“Dancing with My Shadow.” Composed by Harry Woods for the British musical comedy Thank You So Much. Recorded by Elsie Carlisle, probably with the Embassy Rhythm Eight, on February 5, 1935. Decca F-5436.
Personnel: Max Goldberg-t / Lew Davis-tb / Danny Polo-cl / Billy Amstell-ts / Bert Barnes-p / Joe Brannely-g / Max Bacon-d
A song about the loneliness of lovers drawn apart, “Dancing with My Shadow” encapsulates its theme of longing in its refrain:
Dancing with my shadow,
Feeling kind of blue,
Dancing with my shadow
And making believe it’s you.
This slow foxtrot was composed by Harry Woods for the British musical comedy Thank You So Much. Woods wrote other notable songs that Elsie Carlisle recorded; one thinks particularly of “The Clouds Will Soon Roll By.” The song also notably appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 film adaptation of The 39 Steps. Elsie Carlisle, veteran torch singer, interprets the lyrics masterfully on this record, which she appears to have recorded with the Embassy Rhythm Eight, who went uncredited; this identification is strengthened by an examination of the sequence of matrices on the records they recorded with Decca on the same day.
I have not found any evidence of Elsie Carlisle’s having recorded “I Want Somebody to Cuddle Me”; she must have sung it on the radio. There is a very nice version of the song (going under an alternate title) by Nat Shilkret and His Orchestra, with Belle Mann on the vocals:
“Body and Soul.” Lyrics by Edward Heyman, Robert Sour, and Frank Eyton, with music by Johnny Green (1930). Recorded by Elsie Carlisle under the musical direction of Jay Wilbur in London c. March 1930. Dominion C-307 mx. 1713-1.
In 1929, American composer Johnny Green got together with lyricists Edward Heyman, Robert Sour, and Frank Eyton to write a number of songs for British actress Gertrude Lawrence to sing on the London stage. One of them, “Body and Soul,” was to become a jazz standard par excellence. Lawrence, to her credit, recognized the inherent merit of the song and bought a share in it before going on to introduce it on the London stage and sing it on the radio, where it was heard by British dance band greats Jack Hylton and Bert Ambrose. Their renditions caught the attention of the public and of bandleaders, singers, and instrumentalists alike. After a spring fever of “Body and Soul” in London, recording of the infectious tune subsided for the summer and then resurged in America. In mid-October the song appeared as part of the Broadway revue Three’s a Crowd and was performed and later recorded by Libby Holman.
Elsie Carlisle sang many torch songs early in her recording career; unrequited love was a theme as much in vogue then as it is now, and Elsie’s delicate, sometimes quavering voice was a suitable vehicle for conveying pathos. Her March 1930 “Body and Soul” stands out from the rest because of her especially touching rendering of its mesmerizingly sad motifs. It might seem amusing that this recording is paired on its flip-side with the ribald “My Man O’ War,” which is a sort of sublime, extended series of sexual double entendres, but there is something a little gritty, too, about the lyrics of “Body and Soul” and the intensity with which Elsie expresses them.
In March, in addition to that of Elsie Carlisle, there were British renditions of “Body and Soul” by Spike Hughes, Jack Payne and His Band (an unissued take with vocalist Jack Plant), Hal Swain and His Band, Marie Burke, Herman Darewski and His Famous Melody Band, and Gracie Fields. As the spring went on, versions were made by Pete Mandell and His Rhythm Masters (three takes, including two with Jack Plant), Carroll Gibbons (on the piano, accompanied by violin and saxophone), Nat Star (as Bert Maddison and His Dance Orchestra, with vocalist Sam Browne), Jack Leon’s Dance Band (Jimmy Allen, vocalist), and Alfredo’s Band (with Sam Browne).
The lyrics of “Fit as a Fiddle (and Ready for Love),” penned by Arthur Freed, are an ecstatic expression of a happy anticipation of marriage somewhat in the mold of the classic 1925 Henderson/Lewis/Young song “I’m Sitting on Top of the World” (made popular by Al Jolson). “Fit as a Fiddle,” however, is marked by its peculiarly infectious rhythm and its reliance on nonsense words. “Hi, diddle, diddle” and “Hey nonny nonny and a hot-cha-cha!” stand out, although Elsie Carlisle apparently could not get the latter colloquialism quite right, in spite of its being very clearly written on the cover of the sheet music (although “Hainy nainy nonny and a HAH-chah!” is a very cute variant, I will admit). Baby words aside, Elsie’s “Fit as a Fiddle” is nothing if not ebullient, and she is complemented nicely by her band.
“My Kid’s a Crooner.” Composed by Marion Harris and Reg Montgomery. Recorded by Ambrose and His Orchestra, with Elsie Carlisle as vocalist, on January 3, 1935. Decca F. 5393.
Personnel: Bert Ambrose dir. Max Goldberg-t-mel / Harry Owen-t / t / Ted Heath-Tony Thorpe-tb / Danny Polo-Sid Phillips-Billy Amstell-reeds / Joe Jeannette-as / Ernie Lewis-Reg Pursglove-others?-vn / Bert Barnes-p / Joe Brannelly-g / Dick Ball-sb / Max Bacon-d
“My Kid’s a Crooner,” a song whose subtitle is, naturally, “(Boo-Boo-Boo-Boo),” was written by British composer Reg Montgomery and American songstress Marion Harris, who had relocated to London in the early 1930s and had retired there. It involves a mother who is concerned about her infant child’s future, seeing as he mostly makes the sound “boo-boo-boo-boo” (and occasionally “ah-cha-cha!”). Concluding that he aspires to be a crooner, she resolves to contact Bing Crosby for advice. Elsie Carlisle takes this song, which is inherently very silly, and makes it even funnier by sounding almost genuine in her mock-maternal concern — yet not so much so as to let her quavering voice overwhelm her rather cute, moderately infantile, and decidedly Crosbyesque boo-boo-booing.