“Waiting for the Lights to Change.” Composed by Cyril Ray. Recorded by Elsie Carlisle with orchestral accompaniment on May 28, 1935. Decca F. 5568 mx. GB7166-1.
“Waiting for the Lights to Change” appears to have been recorded only by Elsie Carlisle. Its composer, Cyril Ray, was in 1935 primarily involved in directing the music for comedy films starring Leslie Fuller, but it is not at all certain that “Waiting for the Lights to Change” was part of a soundtrack. If it had been, one would expect to see the name of the movie printed on the record for marketing purposes.
This languid and melancholy song uses an extended traffic-related metaphor to describe the feeling of being at an impasse in life. At first the gridlock appears to be general, but soon we learn that the singer has encountered a more specific roadblock in her love life: a relationship represented by a street marked “THROUGH” that suddenly presents her with a red light — love thwarted. Elsie Carlisle, veteran torch singer, takes what is fundamentally a very repetitive song and uses it to create a somber atmosphere that is somehow deeply attractive, much as she had done earlier in 1935 with “I’ve Got an Invitation to a Dance.”