'Cats' Musical Wiki
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"Memory" is the most well-known song from the musical Cats. It is a showstopping ballad that is primarily performed by Grizabella. The lyrics of the song were written by Cats director Trevor Nunn, based on the T S Eliot poems "Rhapsody on a Windy Night" and "Preludes".

This song is one of Andrew Lloyd Webber's most famous compositions and a runaway hit with a life far beyond the musical. For more details of recordings see Wikipedia. The song is often mistakenly referred to in popular culture as "Memories".

Context

The song "Memory" is first heard in a short version at the end of Act 1. The audience has already been introduced to Grizabella by Bombalurina and Demeter in "Grizabella: The Glamour Cat", and during "The Jellicle Ball", Grizabella is seen watching the Cats. After they finish, she approaches and tries to join them, but is rejected. Once the other Cats leave the stage, Grizabella begins to copy their dance moves, but alone and frail, she cannot capture the magic of the Ball. She is left alone to contemplate her memories of the time when she was a part of the Jellicle tribe. She sings a single verse of "Memory", and reaches out for anyone to touch her. She desperately wants to be accepted. Although Old Deuteronomy has been watching, he is too far away to reach out to her, and she leaves with what little pride she has remaining.

The next iteration of the "Memory" melody is at the beginning of Act 2, after Old Deuteronomy sings "The Moments of Happiness", Jemima/Sillabub sings:

Moonlight,
Turn your face to the moonlight
Let your memory lead you 
Open up, enter in
If you find there the meaning of what happiness is
Then a new life will begin

As the night is drawing to a close, again Jemima/Sillabub sings:

Daylight,
See the dew on a sunflower.
And a rose that is fading,
Roses wither away.
Like the sunflower,
I yearn to turn my face to the dawn.
I am waiting,
For the day. 

Finally, Old Deuteronomy comes to choose the cat to be taken to the Heaviside Layer. Suddenly, Grizabella appears on stage once more. This is Grizabella's last chance to be accepted, and although again met with hostility from the tribe, she sings again, the full version of "Memory". Again Jemima/Sillabub sings with her, the first of the Cats to understand her. By the end of the song, everyone understands her plight, and she is finally accepted by everyone, and escorted by Old Deuteronomy "Up, Up, Up to the Heaviside Layer".

History

"Memory" was written rather late in the development of the show, with the final version only completed during previews for the original London production.[1] It was hearing the melody of the song that persuaded Elaine Paige to accept the role of Grizabella.[2] Tim Rice was initially brought in to provide the lyrics but his version was considered too dark,[3] so instead Trevor Nunn wrote his own lyrics that draw on imagery and text from T S Eliot's poems "Rhapsody on a Windy Night" and "Preludes", both from Prufrock and Other Observations (1917).[4]

Excerpts from Eliot's poems and Nunn's "Memory"
"Rhapsody on a Windy Night" "Preludes" "Memory"
Twelve o'clock Midnight
The moon has lost her memory Has the moon lost her memory
She is alone She is smiling alone

And now a gusty shower wraps
The grimy scraps
Of withered leaves about your feet

In the lamplight the withered leaves collect at my feet
And the wind begins to moan

Every street lamp that I pass
Beats like a fatalistic drum

Every street lamp seems to beat
A fatalistic warning

The street lamp sputtered
The street lamp muttered

Someone mutters and
the street lamp gutters

The burnt-out ends of smoky days Burnt out ends of smoky days

The morning comes to consciousness
Of faint stale smells of beer

The stale cold smell of morning

With the other masquerades
That time resumes

Endless masquerading
Memory! All alone with the memory
Sleep, prepare for life Look, a new day has begun

The version of the song popularised by hundreds of recording artists uses lyrics from both Act 1 "Memory" and this longer number. This "Single Version" is not actually performed in the musical itself, although it is sometimes used in lieu of the stage version in cast recordings because it is more "radio-friendly".

Music

As Grizabella enters, her familiar ground bass motif strikes up in Bb minor, setting the dark and gloomy mood. Her ground bass line is played twice, before the Bb major arpeggios that open "Memory" begin.[5]

"Memory" is a sentimental ballad intentionally written in the style of Puccini. The song is primarily set in the 12/8 time signature, shifting meters to 10/8 and 6/8 throughout its duration. It has a loose tempo ("freely") of around 50 beats per minute. Each verse begins with a chord progression of Bb-Gm-Eb-Dm.[6]

The song is primarily composed in the key of Bb major, but when Grizabella collapses mid-way, the orchestra begins playing half a verse in Gb major before Jemima/Sillabub begins her bridge and Grizabella joins in, one octave apart. As the bridge comes to an end, the orchestra shifts to the Db major key as Grizabella belts the climax of the song ("Touch me!").[5] Grizabella's vocals span from G3 to Eb5 and her part is meant to be sung with the chest voice. Jemima/Sillabub's part ranges from Eb4 to F5, and is sung with the head voice.

Grizabella and Jemima/Sillabub sing the bridge in unison, one octave apart

Grizabella is usually played by mezzo/contralto performers, though sopranos are sometimes cast in the role. In such cases, the licensed score allows for Grizabella's ending note (Db4) to alternatively be sung an octave higher to accommodate the soprano range.

Grizabella's final note in "Memory" can be sung an octave higher

As Grizabella sings her last note and reaches out her hand hoping to be touched, she is accompanied by the recurring Jellicle theme. The theme is played here in its two-phrase form and intoned on synthesizer bells (labelled on the score as "Jellicle Bells"), thus bookending the same music that was played in the preceding "Daylight".[7]

Jellicle theme in its two-phrase form at the end of "Memory"

Lyrics

Act 1 Prelude

Grizabella:
Midnight (alt- Silence)
Not a sound from the pavement
Has the moon lost her memory
She is smiling alone
In the lamplight the withered leaves collect at my feet
And the wind begins to moan

Every street lamp seems to beat
A fatalistic warning
Someone mutters and the street lamp gutters
And soon it will be morning

Memory
All alone in the moonlight
I can smile at the old days
I was beautiful then
I remember the time I knew what happiness was
Let the memory live again

Act 2 Reprise

Grizabella:
Memory
Turn your face to the moonlight
Let your memory lead you
Open up enter in
If you find there the meaning of what happiness is
Then a new life will begin

Memory
All alone in the moonlight
I can smile at the old days
I was beautiful then
I remember the time I knew what happiness was
Let the memory live again

Burnt out ends of smoky days
The stale cold smell of morning
The streetlamp dies, another night is over
Another day is dawning

Daylight
I must wait for the sunrise
I must think of a new life
And I mustn't give in
When the dawn comes
Tonight will be a memory too
And a new day will begin

Jemima/Sillabub:
Sunlight through the trees in summer
Endless masquerading

Both:
Like a flower as the dawn is breaking

Grizabella:
The memory is fading

Touch me
It's so easy to leave me
All alone with the memory
Of my days in the sun
If you touch me
You'll understand what happiness is

Look -
A new day has begun

Single Version

Midnight
Not a sound from the pavement
Has the moon lost her memory
She is smiling alone
In the lamplight the withered leaves collect at my feet
And the wind begins to moan

Memory
All alone in the moonlight
I can smile at the old days
(alt) I was beautiful then
(alt) Life was beautiful then
I remember the time I knew what happiness was
Let the memory live again

Every street lamp seems to beat
A fatalistic warning
Someone mutters and the street lamp gutters
And soon it will be morning

Daylight
I must wait for the sunrise
I must think of a new life
And I mustn't give in
When the dawn comes
Tonight will be a memory too
And a new day will begin

Burnt out ends of smoky days
The stale cold smell of morning
The streetlamp dies, another night is over
Another day is dawning

Touch me
It's so easy to leave me
All alone with the memory
Of my days in the sun
If you touch me
You'll understand what happiness is

Look -
A new day has begun

Tim Rice Lyrics

Street lights
And the darkness between them
Like the good and the bad sides
Of a life almost done.
Shake the memory
All my passions returning to me
None forgotten
No, not one.

One life
Is there only the one life
That we lose in the living 
In an endless decline?
No complaining
For no one else has seen what I've seen
One existence
Only mine

Don't look back no don't look back
So hard to heed that warning
Such temptation but the past is past
And the night makes way for morning

Daylight
I won't care if it finds me
With no breath in my body
With no beat in my heart
For I'm certain
That now I know what happiness is 
Wish I'd known that
From the start

Touch me
Is there no one to touch me
It was easy to love me 
In my glamorous past
As I leave you 
A shadow of the light I once was
May my memory
Sleep at last

International Versions

Audio

Alternate ending note

Video

Gallery

References

  1. "The Story of Musicals", Episode 2, BBC Four (10 January 2012).
  2. Unmasked: A Memoir, Andrew Lloyd Webber (2018). Page 346. ISBN 978-0062424204.
  3. Unmasked: A Memoir, Andrew Lloyd Webber (2018). Page 348. ISBN 978-0062424204.
  4. "A Note on the Text", Playbill from Cats at the Winter Garden Theatre (Oct 1982). Page 4.
  5. 5.0 5.1 The Megamusical, Indiana University Press (2006). Pages 160-161. ISBN 978-0-253-34793-0.
  6. Cats: Songs from the Musical, Hal Leonard (May 1, 1982). Page 100. ISBN 978-0881882001.
  7. The Megamusical, Indiana University Press (2006). Page 141. ISBN 978-0-253-34793-0.
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