Seymour Simons Articles

“Wasn’t It Nice?” (1930)

“Wasn’t It Nice?” Words by Joe Young, music by Seymour Simons (1930). Recorded by Elsie Carlisle with Jay Wilbur and His Band (uncredited) in London c. October 1930. Imperial 2362 mx. 5509-1.

Personnel: Laurie Payne-Jimmy Gordon-cl-as-bar / George Clarkson-cl-ts / Norman Cole-George Melachrino-vn / Billy Thorburn or Pat Dodd-p / Bert Thomas-g / Harry Evans-bb-sb / Jack Kosky-d-chm / Wag Abbey-x / Len Fillis-bj

Elsie Carlisle – “Wasn’t It Nice?” (1930)

The lyrics of “Wasn’t It Nice?” describe an idyllic romantic relationship. They consist of fond recollections of the early days of that relationship and of the ensuing marriage (the refrain for each reminiscence is “Gee, dear, wasn’t it nice?”). There is a notable description of “canoedling” (cuddling in a boat, a common occupation in the years before motorcars were common enough to provide young couples with privacy). The lyrics also mention a wedding at which not only is the familiar rice thrown, but also shoes (an older practice) — one of which is nonsensically said to still have a foot in it. This last detail provides a suitable ending for a fundamentally goofy song.

Elsie Carlisle’s version of “Wasn’t It Nice?” is noteworthy for its evocation of a certain sort of almost infantile femininity. Elsie perfectly captures a mood of youthful glee which is nevertheless worlds away from the squeaky protestations of her also childlike persona in the rather sinister “Dada, Dada” (but it is worth noting that Elsie would have recorded one of her three versions of “Dada, Dada” at the same session as “Wasn’t It Nice?”) Particularly delightful is the primal girlish giggle that she emits at 2:09. The use of the chimes in the middle of the song adds to an overall feeling of simplicity and innocence, insofar as they recall the sounds of nursery toys.

“Wasn’t It Nice?” was recorded in America in 1930 by Marion Harris, Tom Clines and His Music (v. Jack Carney), The Charleston Chasers, and Aileen Stanley. Other British groups who recorded it in 1930 were Arthur Lally and the Million-Airs (v. Maurice Elwin), the Arcadians Dance Orchestra (dir. John Firman), Van Phillips and His Band (v. Billy Milton), Nat Star and His Dance Orchestra (twice: once with vocalists Fred Douglas and Jack Hodges, in a medley, and again with Fred Douglas), and one more time by Arthur Lally and the Million-Airs (v. Fred Douglas).

“Honey” (1929)

“Honey.” Music by Richard A. Whiting, lyrics by Haven Gillespie and Seymour Simons (1928). Recorded by Elsie Carlisle under the musical direction of Jay Wilbur in London, c. mid-October 1929. Dominion A. 215.

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Skip ahead to 3:12 to hear “Honey”

Elsie Carlisle – “Honey”

Transfer by Mick Johnson (YouTube)

“Honey” is a sentimental 1928 foxtrot of which many popular recordings were made in 1929 and which is still quite familiar to the general public. Elsie Carlisle’s version of it, with piano and string accompaniment, is paired with “Ain’t Misbehavin'” on Dominion A. 215, and the juxtaposition seems fitting. In “Ain’t Misbehavin'” she articulates the themes of sincerity and fidelity convincingly in a straightforward interpretation of the lyrics. She sings “Honey” equally sweetly and with an air of innocence suited to its simple lyrics. In this song we find a sustained expression of affection; there is none of the unrequited love so frequently found in her other songs, and none of her famed naughtiness. “Honey” showcases Elsie’s mezzo-soprano voice and her ability to convey emotion in the musical medium.

“Honey” was popularized in a wildly successful February 1929 recording by Rudy Vallée and His Connecticut Yankees. Other artists who issued versions of the song in the first half of 1929 were Hal Kemp’s Caroline Club Orchestra, the Mills Merry Makers (with vocals by Scrappy Lambert, as “Harold Lang”), Ben Selvin’s Knickerbockers (Larry Murphy, vocalist), Smith Ballew, the California Ramblers (as the Golden Gate Orchestra, with vocals by Ed Kirkeby, on a very late Edison cylinder recording), Vaughn de Leath, and Mildred Hunt.

“Honey” was in vogue with British recording artists in the second half of 1929, with recordings made by Jack Hylton and His Orchestra (with vocals by Sam Browne), Tommy Kinsman’s Florida Club Dance Band, Nat Star and His Orchestra (as Bernie Blake and His Orchestra on Sterno or as Eugene Brockman’s Dance Orchestra on Homochord, with vocals by Cavan O’Connor), Bidgood’s Broadcasters (vocals by Fairy South), the New Mayfair Dance Orchestra (in a Paul Jones medley), Teddy Brown, Cecil and Leslie Norman’s Savoy Plaza Band (Cavan O’Connor, vocalist), Philip Lewis and His Orchestra (a.k.a the Rhythm Maniacs, under the direction of Arthur Lally, with vocals by Maurice Elwin), Ronnie Munro and His Dance Orchestra (in the medley “Talkieland Selection Part 5”), and G. H. Elliott (accompanied by an Edison Bell Radio studio band directed by Harry Hudson).

The composer and lyricists of “Honey” are remembered for a number of other popular songs, many of which were featured in motion pictures. Whiting, Gillespie, and Simons had already collaborated in writing “Breezin’ Along with the Breeze” in 1926, and that same year Whiting and Simons (without Gillespie) had produced “Hello Baby.” Simons is perhaps best remembered for co-writing the 1931 song “All of Me” with Gerald Marks. Haven Gillespie penned the lyrics to “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” in 1934, and in that same year Whiting would compose the song “Rock and Roll” (whose title seems to be the origin of name of the musical genre) and “On the Good Ship Lollipop.” In 1937 he composed “Hooray for Hollywood” (with Johnny Mercer as his lyricist). “Honey” would later appear in the 1945 movie “Her Highness and the Bellboy,” starring Hedy Lamarr.

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