It’s April, 1951

As we write this here in 2020 family christmases have been cancelled across the UK and disputes over fisheries are likely to scupper a Brexit deal…so let’s escape back to April, 1951 shall we?

The songs of April, 1950

A nice crop of new songs this month makes for a great playlist. Easter was in the last week of March that year so Peter Cottontail had already hopped off and away.

April, 1951 Top 20 Hits

“Aba Daba Honeymoon” – Debbie Reynolds / Carleton Carpenter
“Be My Love” – Mario Lanza
“Beautiful Brown Eyes” – Rosemary Clooney
“Bring Back The Thrill” – Eddie Fisher
“How High The Moon” – Les Paul & Mary Ford
“I Apologize” – Billy Eckstine
“If” – Perry Como
“Jezebel” – Frankie Laine
“Mockin’ Bird Hill” – Les Paul & Mary Ford
“Mockin’ Bird Hill” – Patti Page
“Moonlight Bay” – Bing & Gary Crosby
“My Heart Cries For You” – Guy Mitchell
“On Top Of Old Smokey” – Weavers / Terry Gilkyson
“September Song” – Stan Kenton / Orchestra
“Sound Off” – Vaughn Monroe
“Sparrow In The Tree Top” – Bing Crosby / Andrews Sisters
“Sparrow In The Tree Top” – Guy Mitchell
“Tennessee Waltz” – Patti Page
“The Hot Canary” – Florian Zabach
“The Loveliest Night Of The Year” – Mario Lanza
“The Syncopated Clock” – Leroy Anderson
“Too Young” – Nat King Cole
“When You And I Were Young Maggie Blues” – Bing & Gary Crosby
“Would I Love You” – Doris Day / Harry James
“Would I Love You” – Patti Page
“You’re Just In Love” – Perry Como / Fontane Sisters

You can listen to the full playlist on Youtube via this link or embedded below:

This month in history

A picture tells a thousand words and a trailer for a film from 1951… can be very amusing at least. And in April 1951 “The Thing From Another World” from director Howard Hawkes is released. I have a thing for classic era films and Hawkes is a favourite, especially when he directs Cary Grant in “His Girl Friday”. I’ve not seen “The Thing” but apparently its from a novella by sci-fi pioneer John W. Campbell and it looks kitsch enough that I’m going to have to seek it out.

From science fiction to science – April 1951 was the month of Operation Greenhouse, a nuclear weapon testing programme by the USA. Conducted at the new Pacific Proving Ground, on islands of the Enewetak Atoll, the April 7 explosion is known for an image taken of those viewing featuring numerous VIPs wearing safety goggles sitting on Adirondack chairs while being illuminated by the flash of the detonation. Oh my!

VIP observers sitting on the patio of the Officer's Beach Club on Parry Island are illuminated by the 81 kiloton Dog test, part of Operation Greenhouse, at Enewetak Atoll, April 8, 1951.
VIP observers sitting on the patio of the Officer’s Beach Club on Parry Island are illuminated by the 81 kiloton Dog test, part of Operation Greenhouse, at Enewetak Atoll, April 8, 1951.

A fascinating 1951 government film about how necessary and “awesome” this all was can be watched below:

What’d Sadie think?

The number 1 for the month was split between two songs, Perry Como’s “If” and newcomer, “How High the Moon” by Les Paul and Mary Ford. I don’t rate it myself but clearly the masses did. It was also to be the last month Tennessee Waltz was to chart in the top 20, with it slipping to last place. After countless versions and months in the charts I’m not too sad to see it go.

Sadie has become a real little dancer and “Aba Daba Honeymoon” really got her going. It’s also a massive ear-worm, after the repetition of a few weeks in the charts, so we’re now gibbering like the titular chimps around this house.

Mario Lanza’s “Be My Love” is now also a favourite after a few chartings and I can see why it was his first million-seller. It’s melodramatic as all heck, but then we were listening to the Sound of Music directly before so obviously we were primed for cheese. (Why? Because it turns out neither Emily or I knew the words to “Do Re Mi” properly which was not apparent till we found ourselves trying to sing it to Sadie.)

It’s been a while since we’ve had a song that sounds like it comes straight off the soundtrack for a cowboy film, so its up to Frankie Laine’s “Jezebel” (actually an old testament story) to deliver. And you can even see Laine deliver it in a TV performance below:

Bing Crosby has three songs in the charts, two of which are duets with his son Gary – “Moonlight Bay” and “When You And I Were Young Maggie Blues”. Both feature excellent father-son banter.

“i’ve been requested to sing an old time song”

“well you’re the man to sing it dad”

“don’t be cheeky theres 3 very clever lads at home waiting to replace you”

Bing and Gary Crosby banter.

As well as both having great bants, they’re both fun tunes. And what I didn’t realise till now is Gary was only 18 at the time. His voice sounds much more mature and I’m a fan of his almost scat like rapid delivery in contrast to his father’s saloon drawl.

The other Bing Crosby song is “Sparrow In The Tree Top” with the Andrew Sisters which is another excellent duet.

“Sound off” by Vaughan Monroe is terrible but notable as a military themed song released while we were in the thick of the Korean War. The song inspired a film of the same name released the next year with Mickey Rooney. I’m also slightly sad I can’t find a version of this Spike Jones song, advertising in an April ’51 issue of Billboard, to round out the theme…

And lastly, “Too Young” by Nat King Cole is a tale of young love that just sounds (thematically and sonically) quintessentially 1950s. So enjoy that, and the rest of the playlist till next we meet!