"Memory", often incorrectly referred to as "Memories", is a show tune from the 1981 Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Cats sung by the character Grizabella, a one-time glamour cat who is now a shell of her former self. The song is a nostalgic remembrance of her glorious past and a declaration of her wishes to start a new life. Sung briefly in the first act and in full near the end of the show, "Memory" is the climax of the musical, and by far its most popular and well-known song. Writers, Lloyd Webber and Nunn received the 1981 Ivor Novello award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically.
Conception and composition
The lyric, written by Cats director Trevor Nunn, was based on T. S. Eliot's poems "Preludes" and "Rhapsody on a Windy Night". Lloyd Webber's former writing partner, Tim Rice and contemporary collaborator Don Black submitted a lyric to the show's producers for consideration, although Nunn's version was favoured. Elaine Paige has said that she sang a different lyric to the tune of Memory for the first 10 previews of Cats.
Lloyd Webber, fearing that the tune sounded too similar to a work of Puccini, and the opening – the haunting main theme – also resembles the flute solo in The Mamas & the Papas' 1965 song "California Dreamin'", asked his father's opinion. According to Lloyd Webber, his father responded, "It sounds like a million dollars!"
In its original orchestration, the song's climax is in the key of D-flat major, the composer's favourite.
The arrangement of the lyrics in the show were changed after the initial recordings of the track, with the first verse beginning,"Midnight, not a sound from the pavement..." being used in only the brief, Act I rendition of the song and a new verse, "Memory, turn your face to the moonlight...'" in its place for the Act II performance. Furthermore, the original second bridge section became the first and a new second bridge instated. Consequently, the arrangement of the lyric for a recording usually depends on whether the artist has played the role on stage.
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"Memory" has been covered by numerous musical acts:
- Elaine Paige, who originated the role of Grizabella in the West End production of Cats, released a version of the song that was a Top 10 hit in the UK, peaking at No. 6 on the UK Singles Chart in July 1981. This version was re-recorded in 1998 with a slight lyrical alteration, which was included in the video release of the musical. This version made No. 36 in the UK in October of that year. Paige also recorded a version for her 1983 album Stages.
- Barbra Streisand recorded "Memory" for her 1981 album Memories. When released as a single, Streisand's cover reached No. 52 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and No. 9 on the Billboard adult contemporary chart in 1982. In the UK, this version peaked at No. 34 the same year.
- Barry Manilow released a cover of "Memory" as a single in late 1982; this became the highest-charting version to date on the Billboard Hot 100 when it reached No. 39 in January 1983. Manilow's recording also made the Top 10 on the Billboard adult contemporary chart, reaching No. 8. This version is included on his album, Here Comes the Night.
- The Shadows did an instrumental version in 1983 (it is featured on their albums XXV & Moonlight Shadows).
- Johnny Mathis
- Shirley Bassey recorded "Memory" for the B-side of her European single "That's Right" in 1984. In 1993, She re-recorded "Memory" for her Sings the Songs of Andrew Lloyd Webber album.
- Mireille Mathieu recorded the song in French titled "Nos Souvenirs" (Our Memories)
- Richard Anthony recorded the song in French in 1982 titled "Minuit" (Midnight)
- Sarah Brightman (who recorded an Italian version of the song, "Piano")
- Betty Buckley (first to play Grizabella on Broadway)
- Celine Dion
- Petula Clark
- Sam Hui
- José Carreras
- Paloma San Basilio recorded her own version in Spanish titled "Recuerdos"
- Rocío Banquells Spanish version (1990).
- Jason Castro on the seventh season of American Idol
- Sandra Criado on the sixth season of Spain's Operación Triunfo
- Kim Criswell on the album, Aspects of Andrew Lloyd Webber Volume 1
- Kikki Danielsson (with lyrics in Swedish by Olle Bergman as "Minnet") on her 1982 album Kikki
- Barbara Dickson in 1985
- Maria Friedman in 1992
- Lesley Garrett
- Frances Yip
- Howard Keel on his album And I Love You So
- Stephanie Lawrence, who later played Grizabella in London, in 1988
- Julian Lloyd Webber on the 2001 album Lloyd Webber Plays Lloyd Webber
- Menage, a Hi-NRG disco group (1983)
- Simone Simons from the Dutch symphonic metal band Epica (although in the song they just play piano)
- Marti Webb, who played Grizabella in London and on two UK tours, on her 1989 album Performance
- Jacinta Whyte
- Susan Boyle, as a finalist in the third series of Britain's Got Talent, performing live on Britain's ITV network; later, when Boyle became an overnight sensation, the selection was planned to be on her debut album "I Dreamed a Dream" but was not recorded (it is planned for a later release)
- Dianne Pilkington played the role in the recent UK National Tour (2006–07)
- Helena Blackman and Simona Armstrong, in a sing-off of How Do You Solve a Problem like Maria?
- Anne Stalman and Sabina Petra, in a sing-off of the Dutch TV show Op Zoek naar Evita
- Rachel Tucker and Samantha Barks, in a sing off of I'd Do Anything
- Afnan Iftikhar and Dirk Johnson, in a sing off of Superstar
- Chrissie Hammond played Grizabella and closed the show in London in 2002 and played Grizabella on 2 UK National Tours (2003–04 & 2007–08)
- Shirley Jones, on her 2008 studio album Then & Now
- Lama El-Homaissi in 2009
- John Barrowman on his 2010 studio album John Barrowman
- Michael Ball on his 2004 studio album I Dreamed a Dream
- Delia Hannah, who played the role of Grizabella in 2010
- Lea Salonga, who played the role of Grizabella in the Manila production of Cats
- Lena Park sung a live version for Music TV in Korea, 2009
- Karita Mattila performed the song frequently early in her career and recorded it on her album Wonderful (1995)
- Frank Patterson on his album Frank Patterson's Broadway
- Hayley Westenra
- Jackie Evancho
- Bonnie Langford, who performed in the London cast of Cats in the early 1980s as Rumpleteazer, on her 2000 album Now
- Rose Jang for her 2010 Songs of Hope digital album
- Big Daddy on 1991 Cutting Their Own Groove
- Laine MacNeil as Patty Farrell, sang the song during the talent show in Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules
- Kimberley Walsh for her 2013 album Centre Stage
- Amanda Harrison for the album I Dreamed a Dream: The Hits of Broadway, 2013
- Ewa Malas-Godlewska for the album Sentiments (2006 and 2010 editions) with Polish Radio Orchestra
- Ayahi Takagaki, on her single Next Destination (2013)
- Wing, on her 2006 album Wing Sings All Your Favourites
- Chris Colfer and June Squibb sang a duet version in episode 19 of the fifth season of Glee, "Old Dog, New Tricks" (written by Colfer)