Arthur Young Articles

“He’s the Last Word” (1927)

“He’s the Last Word.” Lyrics by Gus Kahn, music by Walter Donaldson (1926). Recorded by Elsie Carlisle with piano and violin accompaniment at Studio B, Hayes, Middlesex, on May 6, 1927. HMV B. 2579 mx. Bb10689-2.

Elsie Carlisle – "He's the Last Word" (1927)

Elsie Carlisle – “He’s the Last Word” (1927)

“He’s the Last Word” follows an argument familiar to aficionados of popular music: its singer goes through a catalogue of her “sweet somebody’s” various deficits (insufficient talent at dancing, for example), only to conclude that when it comes to romance, “he’s the last word” — he is the very best. In her recording of the song, Elsie Carlisle is pure enthusiasm, and her frequent nonsensical ejaculations remind us of the fun, popular genre that she is working in. She is accompanied by excellent instrumentalists on the piano and violin, the former of whom discographer Richard J. Johnson identifies as Carroll Gibbons (who had indeed been Elsie’s accompanist for most of the previous year). Johnson does not identify the violinist.1

A contemporary record reviewer was under a very different impression as to the identities of the accompanists, writing that

Elsie Carlisle has a thoroughly good vocal record of “He’s the Last Word” [54 at 78] (B2579). She sings tunefully, and is one of the most stylish and rhythmical of all our English comediennes. She has been excellently accompanied by Hugo Rignold (violin) and Arthur Young (piano)—Young does one of the best piano solo choruses I have heard. I wish I could say as much for his effort in “What’s the Use of Crying?” by the same artists on the reverse side.2

Richard Johnson recognizes Arthur Young as the pianist on the other side of the record (“What’s the Use of Crying”), but that side was recorded over three months later. It is possible that Melody Maker‘s reviewer was unaware that the two sides had been recorded so far apart and simply assumed that the piano accompaniments were played by the same man at a single session. The suggestion that the violinist is Rignold is interesting. Hugo Rignold was already famous for his exceedingly “jazzy” playing, and certainly the violinist in “He’s the Last Word” gives the impression of being lively and unconventional — he almost saws at his instrument on occasion.

Other noteworthy early versions of “He’s the Last Word” include ones by Art Kahn and His Orchestra, Jack Pettis and His Band (with vocalist Billy Hillpot), Ben Pollack and His Californians (with the Williams Sisters), Ben Bernie and His Roosevelt Orchestra (with vocals by Scrappy Lambert), the Broadway Bellhops (with singer Irving Kaufman), Jane Gray, Vaughn de Leath (recording as “Gertrude Dwyer”), The Troubadors, Annette Hanshaw (with Irving Brodsky on the piano), and Jack Linx and His Birmingham Society Serenaders. American Josephine Baker recorded “He’s the Last Word” in Paris accompanied by Jacob’s Jazz, and in August 1927 the Merl Twins (“Syncopating Songsters”) sang it in an early Hollywood Vitaphone short film.

In Britain in 1927, in addition to Elsie Carlisle’s, there were versions of “He’s the Last Word” by The Savoy Orpheans (directed by Carroll Gibbons), Syd Roy’s Lyricals, and Bert Firman’s Dance Orchestra (as Eugene Brockman’s Dance Orchestra).

Notes:

  1. Elsie Carlisle: A Discography. Aylesbury, UK, 1994, p. 6.
  2. The names are emphasized in the original. “The Gramophone Review.” The Melody Maker and British Metronome 2.24 (Dec. 1, 1927): 1273.

“He’s My Secret Passion” (1930)

“He’s My Secret Passion.” Composed by Arthur Young, with lyrics by Val Valentine (1930). Recorded by Elsie Carlisle with orchestral accompaniment (probably under the musical direction of Jay Wilbur) c. September 3, 1930. Imperial 2333.

Personnel:  ?Jay Wilbur dir. Jack Miranda-cl-ts / Eric Siday-vn / Harry Jacobson-p-cel / Len Fillis-g

Elsie Carlisle – "He's My Secret Passion" (1930)

Elsie Carlisle – “He’s My Secret Passion” (1930)

“He’s My Secret Passion” was written for a British crime drama called “Children of Chance” (1930) starring Elissa Landi and John Stuart. Elsie Carlisle’s September 1930 versions of the song appear on Imperial 2333 mx. 5464 with the take numbers -3, -4, and -5, and discographers Richard Johnson and Ross Laird have deduced from the high take numbers that recording spanned over more than one session. Elsie had begun to record for Imperial, where Jay Wilbur was musical director, the previous month after a four-month hiatus following the closing of Dominion Records (whose music Wilbur had also supervised).

One might reasonably call “He’s My Secret Passion” a torch song, insofar as it involves a longing lament over an unrealized romance, but the lyrics involve enough amorous boasting (e.g. “I’ll burn him up when I sit on his knee”) that perhaps the song transcends the genre. Elsie conveys her yearning with a slightly quavering voice, and her delivery becomes more confident as the argument of the lyrics becomes stronger. The studio band plays in a subdued and mellow fashion, nicely showcasing Elsie’s voice.

1930 saw British versions of “He’s My Secret Passion” (often turned into “She’s My Secret Passion,” as suggested in the original sheet music, when sung by male vocalists) by the Rhythm Maniacs (vocalist Ella Logan), Ambrose and His Orchestra (Sam Browne, vocalist), the Four Bright Sparks (vocalist Queenie Leonard, with Arthur Young on the piano), Harry Bidgood’s Broadcasters (Tom Barratt, vocalist), Bert Madison and His Dance Orchestra (Nat Star, again with Tom Barratt doing the singing), Len Fillis’s Phantom Players (vocalist Al Bowlly), and Jay Wilbur and His Band (with Les Allen as vocalist).

In America, the song was recorded in 1930 by Doris Robbins, Danny Yates and His Orchestra (with vocals by Smith Ballew), Lee Morse and Her Blue Grass Boys, Marion Harris, and in February 1931 by McKinney’s Cotton Pickers (with vocals by Donald King).

“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.

“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

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

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