Joe Moretti (Guitarist) — Working on “Barbra Streisand ... and Other Musical Instruments”

by Joe Moretti

Joe Moretti

I arrived at Elstree Film Studios around 1-30 in the afternoon for a 2pm-5pm television shoot with Barbra Streisand & I was booked on acoustic guitar. There must have been 100 people in this enormous studio, you know, it was the size of an aeroplane hangar. Lighting crew, sound crew, but BIG!

The theme for the show was "Barbra Streisand International" and there were bands from all around the world, all dressed in their different national costumes: West Indies, Scotland, Ireland, France, etc. I don't know how many countries there are in the world, but they all appeared to be represented. BIG bucks being spent of course. "This is the Barbra Streisand Show, folks". There was even a guy leading a camel across the studio.

I find the Musical Director, a nice friendly guy thank God {some M.Ds are bastards} and he says "Come with me and I'll give you your music." Fine. That doesn't bother me too much, 'cause my readings pretty O.K, though you never know what's going to be put in front of you music-wise. So I follow him through a maze of corridors and eventually arrive at a little room packed from floor to ceiling with sheet music. This is Elstree's music library. But the guy knows what he's looking for and hands me a chord sheet. Just one page of chords. "You'll be playing solo guitar with Miss Streisand," he said. "First you'll have to go to wardrobe and get into your costume."

"Costume! what costume? I'm supposed to be playing acoustic guitar in an orchestra backing Barbra Streisand from 2- 5 pm!" I get that funny feeling in my belly. "How does this piece of music go? " I asked him. "I have no idea," he replied. "Barbra will tell you that when you see her. She's organizing this bit herself. When you're in costume come to the main Studio."

I find the Costume Department and receive my costume. The full Spanish outfit. The one-piece piece trouser-suit thing that zips up the back from my bum to my neck. Just one thing. It's three sizes too small. Oh, I can get into it O.K but when it's zipped up I can't move my arms. I also have great difficulty in breathing as my lungs are now wrapped around my spine. Next, a nice pair of Spanish dancing boots and a lovely flat-topped hat with a string under my chin. Zorro I am not ! I am 1.65 meters of rather fat Scottish, Irish, Italian squeezed into a too-small costume holding a page of music I know nothing about.

Moretti and Streisand

In the studio I see the lady herself. And she sees me. Statuesque in a figure-hugging sequined ball gown, with a tall feathered hat and high heeled shoes, she gazed down on me. Now, up close, those eyes are devastating, rather like looking into the eyes of a Siamese cat. And forget all the remarks made about Barbra Streisand's nose being big. It's a BEAUTIFUL nose. With those crazy eyes above it and that incredible kissable mouth and that BODY !! With the limited supply of oxygen being supplied to my brain I was still able to conjure up visions of Her and I holding hands over a candlelit dinner. I wondered if she liked short, chubby, Scots- Irish-Italian Guitar players. I was brought back to earth very quickly. "Are You Spanish?" She asked. "No," I replied, "I'm Scottish." She is not at all happy. "I told these people I want Ethnic Musicians from each country," she said.

Great ! Wonderful ! I'm incredibly happy now. Did I neglect to mention that I'm carrying a small "Fender" wire-string acoustic guitar? This lady requires the whole Flamenco thing!! Not Country & Western!!

"First we'll do the main shoot with everyone in picture," she said, "then I have another small scene to do. After that I'll see you in Studio 5 for the piece we do together."

The "Main Shoot" takes about an hour to get in the can. All the while I'm getting hotter & hotter under the lights and I know I'm gradually dying of asphyxiation. Then, at last we break, and I'm able to stagger back to the dressing room to practice the sheet of music I know nothing about. I look at the music and it's quite a complex chord chart. You know - some altered chords and stuff. And it's in 4/4. O.K , so it's got to be one of those things with a swingy feel like she often sings, hasn't it? No. Ethnic Spaniards in a toreador costume don't play swingy things in 4/4 Bossa Nova, that must be it. When I look in the mirror there's a guy with a face like an exploding tomato looking back.

"Mr. Moretti to Studio 5, please!" says a voice over the Tannoy. "Mr. Moretti to Studio 5 please!!"

"I heard you the first time you Bastard" I said.

Studio 5 is a tiny little studio with room for about half a dozen people to move around. There's a tiny little stage and perched on it are two very tall raving queens, very slim, in peasant costume, each one with a rose between his teeth. Miss Streisand approaches. The moment has come. What mysteries are about to unfold from this anonymous sheet of sweat stained music?? "Forget the music," says Miss Streisand, "that has nothing to do with it !! Can You play the first 4 bars of Spanish Gipsy Dance? You know, dum ditty, dum ditty, dum ditty dum dum dum?"

Can I play it ? Anyone who has picked up a Guitar can play it. Open " E " chord, move your fingers to the "F" & "G" !! My cat can play it ! Someone drew a chalk mark on the floor where I positioned myself. The camera looked down across my face along the neck of the guitar to where Miss Streisand now stood on stage between the queens. The guy behind the camera counted me down — "10, 9, 8", etc. and I played the first four bars of "Spanish Gypsy Dance", whereupon Miss Streisand launched herself into a vigorous rendition of "Second Hand Rose " — complete with backing track.

That was it. My bit had taken barely 10 seconds! I changed back into my normal clothes, collected my fee, and my wife arrived to take me home as I was on my 3rd double scotch in the artist's bar. I still wonder if I should have asked Barbra to have a candle-lit dinner with me.


Page Credits: Reproduced with permission from Mr. Moretti — thank you!