Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of the Inkspots performing I’ll Get By.
Stardust: The Classic Decca Hits and Standards Collection, various artists, Decca Records, MCA, 1994
I am a first generation child of the television age, although in recent years I have spent more time kicking and screaming about that fact than watching the damn thing. Nevertheless I can appreciate this little compilation of Decca hits and standard tunes from the 1940s and 1950s as a valentine to the radio days of my parents’ youth, parents who came of musical age (and every other kind of age as well) during the Great Depression of the 1930s and who fought, or waited for those out on the front lines fighting, World War II. I am just old enough though, although generation behind them, to remember the strains of songs like the harmonic –heavy Mills Brothers Paper Dolls (a favorite of my mother’s) and The Glow Worm (not a favorite of anybody as far as I know although the harmony is still first-rate) that came wafting, via the local Adamsville radio station WJDA, through our big box living room radio in the early 1950s. It seemed they, or maybe the Andrews Sisters, be-bopping (be-bopping now, not then, you do not want to know what I called it then), on Rum And Coca-Cola or tagging along with Bing Crosby on Don’t Fence Me In were permanent residents of the airs-waves in the Markin household.
I am also a child of Rock 'n' Roll but those above-mentioned tunes were the melodies that my mother and father came of age to and the stuff of their dreams during World War II and its aftermath. The rough and tumble of my parents raising a bunch of kids might have taken the edge off it but the dreams remained. In the end it is this musical backdrop, behind the generation musical fights that roils the Markin household in teen times, that makes this compilation most memorable to me. Just to say names like Dick Haymes (I think my mother had a “crush” on him at some point), Vaughn Monroe, The Inkspots (who, truth, I liked even then, even in my “high, Elvis, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee, Buddy Holly days, especially on If I Didn’t Care and I’ll Get By-wow), and Lois Armstrong. Or songs like Blueberry Hill, You’ll Never Know, A- Tisket- A Tasket, You Always Hurt The One You Love and so gather in a goodly portion of the mid-20th century American Songbook. Other talents like Billie Holiday, The Weavers, and Rosemary Clooney and tunes like Lover Man (and a thousand and one Cole Porter Billie-sung songs), Fever, and As Time Goes By (from Dooley Wilson in Casablanca) came later through very different frames of reference. But the seed, no question, no question now, was planted then.
Let’s be clear as well going back to that first paragraph mention of television - there something very different between the medium of the radio and the medium of the television. The radio allowed for an expansion of the imagination (and of fantasy) that the increasingly harsh realities of what was being portrayed on television did not allow one to get away with. The heart of World War II, and in its immediate aftermath, was time when one needed to be able to dream a little. The realities of the world at that time seemingly only allowed for nightmares. My feeling is that this compilation will touch a lot of sentimental nerves for the World War II generation (that so-called ‘greatest generation’), including my growing-up Irish working class families on the shores of North Adamsville. Nice work.