Our subject for today is a 1936 pop song of no great merit — a pastiche really — by Al Sherman, Abner Silver and Jack Maskill. I can imagine it being the result of three songwriters sitting around and chatting. “Hey, what about a Hawaiian song?” “Not more Hawaii! Pick someplace else. All it has to have is a beach.” “Yeah, that ____ works. But enough of the ______ hula maidens and the ______ pineapple calling me home to the islands.” “Yeah, we have to have a gimmick to load this _____ into the jukeboxes, get those ______ royalties.” “What about this. Boy meets girl in some ______ island and then they find out they used to live next door down South.” “You mean the song that’s got everything?” “Yeah. Bet you drinks that we can get this done in an hour.” “You’re on!”
I don’t really know if the Brill Building gents really spoke like this, with enthusiastic expletives redacted here, but it pleases me to imagine rather cynical craftspeople turning out popular art that charms me still, eighty years later. And the mixing of genres on the sheet music cover is most remarkable, but I gather that the couple is enjoying the tulips and their cottage while recalling those tropical moments . . .
Here are three variations on that theme. The first, Tommy Dorsey’s version with vocal by Edythe Wright. Some call the early Dorsey band “Dixieland-flavored,” as if true culture didn’t happen until Sy Oliver started writing arrangements and Sinatra began to woo, but this record rocks. You don’t have to wait for Bud Freeman to make a late appearances — on one of those delicious bridges — because the Blessed Dave Tough is making himself heard and felt throughout. I would urge listeners to hear this performance once as a totality, and then concentrate on the orchestral delights Dave offers:
Then, Miss Connie Boswell’s. What an irresistible groove — and her return for the final sixteen bars is like a triumphant aria in Hot. Some of this is thanks to the Bob Crosby band of the time — Yank Lawson, I think, and certainly Matty Matlock:
But we save the real multi-layered delights for last, Henry “Red” Allen and his Orchestra. Even when they’re playing the melody fairly straight — for dancers — with Henry’s bridge, it’s swinging from the start. And his singing is so personal (boyish and hot) that no one could mistake him for anyone else:
What happens after the vocal is wonderful — a mixture of timbres and approaches beginning with a trumpet solo that could and should have gone on for years. One of the many times I’ve felt, “That record is too short!” But what a joy to have it — with Tab Smith and a very sedate J.C. Higginbotham.
What’s the sermon or the lesson? Great musicians transform ordinary material with memorable results.
May your happiness increase!