It’s March, 1952

The stars are aligned and its March here in 2020 while we look (or is that listen?) back at March, 1952. Let’s see if the charts as full of Spring as the gardens of London are…

The songs of March, 1952

A great crop of new tunes on the main US pop charts this month…

March, 1952 Top 20 Hits

“A Guy Is A Guy” – Doris Day
“Any Time” – Eddie Fisher
“Bermuda” – Bell Sisters
“Blacksmith Blues” – Ella Mae Morse
“Blue Tango” – Hugo Winterhalter
“Blue Tango” – Leroy Anderson
“Broken Hearted” – Johnnie Ray
“Come What May” – Patti Page
“Cry” – Johnnie Ray
“Forgive Me” – Eddie Fisher
“Hambone” – Frankie Laine / Jo Stafford
“I’ll Walk Alone” – Don Cornell
“Perfidia” – Four Aces
“Pittsburgh Pennsylvania” – Guy Mitchell
“Please Mr. Sun” – Johnnie Ray
“Slow Poke” – Arthur Godfrey
“Slow Poke” – Pee Wee King / Redd Stewart
“Tell Me Why” – Eddie Fisher
“Tell Me Why” – Four Aces
“The Little White Cloud That Cried” – Johnnie Ray
“The Three Bells” – Les Compagnon De La Chanson
“Tiger Rag” – Les Paul And Mary Ford
“Tulips And Heather” – Perry Como
“Wheel Of Fortune” – Bobby Wayne
“Wheel Of Fortune” – Kay Starr
“Wimoweh” – Weavers / Gordon Jenkins

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

This month in history

There’s nothing from the soundtrack charting yet, but this month in 1952 the classic film “Singin’ in the Rain” was released. Apparently, as is so often the way with true classics, it was only a moderate hit when it was first released but it’s now rated far and wide.

My favourite random accolade is its placement on the British Film Institute’s list of “the 50 films to be seen by the age of 14” – so we’ll get it on Sadie’s radar sometime in the next decade. You can watch a trailer below:

It’s, given the time, a surprisingly post-modern tale – a film about film stars making films – including a plot around lip syncing which feels well ahead of its time. But more surprisingly it wasn’t entirely new even at the time. The titular song was in fact taken from another film, “The Hollywood Revue of 1929” – one of the first films with sound.

The film was a plotless showcase of MGM’s stars including Joan Crawford, Buster Keaton and Laurel & Hardy. “Singin’ in the Rain” is performed initially by Cliff Edwards as “Ukulele Ike,'” and later performed at the end of the film by the entire cast. This latter all-star color sequence was a last-minute addition to the film, shot late at night on June 10, 1929, just ten days before the premiere.

You can see some of that below:

What’d Sadie think?

Kay Starr’s version of “Wheel of Fortune” dominates the number 1 spot throughout March. We’ve liked a few Starr songs so far but this one doesn’t grab us.

Interesting to note though that song was the theme tune of the TV show “Wheel of Fortune”…but not the one we all know. This, short lived, series ran in 1952-53 and involved rewarding everyday people who had done good deeds in their life by having their stories told on national TV, then allowing them to spin the eponymous prize wheel being awarded that prize.

“Black Smith Blues” initially seemed thematically old-fashioned even for 1950 but its a great tune, and Ella Mae Morse is exactly the name of someone you’d expect to find singing it. Apparently the tune was from an earlier song, “Happy Pay Day” which is from a couple of years earlier, but didn’t chart as high:

Johnnie Ray’s “(Here I am) Broken Hearted” has really grown on us. One of the disadvantages of doing this at 4 times speed is that some songs that would gave been creeping up the charts and grow over time are here and gone before we get hooked on them.

“Hambone”, a duet between Frankie Laine and Jo Stafford is catchy but I can’t find out much about it – which is a pity as it interpolates the children’s rhyme, “Hush, Little Baby” as half its lyrics and seems like it must have an interesting story.

“Perfidia” by the Four Aces is likewise excellent. The original is by Mexican composer Alberto Domínguez from the 1940s. At first listen you could hear it as another ’50s song named after a lost love but “Perfidia” is spanish for “perfidy” the root of infidelity.

Guy Mitchell is always good for a tune and “Pittsburgh Pennsylvania” is no exception. Another on the “gold digger” theme,

If you should run into a golden-haired angel
And ask her tonight for a date
She’ll tell you somewhere there’s a rich millionaire
Who is calling again about eight

Guy Mitchell, “Pittsburgh Pennsylvania”

Speaking of vaguely sexist tropes, there’s two versions of “Slow Poke” in the charts – we’ve included Arthur Godfrey’s this week. This seems to focus on waiting for a woman to…get on with something. But as a bonus it has some “clip clop” rhythms that gives it a nice cowboy edge that we’ve not had in a while.

And, seeing as we are listening to a March chart in March, it is nice to have a spring themed tune in there – Perry Como’s “Tulips And Heather”. Not bad actually.

“Wimoweh” by the Weavers required some digging. It’s a version of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”…sort of. Actually it precedes the version with the lyrics we know today. Which were written by George David Weiss and performed by The Tokens in the early 1960s,

But is itself is a cover of “Mbube” from the 1920s by Solomon Linda, a South African Zulu singer. “Wimoweh”, the lyric we still know today, is a mishearing of the original song’s chorus of “Uyimbube” meaning “You are a lion” in Zulu. Here is the original:

There’s a convoluted story of the evolution of the song and the copyright over at wikipedia that is worth a read.

Let’s end the week on Gene Kelly’s “Singin’ in the Rain” as it looks like a smattering is about to fall here in London.