Wednesday, 17 July 2013

The sun has got his hat on!

And it goes without saying that so should you, if you're out making the most of this summer weather.  Boaters, Panamas, pith helmets - but not baseball caps! - it doesn't matter so long as your bonce is covered.

Health advice dispensed, it's time for me to move on to the meat of this post.  Summer has most definitely arrived here in Britain and is making up for lost time by posting several consecutive hottest days of the year.  What better time then, in the lack of any other interesting news at the moment, to post a few of my favourite sunny, summery songs from the 1930s.

The song that lends itself to the title of this post, The Sun Has Got His Hat On is still well-known as a nursery rhyme but was originally written by Noel Gay and Ralph Butler in 1932 and recorded by two of the top British bandleaders of the time - Bert Ambrose and Henry Hall (the latter well-known for his child-friendly nursery-rhyme recordings).  The lyrics have, unfortunately, in one place in particular not dated well as you will undoubtedly hear (I shouldn't have to tell you to remember, of course, the time in which this song was recorded and the different attitudes and sensibilities that existed then but I will mention it just in case...!) and in later versions the offending line was changed to "roasting peanuts".

The Henry Hall recording remains my favourite of the two but they're both still jolly good fun!

Another jolly solar-themed recording from 1932 (was that also a "hottest year", I wonder?  Looks like it was a bit) is this cracking number by Jack Payne & His Band.  Easily matching the pep of The Sun Has Got His Hat On this tune fairly trots along!

What summer soundtrack would be complete without the great, inimitable Noël Coward and his wonderful song Mad Dogs and Englishmen.  Recorded here in November 1932 (again!) it was written the year before and first performed by Beatrice Lillie before Coward incorporated it into his cabaret act and made this version with the Ray Noble Orchestra.

Sadly I'm not much of an Englishman in this regard as I'm not overly fond of the heat and tend to avoid the blazing sun at its zenith (in all seriousness, for those of you in London and its environs the Department of Health has just officially declared this a Level 3 heatwave and advised people to stay out of the sun as much as possible between 11am - 3pm) and even now I'm finding it almost too hot to type!

Red Sails in the Sunset is another firm favourite and a popular song of 1935, since when it has been recorded by a multitude of artists including Guy Lombardo, Bing Crosby, Al Bowlly and Vera Lynn.  Once again I find myself drawn to the Ambrose version, though, and the images it conjures of stylish, relaxing summer evenings on holiday at the likes of Burgh Island, Cannes, or Le Touquet.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Glenn Miller recorded several songs with "Sun" in the title including Sunrise Sunset, Sunrise Serenade (originally written by Frank Carle and first performed by Glen Gray and the Castle Loma Orchestra in 1939 it was successfully recorded by Miller the same year as a companion "B-side" to Moonlight Serenade) and Sun Valley JumpSunrise Sunset isn't on Youtube but the other two are and as I can't put a pin between them for preference here they both are:

Sunrise Serenade I always find particularly evocative, lending to my mind's eye images of "sunrise on the farm" in some little American homestead - the first rays just peeping over the barn, cockerels crowing and the farmer starting out for his fields on a tractor, that sort of thing.

I'll finish with a song that extols you to keep On The Sunny Side of the Street.  First written and performed in 1930 (its Depression-era roots are even more apparent in earlier, slower versions like this one by Ted Lewis) it became a more up-tempo jazz standard by the end of the decade and is performed in this instance by Lionel Hampton & His Orchestra:

Regardless of whether you enjoy this level of heat or not (and with apologies to those of you who might not be enjoying such sunny conditions where you are) I hope you all continue to walk "on the sunny side of the street" - with your hats on, of course! - and have a great summer.

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