Saturday, April 25, 2009

Sub-Rosa Subway-- Eat Fresh.


If you've ever been to a SUBWAY you'll know what I'm talking about.

I've been to SUBWAYs in NY, NJ, and PA, and they all have the same d├ęcor and wallpaper- quaint 19th and early 20th Century illustrations and reproductions of old newspapers,
all keeping within a 'subway' theme.
But did you ever check out this particular wall decoration:

That's the Beach Pneumatic Transit System, brainchild of Alfred Ely Beach.

Who?

Alfred Ely Beach - editor of Scientific American, whose (forgotten) claim to fame was the creation of a pneumatic subway under Manhattan's City Hall that pre-dated- by about 30 years -looong before work on the subway system as it now exists was begun.

Interesting that Mr. Beach had to work in (shhh!) secret, because then as now powerful monopolies- in this case the existing rail companies -would want to stop him from pioneering pneumatic travel and beating them to lucrative NYC mass transit contracts.

Ah, progress.

Buying a storefront he swore his workers to secrecy and dug from the basement removing dirt under cover of night like the P.O.W.s in 'The Great Escape'.

You dig?

Beach's Pneumatic Tunnel was unveiled after it was completed and fully operational at a gala opening amid rave reviews- but the financial concerns of a crooked mayor and a market crash scuttled plans to further develop and expand this new mode of transportation.


The tunnel sealed off and it was forgotten.


Again, the same old story.



The Canadian faux Beatles soundalike group, Klaatu, on their first album decided to immortalize Mr. Beach in song with a ditty entitled Sub-Rosa Subway.

The tune sounds very McCartney-esque and has similar arrangement and instrumentation to the Beatles 'psychedelic' period, as well as McCartney's own 'Ram' album and you can get the mp3 @ http://www.kempa.com/mp3/Klaatu_Sub_Rosa_Subway.mp3 .

The lyric is like nothing in Top-40 history. Almost every tool developed in PoP history is used to perfection: horns, strings, power chords, melodic bass lines, a great vocal--they even steal the "chooga-chooga" backing vocals from
"I Am The Walrus."

The Lyrics to Sub-Rosa Subway:

"Back in 1870 just beneath the Great White Way / Alfred Beach worked secretly / Risking all to ride a dream / His wind-machine

New York City and the Morning Sun / Were awoken by the strangest sound / Reportedly as far as Washington / The tremors shook the earth as Alfie / Blew underground

All aboard Sub-Rosa Subway / Had you wondered who's been digging under Broadway? / It's Alfred / It's Alfred / It's Alfred / Poor Al, woh no Al

As for Americas first subway / The public scoffed, “It’s far too crude” / One station filled with Victoria’s age / From frescoed walls and goldfish fountains…. / To Brahmsian tunes



The goldfish fountains and Brahmsian tunes referenced in the final chorus actually existed - Beach had lavishly furnished the terminal of his subway, even including a player piano!


Half a century later, in 1912 when NY Subway workers were excavating, they re-discovered it:
Here's page that's devoted to this for those who are interested: http://www.nycsubway.org/articles/beach.html

Guess you just can't keep a good idea down- it really was ahead of its time as it was reused:
over 100 years later on the 1975 TV series Space: 1999

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