Monday, 31 August 2009

Fascinating Rhythm 1924

The above song certainly had some emotional significance for the young Malc as he wrote to his teenage love Carol Brown:

Every time I hear "Fascinating Rhythm" it reminds me of that evening by the gate. Letter to Carol Brown May 1926, Collected Letters of Malcolm Lowry

Below is a photograph taken at the spot outside Hilthorpe where Carol and Malc spent sometime together in 1925 or 26 which prompted Malc's reminisce in the extract from the letter above. You can read more details of their friendship in Gordon Bowker's biography of Lowry. We can only speculate the significance of the moment.

The song is from the musical Lady, Be Good written by Guy Bolton, Fred Thompson, featured music by George and Ira Gershwin. It debuted at the Liberty Theatre on December 1, 1924.

It is a musical comedy about a brother and his sister who are out of money and each eager to sacrifice him- or herself to help the other. It originally starred brother and sister performers Fred Astaire and Adele Astaire. It ran for 330 performances in the original Broadway run.

What is difficult to gauge is how Lowry would have been aware of the song? Perhaps, he picked up the song via his elder brothers Stuart and Russell or did he hear it on a visit to Carol Brown's house Hilthorpe in Caldy or could he conceivably seen the musical at the Empire in London? The last premise is unlikely as he was writing to Carol in May 1926 and the musical only opened Prince of Wales Theatre, London on 14 April, 1926.

The version below was performed by the Savoy Orpheans, the resident orchestra at the Savoy Hotel, London during the 20s and 30s. They were also on BBC radio.

The Savoy Orpheans were formed in early 1923. The main attraction at London's famed Savoy Hotel had been Bert Ralton's Savoy Havana Band, and when Ralton left in late 1922 for an Australian tour, the band's violinist, Reginald Batten, became the leader. (Rudy Vallee was playing the Sax and Billy Mayerl was on the Piano). In 1923, due to the great popularity of the NY Havana Band, the Savoy decided to hire still another band - called The Savoy Orpheans - with Debroy Sommers as Leader. (Vallee was still on Sax but Billy Thorburn was on the piano. Carroll Gibbons was also in the new band). Now, both the New York Havana Band and The Savoy Orpheans bands were feature attractions at the Hotel.

Lowry was actually aware of the The Savoy Orpheans and mentions the band in a later letter to Carol in June 1926.

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