The Rainy Day Medley
Medleys used to have a bad name. I could forgive Duke Ellington the habit because he had so much music to get into any given concert (and because he was Duke Ellington), while Dionne Warwick’s 20-song Bacharach/David selection was an exhilarating marathon, particularly when she had a proper orchestra behind her. But not many medleys manage to assemble their component parts in a way that creates a greater meaning.
Here’s one that does. It’s Frank Sinatra, with the help of Nelson Riddle, plaiting together a trio of classic saloon ballads — “Last Night When We Were Young” (music: Harold Arlen/words: Yip Harburg), “Violets For Your Furs” (music: Matt Dennis/words: Tom Adair) and “Here’s That Rainy Day” (music: Jimmy Van Heusen/words: Johnny Burke) — into something that describes the full emotional arc of a love affair. It couldn’t have worked better if the three composers and their lyricists had got their heads together for that express purpose.
I first heard it three or four years ago on the Sinatra: New York box set, taken from a 1974 concert at Carnegie Hall. This filmed performance seems to have been made the year before, presumably in a television studio. It’s not quite as wonderful in terms of singing and orchestral blend as the version on the CD (although this one benefits from not having a corny spoken introduction), but it’s a precious reminder of what he could do with songs as sophisticated and timeless as these.
Thanks Richard, in this week where Everly Brothers’ medleys have been on the playlist. Oddly, last night I felt the urge to check out Johnny Mercer singing his own songs. I’ve been binging on the YouTube clip of Bing Crosby singing ‘Accentuate the Positive’ in glorious HD B&W in its original setting, the 1944 film Here Come the Waves. Bizarre but glorious, with Bing in Blackface as a bonus. http://youtu.be/7GLz5OjosOo — Worth seeing, and wondering if the dancers & chorus girls are all diminutive because Bing was, too.
Anyway I came across this timewarp from 1966 – Bing and Johnny doing a medley of the latter’s songs. It’s corny, and Mercer is a little smug, but he had good reason to be. It’s a great lesson in songwriting in varied genres, and Mercer – often with the genius, Harold Arlen, Randy Newman without the barbs, or Longhair riffs – wrote so many mini masterpieces. http://youtu.be/iDxN0tkAi70
Apologies for introducing a gratuitous note of trivia, Richard. Nelson Riddle’s daughter-in-law? Paula Wilcox.
Interesting to see in this terrific video that, along with Frank’s one-more-for-the-road drink, is a plate of what appears to be ham sandwiches – as you might expect