Monthly Archives: August 2013

From Naughty to Nice

"A Welcome Distraction From Chores" by Joseph Caraud

“A Welcome Distraction From Chores” by Joseph Caraud

Bell Bottom Trousers is a bawdy and lusty sea chantey, dating from about 1809 to 1815, and is based on an old folksong entitled Rosemary Lane. It was particularly popular in male-centered venues such as rugby clubs, army barracks and especially in the navy, where it can still be heard. The textual history of the song is complex, and verses have been added freely to versions of this song or borrowed from songs circulated under other titles. For two hundred years or more, sailors have sung a much bawdier, a much “bluer” version of the song.

Well, that certainly does not sound like the Bell Bottom Trousers that was heard in the 1940s or is remembered as one of the hit songs of 1944-1945, does it? The reason for this apparent discrepancy is because the song that we know as Bell Bottom Trousers is a sanitized version of the original. More about that later. Let me give you the background for this song first.

Rosemary Lane, also known as Bell Bottom Trousers, tells the story of a domestic servant-girl who was in service in Rosemary Lane. A sailor stops by, seduces the servant girl and makes grand promises of money as he departs, but in fact leaves her pregnant and alone to ponder her child’s future. The song refers to a time when a young single woman who became pregnant essentially saw her life ruined. In the third verse, the narrator switches to the third person at the pivotal moment of her momentous decision, which leads to disaster for her. With folk songs and sea chanteys, the songs go through a long period of an oral tradition before the words are committed to paper. Having said that, the following words are as close as I can find to being authentic.
I lived in service in Rosemary Lane,
I kept the good will of my master and dame.
Till a sailor came there one night for to lay,
And that was the beginning of my misery.

He called for a candle to light him to bed,
And likewise a silk handkerchief for to tie up his head.
To tie up his head as he used for to do,
Says he, “Pretty Polly, Won’t you come to bed too?”

This girl, feeling young and foolish, she thought it no harm
To jump into bed for to keep herself warm.
But what done next I’ll never declare,
But I wish that short night had been seven long year.

It was early next morning the sailor arose
And into her lap he threw handfuls of gold,
Saying, “This I will give, and more I will do
If you’ll be my Polly wherever I go.”

“And when your baby is born, you put it to nurse,
And sit like a lady with gold in your purse.
With gold in your purse and milk in your breast,
Saying, that’s what you’ve got by your sailor in the west.”

“And if it’s a boy, he shall fight for the king,
And if it’s a girl, she shall wear the gold ring.
She shall wear the gold ring and her top knot shall blow,
Saying, that’s what you’ve got by your sailor true blue.”

A version of Rosemary Lane was recorded by Anne Briggs. Listen to it here.
Rosemary Lane (click here)

Variants of the song exist under titles including Once When I Was a Servant, Ambletown, The Oak and the Ash, Home, Dearie, Home, The Lass that Loved a Sailor, and When I was Young.
Some variants make the sailor a “bold sea captain.”
The variants Home, Dear Home (or Home, Dearie, Home) and The Oak and the Ash include an additional refrain, from which these versions take their name:
Home, dear home, and it’s home we must be,
Home, dear home, to my dear country,
Where the oak and the ash, and the bonny birken tree
They are all growing green in my own country.

Although the variant Ambletown changes the song’s perspective to a narration of a letter informing a sailor that he has fathered a child, many lyrics, including the verse “If he’s a boy, he’ll fight for the king. . .” remain constant.

Here is the King’s Singers version of The Oak And The Ash.
The Oak And The Ash (click here)

William E. Henley used portions of the text of this cluster of folksongs for his poem “O Falmouth Is a Fine Town”
For it’s home, dearie, home — it’s home I want to be.
Our topsails are hoisted, and we’ll away to sea.
O, the oak and the ash and the bonnie birken tree
They’re all growing green in the old countrie.

O, if it be a lass, she shall wear a golden ring;
And if it be a lad, he shall fight for his king:
With his dirk and his hat and his little jacket blue
He shall walk the quarter-deck as his daddie used to do.

A sea-shanty adaptation of the song entitled Bell Bottom Trousers shares the basic plot, though the variant in question turns the tone from wistful regret to bawdiness:
I was a serving maid down in Drury Lane,
My master he was good to me, my mistress was the same.
When along come a sailor on shorted liberty,
And all to my wow he took liberty with me.

Singin’ bell bottom trousers, coats of navy blue,
Let him climb the riggin’ like his daddy used to do.

It was at a ball I met him, he asked me for a dance,
I knew he was a sailor by the way he wore his pants.
His shoes was neatly polished and his hair was neatly combed,
After the ball was over, he asked to see me home.

Singin’ a-bell bottom trousers, coats of navy blue,
Let him climb the riggin’ like his daddy used to do.

He asked me for an ‘ankerchief to tie around his ‘ead,
He asked me for a candle to light his way to bed.
I a foolish maiden not thinkin’ it no harm,
I jumped into the sailor’s bed to keep the sailor warm.

Singin’ a-bell bottom trousers, coats of navy blue,
Let him climb the riggin’ like his daddy used to do.

I knowed he was no Sampson but that night he went to town,
He laid me on the bed there ’til my blue eyes turned to brown.
And early in the mornin’ before the break of day,
A twelve pound note he gave me and some warnin’ words to say.

Singin’ a-bell bottom trousers, coats of navy blue,
Let him climb the riggin’ like his daddy used to do.

He said “Take this my darlin’ for the damage I have done,
You may have a daughter, you may have a son.
If you have a daughter, jounce her on your knee,
And if you have a son, send the bastard out to sea.”

Singin’ a-bell bottom trousers, coats of navy blue,
Let him climb the riggin’ like his daddy used to do.

Now listen all you maidens to my girlish plea,
Don’t never let a sailor get his hand upon your knee.
I trusted one once and he put off to sea.
And left me with a daughter to bounce upon my knee.

Singin’ a-bell bottom trousers, coats of navy blue,
Let him climb the riggin’ like his daddy used to do.

Oscar Brand recorded this version of the song in 1958. You can hear it here.
Bell Bottom Trousers (click here)

An even bawdier version exists. Here are those words:
There once was a waitress
In the Prince George Hotel
Her mistress was a lady
And her master was a swell
They knew she was a simple girl
And lately from the far
And so they watched her carefully
To keep her from all harm

Singing bell bottom trousers
Coats of navy blue
Let him climb the rigging
Like his daddy used to do

First come the company
Of the Prince of Wales Huzzahs
They piled into the whorehouse
And they packed along the bars
Many a maid and mistress and a wife
Before them fell but they never made
The waitress from the Prince George Hotel

Singing of bell bottom trousers
Coats of navy blue
Let him climb the rigging
Like his daddy used to do

The Forty Second come marching into town
And with them come the compliment of
Rapists of renown
They busted every maidenhead that came
Within their spell but they never made
The waitress from the Prince George Hotel

Singing of bell bottom trousers
Coats of navy blue
Let him Climb the rigging
Like his daddy used to do

One day there came a sailor an ordinary bloke
A bulgin’ at the trousers with a heart of solid oak
At sea without women for seven years or more
There wasn’t any need to ask what he was looking for

Singing bell bottom trousers
Coats of navy blue
Let him climb the rigging
Like his daddy used to do

He asked her for a candlestick to light his way to bed
He asked her for a pillow to rest his weary head
And speaking very gently just as if he meant no harm
He asked her if she’d come to bed just so keep him warm

Singing of bell bottom trousers
Coats of navy blue
Let him climb the rigging
Like his daddy used to do

She lifted up the blanket and a moment there did lie
He was on her, he was in her in the twinkling of an eye
He was out again and in again and plowing up a storm
And the only word she said to him “I hope you’re keeping warm”

Singing of bell bottom trousers
Coats of navy blue
Let him climb the rigging
Like his daddy used to do

Then early in the morning the sailor he arose
Saying here’s a two pound my dear for the damage I have caused
If you have a daughter, bounce her on your knee
If you have a son, send the bastard out to sea

Singing of bell bottom trousers
Coats of navy blue
Let him climb the rigging
Like his daddy used to do

Now she sits aside the dock a baby on her knee
Awaiting for the sailing ships a-comin’ home from sea
Awaiting for the jolly tars and navy uniform
And all she wants to do my boys is keep the navy warm

Singing of bell bottom trousers
Coats of navy blue
Let him climb the rigging
Like his daddy used to do

bell

Now that you know the background to the story, let me turn to the version that we all know from 1944.

In 1944, bandleader Moe Jaffe took credit for words and music, without collaboration, on Bell Bottom Trousers – although he would freely admit that it was not an entirely original concept, and that he had based his song on an English nineteenth century bawdy folksong. Fortunately, Jaffe’s antiseptic version was tame enough to have it played on the radio. This version enjoyed great popularity during World War Two, and at the time was recorded by at least nine different performers, among them, Tony Pastor, Guy Lombardo, Louis Prima, Jerry Colonna. These recordings made Bell Bottom Trousers the number two selling song for 1944-45 and second only to the Cole Porter/Robert Fletcher hit, Don’t Fence Me In.

Tony Pastor and his Orchestra recorded the song on 4 April 1945. It first reached the Billboard Best Seller chart on 19 May 1945 and lasted fifteen weeks on the charts, peaking at #2.
The recording by Guy Lombardo’s orchestra was recorded on April 20, 1945. It first reached the Billboard magazine Best Seller chart on 23 June 1945 and lasted thirteen weeks on the charts, peaking at #2.

Kay Kyser recorded the piece on April 2, 1945. It first reached the Billboard Best Seller chart on 9 June 1945 and lasted ten weeks on the charts, peaking at #3.

The recording by the Louis Prima orchestra was recorded in February, 1945. It reached the Billboard Best Seller chart on 26 May 1945 at #6, and stayed on the charts for six weeks.

The recording by Jerry Colonna was released by Capitol Records and first reached the Billboard Best Seller chart on 21 July 1945 and lasted four weeks on the charts, peaking at #7.

The Jesters, a white vocal trio, not to be confused with the 1950s R&B group, recorded the song and it peaked on the Billboard charts at #11, staying on the charts for three weeks.

To listen to a song, click on the song title. To download a song, click on the song title, then right click on Save target as

Guy Lombardo and his Orchestra, vocals by Jimmy Brown Bell Bottom Trousers
Tony Pastor and his Orchestra, vocals by Ruth McCullough Bell Bottom Trousers
Kay Kyser and his Orchestra, vocals by Slim Ferdy and Quartet Bell Bottom Trousers
Louis Prima and his Orchestra, vocals by Lily Ann Carol, Louis Prima and Chorus Bell Bottom Trousers
Jerry Colonna Bell Bottom Trousers
The Jesters Bell Bottom Trousers

Non-Charting versions
The Four Blues Bell Bottom Trousers
Connee Boswell and her V Disc Men Bell Bottom Trousers
Ginny Simms, Edgar Fairchild and his Orchestra Bell Bottom Trousers

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A Christmas classic “just like the ones we used to know”

white christmas
In my last post, I wrote of dreams and hope. What better way of following that idea than with the number one song about dreaming – White Christmas. Now, how’s that for a smooth segue?

In January, 1940, Irving Berlin raced into his office and said to his secretary: “Grab your pen and take down this song. I just wrote the best song I’ve ever written — hell, I just wrote the best song that anybody’s ever written.” The song was, of course, White Christmas. Berlin later dropped the original verse that poked fun at a well-off Californian who, amid orange and palm trees, longs for a traditional Christmas “up north”:
The sun is shining, the grass is green,
The orange and palm trees sway.
There’s never been such a day
in Beverly Hills, L.A.
But it’s December the twenty-fourth, —
And I am longing to be up North —

But he kept the now-famous choruses that begin:
I’m dreaming of a white Christmas
Just like the ones I used to know.

White Christmas is a pleasant holiday song that reminisces about an old-fashioned Christmas setting and has become the second most popular Christmas song, surpassed only by Silent Night. In the seventy plus years since the song was written, White Christmas comes the closest that any secular writing can come to being considered a carol.

The song has very little to do with the meaning of the religious holy day, for that religious Christmas is neither white fluffy snow, nor nostalgic sleigh bells, nor even beautiful Christmas cards.

It has often been noted that the mix of the melancholy – “just like the ones I used to know” – with the comforting images of home – “where the treetops glisten” – resonated especially strongly with listeners during World War Two.

The song begins by dreaming of snow. “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones I used to know . . .” Snow is every child’s dream. And snow, as we know, is certainly one thing that we associate with Christmas. After all, how does Santa Claus arrive in his sleigh without snow? That it was probably not a snowy Christmas that first Christmas millennia ago is not really relevant to us. Christmas is celebrated in December; snow often comes in December, at least in the Northern Hemisphere; hence the association of snow and Christmas.

After lovingly looking at snow on glistening tree tops, the song longingly looks at the past. The song dreams of sleigh bells. “. . . To hear sleigh bells in the snow.” During World War Two, more than anything else, White Christmas was one of the strongest links our armed forces had with home, whether they were in the mud of a southern training camp, or in the dust of Northern Africa, or in the rain of Italy, or in the tropical forests of the South Pacific, or on a storm-tossed destroyer in the North Atlantic, or in the bitter cold of Bastogne. Now, White Christmas did not necessarily draw those homesick men and women to a home as it really was, but rather to a romantic spell of security and peace, of childhood bliss, of bright promises, and of merry hearts. I have the feeling though that of those whose eyes became misty as they heard or sang the words of the song, few had ever heard a sleigh bell! Yet, the song still resonated with those who were far away from home and hearth.

Finally, White Christmas dreams of Christmas cards. “. . . With every Christmas card I write.” Now, I know how easy it is to be cynical about Christmas cards. Perhaps you remember that classic cartoon in Punch some years ago. A woman, addressing her cards, says to her significant other: “We sent them one last year, and they didn’t send us one, so they probably won’t send us one this year because they’ll think we won’t send them one because they didn’t send us one last year, don’t you think – or shall we? Well, we may survey the mountain of cards to be addressed and groan, but the massive stack is not all that bad and sending cards does involve thinking of friends, recapturing past moments, and reaching out to others.

The first public performance of White Christmas was by Bing Crosby on his NBC radio show The Kraft Music Hall on Christmas Day, 1941.He subsequently recorded the song with the John Scott Trotter Orchestra and the Ken Darby Singers for Decca Records in 1942, and it was released as part of an album of six songs from the film Holiday Inn. In that film, Bing Crosby sings White Christmas as a duet with actress Marjorie Reynolds, though her voice was dubbed by Martha Mears. The unique feature of the “Holiday Inn” in the film was that the inn of the title was a night club and a restaurant that opened only on holidays, and was closed the rest of the year.

The song is noted for Crosby’s whistling during the second chorus. The version most often heard today is not the original 1942 Crosby recording, as the master had become damaged due to frequent use. Crosby re-recorded the track in 1947, accompanied again by the Trotter Orchestra and the Darby Singers, with every effort made to reproduce the original recording session. There are subtle differences in the orchestration, most notably the addition of a celesta and flutes to brighten up the introduction. The recording became a chart perennial, reappearing annually on the pop chart twenty separate times before Billboard magazine created a distinct Christmas chart for seasonal releases. I have included both versions below.

Crosby’s White Christmas has been credited with selling fifty million copies, the most by any release and therefore it is the biggest-selling single worldwide of all time and has never been out-of-print since 1949.

White Christmas has the distinction of being the most-recorded Christmas song of all time and there have been more than five hundred recorded versions of the song, in several different languages. No, I am not going to list them all (you can now breathe a sigh of relief), but in the spirit of my blog I will present the significant recordings made during the 1940s and 1950s. Chronologically, those versions are:
1942: Bing Crosby (with backing vocals by the Ken Darby Singers and John Scott Trotter and his Orchestra) released his version of the song and it reached #1 on the Billboard charts. The Crosby version also charted #5 in 1944, #1 in 1945, #1 in 1947, #3 in 1948, #6 in 1949, #5 in 1950, #13 in 1950, #13 in 1952, and #13 in 1955. Since 1947, the version that charted was the 1947 version, not the 1942 version. Both are available for comparison below.
1942: Gordon Jenkins and his Orchestra (with Bob Carroll on lead vocal) released a version of the song that reached # 16 on Billboard magazine’s pop singles chart.
1942: Charlie Spivak and his Orchestra (with Garry Stevens on lead vocal) released a version of the song that reached # 18 on Billboard magazine’s pop singles chart.
1942: Freddy Martin and his Orchestra (with Clyde Rogers on lead vocal) released a version of the song that reached # 20 on Billboard magazine’s pop singles chart (this same version charted on the Billboard pop singles chart again in December 1945, reaching # 16).
1944: Frank Sinatra released a version of the song (with backing orchestration by Axel Stordahl) that reached # 7 on Billboard magazine’s pop singles chart (this same version charted on the Billboard pop singles chart two more times: in December 1945, reaching # 5, and in December 1946, # number 6).
1945: On December 23, Kay Thompson performed her version of the song on the CBS radio program Request Performance backed by the Kay Thompson Rhythm Singers and an orchestra conducted by Leith Stevens. A recording of this radio performance has survived and I present it below. This version did not chart on the Billboard charts.
1946: Jo Stafford (with backing vocals by the Lyn Murray Singers and backing orchestration by Paul Weston) released a version of the song that reached # 9 on Billboard magazine’s pop singles chart.
1947: Eddy Howard and his Orchestra released a version of the song that did not chart.
1947: Perry Como (with backing orchestration by Lloyd Shaffer) released a non-charting version of the song.
1948: R&B vocal group The Ravens released a version of the song that reached # 9 on Billboard’s Rhythm & Blues Records chart in January 1949.
1949: Country singer Ernest Tubb (with female backing vocals by The Troubadettes) released a version of the song that reached # 7 on Billboard’s Country & Western Records chart.
1952: Singer Eddie Fisher (with Hugo Winterhalter’s Orchestra and Chorus) recorded a version of the song that did not chart.
1952: Mantovani and His Orchestra released a version of the song that did not chart.
1954: The Drifters released a cover version of the song that showcased the talents of lead singer Clyde McPhatter and the bass of Bill Pinkney. Their recording of the song peaked at # 2 on Billboard’s Rhythm & Blues Records chart in December 1954 (it also returned to the same chart in the next two years).
1957: Elvis Presley recorded a non-charting version of the song for his first holiday album, Elvis’ Christmas Album.

To listen to a song, click on the song title. To download, click on the song title, then right click on Save target as. The download should begin immediately.

Bing Crosby, with backing vocals by the Ken Darby Singers, John Scott Trotter and his Orchestra 1942 White Christmas
Bing Crosby, with backing vocals by the Ken Darby Singers, John Scott Trotter and his Orchestra 1947 White Christmas
Gordon Jenkins and his Orchestra, vocals by Bob Carroll White Christmas
Charlie Spivak and his Orchestra, vocals by Garry Stevens White Christmas
Freddy Martin and his Orchestra, vocals by Clyde Rogers White Christmas
Frank Sinatra, Axel Stordahl and his Orchestra and Chorus White Christmas
Kay Thompson, backing vocals by the Kay Thompson Rhythm Singers, Leith Stevens and his Orchestra White Christmas (Previously Unreleased)
Jo Stafford, backing vocals by the Lyn Murray Singers, Paul Weston and his Orchestra White Christmas
Eddy Howard and his Orchestra White Christmas
Perry Como, backing vocals by a mixed chorus, Lloyd Shaffer Orchestra White Christmas
The Ravens White Christmas
Ernest Tubb
White Christmas
Eddie Fisher, Hugo Winterhalter, his Orchestra and Chorus White Christmas
Mantovani and His Orchestra (instrumental) White Christmas
The Drifters, vocals by Bill Pinkney and Clyde McPhatter White Christmas
Elvis Presley, backing vocals by the Jordanaires White Christmas

Bing Crosby and Marjorie Reynolds in the scene from "Holiday Inn" in which they sing "White Christmas"

Bing Crosby and Marjorie Reynolds in the scene from “Holiday Inn” in which they sing “White Christmas”

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Hopes and dreams

Follow that dream even when you can see the entire staircase

Follow that dream even when you cannot see the entire staircase

As I write this, Washington, DC is preparing to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” At the event, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was the sixteenth and last speaker and delivered his now-famous “I Have a Dream” speech, which over time is considered to be a masterpiece of rhetoric. “I have a dream,” King shouted to the crowd, his voice reverberating with emotion. “I have a dream . . .that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Well, the rest is history as they say. Not many, if any, remember the speeches of any of the other speakers that day – a veritable “Who’s Who” of the civil rights movement at the time – A. Philip Randolph, Eugene Carson Blake, Bayard Rustin, John Lewis, Walter Reuther, Floyd McKissick, Whitney Young, Mathew Ahmann, and Roy Wilkinson, but almost everyone remembers King’s inspiring words and his vision, his dream.

It seems altogether appropriate that the song that I bring to you today is simply entitled, Dream. Sometimes this song is referred to as Dream (When You’re Feeling Blue), and has become a jazz and pop standard. The song was written by the prolific Johnny Mercer in 1944. Of course, the dream about which Mercer writes is a different kind of dream than the one to which Dr. King was referring, but the songwriter’s message is worth pondering, even today.

Johnny Mercer, always the eternal optimist, and writing before the outcome of World War Two was determined, offers the following advice: Even though things may seem bad and cause us to be down-hearted, we can still dream that those things will get better and who knows, those aspirations may come true. So “dream, dream, dream!” Here are Mercer’s complete lyrics:
Dream when you’re feeling blue
Dream that’s the thing to do
Just watch the smoke rings in the air
You’ll find your share of memories there
So dream when the day is through
Dream and they might come true
Things are never as bad as they seem
So dream dream dream

The song was recorded by several artists in the 1940s and 1950s, with the most popular versions recorded by the Pied Pipers, Frank Sinatra, Freddy Martin, Jimmy Dorsey, the Four Aces, Ray Anthony, and the Voices of Walter Schumann.

Other versions fall outside the time-frame of 1945-1955 and I can do no more than list them here. One such version was recorded in 1958 by Betty Johnson in an interpretation that spent seven weeks on the charts: #19 on the Billboard charts. Roy Orbison included a cover of the song on his popular and critically acclaimed 1963 album, In Dreams. Orbison’s version was later resurrected for the soundtrack to the 1998 film, You’ve Got Mail. A lush version, with orchestrations and arrangements by Nelson Riddle can be heard on the 1964 Ella Fitzgerald release, Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Johnny Mercer Songbook. Andy Williams released a version on his 1964 album, The Wonderful World of Andy Williams. A rendition of the song was made by blues-legend Etta James in 1961 and former Beatle, Ringo Starr had a version on his 1970 album Sentimental Journey. Also in 1970, a vocal quartet that included lead singer Sue Allen (who sang with The Pied Pipers in the 1950s), recorded the song with the same arrangement as the 1945 hit version, for Time-Life Records, and most recently, Michael Bublé featured it on his 2002 album Dream. Bublé re-recorded the track Dream for his album Call Me Irresponsible, in 2007.

To listen to a song, click on the song title. All versions of the song are from 1945 unless otherwise noted.

Pied Pipers, Paul Weston and his Orchestra Dream
Frank Sinatra, Axel Stordahl and his Orchestra Dream
Freddy Martin and his Orchestra, vocals by Artie Wayne Dream
Jimmy Dorsey and his Orchestra, vocals by Teddy Walters Dream
Four Aces featuring Al Alberts (1954) Dream
Ray Anthony and his Orchestra, vocals by The Skylines (from the 1955 Fred Astaire–Leslie Caron musical film, Daddy Long Legs) Dream
Voices of Walter Schumann (1955) Dream (Note: Song does not begin immediately after the song is downloaded. Please be patient. It is worth the wait)

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How sweet it is!

sweets
It would be great if we could have a sumptuous dessert and not have to worry about the calories. We would then be able to satisfy our “sweet tooth” yearnings as well as solve the obesity problem that plagues this nation today.

Alex Kramer, Mack David and Joan Whitney solved that problem back in 1944 with their song, Candy. Songs about sweets were not new, of course.

One of the earlier “sweets” song was introduced by Shirley Temple in 1934. The song was entitled On the Good Ship Lollipop. The song became child-star Shirley Temple’s signature song, and while it may be a bit dated, how could anyone resist a song that talks about
. . .Where bon-bons play
On the sunny beach of Peppermint Bay.
Lemonade stands everywhere.
Crackerjack bands fill the air.
And there you are
Happy landing on a chocolate bar.

Now that is a ship I am willing to take anytime! Pipe me aboard, Captain!

Another “sweets” song, A Marshmallow World is usually sung around Christmas-time, even though it has nothing to do with that particular holiday, either in the religious or in the secular sense. The song does refer to winter, however. Since Christmas comes in the winter (at least in the Northern Hemisphere), I guess that is the connection. The song speaks of winter as a time for “marshmallow clouds,” and further talks about “a whipped cream day,” sugary dates, and “a yum- yummy world made for sweethearts.” I am starting to droll just contemplating these delectable words.

Still another song in this same genre is Lollipop, a favorite song among many who perform barbershop music and it became a world-wide hit by the Chordettes, a popular female singing quartet, who usually sang a cappella. This “sweet” tune comes from a time when songs about candy and other sugary food items were a lot more innocent than their modern counterparts. The lollipop is a candy classic, and this ode to the sweet treat temptation complete with a fun “POP!” near the end never seems to get old.

Other songs that come to my mind and fall into this category include Big Rock Candy Mountain by Tex Ritter, Sugar by Peggy Lee, Cotton Candy by Al Hirt, Sugartime by the McGuire Sisters, Honeycomb by Jimmy Rogers, Tutti Fruitti by Little Richard, Candy Kisses by George Morgan, Candy and Cake by Mindy Carson, and, of course, my all-time favorite, I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream For Ice Cream by Fred Waring’s Pennsylvanians.

You would think that listening to songs about such sweet things might give you diabetes, but in most cases these songs are not actually about food at all.

The Alex Kramer, Mack David and Joan Whitney song, Candy is no exception to that statement. Just read the lyrics and you will see what I mean.
Candy, I call my sugar Candy
Because I’m sweet on Candy
And Candy’s sweet on me

She understands me
My understanding Candy
And Candy’s always handy
When I need sympathy

I wish that there were four of her
So I could love much more of her
She has taken my complete heart
Got a sweet tooth for my sweetheart

Candy, it’s gonna be just dandy
The day I take my Candy
And make her mine, all mine
As you can see from these lyrics, even in the innocent days of the 1940s, it was not a morsel of candy that the singer longed for and sang about, but rather the one he or she loved.

This “sweet” song was recorded by a large number of artists. No less than five different versions charted on the Billboard charts. Among the most popular version of the song was the recording by Johnny Mercer and Jo Stafford. Their recording first reached the Billboard Best Seller charts on 24 February 1945 and lasted nineteen weeks on the charts, peaking at #1.

A recording by Dinah Shore was released by RCA Victor Records and reached the Billboard Best Seller charts on 10 March 1945 at #5, and stayed on the charts for eleven weeks.

Johnny Long and his Orchestra, with Dick Robertson doing the vocals also charted on the Billboard charts. Long’s recording debuted on the Billboard charts on 5 May 1945 and peaked at #8, lasting eight weeks.

Still another charted version was made by The Four King Sisters (a family vocal group from Salt Lake City, consisting of Alyce, Yvonne, Donna, and Louise Driggs. “King” was their father’s middle name, which they used professionally). The quartet’s version reached the Billboard charts on 31 March 1945, peaking at #15, and staying on the charts for two weeks.

Jerry Wald and his Orchestra, with Kay Allen handling the vocals was the fifth charted version of the song. This version came on to the Billboard charts on 19 May 1945, and stayed on the charts for one week, peaking at #18.

In England, Joe Loss and his Orchestra recorded the song with Harry Kaye on vocals. The recording was made on 15 June 1945 and was released by EMI on the HMV Records label. This version did not chart in the United States and there were no recording charts in England at the time.

To listen to the songs, click on the song title; to down load a song, right click on the song title, then click on Save target as.

Johnny Mercer and Jo Stafford, Paul Weston and his Orchestra Candy
Dinah Shore, Al Sack and his Orchestra Candy
Johnny Long and his Orchestra, vocals by Dick Robertson Candy
The Four King Sisters, Buddy Cole and his Orchestra Candy
Jerry Wald and his Orchestra, vocals by Kay Allen Candy
Joe Loss and his Orchestra, vocals by Harry Kaye Candy

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Pos-i-tive-ly!

optimism

In recent years, hundreds of academic papers have been published studying the health effects of expecting good things to happen, a trait which researchers call “dispositional optimism.” They have linked this positive outlook on life to everything from decreased feelings of loneliness to increased pain tolerance.

Oddly enough, a mere thirty years ago, the outlook for research on optimism did not look that optimistic at all. But then, in 1985, Michael F. Scheier and Charles S. Carver published their pivotal study entitled “Optimism, Coping, and Health: Assessment and Implications of Generalized Outcome Expectancies” in Health Psychology, the official scientific publication of the American Psychological Association. Researchers immediately embraced the simple hopefulness test that Scheier and Carver included in the paper and their work has now been cited in over three thousand other published works. Just as importantly, by testing the effect of a personality variable on a person’s physical health, Scheier and Carver helped to bridge the gap between the worlds of psychology and biology. After Scheier and Carver’s groundbreaking paper, scientists had a method for seriously studying the healing powers of positive thinking.

In 1952, three decades before the Scheier and Carver study, a Protestant minister by the name of Norman Vincent Peale, originated the term “positive thinking” in his most popular book entitled, The Power of Positive Thinking. Peale was a minister in the Dutch Reformed Church and was pastor of the prestigious Marble Collegiate Church in New York City from 1932 to 1984. There he gained fame for his sermons on a positive approach to modern living. The church had six hundred members when he arrived as pastor in 1932; it had over five thousand by the time he retired in 1984. Peale’s work came under criticism from several mental health experts, one of whom directly said that Peale was a con man and a fraud. I won’t comment on that statement, but I will say this: Norman Vincent Peale is quoted as saying, “Drop the idea that you are Atlas carrying the world on your shoulders. The world will go on even without you. Don’t take yourself so seriously.” Maybe it is just me, but that statement is not the utterance of a deceitful scammer, but rather of a counselor who speaks the truth, no matter how difficult hearing the honesty of that truth may be.

It is no wonder that Peale’s book was popular. American culture, after all, is known for its optimistic quality. I believe that only an American (Oscar Hammerstein) would write a song entitled A Cockeyed Optimist. I further believe that only an American (Dorothy Fields) could write these words:
Nothing’s impossible I have found,
For when my chin is on the ground,
I pick myself up,
Dust myself off,
And start all over again.

Optimism is in the American DNA. The common stereotype that contrasts the positive, optimistic American sensibility with the darker, world-weary European awareness is not without validity. At one level, optimism is an important American “natural resource.” That resourcefulness inspired the development of one of the world’s first modern democracies and provided a haven for immigrants fleeing lives of persecution, oppression and poverty in their homelands. Ideally, America is the land of equal opportunity – a classless society, where hard work allows anyone to lead the type of lifestyle that was once reserved only for the privileged aristocracy.

As much as Norman Vincent Peale captured that theme with his sermons and his books on “positive thinking,” so, too, Johnny Mercer described it in his song, Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive, a song that was featured in the 1944 film Here Come The Waves, starring Bing Crosby and Betty Hutton. The song was written during World War Two, when a victorious outcome of that conflict was by no means all that certain. Writing the song in collaboration with composer Harold Arlen, Mercer’s lyrics were written in the style of a sermon, and explained that accentuating the positive was the key to happiness. In describing his inspiration for the lyrics, Johnny Mercer has said, “I went to hear Father Divine and he had a sermon and his subject was ‘you got to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative.’ And I said ‘Wow, that’s a colorful phrase!’”

Who was this man who spoke such colorful phrases? He was Father Divine, an African-American spiritual leader from about 1907 until his death in 1965. He probably went by the name of George Baker around the turn of the twentieth century and worked as a gardener in Baltimore, Maryland. In a 1906 sojourn in California, however, the man who became known as Father Divine was introduced to the ideas of Charles Fillmore and the New Thought Movement, a philosophy of positive thinking that would inform his later doctrines. Among other things, this belief system asserted that negative thoughts led to poverty and unhappiness.

One can see how Father Divine’s sermon and “colorful phrases” may have inspired Johnny Mercer’s lyrics for his song. Consider his lyrics:
Gather ‘round me, everybody
Gather ‘round me, while I preach some
Feel a sermon coming on here
The topic will be sin
And that’s what I’m agin’
If you wanna hear my story
Then settle back and just sit tight
While I start reviewing
The attitude of doing right

You got to ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive
E-lim-i-nate the negative
And latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with mister in-between

You got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
And have faith, or pandemonium
Liable to walk upon the scene

To illustrate my last remark
Jonah in the whale, Noah in the ark,
What did they do, just when everything looked so dark?

Man, they said, we better
Ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive
E-lim-i-nate the negative
And latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with mister in-between.

Mercer recorded the song with the Pied Pipers and Paul Weston’s Orchestra on 4 October 1944. The record first reached the Billboard magazine charts on 6 January 1945 and lasted sixteen weeks on the charts, peaking at Number One.

Within a matter of weeks, several other recordings of the song were released by other well-known artists: Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters made a recording on 8 December 1944. The record first reached the Billboard magazine charts on 3 February 1945 and lasted twelve weeks on the charts, peaking at Number Two.

A recording by Artie Shaw was released by RCA Victor Records and first reached the Billboard magazine charts on 20 January 1945 and lasted five weeks on the charts, peaking at Number Five.

The last song to chart during this period was Kay Kyser’s recording on 21 December 1944, with Dolly Mitchell and a vocal trio. The record first reached the Billboard magazine charts on 24 February 1945 and lasted two weeks on the charts, peaking at Number Twelve.

Over the years, many artists have recorded this song. Among the more familiar names are Connie Francis, who added the song in 1960 to her Swinging Medley (sometimes also referred to as Gospel Medley), in which she combined it with three other songs: Yes, Indeed, Amen, and Lonesome Road; Ella Fitzgerald, who included this song on her 1961 double album Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Harold Arlen Songbook; Perry Como, who recorded the song twice: once on 19 February1958 and later in July, 1980; Aretha Franklin, “The Queen of Soul,” who recorded it for her The Electrifying Aretha Franklin album in 1962; Sam Cooke, who recorded it for his Encore album; Sir Cliff Richard, who recorded the song on his album Bold as Brass; and Sir Paul McCartney, former Beatle, who covered it on his 2012 charming album, Kisses on the Bottom.

That is not too shabby for a “sermon in song,” so I will end this piece on that positive note and simply add, “Amen.”

To listen to the song, click on the song title.

Johnny Mercer and the Pied Pipers, Paul Weston and his Orchestra Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive
Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters, Vic Schoen and his Orchestra Ac-cent-tchu-ate The Positive
Artie Shaw and his Orchestra, vocals by Imogene Lynn Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive
Kay Kyser and his Orchestra, vocals by Dolly Mitchell and a vocal trio Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive

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The dawn of romantic awareness, 1945 style

Couple walking at alley in night lights. Photo in vintage multic
I just received word that August is National Romance Month. Since the month is almost over, let me add my two-cents worth to the subject by writing about a song that is about the genesis of romantic awareness, or at least how it was perceived in 1945. That song is I’m Beginning To See The Light.

I’m Beginning To See The Light is a classic American popular song and jazz standard, written by bandleaders Duke Ellington and Harry James, and alto-saxophonist Johnny Hodges, with lyrics by Don George in 1944.

Don George’s lyrics for I’m Beginning To See The Light deal with romantic images and with the witty use of a list of “light” images such as “lantern-shine” and “rainbows in my wine” to which the singer was impervious until falling in love. The song ends by using one of the oldest songwriting clichés – the mixing of metaphors, in this case, of light and heat: “but now that your lips are burning mine, I’m beginning to see the light.”

Ellington’s melody was a difficult one for which to write a workable lyric, but Don George was up to the task. Notice that each section of the song consists of the same, driving vamp-like phrase repeated three times over before the melody finally changes. George solved this problem and heightened its musical insistence by using the same rhyme for the first three lines of each section. To understand what I mean, here are his lyrics:
I never cared much for moonlit skies
I never wink back at fireflies
But now that the stars are in your eyes
I’m beginning to see the light

I never went in for afterglow
Or candlelight on the mistletoe
But now when you turn the lamp down low
I’m beginning to see the light

Used to ramble through the park
Shadowboxing in the dark
Then you came and caused a spark
That’s a four-alarm fire now

I never made love by lantern-shine
I never saw rainbows in my wine
But now that your lips are burning mine
I’m beginning to see the light

I’m Beginning To See The Light was one of the first recordings that Duke Ellington made after the lifting of the American Federation of Musicians’ recording ban, which was called in August 1942 as a result of the union’s belief that mechanical reproduction of records was ruining the careers of live performing musicians.

(I will digress for a few paragraphs to give you some information about an almost forgotten slice of recording history. I promise I will return to the subject at hand once I finish with this little detour.)

On August 1, 1942, the American Federation of Musicians, at the instigation of its president James Petrillo, started a strike against the major American recording companies because of disagreements over royalty payments. Beginning at midnight, July 31, no union musician could record for any record company.

The strike did not affect musicians performing on live radio shows, in concerts, or, after October 27, 1943, on special recordings made by the record companies for V-Discs for distribution to the armed forces fighting World War II, because V–Discs were not available to the general public. However, the union did frequently threaten to withdraw musicians from the radio networks to punish individual network affiliates who were deemed “unfair” for violating the union’s policy on recording network shows for repeat broadcasts.

Petrillo had long thought that recording companies should pay royalties. When he announced that the recording ban would start at midnight, July 31, 1942, most people thought it would not happen. America had just entered World War II on December 8, 1941 and most newspapers opposed the ban. By July, it was clear that the ban would take place and record companies began to stockpile new recordings of their big names. In the first two weeks of July, these performers recorded new material: Tommy Dorsey, Bing Crosby, Charlie Barnet, Jimmy Dorsey, Guy Lombardo, and Glenn Miller, who recorded his last records as a civilian bandleader. At first, the record companies could release these new recordings to meet listeners’ needs from their unissued stockpiles, but eventually this supply was exhausted. The companies also re–released deleted records from their back catalogues, including some from as far back as the mid-1920s. As the strike extended into 1943, record companies bypassed the striking musicians by recording their popular vocalists singing with vocal groups filling the backup role normally filled by orchestras. Examples of such recordings include Goodbye, Sue by Perry Como (1943), Sunday, Monday, or Always by Bing Crosby (1943), and You’ll Never Know by Dick Haymes (1943).

The strike had an effect on radio shows that used recorded music due to the limited amount of new recordings. Record companies were asked to pay royalties to the union, and eventually they complied. The strike ended on November 11, 1944.

Recording artists had a new beginning and Duke Ellington was no exception. He was eager to record a version of his already-popular song, I’m Beginning To See The Light. He recorded the song for Victor, with vocals by Joya Sherrill and it hit the charts in February, 1945.

Ellington’s version was joined by a recording by Harry James and his Orchestra (Actually, James’ version hit the charts earlier and climbed higher than Ellington’s), followed in April 1945 by Ella Fitzgerald and the Ink Spots, featuring Bill Kenny. In later years, such artists as Louis Armstrong took a crack at the song when he and Duke Ellington recorded together in 1961. The song was also featured in the award-winning 1981 Broadway show Sophisticated Ladies, a musical revue based on the music of Duke Ellington; Harry James’ version appeared in the 2000 film My Dog Skip; and Jonathan and Darlene Edwards (alias Paul Weston and Jo Stafford) parodied the song out-of-key in their 1960s album Darlene Remembers Duke. (I have included the song in this post. It is hard to believe that you are hearing the always pitch-perfect Jo Stafford murdering this song! No one would ever think of this version as a romantic ballad!!)

Others who have recorded the song include Rosemary Clooney, Bobby Darin, Frank Sinatra, Johnnie Ray, Billy Eckstine (recorded the song many times: with Billy May, with Quincy Jones, with Bobby Tucker and with Gil Asky), Peggy Lee, Michael Bublé, Joe Jackson (recorded a cover of the song for his Duke Ellington tribute album, The Duke.)

To listen to the various versions, click on the song title.

Harry James and his Orchestra, vocals by Kitty Kallen (#1) I’m Beginning To See The Light
Ella Fitzgerald and the Ink Spots featuring Bill Kenny (#5) I’m Beginning To See The Light
Duke Ellington and his Famous Orchestra, vocals by Joya Sherrill (#6) I’m Beginning to See the Light

Other songs mentioned in this post.

Perry Como,(background singers: Mixed Chorus consisting of Anna-Jean Merrill, Elise Bretton, Diane Carol, Virginia Black, Barbara Allen, Richard E. Campbell, Robert G. Lange, Richard Paige, William Paige and Morgan Davies) Goodbye, Sue
Bing Crosby, (background singers, Ken Darby Singers) Sunday, Monday or Always
Dick Haymes, (background singers, The Song Spinners) You’ll Never Know
Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, I’m Beginning To See The Light
Jonathan and Darlene Edwards, I’m Beginning To See The Light

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Kissing the war goodbye

 V-J Day, Times Square, 14 August 1945 by Alfred Eisenstaedt

V-J Day, Times Square, 14 August 1945 by Alfred Eisenstaedt

The old adage “A picture is worth a thousand words” refers to the notion that a complex idea can be conveyed with just a single still image. One such picture appears at the top of today’s post.

The picture in question is one of the most famous photographs ever published by Life magazine and was shot by Alfred Eisenstaedt in Times Square on V-J Day (14 August 1945). Eisenstaedt took his classic shot by following a sailor who had been running through the streets of New York kissing every woman he encountered in celebration of the end of World War II.
What is the deal with this picture? Why do we love it so much? Certainly, this young woman does not look comfortable, with her body being twisted into a ninety degree angle. This does not look like some sweet, intimate, private, in-love moment that every woman seems to want. Some dozen ex-sailors have claimed to be the amorous seaman and at least two other former nurses have identified themselves as his partner, but Life has accepted Edith Cullen Shain’s claim to be the nurse in this photograph and has said that for her, the kiss represented “hope, love, peace, and tomorrow.”

And that is perhaps the reason that we love this picture so much. It just fills us with exhilaration, with patriotism, and with hope. To have been in New York City on that day, to have lived through a world war in which this nation was the victim of unprovoked Japanese aggression with the attack on Pearl Harbor, and to know that the Empire of Japan had unconditionally surrendered – that was cause for an amazing feeling of joy, of triumph, of hope, of faith in the power of good to overcome evil, and of the belief in the power of the values for which this country stands. It was a day of deliverance. It was a day of peace with the past. It was a day of hope for the future. It was a day when feelings and emotions went unexpressed simply because some things cannot be described in words. And this photograph expresses all of that with a kiss! In the immortal words of Ingrid Bergman: “A kiss is a lovely trick designed by nature to stop speech when words become superfluous.”

What Alfred Eisenstaedt’s photograph did for our visual sense, Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn did for our other senses with their romantic ballad, It’s Been A Long, Long Time. As our men and women came home from World War II, they were welcomed back with this Number One hit from 1945 that perfectly captured the sentiments of those who remained home while their loved ones were away. Written from the perspective of a person welcoming home his or her spouse or lover at the end of the war, the lilting melody expertly supplied by Jule Styne effortlessly supports the tender lyrics written by Sammy Cahn that spoke to millions of couples who had been separated by the war.

One would be hard pressed to find a better vocalist than Bing Crosby to deliver these hopeful, romantic lyrics in a croon that was both smooth and warm. World War II ended the month before the Crosby recording hit Number One on the Billboard charts in 1945. Crosby effectively captured the swelling anticipation of Americans regarding the imminent return of their loved ones from overseas.Crosby’s version features some impressive and memorable guitar playing by the innovative Les Paul, who recalled in an interview printed in Mojo magazine: “Bing was a sucker for guitar and that particular song was a case of you don’t have to play a lot of notes, you just have to play the right notes.” Well, all the right notes were indeed played. It was a perfect song, sung by the perfect singer, backed by the perfect accompaniment; perfect in every way.

A recording by Harry James with vocal by Kitty Kallen also reached Number One on the Billboard Hot 100 chart on November 24, 1945.

In 1945, unlike today, it was standard practice for record companies to release “competing” versions of hit songs. Other recordings of It’s Been A Long, Long Time that charted in 1945 were recorded by Charlie Spivak and his Orchestra and Stan Kenton and his Orchestra.

The Sammy Kahn lyrics speak for themselves:
Kiss me once, then kiss me twice
Then kiss me once again.
It’s been a long, long time.
Haven’t felt like this, my dear
Since I can’t remember when.
It’s been a long, long time

You’ll never know how many dreams
I’ve dreamed about you.
Or just how empty they all seemed without you.
So kiss me once, then kiss me twice
Then kiss me once again.
It’s been a long, long time.

Ah, kiss me once, then kiss me twice
Then kiss me once again.
It’s been a long time.
Haven’t felt like this my dear
Since I can’t remember when
It’s been a long, long time.

You’ll never know how many dreams
I dreamed about you.
Or just how empty they all seemed without you.
So kiss me once, then kiss me twice
Then kiss me once again.
It’s been a long, long time.
Long, long time.
Lyrics do not get much more romantic than that!

To listen to the song, click on the song title.

Bing Crosby with Les Paul and his Trio (#1) It’s Been A Long Long Time
Harry James and his Orchestra, vocals by Kitty Kallen (#1) It’s Been A Long, Long Time
Charlie Spivak and his Orchestra, vocals by Irene Daye (#4) It’s Been A Long, Long Time
Stan Kenton and his Orchestra, vocals by June Christy (#6) It’s Been A Long, Long Time

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