The Physical Revue, by Tom Lehrer

Notes and stories about the show and the performances

This show, performed in 1951 and 1952 in the Harvard physics department, created a remarkable nexus of people who would go on to great things. Tom Lehrer, of course, became a very successful satirical songwriter -- one of the two or three most widely known during the 50s, 60s, and early 70s. Two of the other cast members were advisors to U.S. presidents, one became a photographer for Time and Life magazines, and three others became highly-regarded professors at Tulane, Case Western, and UC Davis. The recording of the show was made by a young professor, Norman Ramsey, who went on to win the Nobel Prize. Read about their remarkable lives below.


Prof. Norman Ramsey, who recorded the show

Lewis M. Branscomb
"Professor" for 1951 performances

David Z. Robinson
"Chemistry Major"

Robert H. Welker
"English Major" & guitar
.
Richard N. Schwab
"History Major" (1952 performance)


Robert A. Isaacs
"Section Man"


Munro S. Edmonson
"Anthropology Major" for 1951 performances,
"Professor" for 1952 performance

James E. Hanson, "pianist j.g."

The Show (version from the second performance):
These are the earliest recordings made of Tom Lehrer, almost* the only recordings of Lehrer songs with contrapuntal words (i.e. two people simultaneously singing different words to different tunes), and the only recordings in which Lehrer sings together with other singers. The microphone for these recordings was not close to the performers, and the recording was made with a wire recorder. Therefore, the audio fidelity is adequate, though not great. Still, it is wonderful that there is a recording of this historic show!
*There is a short contrapuntal section at the end of "Selling Out", available only on the 3-CD set "The Remains of Tom Lehrer". (Lehrer sings all four parts!)

Note: Recordings are posted only for the seven songs marked *. (The others either appear on Lehrer's albums, or are set to copyrighted tunes.)
Links for the remaining songs will be added before the end of September, though these will be lyrics and midi files only, and will not include recordings.

1. The Professor's Song* 6. Lobachevsky 11. The Slide Rule Song* 16. Don't Major in Physics
2. S is one half g t2 * 7. There's a Delta for Every Epsilon* 12. GSAS (The Graduate School Alma Mater) 17. A Liter and a Gram
3. A Relativistic Approach *
(dialog only)
8. Hail Chemistry* 13. Fight Fiercely Harvard 18. Any Questions?*
4. Relativity 9. The Elements 14. Bull Dog! 19. That's All*
(not really a song)
5. The Derivative Song* 10. Fugue for Scientists 15. The MTA Song

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Background image: covers from some of Tom Lehrer's albums