It’s September, 1951

Here in London, 2020 it’s our first snow day of winter. And Sadie’s first ever, so much excitement to be had. Let’s soundtrack the occasion with the songs of September, 1951.

The songs of September, 1951

Quite a few new songs on the pop charts to delve into this month so we’ll stick to all those that made it into the top 20 across the course of the month:

September, 1951 Top 20 Hits

“And So To Sleep Again” – Patti Page
“Because Of You” – Jan Peerce
“Because Of You” – Les Baxter
“Because Of You” – Tony Bennett
“Because” – Mario Lanza
“Belle Belle My Liberty Belle” – Guy Mitchell
“Cold Cold Heart” – Tony Bennett
“Come On-A My House” – Rosemary Clooney
“Detour” – Patti Page
“Down Yonder” – Del Wood
“I Get Ideas” – Louis Armstrong
“I Get Ideas” – Tony Martin
“It’s No Sin” – Eddy Howard
“It’s No Sin” – Four Aces
“Jezebel” – Frankie Laine
“Josephine” – Les Paul
“My Truly Truly Fair” – Guy Mitchell
“Shanghai” – Billy Williams Quartet
“Shanghai” – Doris Day
“Sweet Violets” – Dinah Shore
“The Loveliest Night Of The Year” – Mario Lanza
“The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise” – Les Paul & Mary Ford
“Too Young” – Nat King Cole
“Turn Back The Hands Of Time” – Eddie Fisher
“Undecided” – Ames Brothers / Les Brown
“Vanity” – Don Cherry
“Whispering” – Les Paul

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

This month in history

So what was going on in September, 1951?

US, Australia and New Zealand sign the ANZUS mutual defense treaty. Mostly notable, for my youthful memories, because 3 decades later the USA would pull out of the treaty in response to New Zealand’s refusal to allow nuclear powered, or armed, vessels into their water. Go kiwis!

Meanwhile in less progressive news, in this month in 1951 Swiss males votes against female suffrage. Which already seems a little out of step with the times until you dig into it and realise that they didn’t allow women to vote in national elections until 1971, and even later in some regions.

In more positive news, and a win for nominative determinism, Professor Jongbloed (“young blood”) of Holland demonstrated an artificial heart in Paris this month.

In high-art news, Stravinsky’s opera “Rake’s Progress,” premiered in Venice. The Opera is based on the eight paintings A Rake’s Progress by William Hogarth from 1734. The series shows the decline and fall of Tom Rakewell, the spendthrift son and heir of a rich merchant, who comes to London, wastes all his money on luxurious living, prostitution and gambling, and as a consequence is imprisoned in Bedlam. Making them a kind of comic for the 18th century.

You can actually hear the premiere of the Opera on Youtube:

An in other premieres, this month saw the first broadcast of “Search for Tomorrow” on CBS in the USA. The program was one of several packaged from the 1950s through the 1980s by Procter & Gamble, the broadcasting arm of the household products megacorp. P&G used the show to advertise products like Joy dishwashing liquid and Spic and Span household cleaner. You can see an episode from 1953 and get a peek into ’50s life here:

What’d Sadie think?

As well as experiencing her first snow day Sadie turned 5 months old this week. So she’s really starting to show preferences for certain songs – particularly the melodic and clearly rhymed of course.

So she particularly liked Patti Page’s, “And So To Sleep Again” which is very sweet number indeed.

Big thank you to Tony Bennet this week, because his song “Because of You” knocked “Come-on-a my house” off the top of the charts for the last 3 weeks. It was one of 3 versions of the song charting across September – we’ve actually included the Jan Peerce version this time. And one of two songs that began with “Because…”, the other being the excellent Mario Lanza tune.

“Belle Belle My Liberty Belle” by Guy Mitchell is catchy but a little retrograde when it comes to its sexual politics:

There’s pretty girls in Singapore and the Philippines
All along Killarney shore, oh, the fair colleens
There’s sweet Fifi from gay Paree and Wilhelmina, too
But Belle, Belle, my Liberty Belle, I’m still in love with you

“Belle Belle My Liberty Belle” by Guy Mitchell

It reminds me of a style of rap song from my own childhood, such as “Hypnotize” by the Notorious B.I.G. which does a similar shout out to women from different places around the world (and their sartorial tastes in this case):

I put hoes in NY onto DKNY (Uh-huh)
Miami, D.C. prefer Versace (That’s right)
All Philly hoes go with Moschino (Come on)
Every cutie with a booty bought a Coogi

“Hypnotize” by The Notorious B.I.G.

The other Tony Bennet song in the charts was his version of the Hank Williams song, “Cold Cold Heart”. Apparently his version is credited with exploding Williams’ country sound to a wider audience. Allmusic writer Bill Janovitz notes, “That a young Italian singing waiter from Queens could find common ground with a country singer from Alabama’s backwoods is testament both to Williams’ skills as a writer and to Bennett’s imagination and artist’s ear.”

Apparently Williams subsequently, jokingly, telephoned Bennett to say, “Tony, why did you ruin my song?” an anecdote he used on stage throughout his life.

“Down Yonder” by Del Wood is an instrumental tune that sounded very 1920’s silent film soundtrack to my ear, which turns out to be spot on as it was first published in 1921. I wonder if that hitting the charts was the equivalent of a ’90s cover today?

Apparently the Tony Martin version of “I get ideas” charted higher than the Louis Armstrong one, which is a great injustice as the Armstrong one is much better and the one we’ve included this month.

I noticed Sadie really enjoying Frankie Laine’s “Jezebel”, which has really grown on me too. Also the version we’ve included in the playlist this week has some hilarious imagery and the lyrics included if you watch the video. There’s any number of versions of some of these songs uploaded by various people on YouTube and some amusing imagery and contents if you bother to look.

Dinah Shore’s “Sweet Violets” is one of my favourite songs of the month. I love the lyrical trope she employees, which I have just learnt the name for – “subverted rhyme”. That is where the expected rhyme of each couplet is replaced with an unexpected word which segues into the next couplet or chorus.

There once was a farmer who took a young miss
In back of the barn where he gave her a…
Lecture on horses and chickens and eggs
And told her that she had such beautiful…
Manners that suited a girl 

“Sweet Violets” by Dinah Shore

Two Les Paul songs in the charts this month. Every time I hear something from him, especially a track like the instrumental “Whispering” I just think, “bring on the guitar solos of 70s/80s rock…”. Though, that’s some way off yet!

His other song is “The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise” with Mary Ford. Which feels like a song, thematically at least, for these times – as a new President is inaugurated in the USA and the Covid vaccine rolls out. On that positive note, enjoy this week’s playlist, and see you next time!