“Who Cares?” (1930). Words by Rowland Leigh, music by Norman Hackforth. Composed for Charlot’s Masquerade (1930). Recorded in London on October 4, 1930 by Percival Mackey and His Band with vocalist Maurice Elwin. Columbia CB-145 mx. WA-17034-1.
Personnel: Percival Mackey dir. Jack Jackson-Andy Richardson-t / Ben Oakley-tb / Chester Smith-another?-cl-as / George Smith-ts / Dave Fish-vn / Pat Dodd-p / Bob Martin-bj-g / Jim Bellamy-bb-sb / Bill Harty-d
Percival Mackey’s “Who Cares?” (with its vocal chorus by Maurice Elwin) is a truly impressive treatment of a comparatively obscure song from “Charlot’s Masquerade,” which played at the Cambridge Theatre for only ten weeks in late 1930 — a comparative failure, though surviving silent footage of it leads me to believe that at least parts of it must have been mesmerizingly beautiful. The cast was impressive enough: the names Beatrice Lillie, Constance Carpenter, Florence Desmond, and Patrick Waddington are still familiar — less so that of Philip Lorner, an up-and-coming actor who impressed at least one reviewer with how he sang the closing number, “Who Cares?” 1 It is not clear to me that Lorner’s career really did go anywhere after that, and unfortunately his one dance band recording with the Four Brights Sparks (“Let’s Go Native”) was rejected by Columbia. His co-star Patrick Waddington did release a beautiful version of “Who Cares?” that preserves the intro, which makes its way into the compelling dance band arrangement of Percival Mackey, right after Maurice Elwin sings the refrain.
The song is about love’s being able to transcend all adversities. Elwin’s delivery is mellifluous and seems effortless, but more than anything he sounds sincere. There is a pleasant interplay between the elegant simplicity of his vocal refrain and the sophisticated complexity of the arrangement used by Mackey.
Other British dance bands to record “Who Cares?” in 1930 were Jack Leon’s Dance Band (v. Jack Plant) and the Original Havana Band (as the Rhythm Maniacs; v. Len Lees). Leslie Norman’s Radio Revellers (v. Jack Plant) would record the song in early 1931.
- “London Theatres,” The Stage, September 11, 1930, BNA. The reviewer seems to be under the impression that the song is titled “Who Cares — If Love Be There?” whereas the lyrics that we have are “Who cares? — as long as there’s love.” ↩