Your Guide To Olympic Closing Ceremony Music: The Who, The Beatles & What NBC Didn’t Air
Musically, the London 2012 Olympic Closing Ceremony was all over the place. The ceremony featured a “Symphony of British Music” over the last 50 years, which included a mega-set by The Who; a touch of Queen, Pink Floyd and The Kinks; five songs by the Beatles (though no Beatles performed in the ceremony); and the first performance in years by the reunited Spice Girls. The only glaring musical oversight from the Olympics’ “Symphony of British Music”: The Rolling Stones.
This is your guide to all things music in the Olympic Closing Ceremony – much of it unaired on NBC’s primetime telecast in the U.S.
The show opens with soulful newcomer Emeli Sande, who was edited out of the U.S. telecast of the Opening Ceremonies, doing a snippet of her single “Read All About It.” The Closing Ceremony stage is covered in newspapers that contain headlines and quotes from famous British authors, so Sande’s song is set to reflect the stage dressing.
After Sande, we hear the first strands of what will be five Beatles songs in the Closing Ceremony — first up is just a hint of a gospel choir performing “Because” while the performance group STOMP! takes the stage.
The next musical act is Madness, on the back of a flatbed truck, performing their ’80s hit “Our House.” This is shortly followed by a cast dance to the ’90s Britpop hit by Blur, “Parklife.”
Then electro-pop duo the Pet Shop Boys are driven around to perform “West End Girls,” their biggest hit. This is followed by young boy band One Direction, also on the back of a flatbed truck painted with black and white geometric shapes, performing their hit “What Makes You Beautiful.”
The Beatles have their second song of the night playing while the Spellbound gymnasts perform in “A Day In The Life” — also selected especially to compliment the Closing Ceremony theme.
Ray Davies, frontman and songwriter for the Kinks, comes out to perform his band’s hit “Waterloo Sunset.”
Emeli Sande returns to sing more of “Read All About It,” themed to tie into the literary history of Britian, the “day in the life” and newspapers theme of the Closers and set to a montage of British athletes who won medals in the 2012 games.
That catchy, uplifting song that played while the athletes walked in was from Brit band Elbow and called “One Day Like This.” As the athlete walk took longer than anticipated, the show replayed Madness, Blur, the Pet Shop Boys and One Direction.
A new remix of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” created especially for the Closing Ceremony is played while a recreation of the Pyramids is built. This is directly followed by the playing of the national anthem of Uganda to honor the Men’s Marathon earlier that day. It is Uganda’s first gold medal in 40 years.
The Beatles reappear after this, with “Here Comes The Sun” played in the segment honoring the 2012 Olympic games volunteers.
We get a hint of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” to start the segment of the program titled a “Symphony of British Music,” with more from the band to come later.
This quickly segways to John Lennon’s “Imagine,” which is sung and performed in sign language by a children’s choir. The mix you heard is remastered especially for the Closing Ceremonies by Yoko Ono. The footage of Lennon is never-before seen, from the family’s personal archives of the video shoot for “Imagine.”
The next Brit symphony comes courtesy of George Michael, who comes out in all black, a sparkly skull belt buckle and mutton chops to perform “Freedom ’90” and his new single “White Light.” The performance was Michael’s “comeback” of sorts, following a life-threatening bout of pneumonia late last year.
He’s followed by Brit rock band the Kaiser Chiefs, who perform ’60s rock group The Who’s “Pinball Wizard” from their rock opera Tommy.
Up next is a David Bowie song montage that fades into his ’80s hit “Fashion” with a parade of British fashion models, including Kate Moss, in British fashion designers, including Alexander McQueen.
Eurythmics’ front woman Annie Lennox comes out on a pirate ship, surrounded by dancers in Edwardian-era costume, for her solo hit “Little Bird.”
Then we have young singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, who covers Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” with a little help from Floyd drummer Nick Mason, as well as Genesis’ Mike Rutherford and The Feeling’s Richard Jones.
The British symphony of music continues with Russell Brand in a ’60s psychedelic van, first accompanied by the Willy Wonka “Pure Imagination” song and segwaying into his performance of the Beatles’ “I Am The Walrus.” After the walrus, a giant octopus makes its appearance on stage only to reveal DJ Fatboy Slim inside. He plays his ’90s dance hits “Right Here, Right Now” and “The Rockefeller Skank.”
He’s followed by the emergence of pop star Jessie J, who performs her hit “Price Tag” (“who cares about the money, money?”) while riding around the Olympic stage in a Rolls Royce. British rapper Tinie Tempah joined her in a Rolls of his own and the two performed together on “Written In The Stars.” Shortly the two were joined by Taio Cruz, in his own Rolls also, who performed the hit “Dynamite.” Finally all three joined together on stage to sing the Bee Gee’s disco hit, “You Should Be Dancing.”
Then one of the much anticipated highlights of the Closing Ceremony occurred: the reunion of the Spice Girls. The Girls were a sensation in ’90s pop music, one of the only girl bands to pop out in the boy band heavy era. They perform their worldwide hit “Wannabe” and then take to the top of their own blinged-out black cars to perform “Spice Up Your Life.”
Liam Gallagher, of Britpoppers Oasis, follows with his new band Beady Eye to perform Oasis’s signature song, “Wonderwall.”
While the set-up for a comedy skit happens, the Electric Light Orchestra track “Mr. Blue Sky” rolls out. This is followed by Eric Idle’s performance of “Always Look On The Bright Side” from Monty Python’s Life of Brian, with a slight break for a Bollywood remix.
Arena rockers Muse take the stage in elegant and nationalistic costumes to perform the theme song of the 2012 Olympics, their originally-penned “Survival” – which Elton John apparently inspired.
The Symphony of British Music portion of the evening is rounded out with a performance by Queen. It opens with video of singer Freddie Mercury from a 1986 Wembley Stadium concert, which transitions into the band performing “We Will Rock You” with Jessie J on vocals.
After a number of speeches and the passing of the torch (to the city of Rio, the host of the 2016 Olympics), ’90s Brit boy band Take That take the stage to perform their hit “Rule The World.”
The show is then closed by The Who, who perform a collection of hits: “Baba O’Riley,” “See Me, Feel Me” right into “Listening To You,” and finally, “My Generation.” After years of surgery, frontman Roger Daltrey’s voice seems to have strengthened – just in time for The Who’s big Quadrophenia tour this winter.
For those wondering, The Who’s Olympic closing was pre-recorded (ie, lip-synched) – something the band acknowledged last month in a press conference. The reason: “It’s not a rock show, you can’t do it live,” guitarist Pete Townshend said, citing technical difficulties.
Unfortunately, American viewers who did not watch the online streams of the Closing Ceremony had to wait all the way until midnight to see The Who’s performance, as NBC broke up the ceremony’s airing with local news and a preview of fall shows.
-Courtney E. Smith & Jillian Mapes, CBS Local