The lyrics of “’Leven Pounds of Heaven” represent a mother’s effusive confession of having found life’s meaning in the form of an eleven-pound baby (sex unknown). Such a song naturally risks drowning in its own sappiness. The Matty Malneck melody is deeply attractive, though, and Elsie Carlisle brings to it her own addictive variety of treacle that seems to have suited the British palate in 1932.
Elsie had recorded “’Leven Pounds of Heaven” six days earlier with Ambrose and His Orchestra (HMV B. 6200), and she would sing part of it again with them the next year in a medley (“Memories of the Mayfair,” recorded October 5, 1933 on Brunswick 01605 and Decca F. 6239).
78rpmcommunity.com (The 78rpm Collector’s Community), a social network similar to Facebook but focused entirely on 78 rpm recordings and technology, has a journal that it publishes in both digital and print form. This month’s Discographer has two items on Elsie Carlisle in it that are worth looking at (amidst other excellent articles dealing with jazz, dance band, and classical recordings).
I wrote the first article, on pages 8-12. “Elsie Carlisle’s ‘My Man o’ War (Dominion C 307 & Filmophone 143)” discusses Elsie Carlisle’s most naughty song, and addresses the rumor that its first recording incurred a fine for pornography that brought down Dominion records (a story that I do not necessarily believe, but which is fun to repeat). I also compare Elsie Carlisle’s two versions of the song to the earlier one by Lizzie Miles and attempt to explain why Elsie’s dramatic delivery of the lyrics makes the song so awfully funny.
There is also an article on page 26-29 featuring Mick Johnson‘s admirable restorations of a number of Elsie Carlisle recordings on for the Dominion label. Dominion records were budget productions on poor-quality shellac, but Mick has done a fine job of reducing the amount of non-musical noise and allowing one to enjoy a clear and undistorted Elsie.
“Fare Thee Well, Annabelle.” Words by Mort Dixon, music by Allie Wrubel (1934). Recorded on June 20, 1935 by Ambrose and His Orchestra, with vocals by Donald Stewart, Elsie Carlisle, and the Rhythm Brothers. Decca F. 5590.
Personnel: Bert Ambrose dir. Max Goldberg-t-mel / Harry Owen and 1 unknown-t / Ted Heath-Lew Davis-tb / Danny Polo-cl-as-bar / Sid Phillips-cl-as-bar-a / Joe Jeannette-as / Billy Amstell-cl-ts / Ernie Lewis-Reg Pursglove-vn / Bert Barnes-p-a /Joe Brannelly-g /Dick Ball-sb /Max Bacon-d
Mort Dixon and Allie Wrubel wrote “Fare Thee Well, Annabelle” in 1934; it was introduced in 1935 by Rudy Vallée and Ann Dvorak in the film Sweet Music. The Ambrose Orchestra’s version does justice to this admirable example of the “train song” genre; it lacks the lollapalooza tap dancing sequence of the film, but its simulated train sounds evoke the original context of the song nicely, and Donald Stewart and Elsie Carlisle make suitable stand-ins for the movie actors.
In 1935 Britain would hear other recordings of “Fare Thee Well, Annabelle” by the Debroy Somers Band (with Brian Lawrance as vocalist), Billy Merrin and His Commanders (Ken Crossley, vocalist), Harry Roy and His Orchestra (Bill Currie, vocalist), Sidney Kyte and His Piccadilly Hotel band (with Norman Phillips singing), and Joe Loss and His Radio Band.
“Mama, I Long for a Sweetheart.” Music by Ramón Collazo; original Spanish lyrics by Roberto Fontaina; English translation by Carol Raven. Recorded by Elsie Carlisle with orchestral accompaniment on June 20, 1935. Decca F. 5586.
This popular 1928 tango by Uruguayan composer Ramón Collazo saw new life in a 1934 English translation by American lyricist Carol Raven. It was recorded that year by the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra, whose version was distributed on both sides of the Atlantic. Elsie Carlisle is not usually associated with the tango genre, but she executes the piece convincingly. It is, perhaps, worth comparing the overall effect of her version to the 1929 recording of the Spanish-language original by the Orchestra Argentina Bachicha.
“Let That Be a Lesson to You.” Words and music by Isham Jones (1932). Recorded by Ray Starita and His Ambassadors with vocals by Elsie Carlisle on June 15, 1932. Sterno 985.
Personnel: Ray Starita-cl-ts dir. Sid Buckman-Nat Gonella-t / tb / ?Chester Smith-cl-as-bar-o / Nat Star-cl-as / George Glover-cl-ts-vn / George Hurley-vn / Harry Robens-p / George Oliver-bj-g / Arthur Calkin-sb / Rudy Starita-d-vib-x
“Let That Be a Lesson to You” has a long instrumental introduction that is mellow but catchy, and one might almost expect it to lead up to a conventional love song. The vocal refrain, however, consists of Elsie Carlisle scolding her love for being unfaithful and returning to her in disgrace. In spite of this theme, the sound of the piece somehow fits in nicely with Elsie’s other work with Ray Starita’s band in 1932, the only year of their collaboration. It is light and dreamy; one might compare its atmosphere to “Leave Me Alone With My Dreams” or “On a Dreamy Afternoon.”
In 1932 “Let That Be a Lesson to You” was recorded in America by the Isham Jones Orchestra and by the Coon-Sanders Orchestra. In Britain, in addition to the Starita recording with Elsie Carlisle, there were versions by the Savoy Hotel Orpheans (with Chick Endor and Charlie Farrell as vocalists), by Jay Wilbur and His Band (with vocals by Tom Barratt), and by Sam Browne and Eve Becke (under the pseudonyms “Jack and Jill”).
"The Idol of the Radio." British dance band singer of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s.