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Thursday, December 6, 2018

Out of Nowhere

By Johnny Green and Edward Heyman (pictured)
1931

From the same team responsible for "Body and Soul" and "I Cover the Waterfront" came this song, which turned out to be Bing Crosby's first solo #1 hit when he recorded it for Brunswick Records in March 1931. It would continue to be closely associated with Bing, although it eventually became a widely recorded jazz standard. Interestingly, the harmonic progression of this tune can be found in several other compositions, including Gigi Gryce's "Sans Souci" and Alexander Courage's classic theme to the original Star Trek TV series. It is also a favorite of Woody Allen's, popping up in three of his films: 1993's Manhattan Murder Mystery (Coleman Hawkins version), 1997's Deconstructing Harry (Django Reinhardt version) and 1999's Sweet and Lowdown (Dick Hyman version).

Lyrics:
You came to me from out of nowhere 
you took my heart and found it free
Wonderful dreams, wonderful schemes from nowhere
Made every hour sweet as a flower to me
And if you should go back to your nowhere 
Leaving me with a memory
I'll always wait for your return out of nowhere
Hoping you'll bring your love to me
When I least expected, kindly faith directed
You to make each dream of mine come true
And if it's clear or raining, there is no explaining
Things just happened and so did you
You came to me from out of nowhere
You took my heart and you found it free
Wonderful dreams, wonderful schemes from nowhere
Made every hour sweet as a flower to me
Recorded By:

Dave Brubeck
Lena Horne
Ella Fitzgerald
Vic Damone
Art Tatum



Sunday, December 2, 2018

Jeepers Creepers

By Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer
1938

One of the catchiest songs of the World War II generation, and a song that remains in the mainstream consciousness to this day, "Jeepers Creepers" was written for the movie, Going Places, in which Louis Armstrong is the trainer of a horse named Jeepers Creepers (an old slang euphemism for Jesus Christ), who can only get the horse under control by playing the song for him. It was nominated for the Oscar for Best Song, losing to "Thanks for the Memory". Since then it has been revisited countless times, in Warner Bros. cartoons, and in later films (including Yankee Doodle Dandy, in which a bunch of teens sing it, much to the chagrin of James Cagney's old-fashioned James M. Cohan). It even had an unlikely renaissance in the 2001 horror film of the same name, in which the song heralds the appearance of the murderous creature known as "The Creeper". With its bouncy Warren tune and irresistible Mercer lyrics, it's not tough to see why it has endured so long.

Lyrics:
Oh, jeepers creepers, where'd ya get those peepers?
Jeepers creepers, where'd ya get those eyes?
Oh, gosh all, git up, how'd they get so lit up?
Gosh all, git up, how'd they get that size?
Oh, golly gee, when you turn those heaters on
Woe is me, got to put my cheaters on
Jeepers creepers, where'd ya get those peepers?
Oh, those weepers, how they hypnotize!
Oh, where'd ya get those eyes?
Recorded By:

Johnny Mercer
Frank Sinatra
Al Caiola
Dave Brubeck
Tony Bennett

Sunday, November 25, 2018

You and the Night and the Music

By Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz
1934

With today being the birthday of the legendary songwriter Arthur Schwartz (father of longtime radio legend Jonathan Schwartz), it seems only right to spotlight a classic Schwartz song. This is one of the most famous collaborations Schwartz made with his regular lyricist partner, Howard Dietz. Although today it's considered one of Schwartz' great triumphs, the song came from a show that was mostly unremarkable: Revenge with Music, in which it was introduced by Georges Metaxa and Libby Holman. But there was certainly something special about the haunting tune, which was later brought back in the 1953 movie musical The Band Wagon, which featured a cavalcade of Schwartz/Dietz songs.

Lyrics:
You and the night and the music
Fill me with flaming desire
Setting my being completely on fire
You and the night and the music
Thrill me but will we be one
After the night and the music are done?
Until the pale light of dawning and daylight 
Our hearts will be throbbing guitars
Morning may come without warning
And take away the stars

If we must live for the moment
Love till the moment is through
After the night and the music die
Will I have you?
Recorded By:

Mel Torme
Frank Sinatra
Julie London
Jackie Gleason Orchestra
Vic Damone

Monday, November 19, 2018

Hooray for Hollywood

By Richard A. Whiting and Johnny Mercer
1937

The unofficial theme song of the entire film industry, much of the song's enduring popularity can be attributed to Mercer's clever lyric lampooning the notion of celebrity. Since being introduced by Johnnie Davis and Frances Langford (with the Benny Goodman Orchestra) in the musical comedy Hollywood Hotel, it has gone on to become the regular soundtrack for the Academy Awards and other movie award shows. It was also notably the closing theme of Jack Benny's enormously popular radio show.

Lyrics:
Hooray for Hollywood
That screwy ballyhooey Hollywood
Where any office boy or young mechanic can be a panic
With just a good looking pan
And any barmaid can be a star maid
If she dances with or without a fan

Hooray for Hollywood,
Where you're terrific if you're even good
Where anyone at all from Shirley Temple to Aimee Semple
Is equally understood
Go out and try your luck, you might be Donald Duck
Hooray for Hollywood

Hooray for Hollywood
That phoney super-Coney Hollywood
They come from Chillicothes and Paducas with their bazookas
To get their names up in lights
All armed with photos from local rotos
With their hair in ribbon and legs in tights

Hooray for Hollywood
You may be homely in your neighbourhood
But if you think that you can be an actor, see Mr. Factor
He'll make a monkey look good
Within a half an hour you'll look like Tyrone Power
Hooray for Hollywood!
Recorded By:

Doris Day
Anita O'Day
Rosemary Clooney
Nancy Sinatra
Don Swan

Sunday, November 18, 2018

I Didn't Know About You

By Duke Ellington and Bob Russell
1944

One of several Ellington big band tunes for which long-time collaborator Russell (pictured) wrote accompanying lyrics. Duke first composed the melody as an instrumental in 1943, and recorded it under the title "Sentimental Lady" with his band for radio broadcast, and when lyrics were added, he recorded it again at the end of 1944 with Joya Sherrill on vocals. However, they were beaten to it a few weeks earlier by Paul Weston's Orchestra, which introduced the song with Jo Stafford and the Pied Pipers on vocals. A wistful jazz favorite, it has occasionally still been recorded over the years under the "Sentimental Lady" banner (perhaps as a connection to Ellington's "Sophisticated Lady").

Lyrics:

I ran around, with my own little crowd
The usual laughs, not often, but loud
And in the world that I knew
I didn't know about you

Chasing after the ring, on the merry-go-round
Just taking my fun, where it could be found
And yet what else could I do
I didn't know about you

Darling, now I know
I had the loneliest yesterday, everyday
In your arms
I know for once in my life, I'm living

Had a good time, everytime I went out
Romance was a thing, I kidded about
How could I know about love
I didn't know about you


Recorded By:

Ella Fitzgerald
June Christy
Woody Herman
Count Basie
Lena Horne

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Love Is Blue

By Andre Popp, Pierre Cour and Bryan Blackburn
1967

This "easy listening" classic began life as the French song "L'amour est bleu" by Popp and Cour, introduced by Greek vocalist Vicky Leandros as part of the 1967 Eurovision Song Contest. The following year, Blackburn would add English lyrics, first recorded by Ray Coniff. But by far the most memorable version of the song would be from French orchestra leader Paul Mauriat. Mauriat's haunting version, steeped in the "baroque pop" aesthetic that briefly reigned in the late 1960s, soared to number one on the American charts, becoming the first record by a French artist to do so. Alongside Percy Faith's recording of "Theme from a Summer Place", it is probably the most popular pop instrumental of all time.

Lyrics: 
Blue, blue, my world is blue
Blue is my world now I'm without you
Gray, gray, my life is gray
Cold is my heart since you went away
Red, red, my eyes are red
Crying for you alone in my bed
Green, green, my jealous heart
I doubted you and now we're apart
When we met how the bright sun shone
Then love died, now the rainbow is gone
Black, black, the nights I've known
Longing for you so lost and alone
Recorded By:
Al Martino
Lawrence Welk and His Orchestra
Nancy Wilson
Jerry Vale
Andre Kostelanetz and His Orchestra

Friday, November 9, 2018

I've Got Beginner's Luck

By George and Ira Gerswhin
1937

As with many classic songs, this one was written specifically for Fred Astaire to sing on film. In this case, it was for the 1937 musical Shall We Dance, for which the Gershwins wrote a whole suite of tunes. Ironically, although Astaire introduced the song, the first recording of it would be made by the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra a few months before the movie actually came out. Nearly 80 years later, the song would also be included in a Broadway musical inspired by the works of the Gershwins--An American in Paris (despite the fact that it was not part of the original 1951 film.)

Lyrics: 
At any gambling casino
From Monte Carlo to Reno,
They tell you that a beginner
Comes out a winner.
Beginner fishing for flounder
Will catch a seventeen pounder;
That's what I've always heard
And always thought absurd,
But now I believe every word!
For I've got beginner's luck;
The first time I'm in love
I'm in love with you,
Gosh I'm lucky!
I've got beginner's luck;
There never was such a smile
Or such eyes of blue,
Gosh I'm fortunate!
This thing we've begun
Is much more than a pastime,
For this time is the one
Where the first time is the last time!
I've got beginner's luck,
Lucky through and through,
For the first time that I'm in love,
I'm in love with you!
Recorded By:
Bobby Short
Ella Fitzgerald
Maureen McGovern
Chris Connor
Tommy Dorsey

Thursday, November 8, 2018

I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire

By Bennie Benjamin, Eddie Durham, Sol Marcus and Eddie Seiler
1938

Although written before World War II, this love ballad became an anthem of separated wartime couples due to the fact that it wasn't recorded until just prior to the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941, and due to its lyrics about "setting the world on fire". The song was introduced by Harlan Leonard and His Rockets, but the major number one hit came soon after from Horace Heidt. The Ink Spots (pictured) had a number-three hit with it, but it's this version that is perhaps best know today. Oddly enough, it inspired a 1988 recording by the heavy metal band Megadeth called "Set the World Afire".

Lyrics: 
I don't want to set the world on fire
I just want to start a flame in your heart
In my heart I have but one desire
And that one is you, no other will do
I've lost all ambition for worldly acclaim
I just want to be the one you love
And with your admission that you'd feel the same
I'll have reached the goal I'm dreaming of, believe me
I don't want to set the world on fire
I just want to start a flame in your heart
Recorded By:
Frankie Laine
Betty Carter
Vera Lynn
Fats Domino
Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Button Up Your Overcoat

By Ray Hernderon, B.G. DeSylva and Lew Brown
1928

Although Ruth Etting was the first to record this song, it was the version recorded a few months later by Helen Kane, the cutesy-voiced singer who inspired Betty Boop, that made the song a major hit. It would also be featured in the 1929 Broadway musical Follow Thru, as well as the film of the following year. Although it would always be identified as a song very much of the 1920s, it would be regularly brought back as a nostalgia piece by artists of later decades.

Lyrics: 
Listen, big boy
Now that you got me made
Goodness, but I'm afraid
Somethin's gonna happen to you
Listen, big boy
You gotta be hooked, and how
I would die if I should lose you now
Button up your overcoat
When the wind is free
Take good care of yourself
You belong to me
Eat an apple every day
Get to bed by three
Oh, take good care of yourself
You belong to me
Be careful crossing streets, ooh, ooh
Cut out sweets, ooh, ooh
Lay off meat, ooh, ooh
You'll get a pain and ruin your tum-tum
Wear your flannel underwear
When you climb a tree
Oh, take good care of yourself
You belong to me
Button up your overcoat
When the wind is free
Oh, take good care of yourself
You belong to me
Boop-boop-a-doop
When you sass a traffic cop
Use diplomacy
Just take good care of yourself
You belong to me
Beware of frozen funds, ooh, ooh
Stocks and bonds, ooh, ooh
Dockside thugs, ooh, ooh
You'll get a pain and ruin your bankroll
Keep the spoon out of your cup
When you're drinking tea
Oh, take good care of yourself
You belong to me
Don't sit on hornet's tails, ooh, ooh
Or on nails, ooh, ooh
Or third rails, ooh, ooh
You'll get a pain and ruin your tum-tum
Keep away from bootleg hooch
When you're on a spree
Oh, take good care of yourself
You belong to me
Recorded By:
Sarah Vaughan
Paul Whiteman
Connie Francis
Johnny Mercer
Bing Crosby

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Mean to Me

By Fred E. Ahlert and Roy Turk
1929

From the tail end of the Roaring '20s comes this sad, plaintive ballad with a clever lyric by Roy Turk which plays on the double meaning of the word "mean". It was introduced by Annette Hanshaw (pictured), considered in the early '30s to be the female equivalent of Bing Crosby. Ruth Etting also scored a major hit with it later that year. The melody would also be featured that year in the Krazy Kat cartoon "Ratskin", the first animated short produced by Columbia Pictures.

Lyrics: 
You're mean to me
Why must you be mean to me?
Gee, honey, it seems to me
You love to see me cryin'
I don't know why
I stay home each night
When you say you phone
You don't and I'm left alone.
Sing the blues and sighin'
You treat me coldly each day in the year
You always scold me
Whenever somebody is near, dear
I must be great fun to be mean to me
You shouldn't, for can't you see
What you mean to me
Recorded By:
Dean Martin
Robert Goulet
Ella Fitzgerald
Billie Holiday
Anita O'Day

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Only the Lonely

By Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn
1958

Although often remembered as the greatest vocal interpreter of popular song, Frank Sinatra also had a number of memorable songs written specifically for him, and this may have been the very most memorable. As he often did, the Chairman turned to close friends Van Heusen and Cahn to write for him a title song for his new ballad album in 1958, an album that would otherwise be filled with long-popular old chestnuts like "One for My Baby", "Willow Weep for Me" and "Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry". This stark and wistful number was the perfect title track for what many consider Sinatra's greatest album--and one that has recently gotten a stellar new 60th anniversary re-release.

Lyrics: 

Each place I go only the lonely go
Some little small cafè
The songs I know only the lonely know
Each melody recalls a love that used to be


The dreams I dream only the lonely dream
Of lips as warm as may
That hopeless scheme only the lonely scheme
That soon somewhere you'll find the one that used to care


And you recall each fun time
Those picnics at the beach when love was new
It well could be the one time
A hopeless little dream like that comes true


If you find love hang on to each caress
And never let love go
For when it's gone you'll know the loneliness
The heartbreak only the lonely know

Recorded By:
Aretha Franklin
Shirley Horn
Iggy Pop
Tierney Sutton
Diana Krall

Friday, November 2, 2018

Ten Cents a Dance

By Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart
1930

This song tells the melancholy tale of a "taxi dancer"--women who were employed in the early 20th century in dance halls in which male customers paid to dance with them. It was introduced by the legendary Ruth Etting in the Florenz Ziegfeld-produced stage musical Simple Simon. Etting replaced Lee Morse, the actress for whom the song was written, when Morse showed up to the Boston premiere intoxicated. Etting later had a major hit with the song, and the following year it inspired a film starring Barbara Stanwyck. Doris Day performed the song in the 1955 Etting biopic, Love Me or Leave Me.

Lyrics: 
I work at the Palace ballroom, but gee that palace is cheap
When I get back to my chilly hall room, I'm much too tired to sleep
I'm one of those lady teachers, a beautiful hostess you knowOne that the palace features, at exactly a dime a throw.
Ten cents a dance, that's what they pay me
Gosh how they weigh me down.Ten cents a dance, pansies and rough guys, tough guys who tear my gown.
Seven to midnight I hear drums, loudly the saxophone blows,
Trumpets are tearing my ear-drums, customers crush my toes.
Sometimes I think, I've found my hero
But it's a queer romanceAll that you need is a ticket,
Come on big boy, ten cents a dance.
Fighters and sailers and bow-legged tailors
Can pay for their tickets & rent me
Butchers and barbers and rats from the harbor
Are sweethearts my good luck has sent me
Thought I've a chorus of elderly bows
Stockings are porous with holes at the toes
I'm here till closing time
Dance and be merry it's only a dime
Sometimes I think, I've found my hero
But it's a queer romance
All that you need is a ticket.
Come on, come on big boy, ten cents a dance.

Recorded By:
Ella Fitzgerald
Anita O'Day
Shirley Horn
Twiggy
Ralph Sharon Trio

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Monster Mash

By Leonard Capizzi and Bobby Pickett
1962

A Halloween staple ever since it was first recorded in the summer of 1962, "Monster Mash" might well be the song most associated with the spooky season to this day. Pickett, an aspiring actor and member of the band The Cordials, had been entertaining audiences with his Boris Karloff impression when bandmate Capizzi had the idea of building a novelty song around said impression. Born out of the dance fad craze of the era, the "Monster Mash" was intended to lampoon such popular dances as the "mashed potato". The original record went to number-one during Halloween week of 1962, and has been re-released several times, and even recorded by other horror icons Vincent Price and punk band the Misfits.

Lyrics: 
I was working in the lab late one night
When my eyes beheld an eerie sight
For my monster from his slab began to rise
And suddenly to my surprise
He did the mash
He did the monster mash
The monster mash
It was a graveyard smash
He did the mash
It caught on in a flash
He did the mash
He did the monster mash
From my laboratory in the castle east
To the master bedroom where the vampires feast
The ghouls all came from their humble abodes
To get a jolt from my electrodes
They did the mash
They did the monster mash
The monster mash
It was a graveyard smash
They did the mash
It caught on in a flash
They did the mash
They did the monster mash
The zombies were having fun
The party had just begun
The guests included Wolf Man
Dracula and his son
The scene was rockin', all were digging the sounds
Igor on chains, backed by his baying hounds
The coffin-bangers were about to arrive
With their vocal group, "The Crypt-Kicker Five"
They played the mash
They played the monster mash
The monster mash
It was a graveyard smash
They played the mash
It caught on in a flash
They played the mash
They played the monster mash
Out from his coffin, Drac's voice did ring
Seems he was troubled by just one thing
He opened the lid and shook his fist
And said, "Whatever happened to my Transylvania twist"
It's now the mash
It's now the monster mash
The monster mash
And it's a graveyard smash
It's now the mash
It's caught on in a flash
It's now the mash
It's now the monster mash
Now everything's cool, Drac's a part of the band
And my monster mash is the hit of the land
For you, the living, this mash was meant too
When you get to my door, tell them Boris sent you
Then you can mash
Then you can monster mash
The monster mash
And do my graveyard smash
Then you can mash
You'll catch on in a flash
Then you can mash
Then you can monster mash

Recorded By:
Bobby "Boris" Pickett
The Beach Boys
Vincent Price
The Misfits
Zacherley

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Say It Isn't So

By Irving Berlin
1932

This wonderful song was almost lost to the mists of time. Enduring a career downturn in the early 1930s, an unconfident Irving Berlin stuffed it away in a drawer, thinking it unworthy. Fortunately, one of his employees thought highly of it and brought it to the most established radio star in America, Rudy Vallee, who performed it on the air and made it an instant hit. The first studio recording was made by George Nelson and his Orchestra, and it soared to #1 on the charts. Ozzie Nelson would also have a top ten hit with it that same year. This song, along with "How Deep Is the Ocean", helped launch Berlin back to prominence.

Lyrics: 
Say it isn't so,
Say it isn't so,
Everyone is saying
You don't love me,
Say it isn't so.
Everywhere I go,
Everyone I know,Whispers that you're growing tired of me,
Say it isn't so.
People say that you,Found somebody new,
And it won't be long
Before you leave me,
Say it isn't true,
Say that everything is still okay,
That's all I want to know,
And what they're saying,
Say it isn't so.
Recorded By:

Connie Boswell
Joe Williams
Aretha Franklin
Stan Kenton
Dinah Washington

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