Welcome to March, 1950 as London, 2020 starts to feel very autumnal. I hope whatever state of Covid lockdown you and yours are in is treating you OK readers.
The songs of March, 1950
CANDY AND CAKE,Arthur Godfrey / Chordettes
CANDY AND CAKE,Mindy Carson
CHATTANOOGIE SHOE SHINE BOY,Bing Crosby
CHATTANOOGIE SHOE SHINE BOY,Red Foley
CRY OF THE WILD GOOSE,Frankie Laine
DADDY’S LITTLE GIRL,Dick Todd
DADDY’S LITTLE GIRL,Mills Brothers
DEAR HEARTS AND GENTLE PEOPLE,Bing Crosby
DEAR HEARTS AND GENTLE PEOPLE,Dinah Shore
DEARIE,Ray Bolger / Ethel Merman
ENJOY YOURSELF,Guy Lombardo / Kenny Gardner
GO TO SLEEP GO TO SLEEP GO TO SLEEP,Arthur Godfrey / Mary Martin
I SAID MY PAJAMAS,Tony Martin / Fran Warren
IF I KNEW YOU WERE COMIN’,Eileen Barton
IF I KNEW YOUR WERE COMIN’,Eileen Barton
IT ISN’T FAIR,Sammy Kaye / Don Cornell
IT’S SO NICE TO HAVE A MAN AROUND THE HOUSE,Dinah Shore
MUSIC MUSIC MUSIC,Carmen Cavallaro / Bob Lido / Cavaliers
MUSIC MUSIC MUSIC,Freddy Martin / Merv Griffin / Martin Men
MUSIC MUSIC MUSIC,Teresa Brewer
MY FOOLISH HEART,Gordon Jenkins / Sandy Evans
PETER COTTONTAIL,Gene Autry
PETER COTTONTAIL,Mervin Shiner
QUICKSILVER,Bing Crosby / Andrews Sisters
RAG MOP,Ames Brothers
RAG MOP,Johnnie Lee Wills
RAG MOP,Lionel Hampton / Hamptones
RAG MOP,Ralph Flanagan / Harry Prime
SENTIMENTAL ME,Ames Brothers
SWAMP GIRL,Frankie Laine
THERE’S NO TOMORROW,Tony Martin
THIRD MAN THEME,Anton Karas
THIRD MAN THEME,Guy Lombardo
WITH MY EYES WIDE OPEN I’M DREAMING,Patti Page
Plenty of new songs on the charts from last month, some of them even new songs rather than just new versions of existing chart hits. Ah yes, 1950, the year that double (triple, quadrupled and quintupled) down on its winners!
I’ve started to automate the process of compiling my playlists – using a programme to compile weekly charts into a de-duplicated single monthly chart. This cuts down on manual admin markedly. I expect by time we’re up to listening to music from the ’90s, in the 2030s, artificial intelligence will probably be writing these posts for me…
…or maybe Sadie, aged 10, will?
I supplemented the pop charts with some classical singles from Billboard this month:
So you can listen to the month of March, 1950 in music right here:
This month in history
Many things occurred in March 1950, some of them were even unrelated to ferreting communists out of government departments in the USA. Some of these things, like the establishment of the state of Israel, are too weighty for a newsletter about pop-culture though.
So instead we can note that Karen Carpenter was born on March 2, and will pop-up here again in a few decades one can only suspect. As may the Volkswagen van – a staple of hippy culture, which will spring up a decade or so after it was first rolled off the assembly line in Wolfsburg, Germany in March 1950.
If you’re keen to see some 1950’s pop culture as well as listen to it, then March saw the launch of the first successful American science fiction television show, Space Patrol. A 15-minute afternoon series about adventures in the 30th century, it’s as camp, and as terrible, as you’d expect. Watch it here:
Meanwhile, decades before the public voted to christian a boat Boaty McBoatface, voters in the resort town of Hot Springs, New Mexico, elected to change the town’s name to that of the popular radio show Truth or Consequences, in response to a challenge by host Ralph Edwards. The town of more than 6,000 has been known as Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, ever since.
And in tech advances – the first stab at a computerised weather forecasting was made this month using the ENIAC computer at Princeton University. Which was programmed, more than likely, by women – who wouldn’t receive proper acknowledgement till the next millennium. Which gives me an excuse to mention that one of Sadie’s middle names is “ada” for Ada Lovelace. Go coders of all sorts!
What’d Sadie think?
A second version of “Daddy’s Little Girl”, from February’s hit parade, hit the charts this month – this time by a quartet called The Mills Brothers. Who it appears were the first African American group to have a hit on the regular Billboard charts back in 1943. This version is actually much more like it than the original from last month, a sweet lullaby indeed. It’s notably used in the soundtrack of the 2010 video game, BioShock 2. But it’s more creepy, less sweet, in that context.
Two tracks from Dinah Shore are in the charts, “Dear hearts and gentle people” and “It’s so nice to have a man around the house”. The former is an ode to the god-fearing “good people” who dwell in small towns, and well, the latter is what it says on the tin. Well not quite,
Oh, a house is just a house without a man“it’s so nice to have a man around the house” – Dinah Shore
He is the necessary evil in your plan
Just a knight in shining armor who is something of a charmer
Even though he maybe someone else’s spouse
It’s so nice to have a man around the house
The 1950s were more into singing about infidelity than I expected! And Dinah Shore, who lived a life worthy of a fairly substantial Wikipedia entry with 80 chart hits and a film and TV career after, was less “picket fence” than the lyrics to “Dear hearts…” implied. In the early 1970s, “Shore had a happy four-year public romance with actor Burt Reynolds, who was 20 years her junior. “. Good on her.
I’m becoming rather obsessed with comedy duets, to be fair I was a big fan of 40s/50s films in my 20’s so this is no surprise, and this month has a corker – Mary Martin & Arthur Godfrey’s,”Go To Sleep, Go To Sleep, Go To Sleep”. In which a couple keep each other up with mutually uninteresting stories. At some point i’m going to have to get wifey Emily to sing along to one with me.
I’ve read a few excellent articles on auto-tune recently, so I was intrigued to hear that the Patti Page song, “With my eyes wide open i’m dreaming”, in this months chart uses an early vocal effect of its own – overdubbing. Having previously recorded both vocal parts on the duet “Confess”, Page had apparently been intrigued by the possibility of using overdubbing techniques to record as a “one-woman quartet” which resulted in this recording. It’s nifty. (A superlative last used in the 1950s I believe.)
You may remember that last week I mentioned Gene Autry’s attempt to create an Easter standard after his success over Xmas 1949 with “Rudolph…”. “Peter Cottontail” made it onto the charts this month, well done his marketing campaign, but fails to get me or Sadie hopping I’m afraid.
Tony Martin’s “There’s no tomorrow” is in the pop charts this month, while “O sole mio” by Mario Lanza is in the classical charts. The connection between these two is very clearl in the melody – while the lyrics are unrelated by words or overall theme. A decade later O sole mio, originally from the 1890s, would again be repurposed for “It’s Now or Never”, popularised by Elvis Presley. Catchy.
The Boston Pop’s performance of the “Warsaw Concerto”, also in the classical charts, is an excellent rendition. I didn’t realise it was from the soundtrack to the 1941 film “Dangerous Moonlight” until I dug into it. Apparently the the film-makers wanted something in the style of Sergei Rachmaninoff, but were unable to persuade Rachmaninoff himself to write a piece so commissioned this song from Richard Addinsell and its been an orchestra staple since.
If you think pop culture is reactive today thanks to social media, try the 1950s… “If I knew you were comin’ (I’d have baked a cake)” by Eileen Barton is a very catchy number this month that I can only assume is somewhat sarcastic in nature, if not in delivery, Apparently the success of this prompted Mindy Carson’s record label to record a similar number with her, “Candy and Cake”. Which doesn’t have a lot in common other than the reference to the foodstuff, but there you go. I actually included the version by Arthur Godfrey and the Chordettes (great name) which managed to chart in March as well. That’s a lot of references for one month in a time well before technology made TikTok’s near realtime sampling and resampling of pop-culture a thing.
We can’t ignore that the latter song has ridiculously sexist lyrics of course,
I can be smart, I can be wise
But, when she rolls her roly-poly jelly bean eyes
I shiver and shake, my heart’d just break
If some other love should rob me of my candy and cake
So let’s celebrate how far we’ve come (?) by leaping forward to the 2010s and ending this month on Rihanna’s female empowerment ditty, “Birthday Cake”.
See you all next week!