“The Gentleman Obviously Doesn’t Believe” is a catalogue of traits that a certain attractive, anonymous man lacks: he has no fondness for drinking, smoking, dancing, modern popular music, or, most importantly, romance. Through her complaint about the man’s various deficits, the singer reveals herself to be passionate about all of life’s pleasures, and she encourages her audience to identify with her position (“like me…and you…and you”). We are given the impression of a woman inexplicably drawn to her opposite. Elsie Carlisle brings to this recording a sweet sincerity that convincingly conveys both wonder for and enchantment with the attractively puzzling “gentleman.”
“Waiting for the Lights to Change” appears to have been recorded only by Elsie Carlisle. Its composer, Cyril Ray, was in 1935 primarily involved in directing the music for comedy films starring Leslie Fuller, but it is not at all certain that “Waiting for the Lights to Change” was part of a soundtrack. If it had been, one would expect to see the name of the movie printed on the record for marketing purposes.
This languid and melancholy song uses an extended traffic-related metaphor to describe the feeling of being at an impasse in life. At first the gridlock appears to be general, but soon we learn that the singer has encountered a more specific roadblock in her love life: a relationship represented by a street marked “THROUGH” that suddenly presents her with a red light — love thwarted. Elsie Carlisle, veteran torch singer, takes what is fundamentally a very repetitive song and uses it to create a somber atmosphere that is somehow deeply attractive, much as she had done earlier in 1935 with “I’ve Got an Invitation to a Dance.”
“Yes, My Darling Daughter.” Words and music by Jack Lawrence and Albert Sirmay (1939). Recorded by Elsie Carlisle under the musical direction of Jay Wilbur on May 22, 1941. Rex 9989 mx. R5781-2.
Personnel: Jay Wilbur dir. Alfie Noakes-Chick Smith-t / Paul Fenoulhet or Ted Heath or George Rowe-tb / Frank Johnson-Frank Weir-cl-as / George Smith or Cliff Timms-ts / Matt Heft-p / Jack Simmons-g / Billy Bell-sb / Jack Simpson-d
“Yes, My Darling Daughter” was written in New York by American songwriter Jack Lawrence and Albert Sirmay (or Szirmai), a former Hungarian operetta composer who had become an editor for Chappell Music. The tune has its roots, however, in a Ukrainian folk song that dates back to the early nineteenth century, if not earlier, and the modern composition retains a somewhat traditional atmosphere. The lyrics describe the stages of a love relationship by way of an antiphonal, rapid-fire mother-daughter conversation, with both sides of the argument often delivered by the same singer. Such is the case with Elsie Carlisle, here in the last few months of her recording career. Elsie deftly conveys both sweet innocence on the daughter’s part and mature experience on that of the mother without seeming to take a pause.
“The Show Is Over” is a “fox trot ballad” in which the singer expresses disappointment and a sense of disillusionment over a love relationship that has been dissolved. It relies on an extended theatrical metaphor: the singer has “played the part of the fool in the play” by being taken in by her former partner, who was “just acting a part in the play” when he pretended to be in love. Realizing that their relationship has been more like acting than real life and that in reality her lover is in love with someone else, the singer suggests that the two put away any pretense of being friends, concluding that “the show is over.”
The song had three songwriters, but I detect most in it the sensibility of Sam Coslow. Elsie Carlisle recorded four songs in 1934 for which Coslow had written words, music, or both, the others being “This Little Piggie Went to Market,”“A Place in Your Heart,” and “My Old Flame.” All are excellent songs, in spite of the fact that they take the risk of being saccharine, sentimental, or overly serious. All four songs, therefore, benefit from Elsie Carlisle’s skills as an actress; even while singing that “the show is over,” she impersonates perfectly the disillusioned lover and lends sincerity to what could otherwise be a somewhat artificial role.
“Da-Dar-Da-Dar (Da-Dar-Da-Dee).” Words by Robert Hargreaves and Stanley J. Damerell, music by Tolchard Evans. Recorded on May 16, 1933 by Maurice Winnick and His Orchestra, with vocal refrain by Sam Browne (and with Elsie Carlisle in a speaking part). Panachord 25529 mx. GB5875-2.
Personnel: Maurice Winnick-vn dir. Charles Price-another-t / 2tb /Harry Hayes-Harry Turoff-as / Percy Winnick-cl-ts-o /Bert Whittam-p / Bill Herbert-g / Tiny Stock-sb / Stanley Marshall and possibly Max Bacon-d
“Da-Dar-Da-Dar” features Elsie Carlisle in only the tiniest speaking role (for eight seconds at 1:56, when she says, “Oh, d-d-d-darling!” and “Oh, d-d-d-dearest!”), but I include it in this collection for the sake of completeness and because it is a very good comic waltz with a vocal refrain by Elsie’s long-term singing partner Sam Browne. Elsie’s sole recording session with Maurice Winnick and His Orchestra yielded up a second comic waltz with Sam that was issued on Panachord 25527, “Seven Years with the Wrong Woman.” But whereas that song involves disgruntled married people, “Da-Dar-Da-Dar” involves the complications that young people face in arranging a tryst, what with the omnipresence of parents. Indeed, its scenario includes a complication involving a younger brother whom Sam must pay off to get some time alone with his girlfriend (voiced by Elsie).1 The overall idea of the awkwardness of youthful rendezvous is comparable to that produced by the song “Sittin’ in the Dark,” of which Sam and Elsie had recorded three versions in March 1933. One might also be reminded of Elsie’s 1928 and 1930 versions of “Dada! Dada!” but the name of that song refers to the father who is listening in on his youthful daughter’s first encounter with the opposite sex — really a very different idea entirely, and much less wholesome, for the song title “Da-Dar-Da-Dar” is meant only to imitate the rhythm of a waltz, and Elsie’s father, we are grateful to hear from Sam, is not present.
“Da-Dar-Da-Dar” was also recorded in 1933 by Sydney Lipton’s New Grosvenor House Band (v. Sam Browne), the BBC Dance Orchestra (directed by Henry Hall, with vocal refrain by Les Allen, in a Ronnie Munro arrangement), and Syd Roy and His R.K. Olians (vocalists Bill Currie, Ivor Moreton, and chorus).
It is not clear who impersonates the brother. Perhaps drummer and comedian Max Bacon, who did funny voices in “Seven Years with the Wrong Woman” at the same recording session, or even Sam Browne himself? ↩
"The Idol of the Radio." British dance band singer of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s.