"Nobody's Using It Now" (1930)

“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).

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