Evelyn Laye, Gaiety Girl

When you’re into vintage now, you ‘filter’, you pick and choose according to later tastes. We all do it. Even if we’re not into everything from our own time, it still has an impact on us. Sometimes we filter out massive chunks of what was actually mainstream in the past. In some cases (sexism, racism, homophobia), good riddance to it, and let’s carry on getting rid of what remains. Sometimes the filtering is aesthetic. Think of 1920s music and most people immediately think of jazz, but that was quite daring for a lot of the decade, especially here in Britain, and other musical styles were at least as widely listened to.

Gaiety Girl is a CD I bought when Duck, Son & Pinker was open. I used to browse the rack of old-time music, and because the CDs were fairly cheap I’d buy a couple on a whim. I like 20s music, so I should like this, right? Wrong. Evelyn Laye was a massively popular actress in musical comedies and operetta, having great success on the London stage in the 1920s, and having parts in some early Hollywood musicals, and these are songs from some of her stage hits. Even if you lived in the provinces, with a gramophone you could hear the stars of the day.

Evelyn has a beautiful voice, but her songs are just not my sort of thing: soaring, warbling showtunes. I suspect it doesn’t appeal to as many people nowadays as sparky 1920s jazz or the personality-packed singing of an Ethel Waters or Sophie Tucker. One song that really stood out was her version of ‘Lover, Come Back to Me’; I love Ella Fitzgerald’s much later version. Evelyn’s was slower, more drawn out, less playful... less fun.

I’ll be keeping the CD, of course, but I don’t suspect I’ll listen to it half as often as most of my others. I have similar problems with Gertrude Lawrence, I think the stage style of the 1920s simply isn’t my thing. Engaging Jazz Filter now!


  1. I think we all see the past through those rose tinted spectacles, I imagine myself as a friend of Bertie Wooster for example, whereas I would probably have been living in a one roomed house with a multitude of children, and scrubbing other womens floors for a few pence. I prefer music with a bit of 'life' to it as well. Great post! X

  2. When I was youunger my singing tutor would often give me 20s musical hits because I could hit the terribly sharp high notes and I was a bit sarcastic so the whole light hearted thing worked well. Now I can't do them any more, I wish I'd recorded some as no one would ever believe me (croak croak).

  3. Paperdoll, I agree! Most of us would probably not have fun lives in the 1920s/1930s. I know most of my relatives didn't.

    Perdita, you can sing?! *Has envy* I sound like a frog in a blender...


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