“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. GB5586-1.
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).