"Have You Ever Been Lonely?" featured image. Detail of photograph of actress Leila Hyams (1929)

“Have You Ever Been Lonely?” (1933)

“Have You Ever Been Lonely?” Music by Peter De Rose, lyrics by Billy Hill (using the pseudonym George Brown; 1932). Recorded by Elsie Carlisle in London on February 14, 1933. Decca F-3435 mx. GB-5586-1.

Elsie Carlisle – “Have You Ever Been Lonely?” (1933)

In the 1933 song “Have You Ever Been Lonely?” one can detect the musical sensibilities of composer Peter De Rose, who would write “Deep Purple” to great acclaim the following year. The lyricist deserves attention, too; it was Billy Hill who collaborated with Harry Woods to produce “The Clouds Will Soon Roll By,” which Elsie Carlisle recorded twice in 1932, and which for modern listeners might be her trademark song, in no small part due to Dennis Potter’s Pennies from Heaven television series. “The Clouds Will Soon Roll By,” however, seems very much bound to the era of its composition and has inspired few interpretations by artists since the 1930s, whereas “Have You Ever Been Lonely?” has been recorded frequently and qualifies as a standard. Perhaps it is the latter song’s simple, timeless theme which makes it so attractive to different musical treatments.

Elsie Carlisle brings to this comparatively light torch song her talent for evoking pathos with a voice that quavers selectively and whose timbre (especially around the high notes) suggests an attractive vulnerability. Her delivery is dramatic but precise: when at 2:20 she asks “How can I go on living / Now that we’re apart?” there is the faintest hint of a mournful gulp when she pronounces the word “how.” The languid pace of the recording suits her melancholy interpretation (one might compare the excellent Ray Noble/Al Bowlly version for an example of a faster-paced, generally more upbeat rendition of the tune).

“Have You Ever Been Lonely was recorded in America in 1933 by Ted Lewis and His Band, Adrian Rollini and His Orchestra (with vocals by Dick Robertson), and Chick Bullock and His Orchestra. The song was more prolifically recorded by British bands, including Maurice Winnick and His Band (with vocalist Louis Spiro), Ray Noble and His Orchestra (with Al Bowlly), Jack Hylton and His Orchestra (with Pat O’Malley as vocalist, in a Billy Ternent arrangement), Henry Hall’s B.B.C. Dance Orchestra (with a vocal trio including Sam Browne, in a Sid Phillips arrangement), Sam Browne and Billie Lockwood (as “Jack and Jill”), Harry Roy and His Orchestra (Ivor Moreton, vocalist), Syd Roy and His R.K. Olians (with vocals by Sam Browne), Jack Payne and His Band (with a vocal trio of Billy Scott-Coomber, Bob Busby, and Bob Manning), and Jay Wilbur and His Band (with vocalist Val Rosing). “Have You Ever Been Lonely?” also appeared in medleys by Phil Green’s Studio Orchestra, Jimmy Campbell and His Paramount Band, and Ray Noble and His Orchestra (on a Daily Herald Contest Record).

2 thoughts on ““Have You Ever Been Lonely?” (1933)”

  1. I love this recording. Her singing is so delightful and love that early 1930 sounding orchestra. Thank you for letting me hear this recording. My favorite period is roughly 1929 through 1934. As hard as they try in subsequent years, they just can’t capture the sound of the orchestras of the EARLY 1930s.

    1. I’m so glad you like it! I think our tastes are similar. I love all of Elsie’s recordings because I like her voice and her delivery, and her talent never flagged, but I do prefer the music of the period you mention. She always sang the new, popular songs (occasionally making them popular herself) and so was very dependent on the vicissitudes of songwriting. One of Elsie’s last recordings is “Calliope Jane” (1941), in which she had to pretend to be a calliope by repeatedly singing “Ploop, ploop!” I have a hard time envisioning her singing that in 1934, or of anyone buying it then — musical sensibilities must have been closer to my own.

      I hope you enjoy the transfer I just released a few minutes ago, the 1934 “Who Walks In When I Walk Out?”

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