It seems almost a misnomer to speak of Elsie Carlisle “solo” recordings, for she always had accompanists. What I here call “solo” recordings are records on which her name is featured, rather than that of a band, and usually only when the accompanists cannot be safely identified.
“You’re My Everything.” Words by Mort Dixon and Joe Young, music by Harry Warren (1931). Recorded by Elsie Carlisle with an instrumental trio in Manchester on September 23, 1932. Decca F. 3193 mx. KB135-2.
An effusive expression of affection, “You’re My Everything” has its origins as the hit song of of a 1931-1932 two-act Broadway revue entitled The Laugh Parade, produced by and starring Ed Wynn, a comedian who twenty years later would provide the voice for the Mad Hatter in Disney’s Alice in Wonderland. The music for the play was composed by Harry Warren, with lyrics provided by Mort Dixon and Joe Young. It was French actress Jeanne Aubert and American actor Lawrence Gray who introduced the signature tune.
Elsie Carlisle, in her 1932 recording of the song, brings sincerity to its hyperbolic lyrics. Hers is a surprisingly straightforward and touching interpretation of the composition; we find absent the coyness of her torch songs, the levity of her racier music. The band provides a suitably atmospheric accompaniment to her professions of love and awe for the lucky “you” of the song.
A light, romantic song about two lovers’ reconciliation, Harry Woods’s “We Just Couldn’t Say Goodbye” is noteworthy for its fanciful personification of pieces of furniture. When the couple is on the verge of parting, a chair and a sofa cry. A smiling clock expresses its feelings about the situation and brings the two people back together again, at which point the room in which everything happens sings and dances. Elsie Carlisle’s delivery of the lyrics is varied; it starts out somber, almost plodding, and becomes more upbeat as the relationship between the lovers improves. She engages in a sort of call and response with the clarinet at one point and almost whispers the final “I tell you confidentially.” Elsie’s is not exactly a lively take on the tune; it is, rather, a very deliberate interpretation of the sense of the lyrics, and of the other versions of the song recorded that year, it most closely resembles that of the American-born but London-based Layton and Johstone.
“The Clouds Will Soon Roll By.” Written and composed by Harry Woods and Billy Hill (using the pseudonym George Brown) in 1932. Recorded by Elsie Carlisle with piano accompaniment and with Len Fillis on the steel guitar on September 19, 1932 in Chelsea Town Hall, London. Decca F. 3146 mx. GB4844-4.
The Ambrose recording is from July 1932, but in September of that year Elsie would record another version that contrasts greatly with the earlier one. Here, instead of a large band using an elaborate orchestration, we have a single pianist and Len Fillis on the steel guitar. The arrangement is basically that of the original sheet music, with the omission of the second verse and the addition of Elsie dreamily humming part of the melody and then proceeding to engage momentarily in what might almost be considered scat singing. As seems so often to be the case with meteorologically optimistic songs, the lyrics are upbeat but the rendering of the music is purely melancholy (compare some versions of “Blue Skies,” especially Al Bowlly’s 1927 version). Elsie’s subtle vocal flourishes make the recording a particularly touching part of her catalogue.
Photograph of “Grey clouds over Marwell Zoo” by Uli Harder.
“What’s the Use of Crying?” Lyrics by Verdi Kendel, music by Louis Forbstein (1926). Recorded by Elsie Carlisle, accompanied by violin and piano (the latter played by Arthur Young), on August 22, 1927. HMV B2579 mx. Bb11403-2.
This song’s lyricist is comparatively obscure; its composer, Louis Forbstein, would later change his surname to Forbes and gain some amount of fame as musical director for David O. Selznick films (including “Gone with the Wind”). “What’s the Use of Crying?” is a song of unrequited love that begins in a rather moody register but quickly becomes more upbeat as the tempo is twice ratcheted up and the singer professes to have acquired a spirit of resignation in the face of her troubles, asking, “What’s the use of crying just for someone like you?”
“All I Do Is Dream of You” was composed in 1934 by Nacio Herb Brown, with lyrics by Arthur Freed, for the Joan Crawford movie Sadie McKee, where it was introduced by actor Gene Raymond. It is perhaps now more famous for having been sung by Debbie Reynolds in the 1952 film Singin’ in the Rain. A great deal of Elsie Carlisle’s artistic output in the early 1930s drew on Hollywood music, but she made the songs her own, and her version of “All I Do Is Dream of You” is surprisingly intense and passionate.