“Peter, Peter” (1929)

“Peter, Peter.” Music by Rudolf Nelson, words by Friedrich Hollaender (1929). Recorded by the Rhythm Maniacs with vocalist Maurice Elwin on November 28, 1929. Decca F-1608 mx. FMB-719-2.

The Rhythm Maniacs (v. Maurice Elwin) – “Peter, Peter” (1929)

The transfer that I am sharing on the forty-seventh anniversary of Maurice Elwin’s death is a little unusual. The record that it is taken from is unfortunately very worn, but it is rare enough that I thought it worth the trouble to clean the audio up as best I could. What makes “Peter, Peter” so special is that Elwin sings it in German.

This is not the “Peter, Peter” song by Jimmy Campbell, Reg. Connelly, and Harry Woods that Elwin would eventually record with the Savoy Hotel Orpheans in 1933. It is, rather, a 1929 Rhythm Maniacs version of the Rudolf Nelson composition most famously recorded by Marlene Dietrich simply as “Peter” in 1931. The refrain is:

Peter, Peter, komm zu mir zurück!
Peter, Peter, warst mein bestes Stück.
Peter, Peter, ich war so gemein.
Später, später sieht man erst alles ein.

Peter, Peter, come back to me.
Peter, Peter, you were my pride and joy.
Peter, Peter, I was so mean.
Later, only later does one understand everything.

As a graduate of the Royal Academy of Music, Elwin may have learned to sing in any number of languages associated with high culture. “Peter, Peter” does not appear to have been his only German recording, for that matter; my discography lists several that he is supposed to have made with the Rhythm Maniacs in 1929-1930. That said — can my German readers confirm my sense that Elwin flubs the final line?

“Tell Me Over Again” (1930)

“Tell Me Over Again.” Music and words by Jack Strachey. Recorded in London on June 5, 1930 by the Rhythm Maniacs under the musical direction of Arthur Lally with vocalist Maurice Elwin. Decca F-1814 mx. MB-1457-2.

Personnel: Arthur Lally-cl-as-bar dir. probably Norman Payne-Bill Shakespeare-t / Jock Fleming or Ted Heath-tb / Danny Polo-cl-as / Joe Jeanette-cl-ts / Claude Ivy-p / Joe Brannely-bj / Spike Hughes-sb / Bill Harty-d / Rudy Starita-vib-x / Maurice Elwin-v

The Rhythm Maniacs (v. Maurice Elwin) – “Tell Me Over Again” (1930)

Jack Strachey was a successful songwriter who would eventually compose the music for “These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You)” (1936). 1 His two titles on Decca F-1814 (“Tell Me Over Again” and “I’ll Be the Same”), however, are rather obscure, and these Rhythm Maniacs recordings are, as far as I can tell, the only evidence that the songs were ever written. I find the scarcity of musical treatments baffling, as both songs are pleasantly atmospheric, but perhaps only Decca musical director Arthur Lally saw the songs’ potential. It is also possible that the Rhythm Maniacs’ musical arrangements are what appeals to me so strongly.

“Tell Me Over Again” is a waltz, a genre of music often deprecated by record collectors hooked on heady foxtrots said to be of “jazz interest.” The “waltz sides” turned out by the best British dance bands, however, can be very elegant; they simply appeal to a different aesthetic. The waltz rhythm of “Tell Me Over Again” contributes the quality of a soothing lullaby, and the Rhythm Maniacs’ pace is noticeably measured.

Maurice Elwin’s gentle vocal highlights the delightfully cryptic refrain, which asks the singer’s interlocutor to “[t]ell me over again” without ever coming out and saying what he wants to hear (presumably “I love you” or something to that effect). Elwin, a high baritone, is given the opportunity to show off his considerable range in this piece. His delivery suggests not just the tone of sincerity that he was famous for, but also considerable tenderness.

Notes:

  1. He is also often listed as a collaborator on “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” (1940), though I have found no contemporary evidence to support that claim.

“Round about Sundown” (1933)

“Round about Sundown” (a.k.a. “‘Long about Sundown”). Words by Billy Moll, music by Joseph Meyer (1932). Recorded in London on January 20, 1933 by Carroll Gibbons and the Savoy Hotel Orpheans with vocalist Maurice Elwin. Columbia CB-565 mx. CA-13370-2.

Personnel: Carroll Gibbons-p dir. Bill Shakespeare-Billy Higgs-t / Arthur Fenoulhet-t-tb / Paul Fenoulhet-Sam Acres-tb / George Melachrino-cl-as-vn / Laurie Payne-cl-as-bar / George Smith-ts / Ben Frankel-vn / Sid Bright-2nd p / Harry Sherman-g / Jack Evetts-sb / Rudy Starita-d-vib-x / Maurice Elwin-v

Carroll Gibbons and the Savoy Hotel Orpheans (v. Maurice Elwin)
“Round about Sundown” (1933)
(Transfer by Charles Hippisley-Cox)

At first inspection, Carroll Gibbons’s recording of “Round about Sundown” with Maurice Elwin as vocalist would appear to be the only version of that song committed to shellac. In fact, the song was otherwise known as “‘Long about Sundown” and was recorded under that title in the United States. My suspicion is that someone at Columbia Records in London may have thought that “‘long about” (meaning “approximately at”) was an unintelligible North American expression and opted for the more transatlantic “round about” instead.

The theme of “‘Long about Sundown” is fairly conventional: the singer longs to return at day’s end to spend time with the one he loves. Both the title and the subject matter recall Walter Donaldson’s “At Sundown (When Love Is Calling Me Home)” (1927); there are also similarities with Donaldson’s “My Blue Heaven” (also 1927), which he wrote with lyricist George Whiting. 1 Moll and Meyer’s work does not seem unusually derivative to me, however. There may be a limited number of surefire themes in popular song, but that does not say anything about the manifold melodies and arrangements that songwriters may attach to them. For example, Robinson and Dubin’s “Halfway to Heaven” (1928) was another similarly themed song that was recorded no fewer than three times by Elwin, and it built on the same basic concept.

The Savoy Hotel Orpheans’ arrangement of “Round about Sundown” (as they called it) comes in punchy and upbeat. Their overall sound suggests an urbane sophistication that is typical of their recordings from this period but which might almost be said to clash with the simple, largely natural imagery of the lyrics. Maurice Elwin, on the other hand, is subdued, subtle, and confidential, not to mention vocally mellifluous. His precision and control as an artist who had mastered microphone technique are particularly on display — his every breath seems premeditated. It is not unusual for a vocal refrain to be considerably quieter than the rest of a dance band recording, but in “Round about Sundown” there would appear to be a conscious experiment in contrasts that allows allows us to experience both playful fun and tender sincerity in the same short time span.

“‘Long about Sundown” was recorded in 1932 by Hal Kemp and His Orchestra (v. ?Skinnay Ennis), Don Bestor and His Orchestra (v. Maurice Cross), Tom Berwick and His Ritz-Carlton Orchestra (as “Harold Mooney and His Orchestra; v. James Harkins), and Macy and Smalle (instrumental, with Eddie Lange, Joe Venuti, and Charles Magnante). There is also a surviving radio transcription of Phil Harris and His Orchestra performing “‘Long about Sundown” (v. Leah Ray).

Notes:

  1. As pointed out by “Trombonology Erstwhile” in a YouTube comment.

“I’ll Be the Same” (1930)

“I’ll Be the Same.” Composed by Jack Strachey. Recorded in London on June 5, 1930 by the Rhythm Maniacs under the musical direction of Arthur Lally with vocalist Maurice Elwin. Decca F-1814 mx. MB-1458-2.

Personnel: Arthur Lally-cl-as-bar dir. probably Norman Payne-Bill Shakespeare-t / Jock Fleming or Ted Heath-tb / Danny Polo-cl-as / Joe Jeanette-cl-ts / Claude Ivy-p / Joe Brannely-bj / Spike Hughes-sb / Bill Harty-d / Rudy Starita-vib-x / Maurice Elwin-v

The Rhythm Maniacs (v. Maurice Elwin) – “I’ll Be the Same” (1930)

I like to delve into songs’ origins, whether they be in London theater, Broadway, Tin Pan Alley, Hollywood, or elsewhere. Decca F-1814 presents a bit of a puzzle in this regard. The songwriter “Strachey” mentioned on its label would appear to be Jack Strachey, who wrote music for the theater and the music hall. His compositions would eventually see a fair amount of success; in later years he collaborated on “These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You). And yet Decca F-1814 seems to have the only known recordings of “I’ll Be the Same” and “Tell Me Over Again.” This one record is the sole testament that I can find to the songs’ ever having been written, which is strange, as they are both rather beautiful.

The title phrase “I’ll Be the Same” might at first appear to be an impossible pledge on the part of the singer never to change, advance, or decline (“You may alter; / I’ll be the same”). We gradually learn that he is actually promising fidelity in the face of inconstancy on the part of the song’s addressee. The song’s bittersweet theme is nicely expressed by the contrast between Maurice Elwin’s almost solemn interpretation of the lyrics and the exuberant instrumentals, which seem almost modern in their sensibility (and perhaps even in their volume level).

We should expect to see contrasts of this sort frequently when bandleader Arthur Lally uses Elwin as his vocalist. Elwin had the lion’s share of Lally vocals from 1929-1932, and sometimes his ability to sound serious and old-fashioned is comically juxtaposed with something silly and modern, such as Jack Jackson’s scatting. But in “I’ll Be the Same,” a tone of sincerity is actually called for thematically, and Elwin’s delivery of the vocal refrain makes this stylishly elegant recording surprisingly moving as well.

“Somebody Mighty Like You” (Two Versions; 1930)

“Somebody Mighty Like You” originated in the partially Technicolor 1929 musical film Paris, whose plot concerns an upper-crust American man who causes a scandal by falling in love with a French cabaret girl. Less than two minutes of the actual movie still exist, although the soundtrack survives on Vitaphone discs. Paris was based on the 1928 Broadway play of the same name, whose songs were all by Cole Porter. Strangely, very little Cole Porter material made it into the movie (some of it, such as “Let’s Do It [Let’s Fall in Love],” may have been deemed too racy). Instead, other songwriters, including Alfred Bryan and Eddie Ward, were brought in to write entirely new songs. Bryan and Ward’s “Somebody Mighty Like You” was introduced in the film by Irène Bordoni and Jack Buchanan (in his talking-picture debut).

I have not seen the full lyrics as they were used in the movie, but it is easy to get a sense of their contents by comparing different vocal refrain excerpts. There are two themes. First, the singer invokes the idea of an ideal lover that he has found in dreams, one who is “somebody mighty like [i.e., very much like]” the real-world lover that he is addressing. 1 Second, the singer appears to be highly frustrated by the beloved’s lack of reciprocation; this theme seems to have been edited out of many arrangements of the song. As it happens, Maurice Elwin ended up singing two vocal refrains of “Somebody Might Like You,” one without and one with the element of discontent.

“Somebody Mighty Like You.” Words by Alfred Bryan, music by Eddie Ward (1929). Recorded in London on January 16, 1930 by the Rhythm Maniacs under the musical direction of Arthur Lally with vocalist Maurice Elwin. Decca F-1586 mx. MB-855-2.

Personnel: Arthur Lally-cl-as-bar dir. Sylvester Ahola-Dennis Ratcliffe-t / Danny Polo-cl-as / Joe Crossman or Johnny Helfer-cl-ts / Claude Ivy-p / Joe Brannelly-bj / Tiny Stock-bb / Max Bacon-d-vib / Maurice Elwin-v

The Rhythm Maniacs (v. Maurice Elwin) – “Somebody Mighty Like You” (1930)
(Transfer by Henry Parsons)

Maurice Elwin’s usually restrained vocals sometimes contrast with the hotness of the bands he accompanies, but that is not so much the case in the Rhythm Maniacs’ version of “Somebody Mighty Like You.” This version is smooth and mellow by their standards, contrasting greatly with the flip side, the booming and slightly bizarre “Jus’ Keepin’ On.” The song is arranged in such a way that Maurice Elwin uses the higher end of his range; his voice sounds gentle and appropriately dreamy. The B part uses the lyrics

If I fell in your arms, dear, would you complain?
And would you smile and coax me to fall again?

The theme of frustration is absent, and Elwin is able to make a 35-second vocal refrain memorable for its sweetness.

“Paris — Selection” (Intro. “Miss Wonderful” / “Paris” / My Lover” / “Somebody Mighty Like You”). Recorded in Kingsway Hall, London on May 13, 1930 by the London Orchestra (dir. John Firman) with vocalist Maurice Elwin. Zonophone 5637.

Personnel: John Firman dir. Max Goldberg-another-t / Danny Polo-cl-as-bar / ?E. O. Pogson-cl-as / Johnny Helfer-cl-ts / Bert Read-p / Joe Brannelly-bj / Billy Bell-bb / Rudy Starita-d-vib-x / Charles W. Saxby-or / Maurice Elwin-v

Paris selection: “Miss Wonderful,” “Paris,” “My Lover,” “Somebody Mighty Like You.” London Orchestra directed by John Firman, with vocals by Maurice Elwin. Charles W. Saxby, organ. Recorded May 1930. Zonophone 5637.
(Transfer by John Wright)

Later in 1930, the London Orchestra, one of Zonophone’s studio bands under the direction of John Firman, recorded a medley of tunes from the movie Paris, all but one of which had been written by Alfred Bryan and Eddie Ward (“My Lover” is a Yellen-Ager composition). The recording session took place in the echoey Kingsway Hall, and the band was accompanied by an organ — overall the sound is very different from the comparatively dead acoustics of the Rhythm Maniacs’ Decca recording. The medley begins with a brief instrumental snatch of “Somebody Mighty Like You” and ends with Maurice Elwin actually singing it. Interestingly, this time his B part lyrics are

Why don't she try to coax me? I'll answer yes.
Fooling around provokes me. Why can't she guess?

One would expect Elwin to sound impatient singing these lines, and so he does. He does not sound as if he is happily drifting into a dream; rather, he seems mildly annoyed. I say mildly because the difference between the two vocals is subtle. A reserved singer, Elwin seldom overacts, but when he does, he makes quite an impression.

There was only one other dance band recording of “Somebody Mighty Like You” made in Britain, that of Jack Hylton and His Orchestra (v. Sam Browne). There were quite a few good American versions in 1929-1930, including those by Larry Siry and His Hotel Ambassador Orchestra (v. Charles Murray), Wayne King and His Orchestra (v. Ernie Birchill), the Carolina Club Orchestra (v. Hal Kemp, Saxie Dowell, and Skinnay Ennis), Tom Clines and His Music (v. Jack Carney), the Badgers (v. Scrappy Lambert), Joe Curran’s Band, John Vincent’s Californians (v. Rodman Lewis), and Sam Lanin and His Orchestra (v. Irving Kaufman).

Notes:

  1. Dorothy Fields and Jimmy McHugh would use the same idea the next year in “Exactly Like You.”

“Come Ye Back to Bonnie Scotland” (Two Versions; 1931 & 1932)

“Come Ye Back to Bonnie Scotland” was the signature tune of Henry Hall and His Gleneagles Hotel Band. Hall had formed the band at the LMS Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire, Scotland when it opened in 1924. They were frequently resident at the Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool and the Midland Hotel in Manchester during the off-season, but they always associated themselves first and foremost with Gleneagles.

The controller for LMS Hotels was one Arthur E. Towle, CBE, whose wife, Margery Lawrence, a fiction writer, penned the lyrics to “Come Ye Back to Bonnie Scotland.” Hall himself wrote the tune and arranged it. He had studied music at Trinity College of Music and had experience composing hymns for the Salvation Army.

“Come Ye Back to Bonnie Scotland.” Words by Margery Lawrence, music by Henry Hall (1931). Recorded in London on October 11, 1931 by Henry Hall and His Gleneagles Hotel Band. Decca F-2614 mx. GB-3431-1.

Personnel: Henry Hall-sp-a dir. Eddie Cromar-as-bar-vn / Cyril Wookey-cl-as-vn / Burton Gillis-cl-ts / Henry Reed-p / Theo Farrar-sb / Arthur Haydock-d-vib / Maurice Elwin-v

Henry Hall and His Gleneagles Hotel Band
“Come Ye Back to Bonnie Scotland (1931)
(Transfer by Henry Parsons)

We can hear Henry Hall’s gentle voice announce the tune “Come Ye Back to Bonnie Scotland” at the beginning of the recording on Decca F-2614; he does so as if for a radio broadcast. Then the orchestra comes in, loudly approximating the sound of bagpipes. Allusions to native Scottish music are not entirely rare in British dance band recordings, but the use of strings to imitate woodwind instruments would be a clever effect in any context.

It is arguably the voice of Maurice Elwin that gives this song its greatest source of Scottish authenticity. Born in Uddingston and educated in Glasgow, he was one of the Scottish voices most frequently heard on British records. What he does with the vocal refrain is impressive. While I do not wish to be too hard on the lyricist, the words that made it into this arrangement are little more than a laundry list of northern topographical details. And yet Elwin, singing them softly, as if solemnly and reverently assessing the natural beauty of his native region, produces an effect that is deeply moving. I am not the first to observe Elwin’s ability to convey sincerity, but here he evokes a sense of longing that is less evident in his other dance band recordings. It is as if the music, which is unusually pretty, has given Elwin the opportunity to show off a new facet of his art.

Decca F-2614 was among the last records that Hall released whose label mentioned the Midland Hotel, Manchester. We can see that the label of Decca F-2777, which has take 4 of “Come Ye Back to Bonnie Scotland” on it, lacks the hotel reference:

“Come Ye Back to Bonnie Scotland.” Recorded in London on January 10, 1932 by Henry Hall and His Gleneagles Hotel Band. Decca F-2777 mx. GB-3431-4.

Personnel: Henry Hall-a dir. Eddie Cromar-t-as-bar-v / t / tb / Cyril Wookey-cl-as-vn / Burton Gillis-cl-ts / Henry Reed-p / Theo Farrar-bb-sb / Arthur Haydock-d-vib / Maurice Elwin-v

Henry Hall and His Gleneagles Hotel Band (v. Maurice Elwin)
“Come Ye Back to Bonnie Scotland”
(Transfer by Henry Parsons)

Note that the matrix for this recording is the same as for the previous transfer, even though the two were recorded three months apart. Take 4 was originally used for late issues of Decca F-2614 and later assigned to F-2777. It is understandable that Decca treated it as a remake, as it is very similar to the original. It lacks Hall’s announcement at the beginning, and Henry Parsons has pointed out to me that the tenor sax is featured prominently after the vocal — an anticipation of a slightly later trend in US dance band arrangements.

Elwin seems to sing the refrain with greater boldness in this take. I would be tempted to attribute the difference to microphone placement, but we happen to know that Elwin was obsessed with his physical relationship to the microphone, 1 so any difference in vocal character was probably intentional. Personally, I prefer the earlier take as being slightly more subtle.

Around the time that the new take of “Come Ye Back to Bonnie Scotland” was recorded, Henry Hall was negotiating to become the BBC’S new bandleader. Jack Payne was about to end his tenure there, and Hall would begin broadcasting with his new band in mid-March. There would be no more Gleneagles Hotel Band, but it is nice that they managed to record their signature tune before being disbanded. They were not the only ones to do so, though; there exists a January 1932 recording of “Come Ye Back to Bonnie Scotland” by the Savoy Hotel Orpheans, then directed by Howard Jacobs, with vocalist Anona Winn. There is also a solo recording of the song by Maurice Elwin on Zonophone 6072.

Notes:

  1. Maurice Elwin, “Some Truths About Microphone Singing,” Rhythm, March 1934, 33.

“Nobody’s Using It Now” (1930)

“Nobody’s Using It Now.” Words by Clifford Grey, music by Victor Schertzinger. Composed for the film The Love Parade (1929). Recorded in London on March 31, 1930 by the Rhythm Maniacs under the musical direction of Arthur Lally with vocalist Maurice Elwin. Decca F-1716 mx. MB-1136-2.

Personnel: Arthur Lally-cl-as-bar dir. Norman Payne-probably Bill Shakespeare-t / Jock Fleming or Ted Heath-tb / Danny Polo-cl-as / Joe Jeannette-cl-ts / Claude Ivy-p / Joe Brannelly-bj / Spike Hughes-sb / Rudy Starita-d-vib-x / Maurice Elwin-v

The Rhythm Maniacs (v. Maurice Elwin) – “Nobody’s Using It Now” (1930)

“Nobody’s Using It Now” is but one of several memorable numbers from the musical comedy The Love Parade, Ernst Lubitsch’s first sound film. In the movie, Maurice Chevalier plays a military officer in Sylvania, a Ruritanian state located somewhere in Europe. He becomes prince consort to the queen — “a husband, and nothing else” — his nights busy and his days empty. Bereft of self-respect, the boyish, sexy Chevalier sings to the queen’s dog about how he would like a position of greater responsibility, although comically he keeps appealing to his talents in the bedroom as relevant qualifications. “[He’s] just wasting [his] youth,” he complains, “’cause nobody’s using it now.” As is the case with many Broadway and Hollywood tunes, if you take “Nobody’s Using It Now” out of its original context, its lyrics constitute a generic love song — the singer sounds merely lonely, not bored and disrespected like Chevalier.

In the Rhythm Maniacs’ version of “Nobody’s Using It Now,” Maurice Elwin gets a mere 25 seconds to sing the vocal refrain, but it is nonetheless memorable for its boldness. Particularly noteworthy is his ascent into his upper register with “no, no, no, NO!” It puts Elwin’s performance into the same comical territory as Chevalier’s original (the latter goes implausibly low in his intro). Elwin’s quickly delivered vocal at the beginning of the recording sets the fast pace for this up-tempo and loud early Decca recording, whose arrangement is infectiously catchy.

There were many medleys inspired by The Love Parade and Maurice Chevalier’s singing in general, and the Rhythm Maniacs themselves would do a reprise of “Nobody’s Doing it Now” later in 1930 in “Maurice Chevalier — Selection” (v. Fred Douglas). There were other British dance band versions of “Nobody’s Doing It Now” in 1930 by Jack Hylton and His Orchestra (who recorded a full version with Sam Browne on the vocals, and an instrumental excerpt in a medley), Cecil Norman’s Savoy Plaza Band (v. Cavan O’Connor), Bidgood’s Symphonic Dance Band (in a medley with vocals by Patrick Waddington, followed soon after by a full version — under the band name Al Benny’s Broadway Boys — with vocalist Sam Browne), Jack Payne and His BBC Dance Orchestra (who did an instrumental treatment in a medley), Nat Star (v. Tom Barratt), the Midnight Minstrels (dir. Stan Greening; as an instrumental in a medley), the Debroy Somers Band (v. Tom Barratt), and Jack Leon’s band (as an instrumental in a medley).

“Figaro” (1930)

“Figaro.” Words by Sidney D. Mitchell, music by Otto Motzan (1928). Recorded in Chelsea, London on May 20, 1930 by the Rhythm Maniacs under the musical direction of Arthur Lally with vocals by Maurice Elwin. Decca F-1799.

Personnel: Arthur Lally-cl-as-bar dir. probably Norman Payne-Bill Shakespeare-t / Jock Fleming or Ted Heath-tb / Danny Polo-cl-as / Joe Jeanette-cl-ts / Claude Ivy-p / Joe Brannelly-bj / Bill Harty-d / Rudy Starita-vib-x / Maurice Elwin-v / ?Jack Jackson-sc

The Rhythm Maniacs – “Figaro” (1930)
Transfer by Henry Parsons

Did the Rhythm Maniacs just reference the Figaro of Rossini’s Barber of Seville? They did, but only obliquely, as it turns out. The original lyrics of Mitchell and Motzan’s “Figaro” refer not to a Barber of Seville, but rather to a barber of Greenwich Village who likes to sing “Figaro, Figaro, Figaro” 1 (whereas the Bidgood’s Broadcasters version relocates its “Figaro” to Saffron Hill, a London street housing Italian immigrants). In the Rhythm Maniacs version of “Figaro,” then, Maurice Elwin is not singing about the opera character Figaro, but about someone who thinks that he can sing opera.

The vocal refrain that Elwin is given is so short, at thirty-three seconds, that he does not get to specify who his “Figaro” is or where he lives and works. The lyrical excerpt has been torn from its context in the Mitchell-Motzan “Figaro,” so the repetition of “Figaro, Figaro, Figaro” and the general spirit of boasting that Elwin projects might actually lead us to recall the opening scenes of Rossini’s opera rather than the barber in New York or London. Elwin sings some generalities about “Figaro’s” attractiveness to the opposite sex and states that he is “the king of all.”

But Elwin ends up seeming like the straight man in a joke, as he is upstaged by another vocalist engaging in purposely comical scat. Rust and Forbes do not mention Jack Jackson’s presence at this session, but it sounds like him. One of the reasons that the scat sounds so awkward is that there is an additional joke of some sort embedded in it. Tim Machin of the Facebook Golden Age of British Dance Bands group is right, I think, to make out something like “Napoleon…one arm…could have been Nelson” embedded in amongst all the nonsensical vocalizations, and Nick Dellow suggests that there could even be a reference to the 1920s song “Why Sell Kippers in Pairs?” which has the line “Lord Nelson only had one eye and one arm, / So why sell kippers in pairs?” 2

Other British dance bands who recorded “Figaro” in 1930 were the Savoy Orpheans (directed at the time by Ben Loban; v. Cavan O’Connor and chorus), Arthur Roseberry and His Dance Band (v. Leslie Holmes and chorus), the Debroy Somers Band (v. Tom Barratt), Jack Leon’s Dance Band (v. Jimmy Allen), Nat Star and His Dance Orchestra (as Selwyn’s Dance Orchestra; v. Tom Barratt), The Rhythmic Eight (directed by John Firman), the New Mayfair Dance Orchestra (dir. Ray Noble; v. Leonard Henry and Wally Vernon), Hal Swain and His Band (v. Fred Douglas), and (as mentioned above) Bidgood’s Broadcasters (as Ted Summer’s Dance Devils; v. Leslie Rome).

Jonathan Holmes Interview

People who read my website are likely to be familiar with my good friend Jonathan Holmes, whose journalism, general music advocacy, and YouTube channel have made him almost synonymous with British dance band music:

Jonathan Holmes
Jonathan Holmes

Jonathan interviewed me yesterday for his “British Dance Music Programme.” We played Elsie Carlisle songs, discussed her art, life, and career, and chatted about the elsiecarlisle.com website that I’ve been running for the past seven years. We also talked a little about Maurice Elwin and my plans for this website. The interview will be broadcast several times tomorrow, Friday, February 26, on Phonotone Classic. Check  out their website to tune in; I should be on at

2 a.m. (PST)6 a.m. (PST)10 a.m. (PST)2 p.m. (PST)6 p.m. (PST)10 p.m. (PST)
phonotoneclassic.com
British Dance Band Programme 116 (Interview With Alex Kozak)

“You’re Mine, You” (1933)

“You’re Mine, You.” Words by Edward Heyman, music by Johnny Green (1933). Recorded in London on May 25, 1933 by Carroll Gibbons and the Savoy Hotel Orpheans with vocals by Maurice Elwin. Columbia CB-620.

Personnel: Carroll Gibbons-p dir. Bill Shakespeare-Billy Higgs-t / Arthur Fenoulhet-t-tb / Paul Fenoulhet-tb / Sam Acres-tb / George Melachrino-cl-as-vn / Laurie Payne-cl-as-bar / George Smith-ts / Ben Frankel-vn / Sid Bright-2nd p / Harry Sherman-g / Jack Evetts-sb / Rudy Starita-d-vib-x / Maurice Elwin-v / Stanley Andrews-a

Carroll Gibbons and the Savoy Hotel Orpheans (v. Maurice Elwin)
“You’re Mine, You” (1933)
(Transfer by Charles Hippisley-Cox)

I usually think of Maurice Elwin’s vocal personas as being so wholesome that I am almost surprised to hear him sing the lyrics of “You’re Mine, You”:

I own you:
I don't need to buy love;
You're a slave to my love.
In every way, you're mine.

Elwin sings these words with a surprising intensity. I am also struck by how well he sings the higher notes. He has some of the smoothness that I associate with his friend Jack Plant, but Elwin’s voice is less stylized and thus potentially more relatable. I have to admit that the first time I heard his voice, I thought he sounded like a bemused Sunday school teacher, but here he proves that he can evoke a sense of romantic passion and make it sound genuine.

One cannot write about “You’re Mine, You” without mentioning Al Bowlly’s recording of it with Ray Noble and His Orchestra. There is not much reason to think of Elwin’s version as having influenced Al Bowlly; the latter is unlikely to have heard it before recording the song himself. I find absolutely nothing lacking in Al Bowlly’s rendition of “You’re Mine, You”; it is one of his best songs. I think it is therefore great praise to say that, compared to Bowlly, Elwin holds his own. We know that Elwin himself had the highest regard for Bowlly’s talent and praised him publicly in the most admirable terms. 1

“You’re Mine, You” was recorded in America in 1933 by Gertrude Niesen and by Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians (v. Carmen Lombardo). In Britain, in addition to the Ray Noble/Al Bowlly recording, versions were made by Howard Flynn and His Orchestra (v. Bobby Sanders), Jack Hylton and His Orchestra (v. Pat O’Malley), and Syd Lipton’s New Grosvenor House Band (v. Cyril Grantham).

Notes:

  1. Maurice Elwin, “We Should Not Let Al Bowlly Go!” Rhythm, October 1934. Many thanks to Terry Brown for sharing this article with me.