Bob Hoskins Articles

“The Clouds Will Soon Roll By” (with Ambrose; 1932)

“The Clouds Will Soon Roll By.” Words and music by Harry Woods and Billy Hill (the latter using the pseudonym George Brown; 1932). Recorded by Ambrose and His Orchestra (with vocals by Elsie Carlisle) on July 13, 1932. HMV B6210 mx. OB3134-1.

Personnel: Bert Ambrose dir. Max Goldberg-Harry Owen-t / Ted Heath-tb / Joe Crossman-Billy Amstell-Joe Jeannete-reeds / Harry Hines-as / Ernie Lewis-Teddy Sinclair-Peter Rush-vn / Bert Read-p / Joe Brannelly-g / Don Stutely-sb / Max Bacon-d-vib

Ambrose & His Orchestra (w. Elsie Carlisle) – "The Clouds Will Soon Roll By" (1932)

Ambrose & His Orchestra (w. Elsie Carlisle) – “The Clouds Will Soon Roll By” (1932)

Eighty-two years ago today, Elsie Carlisle recorded with Ambrose and His Orchestra one of her two versions of “The Clouds Will Soon Roll By.” It has become fixed in popular memory as one of her most representative recordings, and especially as a perfect example of her ability to project a persona of touching vulnerability — in this case employing optimistic lyrics set to a powerful but somewhat melancholy arrangement. Meteorological metaphors encouraging an upbeat attitude seem to have been a staple of the popular music of the time. It was in the same year that Irving Berlin composed his “Let’s Have Another Cup of Coffee”:

Why worry when skies are gray
Why should we complain
Let’s laugh at the cloudy day
Let’s sing in the rain
Songwriters say the storm quickly passes
That’s their philosophy
They see the world through rose-colored glasses
Why shouldn’t we?
Trouble’s just a bubble
And the clouds will soon roll by
So let’s have another cup o’ coffee
And let’s have another piece o’ pie

Elsie would record another version on September 19 on Decca F. 3146, accompanied only by a piano and Len Fillis on the steel guitar. This solo version is subdued by comparison to the Ambrose recording with its powerful orchestral arrangement.

Representative American interpretations of “The Clouds Will Soon Roll By” from 1932 are those of Eddy Duchin and His Central Park Casino Orchestra (with vocal refrain by the Hamilton Sisters), Bob Causer and His Cornelians (Harold Van Emburgh on vocal), and Anson Weeks.

The song would see many other treatments in 1932 by the British dance bands: Henry Hall’s BBC Dance Orchestra (Val Rosing, vocalist), Ray Starita and His Ambassadors’ Band, Billy Cotton and His Band (Cyril Grantham, vocalist), Jack Hylton and His Orchestra (vocalist Pat O’Malley), Jack Payne and His Band (with vocalist Billy Scott-Coomber), Harry Hudson (as Tanzoni and His Dance Orchestra), Nat Star (as Andre Astan and His Orchestra, with Sam Browne singing). It also appeared in medleys by Lew Stone, Roy Fox, and the Debroy Somers Band. Organist Quentin M. McClean did an organ version of it with vocal refrain by Dan Donovan (a part of which can be heard here). Americans Layton and Johnstone, who operated out of London, recorded a piano duet of the song, and musical hall artists Bob and Alf Pearson appear in a 1932 Pathé film singing “The Clouds Will Soon Roll By.”

A high moment in Elsie Carlisle’s cultural Nachleben and perhaps the main reason that the Ambrose version of “The Clouds Will Soon Roll By” continues to be familiar to the general public is the opening scene of Dennis Potter’s 1978 television miniseries Pennies from Heaven, in which actor Bob Hoskins rather bizarrely mimes part of Elsie singing the Ambrose version of “The Clouds Will Soon Roll By.”

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

R.I.P. Bob Hoskins

English actor Bob Hoskins passed away today at the age of 71. His thespian accomplishments are too numerous to mention, although this writer particularly recommends seeing him in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (1985) and in Mermaids (1990). I mention him here, however, because of his starring role in Dennis Potter’s 1978 television mini-series “Pennies from Heaven” as Arthur Parker, a traveling sheet music salesman, for which he won a BAFTA TV Award for Best Actor. That show reintroduced a younger generation to the British dance band music of the 1930s, and has notable actors miming original recordings, one of which is featured here for obvious reasons.

Bob Hoskins as Elsie Carlisle, singing “The Clouds Will Soon Roll By”:

Dennis Potter's 'Pennies From Heaven' – 'The Clouds Will Soon Roll By'

Dennis Potter’s ‘Pennies From Heaven’ – ‘The Clouds Will Soon Roll By’

Video from songanddanceman1234 (YouTube)

Elsie Carlisle in “Pennies from Heaven”

I wonder how many people first encountered Elsie Carlisle’s music through the 1978 Dennis Potter BBC television series Pennies from Heaven (or through the 1981 movie based on it)?

This clip has Cheryl Campbell miming “You’ve Got Me Crying Again”:

Dennis Potter's 'Pennies From Heaven' – 'You've Got Me Crying Again'

Dennis Potter’s ‘Pennies From Heaven’ – ‘You’ve Got Me Crying Again’

Video from songanddanceman1234 (YouTube)

And here is Bob Hoskins miming “The Clouds Will Soon Roll By” (the Ambrose version):

Dennis Potter's 'Pennies From Heaven' – 'The Clouds Will Soon Roll By'

Dennis Potter’s ‘Pennies From Heaven’ – ‘The Clouds Will Soon Roll By’

Video from songanddanceman1234 (YouTube)

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