Wordsworth was correct when he wrote that in “getting and spending” we “lay waste our powers.” I live not too far from a large shopping mall, and visit it only when other ways to buy something necessary are worse. But certain kinds of “getting” and “spending” aren’t so bad: when the purchases uplift the spirits and don’t cost much. Exhibits below. First, sheet music from a Vallejo, California antique shop.
I was motivated to buy this 1926 laff-riot because of the title and the line drawing — I sympathize with that fellow, even though I haven’t worn a three-piece suit in years. However, instead of being a comic ditty about table manners, it is more literal — X does all the work but Y, who doesn’t, gets all the credit. And it must have been a smash in vaudeville, for the inside front cover contains 24 knock-em-dead versions of the chorus. I will spare you. And if the name “Larry Shay” looks familiar, he was in part responsible for WHEN YOU’RE SMILING.
A much more seriously valuable song: I can hear Billie singing it or Ed Hall playing it. The most touching part of this sheet music is the inscription of ownership on top — I don’t know if it’s entirely visible, but this copy was the property of WOODY’S DANCE DEMONS. I looked them up on Google and didn’t find anything, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t play well in 1929 or 1930.
I wouldn’t call this a memorable Berlin tune (I suspect it was meant as a frisky dance number) but it does contain the lines, “Let me mingle with a peppy jingle / That the jazz bands love to play,” which is certainly hip for 1922.
I heard Rosy McHargue sing this on a Stomp Off recording (he must have been in his middle eighties) and thought it was hilarious. Also, isn’t that the most thoroughly anthropomorphized dog face you’ve ever seen? Now for several artifacts that are more fragile, heavier, and harder to pack — but no less irresistible.
Although I can’t imagine Eddie Condon with a novel in front of him, he admired John Steinbeck and was very proud that they were friends. Steinbeck loved the music that Eddie and the boys created, with only one caveat: he kept asking Eddie to take up the banjo again, an offer Eddie steadfastly pushed aside. This 12″ 78 cost more than fifty cents when it was new, and the band is flawless.
Also (not pictured, but you can imagine):
another Commodore 12″ of OH, KATHARINA and BASIN STREET BLUES; a Blue Note Jazzmen 12″ of WHO’S SORRY NOW (no question mark) and BALLIN’ THE JACK. Moving into the microgroove era, I proudly snapped up a Collectors’ Classics lp of the Red Allen Vocalions 1934-5 (with the exultant ROLL ALONG, PRAIRIE MOON), Ray Skjelbred’s first solo session for Berkeley Rhythm Records, from 1973-4 (signed by the artist), and the JUMP compilation of (Charles) LaVere’s Chicago Loopers, with Jack Teagarden, Joe Venuti, Nick Fatool, and other stalwarts.