Solo Recordings

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.

“We Just Couldn’t Say Goodbye” (1932)

“We Just Couldn’t Say Goodbye.” Words and music by Harry Woods (1932). Recorded by Elsie Carlisle with an instrumental trio in Manchester on September 23, 1932. Decca F. 3193 mx. KB-134-1.

Elsie Carlisle - "We Just Couldn't Say Goodbye" (1932)

Elsie Carlisle -- “We Just Couldn’t Say Goodbye” (1932)

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.

In America in 1932 there were versions of “We Just Couldn’t Say Goodbye” recorded by Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians, Chick Bullock and His Levee Loungers (with vocals by Chick Bullock), Ralph Bennett and His Seven Aces, The Dorsey Brothers Orchestra (with the Boswell Sisters), Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra (Mildred Bailey, vocalist), and Freddy Martin and His Orchestra. Annette Hanshaw sang it on a record and August 1932 and would go on to sing it in a film (the 1933 Captain Henry’s Radio Show). Even Shirley Temple sang it, in the 1933 film Kid in Hollywood, which is as cute as it is cacophonous.

In Britain, 1932 saw recordings of “We Just Couldn’t Say Goodbye” by the Blue Mountaineers, the Savoy Hotel Orpheans (with vocals by Jack Plant), Ambrose and His Orchestra (Sam Browne, vocalist), Billy Cotton and His Band (Cyril Grantham, vocalist), Jack Hylton and His Orchestra (with vocals by Pat O’Malley), Nat Star (as Bernie Blake and His Band, with Les Allen as vocalist), Jay Wilbur and His Band (vocalist Tom Barratt), and Jack Plant (as Jack Gordon). Notable duets were recorded by, as I have noted, Layton and Johnstone, and also by Hardy and Hudson.

"We Just Couldn't Say Goodbye" sheet music
“We Just Couldn’t Say Goodbye” sheet music

“The Clouds Will Soon Roll By” (Decca F. 3146 – 1932)

“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.

Elsie Carlisle - "The Clouds Will Soon Roll By" (Decca F. 3146)

Elsie Carlisle -- “The Clouds Will Soon Roll By” (Decca F. 3146)

“The Clouds Will Soon Roll By” is one of Elsie Carlisle’s best-known songs, but it is her recording of it with Ambrose and His Orchestra (in a remarkable arrangement by Ronnie Munro) that is most recognizable and most often cited in popular culture. I have written about that version in another article, where I provide other examples of 1932 recordings of the song.

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.

"The Clouds Will Soon Roll By" sheet music
“The Clouds Will Soon Roll By” sheet music

Photograph of “Grey clouds over Marwell Zoo” by Uli Harder.

“Conversation for Two” (1935)

“Conversation for Two.” Composed by Sammy Mysels, Billy Hueston, and Bob Emmerich (1935). Recorded by Elsie Carlisle with orchestral accompaniment on September 7, 1935. Decca F. 5689.

ELSIE CARLISLE. Conversation For Two 1935

Elsie Carlisle -- “Conversation for Two” (1935)

Video by Brighton Rock (YouTube)

Elsie Carlisle sings this languid love song about small talk leading to romance with considerably less of the dramatic element than is her wont. Instead, she adapts her delivery to the slow yet catchy tune in such a way as to make it atmospheric. Even her dreamy humming “Mm-mm-mm-mm…” followed by “I love you” is seductively sedating. It is perhaps fitting that the flip side of the record is “Star Gazing,” a song which is similarly leisurely in pace and vaguely mesmerizing.

Elsie’s 1935 rendition of “Conversation for Two” is the only recording that I have found of the song. Even the sheet music appears to be rare. The three composers were all prolific, however. Mysels and Emmerich got involved in composing music for motion pictures, and Emmerich, a pianist in the Tommy Dorsey Band and songwriter for Fats Waller, went on to write “The Big Apple,” a song which popularized New York City’s peculiar sobriquet.

“What’s the Use of Crying?” (1927)

“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.

Elsie Carlisle - "What's the Use of Crying?" (1927)

“What’s the Use of Crying?” -- Elsie Carlisle

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?”

Elsie Carlisle’s is the only British recording of this song that I have discovered. It was in vogue in America in late 1926-early 1927, with versions by Lee Sims, Charley Straight’s Orchestra, Ted Weems, Bessie Coldiron (as “The Sunflower Girl”), Greta Woodson, Gypsy & Marta (unissued), Peggy English (as Jane Gray), Bob Haring’s Dixie Music Makers, Harry Raderman (Arthur Hall, vocalist), and Willard Robison (accompanying himself on the piano).

"What's the Use of Crying" sheet music
“What’s the Use of Crying” sheet music

“All I Do Is Dream of You” (1934)

“All I Do Is Dream of You.” Words by Arthur Freed, music by Nacio Herb Brown (composed for the 1934 film Sadie McKee).  Recorded by Elsie Carlisle on July 18, 1934.  Decca F. 5122.

ELSIE CARLISLE - ALL I DO IS DREAM OF YOU

Elsie Carlisle -- All I Do Is Dream of You

Video by longpast78 (YouTube)

“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.

In America “All I Do Is Dream of You” was recorded in 1934 by Angelo Ferdinando’s Orchestra (with vocals by Dick Robertson), Jan Garber and His Orchestra (with vocalist Fritz Heilbron), Henry Busse and His Orchestra (Rex Griffith, vocalist), and Freddy Martin and His Orchestra.  Chico Marx performed the song with great virtuosity on the piano in the 1935 film A Night at the Opera.

In Britain the song was very popular that year, having been recorded by Ray Noble and His Orchestra (with Al Bowlly providing the vocals), Jack Payne and His Band (with vocals by Jack Payne), Roy Fox and His Band (Sid Buckman, vocalist), Teddy Joyce and His Dance Music, Bertini and His Orchestra (with Donald Peers), and Henry Hall (with Les Allen, in a Bert Read arrangement).  A short film exists of Charlie Kunz playing “All I Do Is Dream of You” in a piano solo.

"All I Do Is Dream of You" sheet music featuring Joan Crawford
“All I Do Is Dream of You” sheet music featuring Joan Crawford

"The Idol of the Radio." British dance band singer of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s.