Saturday 31 October 2020

Scary Words, Scary Tune

With this blog very much back up and running again I think it's time for another selection of topical tunes to celebrate that especially spooky time of year - All Hallow's Eve!  In fact, looking back at this blog's post history it seems to have been a frankly astonishing (and almost unacceptable) 8 years since I last did a Hallowe'en-themed entry, so let's put that to rights right now with the following five frightening refrains from the terrifying Twenties and thrilling Thirties.     


We kick off with British bandleader Jack Hylton & His Orchestra and their 1929 recording Bogey Wail.  One of four sides the band cut on the very un-Hallowe'en date of the 13th February 1929 it features a common motif of the time in the form of the Bogeyman, the æthereal monster hiding under the bed/ in the cupboard and which has scared the pants off generations of children around the world for centuries.  This particular recently-uploaded video features some very well done period-style animation which just adds to the overall eeriness of the song.  


Jumping forward eight years and something slightly different but no less scary is lurking in the cupboard in this next tune, consummately performed by another great of the British dance band era, Nat Gonella & His Georgians.  The Skeleton In The Cupboard was originally recorded a year earlier by Louis Armstrong and His Orchestra for the 1936 Bing Crosby film Pennies From Heaven.  The title song rightly went on to become a jazz standard, subsequently recorded by multiple artists over the years, but in the process left the likes of The Skeleton In The Cupboard slightly forgotten - an oversight I'm happy to try to rectify by including Nat Gonella's bouncy version here. 


From Bogeymen to skeletons to zombies next in this 1934 recording by the now obscure American dance band leader Gene Kardos.  With his orchestra Kardos actively recorded from 1931 until 1938 (with vocalists including Dick Robertson and Bea Wain) at which point he "retired" and went to work for the New York City postal department(!) while at the same time performing in a small Hungarian restaurant in the Manhattan suburb of Yorkville.  Cut on the 26th June 1934, Zombie is an early example of the term appearing in musical form and was allegedly inspired by the pre-Code 1932 Bela Lugosi horror film White Zombie.  

Another forgotten American band leader features in this next song from 1930, written, composed and performed by Wayne King and His Orchestra.  Known at the height of his fame from 1931 to 1940 as "the Waltz King" after his most favoured variety of jazz he slowly faded into obscurity after the early 1960s and although he continued to perform at various venues around America right up to the 1980s he had by then, like Gene Kardos, gone into "early retirement" from the music scene and in between appearances ran a cattle farm and car rental business from his Savanna, Illinois home.  Swamp Ghosts is a wonderfully typical example of early 1930s creepy jazz, helped along in this video by some fittingly ghostly images!

For the final tune in this post we return to Britain and another top band leader of the 1930s, Roy Fox and His Orchestra, with their 1934 offering The House Is Haunted.  Sung by the equally-noted (and brilliantly named!) British vocalist Denny Dennis it is actually really more of a romantic ballad, as the lyrics suggest, but teamed with some superbly spine-chilling footage from the 1922 film Nosferatu it earns its place here as a suitably supernatural offering.

source - Wikipædia
Well there we have it then - five spooktacular songs from the 1920s and '30s to hopefully help your Hallowe'en go with a swing.  I hope you all have as enjoyable an All Hallow's Eve as it's possible to have in these trying times - do let me know what you have planned or what you got up to in the comments.  Noseferatu happens to be my favoured choice for the Partington-Plans' 2020 Hallowe'en showing although it's facing some stiff competition this year, with my fiancée pushing for Pride And Prejudice And Zombies (I'm still not sure myself...) or the 2019 animated remake of The Addams Family.  Maybe we'll end up doing a triple-bill, we'll have to see...

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