At 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 16, a five-piece band-including a tuba and an accordion-will stand on the sidewalk outside The New York Times building on 43rd Street and perform what is poised to become the favorite marching tune of publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr. It’s called ” The New York Times Color March,” a jaunty, baton-twirling number in the style of John Philip Sousa, and its chorus goes a little something like this:
The New York Times, no more gray Times,
Now prints with color every day,
The New York Times, chromatic Times,
Has the rainbow in its pay,
The New York Times, the fact-filled Times,
Sets its palette carefully,
Printing red and blue and green,
Yellow, pink and aquamarine,
In a new, exciting way!
Based on an obscure advertising jingle from the late 19th century, ” The New York Times Color March” was written and composed-amid the paper’s historic 1997 switch to color-by Carl Schlesinger, one of the paper’s retired print-room operators and an eccentric historian and amateur tap dancer.
“I’m wishing The Times luck for their fifth anniversary,” the 76-year-old Mr. Schlesinger said the other day. “As far as I know, the publisher likes the music and has accepted it as the official corporate-identification music.”
Neither the song nor the performance are sanctioned by The Times or Mr. Sulzberger, who declined to comment. Asked about the Oct. 16 performance, the paper’s spokesman, Toby Usnik, said: “We are aware of it. He has informed us about it.”
“It is not an ‘official’ Times march,” Mr. Usnik said. (To Mr. Usnik’s knowledge, there is no such thing.)
In any case, the Bronx-born Mr. Schlesinger said he hopes to see the march eventually performed in all 50 states of the union. It has played in five states thus far, once at Lincoln Center in 2000. Mr. Schlesinger keeps Mr. Sulz-berger abreast of his project. “I keep in touch with him and I send him reports on what’s happening, like the song going into carousels throughout New England,” said Mr. Schlesinger, who added that the two are friends. “He’s not ashamed of the march by any means.”
Mr. Schlesinger, who worked at The Times for 35 years, has been retired from the newspaper’s printing room since 1990. Such was his passion for newspaper printing that in 1978, he co-created a documentary about the last night in which The Times used a linotype machine to put out the paper. Entitled Farewell, Etaoin Shrdlu -after the first two rows of keys on a linotype machine-the documentary is now part of the Museum of Modern Art’s film archive.
Singing ” The New York Times Color March” at the Oct. 16 performance will be Doug Stone, the 32-year-old singer and guitar player from an Old World “orchestrette” called Piñataland. Mr. Stone volunteered to perform the four-minute piece after hearing a sample of it on a cassette tape. “It’s a completely extinct genre of song,” marveled Mr. Stone. “Who ever heard of a newspaper march?”
Well, some have. Mr. Schlesinger said that in 1889, John Philip Sousa was commissioned to write and perform a march to advertise The Washington Post -the first march of its kind. The song, called simply ” The Washington Post March,” became a huge sensation and was performed all over Europe at the end of that century.
Like ” The Washington Post March,” ” The New York Times Color March” is respectful, if boosterish-kind of Leo Burnett meets Mary Poppins. Another one of its verses goes:
If you desire knowledge, don’t just go to college,
Learn about the real world-ev’ry hour, ev’ry minute, ev’ry day,
The Times can assist you, with stories, ads and more,
Buy a copy, keep up with world events,
Make those presses ROAR!
Mr. Schlesinger was hopeful that Mr. Sulzberger would attend on the 16th. “If he’s in a good mood, I think he may come,” he said. But Mr. Usnik ruled it out: “The publisher does like the march, but he will be out of the country on Oct. 16 and will not hear the performance.”
Bow Wow Wow
Morgan Taylor’s Rock Group resembles a lot of the New York City bands that play the bare-bones stages of venues like CBGB’s and Arlene Grocery. Unsigned and unknown, the members of MTRG-lead singer and songwriter Morgan Taylor, drummer Robert Di Pietro, guitarist/Wurlitzer player Fil Krohnengold and bassist Ronnie Smith-have spent three years juggling their day jobs with rehearsing, gigging and scraping up enough money for recording (brightly melodic with a mild edge, MTRG’s music recalls the work of indies like Jellyfish and Guided by Voices).
Recently, Morgan Taylor’s Rock Group got noticed-but not exactly in the usual rock-stardom way. Not long ago, Ali Shapiro, a fan of the band and the director of marketing for Animal Planet, the cable-television channel, gave MTRG’s demo CD to the producers of a new reality show called Dog Days . Impressed, the producers immediately chose the track “Hey” for the show’s theme. “The show needed some authentic New York music, and the producers fell in love with it,” said Ms. Shapiro. “The song sold itself.”
“Hey” is a retro-pop bonbon with a hooky first line: Hey, hey, hey, you need me to bring a little laughter your way . “It’s like ‘Eight Days a Week’ in that it is just one long chorus that never lets up,” said Mr. Taylor, whose thin, sensitive face and Midwestern lank (he’s from Dayton, Ohio) give him more than a passing resemblance to Foo Fighters front man Dave Grohl.
Animal Planet thought “Hey” was a perfect match for Dog Days , a show that chronicles the everlasting canine-human bond. Played to a crowd at Luna Lounge, “Hey” may sound like what it is-a song about a sad girlfriend-but when intercut with images of frolicking canines and their owners on screen, “it captures the essence of the show,” said Dog Days producer Dave Goldberg. “You can see the owners loving their dogs.”
Of course, TV themes have their drawbacks. They Might Be Giants seemed to have survived licensing “Boss of Me” for Malcolm in the Middle , but hardly anyone remembers the Rembrandts, who signed away “I’ll Be There for You” to a little show called Friends . “Maybe that’s the risk I am taking with my song on a TV show,” Mr. Taylor said. “But I don’t think people will be disappointed with the rest of our music.” (It should be pointed out that no members of Mr. Taylor’s band own dogs.)
At 6:30 p.m. on a recent evening, Morgan Taylor’s Rock Group played “Hey” at the Dog Days premiere party at the Loews Regency Hotel ballroom on Park Avenue. Standing on the thick carpet in their mix of Fluevogs and old-skool Adidas, jeans and corduroys, thrift-store ties and tennis shirts, the musicians looked desperately like Four Band Members in Search of a Stylist.
The dogs weren’t much better. At 6:35 p.m., a fight over a chew toy broke out on the carpet in front of the band. Within an hour-when MTRG kicked into “Hey” for a second time-doggy smell pervaded the ballroom. At 8:05 p.m., Mr. Taylor let a mutt named Astro howl into the microphone. Then they played “Hey” for the third and final time. Soon after the crowd emptied out, Mr. Taylor and his mates started to pack up their gear when the concierge informed them that no, no, no-a bellboy would be dispatched to take it to their suite.
Somewhat amused by having someone else disassemble their gear, the band then moved off to enjoy the fourth-floor suite that Animal Planet had reserved for them. Sixty-some-odd blocks away from their below-Houston apartments, the members of Morgan Taylor’s Rock Group then plundered the minibar, ran bubble baths in the whirlpool tub, and pondered how to spend the $200 petty cash for extras the cable channel had given them. It wasn’t quite rock stardom, but it wasn’t bad, either. “We can either drink it-or break something,” Mr. Smith said of the $200, as he pulled a thick terrycloth robe from one of the suite’s many closets.