“The Clouds Will Soon Roll By.” Written and composed by Harry Woods and Billy Hill (using the pseudonym George Brown) in 1932. Recorded by Elsie Carlisle with piano accompaniment and with Len Fillis on the steel guitar on September 19, 1932 in Chelsea Town Hall, London. Decca F. 3146 mx. GB4844-4.
“The Clouds Will Soon Roll By” is one of Elsie Carlisle’s best-known songs, but it is her recording of it with Ambrose and His Orchestra (in a remarkable arrangement by Ronnie Munro) that is most recognizable and most often cited in popular culture. I have written about that version in another article, where I provide other examples of 1932 recordings of the song.
The Ambrose recording is from July 1932, but in September of that year Elsie would record another version that contrasts greatly with the earlier one. Here, instead of a large band using an elaborate orchestration, we have a single pianist and Len Fillis on the steel guitar. The arrangement is basically that of the original sheet music, with the omission of the second verse and the addition of Elsie dreamily humming part of the melody and then proceeding to engage momentarily in what might almost be considered scat singing. As seems so often to be the case with meteorologically optimistic songs, the lyrics are upbeat but the rendering of the music is purely melancholy (compare some versions of “Blue Skies,” especially Al Bowlly’s 1927 version). Elsie’s subtle vocal flourishes make the recording a particularly touching part of her catalogue.
Photograph of “Grey clouds over Marwell Zoo” by Uli Harder.