Musical Musings

I’ve been driving madly toward the end of the latest Linnet Ellery book so I haven’t had a lot of time to write up posts.  I’ve had a couple in mind and here’s one of them.

When I bought the sports car it came with satellite radio.  I figured I’d used it until the free offer ran out and then not bother to renew, but the bastards got me hooked.  I love On Broadway and Pops and Symphony Hall.  I can also listen to news if I’m so inclined.  There’s a lot to choose from, and it will certainly help pass the empty miles between New Mexico and California and save me from religious radio broadcasts.

All of this is a long wind up to explain that while I listen to On Broadway I hear a lot of familiar show tunes but also some that are new to me.  I can also really focus on the words, and several things came clear.  Boy, have mores changed in the past sixty or so years, and damn, Cole Porter was a brilliantly raunchy composer.

Let’s start with what was acceptable to put in song lyrics back in 1937 when Babes in Arms hit broadway.  One of the numbers from the show is called I Wish I Were In Love Again.  It’s a duet between a man and woman, and as I was driving along this little gem of a verse sung by the woman came floating out of the speaker.

 

The furtive sigh, the blackened eye

The words, “I love you till the day I die”

The self deception that believes the lie

I wish I were in love again.

Yike, domestic abuse enshrined in a love song.  You also find it in Carousel a musical with wonderful music where we’re supposed to feel sorry when a wife beater dies.  Not one of my favorite shows.  That doesn’t mean I think the show should be banned or some other nonsense.  I just find it disturbing so it’s not a show I’m going to line up to see.  I understand that attitudes change, but trying to pretend those attitudes never existed is also foolish.  Just like I don’t want Huck Finn rewritten to remove the N word I don’t want to ban musicals from another era.  And Twain’s contempt for racism is powerfully presented, and makes the point far better then a hundred pious sermons.

Next up Cole Porter.  One of my favorite composers.  He was a genius writing not only the music but the lyrics for his shows.  He wrote some amazingly clever love songs, and his lyrics were often sexy as hell.  Take at look at Too Darn Hot from Kiss Me Kate.  I’ve just grabbed the bridge from the song and one verse, but the sexuality just simmers in every line.

According to the Kinsey report

ev’ry average man you know

much prefers to play his favorite sport

when the temperature is low

but when the thermometer goes way up

and the weather is sizzling hot

Mister Adam for his madam is not

cause it’s too too

it’s too darn hot, it’s too darn hot

It’s too too too too darn hot

 

I’d like to call on my baby tonight

and give my all to my baby tonight

I’d like to call on my baby tonight

and give my all to my baby tonight

but I can’t play ball with my baby tonight

cause it’s too darn hot

it’s too darn hot.

And of course there’s the song Let’s Do It written in 1928.  The use of a rest after “Let’s do it (pause Let’s fall in love gives the listener’s mind plenty of time to go right where Porter wanted it to go.  It’s a proposition song pure and simple, but with bitingly clever lyrics.  Apparently there was a verse in the original ’28 version that was terribly racist and has been revised.  Which brings us full circle back to my shock over the line in I Wish I Were In Love Again.

And finally from Anything Goes the song Let’s Misbehave.  Here are the opening two stanzas.

You should have a great career,

Yes you should;

And you could;

Only one thing stops you dear:

You’re too good;

Far too good!

 

If you want a future, darlin’,

Why don’t you get a past?

For that fatal moment’s comin’ at last…

We’re all alone, no chaperone

Can get our number

The world’s in slumber

Let’s misbehave!!!

 

I didn’t really have a profound point about all of this.  I just thought it was fun to see that sex didn’t get invented during the free love era of nineteen sixties.  Our grandparents and great-grandparents were passionate people too.  They probably even made love.  🙂

3 Responses to Musical Musings

  • rand says:

    I’m always reminded of the great quote in Warren Beatty’s “Reds” by Eugene O’Neill, one of the witnesses:
    “You know something that I think,
    that there was just as much
    fucking going on then as now.”

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      I love it, Rand. Thanks for sending that along. I know it doesn’t mean anything in the big grand scheme of things, but we sometimes feel that our generation invented _everything_, and it’s clear that even old timey people had sex, and were wild and ran cons, etc. etc. I even had my Shepard in my story be startled when he’s presented with the language in the older form of the Anglican marriage ceremony, and my proper elderly Brit rather dryly point out to the younger man that even old timey people had sex. Back in the old days they used to say “with this right I thee wed, and with my body I thee worship”. Which I’ve always thought was a rather lovely acknowledgement that passion is real and valuable. But back to the music. Cole Porter had far and away the most clever lyrics of any one.

  • JaniceG says:

    Cole Porter was a genius at this sort of stuff: here’s a verse from “Can-Can”:

    “If a lass in Michigan can,
    If an ass in Astrakhan can,
    If a bass in the Saskatchewan can,
    Baby, you can can-can too.”

    Interesting reading this right after someone posted a video on FB to a really sexy version of the double entendre song “Summer Wine” — originally done by *ahem* Nancy Sinatra and Lee Greenwood, this version is by Coors lead singer Andrea and Bono http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=da5QwwbF7IE

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