Since I seem obsessed lately by the idea of looking up old charts, here’s the Your Hit Parade singles chart for February 8, 1936, courtesy of this site, which looks like a wonderful resource (pay no attention to the old-school GeoCities style web design).
Darling! Let’s dance! Don’t think about Hitler and the rumours of war! I can practically see the men in tuxedos with brilliantined hair and the women in fancy dresses dancing the fox trot or whatever it is that people danced to in 1936 (note to self: do more research). This song’s air of sophistication is both improved and spoiled by vocalist Cliff Weston, who sounds both refined and nasal.
Aha! According to the label, they did do the fox trot in 1936! This song features the same muted trumpet as the last song, but also features violin and saxophone solos. As with “Alone”, I liked the song until the vocalist came in. Mr. Sherwood sounds a bit too unctuous for my taste. (How often does the opportunity to use the word “unctuous” come along?) But then there’s a tasteful piano solo, and a bunch more Gatsbyesque brass, so I mostly forgive him. “Moon Over Miami” was recorded by a whole bunch of people, including Ray Charles, Bing Crosby, Sarah Vaughan, and Glenn Miller’s orchestra.
I am beginning to realize that all songs from 1936 sound more or less the same – or, more accurately, that they all used the same set of instruments (just like everybody in 1986 used the same synthesizer sound). This one uses the same muted trumpet lead as the others, but sounds a bit more cartoony – it sounds like it would fit in well as an intro to a Warner Brothers short. Vocalist Lee Bennett has a smooth, suave bass voice, and overphrases his vocals with the air of someone who knows that he has a smooth, suave bass voice. My least favourite so far.
Another fox trot – it was very helpful of the record companies to indicate the type of dance for the record! Eddy and his orchestra sound a bit more muted this time out. Yet again, I enjoyed the music, but just don’t appreciate the vocal (by Lew Sherwood again). There’s more piano in this one than in the others that we have heard so far. I kind of liked the piano, but turned it off before the vocal came in again.
This one was cuter than the others, as if the orchestra was having fun playing with the musical style. A trio handles the vocals. This sounds more like it would be played in a vaudeville hall than in a fancy dining room. The least annoying vocals so far.
The music goes round and round, and so do the wheels on the bus!
We’re back to the fancy dining room again, but things are a little more frenetic now. This is more jazzy than the others, and I liked it better (though I did stop it at 2:46). Lead vocalist Edythe Wright performed with the Tommy Dorsey orchestra from 1935 to 1939, but doesn’t seem to have done much after the war. She died of pancreatic cancer in 1965 at the far too young age of 51.
I am getting a bit orchestra fatigued by now. This is another conveniently labelled Fox Trot. Vocalist Stuart Allen has a tenorish voice and that affected “I am an Artiste” sound that seems to have been popular back then. I think I want to return to my own time soon. Only three to go!
Another fox trot, this time with actual violins as well as the usual muted trumpet and brass. At least this one sounds a bit different. Stuart Allen sounds like he did in #7 – I can almost hear the hair pomade. He doesn’t have a Wikipedia entry, so he is in the process of being lost to history despite having two entries on this chart.
Were all the songs fox trots back then? The poor guy in this song just got dumped for no reason – he has apparently been accused of cheating even though he claims he didn’t do it. Life is dreadfully unfair at times! I liked the vocal better than some of the others, but by now I am all orchestra’d out. Al Bowlly was from South Africa, and was killed in London by a Luftwaffe parachute mine in 1941. “Dinner For One, Please James” was covered by Nat King Cole, among others.
This one is on the Brunswick label, which does not explicitly state that this is a fox trot. It’s good to know that dancers now have the freedom of choice. This one is a bit more muted than some of the others, but perhaps I am just muted. No more orchestras, please! I am glad that I live in 2016 and not 1936. Lead vocalist Maxine Grey doesn’t have a Wikipedia page, so I will never get to find out anything about her.