 1955. We start off with a very strange drawing of Charlie Brown holding a gigantic toy rifle, which is made out of, like, a giant branch of a tree to the point that it even has leaves coming off. And now we start to strip proper. Charlie Brown and Schroeder are arguing about something. Schroeder says, “you can't believe everything you hear, you know.” Charlie Brown counters with, “well, you can believe this. You know I'm right. Schroeder.” Charlie Brown. “If you had any sense at all, you'd admit it.” Schroeder says, “oh, yeah, you just say that because you're stupid, Charlie Brown.” Charlie Brown counters with “stupid. Listen who's talking? You and that piano of yours are the stupid ones.” Charlie Brown mimics Schroeder playing “plink, plink, plink all day long. Good grief.” Charlie Brown walks away, and Schroeder points out that this entire time, Charlie Brown has been wearing a coon skin cap. And Schroeder says, well, “how about you and that silly old coon skin cap?” Then he points at his shirt and says, “and how about that stupid shirt with that stupid stripe?” And Charlie Brown has the brilliant retort of, “well, at least Schroeder, I don't have yellow hair.” Schroeder says, “no, but you sure have a round head.” During all of this. Now Patty walks by and she says, “what in the world is going on here?” Charlie Brown says, “we're arguing over who was the better, Beethoven or Davy Crockett.” Patty walks away confused as they continue, “who's got a round head?” “You have.”


Michael: I miss discussions like this. We don't have them anymore.


Harold: That's right. It seemed like it was more acceptable back then to have that all out argument over something that's subjective like that. And you just keep at it. I went back to the anger index just to look. This was the second highest year of the ones we counted, 162 strips. So there was a lot of this stuff going on in the 50s.


Michael: angry young man 


Harold: Schulz had the characters.


Jimmy: Well, this feels very familiar to my childhood type of argument. I may remember arguments very much like this. It wouldn't have been about, Beethoven. It would have been about Luke Skywalker or something, but feels very familiar.


Harold: Yeah. The stuff I liked was so obscure, most people didn't know what it was. So I couldn't argue about it, be on my own.


Jimmy: There. Here's something that's maybe, personal to Schulz. We go to 


September 4, 1953, and Schroeder is listening to a record on a record player. And he says, “gee, that was good.” And then he carefully puts it away right in his record collection, right next to his baseball equipment. I'll note. And Schroeder says to himself, “sometimes I think I like Brahms even better than Beethoven.” But then in the last panel, he catches himself. “What did I say?”


Jimmy:  All right, Michael, since you're, laying down some firm opinions, who's better, Beethoven or Brahms?


Michael: Oh, Beethoven.


Jimmy: Okay.


Michael: Yeah, but it's okay nowadays to prefer Mozart, but in those days. If you said anyone but Beethoven, at least if I said it, then my sister would have slugged me.


Harold: How does Bach fit into this world?


Michael: Yeah, Bach's acceptable. But at this time, my sister was all about Beethoven and Shakespeare, and I was about like, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.


Harold: I love the drawing in this little daily strip. It's gorgeous. Really, really nice control of the line. this is black spotted and all that.


Jimmy: He is just a masterful inker at this stage. It's beautiful. And we haven't put it in, but yet, I don't think. But that panel three should be in, the gallery of 20th century things with that baseball bat and mitt. What's cool about it is you can see it's actually a catcher's mitt because you can see the fingers, but you can also see the ridge above the fingers, which indicates that's extra padding. And you put the little dots on the side of the bat to show like roundedness, like it's hatching almost. That's inconceivable when you think about this stuff from like 1979. Right? 


Okay. This is, for all the people from the Skook who are listening, which is nobody. 


May 10, 1962, Lucy comes up to Schroeder, who is, of course, at the piano, and she says, you want to hear some real music? Listen to this. And Snoopy starts playing his squeeze box. And we see above his head Polkas schottishes and waltzes, polkas schottishes and waltzes. Lucy says, see, that's real music. That's the sort of music that people like, not that old Beethoven stuff. Schroeder walks away, covering his ears. I can't stand it. I just can't stand it. Polkas, schottishes and waltzes.


Harold: This is Harold with, Michael and Jimmy.


Jimmy: I love it. And yes, grew up in polka country.


Michael: Well, accordions were really frowned on. So I had a friend who was so uncool, he played accordion. He was actually, turned out, I found out later that he became like a professional musician.


Jimmy: Wow.


Michael: but the fact that I was like, hanging around with the guy who played accordion. Maybe even more uncool than hanging out with the guys who read comic books.


Harold: The thing that blows me away about accordions is they show up all over the world in music. It is one of the most common instruments.


Michael: We have an accordion museum around here.


Harold: Oh, wow, that's cool.


Jimmy: Have any of you tried to play one?


Michael: Yeah, matter of fact, today. I went over a friend's house to play music and he'd borrowed an accordion and we were trying to figure out how anyone could possibly do three different things at once.


Jimmy: I was going to say, did you have any success?


Michael: No.


Jimmy: Yeah, it's impossible. My mom could rock one, but I can't get it to do anything. It just wheezes.


Harold: Yeah. One of the high points for me, we've gone to the It's A Wonderful Life festival up in Seneca Falls, New York, for a number of years. And, they have a closing night dinner where they basically recreate the end of It’s A Wonderful Life. And they break out the accordion and sing Auld Lang Syne. And it's great. I love it. It's a really interesting, obviously unique sounding instrument. It's an instrument that you can get a tremendous amount of sound out of and you can travel with it. So I can see why it's endured the way it has and people found their way into music all over the world with it because how many other instruments can you walk with and get that level of sound without amplification?


Jimmy: Yeah, it's akin to a bagpipe in a weird way, I guess. Right, because it's.


Harold: Yeah, like a harmonica and a bagpipe combined.


Jimmy: And that's the one thing the world was like. Yeah, we can all agree on this.

Harold: Did they play like polka music, on the radio? Was there a station you could hear it in?

Jimmy: They had, with Yak Tam, Billy Urban, he had the polka show every Saturday.

Harold: WMBT. Is that more bad tunes?


Jimmy: No, actually, I don't know what M and B stands for, but the T is tool, as in the character from Dumbest Idea Ever.


Harold: Okay.


Jimmy: Yeah. I don't know what the M and the B stand for, though. And they would play, it was an am station. There was dial and deal where you could call up and say, hey, I got an old tractor. It doesn't work. Anyone wants it.


Harold: A classic. Yeah, this ran for years.


Jimmy: And then they'd play some polka music and then at every one of the block parties we would have. And we would have like in Girardville, a town of 2000 people, we had at least three a summer. And then there was multiple we had.


Harold: At least three blocks, 


Jimmy: Three block parties every summer. And one night was always a polka band at each of them. 


Anyway, this is a good one and super relevant since I don't know how much we know. I don't know that much. But-- 


December 16, 1962. “Today is Beethoven's birthday!” yells Schroeder as his arms spread wide, and then the whole gang is around a cake for Beethoven. It's Linus and Snoopy and Charlie Brown and Lucy and Schroeder. And they're all singing, including Snoopy, apparently. “Happy birthday to you happy birthday to you happy birthday, dear Beethoven happy birthday to you.” Then they all go running as Schroeder holds the cake on its plate, saying, “cut the cake. Cut the cake.” Lucy adds, “what a party. Isn't this great?” Now they're sitting on the floor eating the cake, and Charlie Brown says, “this has been the best Beethoven's birthday party ever.” And Linus says, “I like the part where we listen to the finale of the 9th Symphony.” Then Schroeder sings a little bit of that in German, which I'm not going to do. And Charlie Brown is moved by this. He says, “great, great. Just great.” Then everybody leaves, or at least Linus, Charlie Brown and Snoopy leaves. And Schroeder says, “well, thanks for coming. I'm glad you enjoyed yourselves.” Charlie Brown says, “we'll be back next year.” And Schroeder goes back inside and he looks at Lucy, and Lucy says to him, “now that everyone is gone, I'd like to ask you something, Schroeder.” “Who was Beethoven?” 


Jimmy: So here's what I know. I know nothing. This is what I know from just being alive. He's a composer. German. Nine symphonies, good hair.


Harold: Yeah, but he didn't do the first comic price guide.


Jimmy: Didn't do the first comic price guide. Pretty scowly. Went deaf later in life. That's what I know. That's it. What else is there? 1700s he was alive in, right? 


Michael: No, 


Jimmy: 18 hundreds.


Michael: Yes.


Jimmy: There you go.


Michael: Well, he was around in the 17 hundreds.


Jimmy: Right, I see what you're saying. But he composed later and he's decomposing, of course, currently. Anything else we need to know, Michael, about Beethoven? 


Michael: hell of a guy.


Liz: Sagittarius.


Jimmy: All right, so there you go. That is our tribute to that heck of a guy, Ludwig von Beethoven, the Sagittarius composer who is deaf. And now, before we leave, I'm going to leave you with a little story. 


So we're doing an upcoming event where we're, talking about, it's a q and a with Patreon subscribers, and I was trying to think, what will people be asking about? And so I was trying to think about anecdotes I might share. So I'm going to share this one here because it's actually more appropriate here. So we were doing the Christmas special last year. Was it last year? Yeah. And I knew that this was very important because I know that it's the central icon of Peanuts to the worldwide community, really. I secondly know that it's super important to Harold, and I thirdly know Michael's never seen it, and we're going to do this show, and I know just how important it is, and I really tried to prepare for that. Normally, you might be able to deduce, I don't do a lot of preparing, but this one I did. And I wrote a whole little essay at the end about what I was going to say. So we went through, and it just felt good. I really enjoyed doing this episode, and we're talking, and it's going along really well, and I get to the final thoughts. So I said, Michael, say, your thoughts on this thing. And he says a bunch of stuff about the artistry of Schulz and the craft of Schulz and stuff that I had written down in my little speech. So I crossed that stuff off, and then I said, Harold, how about you? And Harold delivers this beautiful soliloquy about what this show means to him. And I look down at my little essay, and I go in many ways, I'm echoing what he says, but not as well. But, we're recording this, and he gets done, and it's very moving, and I have to finish the show.


Michael: I saw a ducky and a horsey.


Jimmy: Yeah. And I didn't know what. So I didn't know how to finish the show because it had built up to this thing. And it felt like. I, don't know if anyone else felt it, but it felt like there had to be a button somehow put on there. And I had this essay that was no longer usable. 

So I closed the book, and I said, I really like Once Upon A Time in Hollywood by Quentin Tarantino. And you guys all laughed, and I felt like this, just joy. I just felt joy for the moment of talking with my friends and the moment of this thing all coming together. And I thought, oh, I understand jazz. That is the biggest thing that this show has given to me other than just a deepening friendship with people who I absolutely love and getting to know all you guys out there in the world, so happy Beethoven's birthday. come back next, time, and we'll be talking about Peanuts like we always are. I'm not going to give you the litany and all that nonsense. You know it by now. So come back next week. We'll talk more about Peanuts. Till then. For Michael, Harold, and Liz, this is Jimmy. Be of good cheer.


Michael, Harold, and Liz: Yes, yes. Be of Good Cheer


Liz: Unpacking Peanuts is copyright Jimmy Gownley, Michael Cohen, and Harold Buchholz. Produced and edited by Liz Sumner Music by Michael Cohen, additional voiceover by Aziza Shukralla Clark. For more from the show, follow unpack Peanuts on Instagram and Threads, unpacking Peanuts on Facebook, Blue Sky, and YouTube. For more about Jimmy, Michael, and Harold, visit unpackingpeanuts.com. Have a wonderful day, and thanks for listening.

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