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.
“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.
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.
“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.
Elsie Carlisle "Mama, I long for a sweetheart" 1935
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.
"The Idol of the Radio." British dance band singer of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s.