NOTES FROM THE ALLEY

Now that the madness of America’s interminable election season is over, it’s time to get back to the saner things in life. It has been a while since I devoted an entire post to a subject which is right down my (Tin Pan) Alley, namely the Golden Age of Popular Music (between WWI and WWII). I assume that, unlike me, few (if any) of you were alive during that era….but, since I feel reasonably certain you wouldn’t miss that opportunity again if you had the chance, I forgive you for such a lamentable shortcoming.

Speaking of lament-able, I’ll start with a song written toward the end of the era by a 15 year old wunderkind, Mel Tormé, who went on to decades-long fame as a jazz vocalist:

For those who are unfamiliar with the term TIN PAN ALLEY, I quote excerpts from a 1975 book of that title by researcher Ian Whitcomb about the beginnings of pop music:
The name “Tin Pan Alley” applied to the railroad flats around 28th and Broadway in NYC where the music publishing houses were clustered. Around the 1890’s a canny bunch of businessmen, keenly aware of the new mass-market created by the Industrial Revolution, decided to manufacture songs. They fed theaters and parlors, cafes and dance halls with their wares. By 1910 The Alleymen had pushed hundreds of songs into million-selling sheets. These tall piano copies, fronted with colored art-work and spotted with ads for other songs, were the sole pop moneymakers until records, radio and talking pictures became the chief pop vehicles.

This brings us to the period immediately following the end of WWI on Nov. 11, 1918, and to one of the biggest hits of the next year, when our doughboys were returning home by the hundreds of thousands from the battle fronts of Europe and the pleasure fronts of Paris. With un peu d’imagination, perhaps you can appreciate the question….

Two years later (1921), song writers were still asking questions, including this one posed by its composer Richard Whiting (whose birthday was three days ago, Nov. 12, 1891), sung here by his daughter and Bob Hope:

Of course, the above words and recordings have barely scratched the surface of  the sounds you would have savored had you been around in those days (and make no mistake, that music would have seduced you as much then as today’s music seduces you now). And so on that note….

(TO BE CONTINUED)

 

 

 

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31 comments on “NOTES FROM THE ALLEY

  1. scifihammy says:

    What a lovely post. 🙂 They really don’t make music like this any more!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. painkills2 says:

    It’s all about electronic music now. Well, not all, but a lot. I feel like an old grandma complaining about young people’s music, but electronic music hurts my ears. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. eths says:

    Great music!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. linnetmoss says:

    I didn’t realize Mel Tormé was a songwriter on a bigger scale. I know he wrote “The Christmas Song.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse says:

      Mel was multitalented: musician, vocalist, arranger, songwriter. He wrote THE CHRISTMAS SONG with lyricist Bob Wells in 1946, but previously wrote both words and music. Here is another example of his solo work from 1945:

      Like

  5. Don Frankel says:

    I always like the way guys like Bob Hope who really can’t sing will talk their way through a song and really do a good job of it. Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady comes to mind. You can watch that movie and think he’s singing when he never does.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. What wonderful, wholesome songs. Love the instrumental background. It harkens back to a time when we didn’t have to have all these obscenities to have entertainment, I mean I don’t want to sound like a grandma either, but seriously, the verses of today’s “music.”

    Liked by 1 person

  7. arekhill1 says:

    Haven’t really paid much attention to music of any kind since I kicked a daily pot habit back in my early twenties. Now that weed is legal out here in CA, maybe I’ll start again.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Today’s music doesn’t seduce me at all…it’s mostly adolescent, barbaric noise. I really enjoyed listening to these. I know them well. Listening to them again is like a lovely visit with my dear grandparents.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse says:

      I couldn’t agree more, but I’ll bet neither you nor your grandparents listened to (or even knew of) the song in my previous comment (actually there were many such songs in the 20s & 30s, though I doubt they got played on the radio in those days)!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. You’re right. I didn’t know that song, nor, I venture, did my grandparents. The underworld stayed under, in those days.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. inesephoto says:

    Such a delightful post, I always loved music of that era.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Resa says:

    What a fab post this is!
    Thank you so much for the info re: Tin Pan Alley! I had no idea.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Mark Scheel says:

    I remember hearing some of these songs played on the piano when as a little boy visiting relatives on my mother’s side–a fun bunch. Anyway, before you leave politics totally, suggest you read Bernie Goldberg on why New York media missed the boat so badly with the last election. Great analysis that I can relate to, living in the Midwest. Here’s the link:

    http://bernardgoldberg.com/the-media-elite-didnt-see-the-tsunami-coming/

    Mark

    Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse says:

      I’d already heard similar analysis (in substance, if not in spirit) in the heathen liberal media, Mark, but I didn’t know that Goldberg has written a book called ARROGANCE, which I would’ve guessed to be the title of a Donald Trump biography….but then, we on the near-left (or am I on the FAR-left in the black-and-white world) are wrong about so many things.

      Anyway, I’m glad to hear that you can dig this music. There has been a piano in my house for most of my life, but after several years of piano lessons in my boyhood, I forgot what I learned and still can’t play it.

      Like

  13. BroadBlogs says:

    I’d thought I would feel better after the election. I don’t. Thanks for bringing some sanity back into my life. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Carmen says:

    Do you mean to say that Torme was 15 when he sang that song? If so, quite amazing!
    I have to say that listening to these tunes is a much better pursuit than reading political commentary of late . . . 🙂 I’m finding a station on my TV that plays ‘oldies’ now. Lovely sounds!! Thanks so much, mister muse!
    Were you subscribed to Lady sighs blog? Haven’t heard anything from her lately and was wondering if she’s ill. .

    Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse says:

      Actually, Tormé wrote the song when he was 15, but he didn’t sing it — at least not on that Columbia record. If you check the small print on the label, you’ll notice that the vocal is by Dick Haymes (see, that’s what happens when you don’t read the small print!). 🙂

      I didn’t subscribe to Ladysigh’s blog, but I was a regular reader and frequent ‘liker’ and commenter. As I recall, she took a rather lengthy hiatus due to illness a few years ago. Hopefully, she’ll come back again like before, but I don’t know the reason for her absence this time.

      Like

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