If you’ve read this blog before, you’ll know that I can become a bit obsessive from time to time. It’s one of life’s pleasures for me, and if it carries the stigma of being labelled intermittently autistic (notice the carefully chosen word order there), then I say “Bring it on!” (Or whatever the cliché du jour is.)
So, a little song quest story.
A few evenings ago I fancied listening to some piano jazz, and was led (in my meticulously ordered visible CD rack, which contains maybe 100, randomly selected, of my collection of about 1,786) to Errol Garner’s ‘Concert By The Sea’ live album from 1955 . That’ll do, I thought. Garner was assuredly the greatest jazz pianist never to have read a note of written music, and is still and forever a joy to the ear and the soul.
The penultimate piece is Rodgers’ and (more importantly) Hart’s ‘Where or When’. This is the greatest popular song ever written, but Errol slaughters it. (I’m not blaming him; he wasn’t the first and won’t be the last, and a song like this can survive almost anything.) Also, of course, the words weren’t there.
So off I went. I know a few recordings, Dion and the Belmonts being the most prominent (I still thrill to his gauche teenage mis-singing of the middle bit – ‘Some things that happened for the first time, seems to be happening again…’), but what I was really after was the intro, or what used to be called the ‘verse’. I think I’m allowed to quote the lyrics – hell, I’m going to anyway:
‘When you're awake, the things you think Come from the dream you dream. Thought has wings, and lots of things Are seldom what they seem. Sometimes you think you’ve lived before All that you live today; Things you do come back to you As though they knew the way. Oh the tricks your mind can play …’
Well, after a few hours of YoTubery, I was forced to concede that no obvious recording exists of this masterpiece of distilled emotional philosophy. Not Sinatra. Not Ella. Not Peggy Lee. Not even Harry Connick Jnr.
Then came exactly one of those moments.
I’m in Leeds, circa 1961. We have the soundtrack LP of the Rodgers and Hart biopic ‘Words and Music’, and Lena Horne is singing ‘Where or When’. All the way through. That’s it!
I tracked down a DVD, and last night I watched it. Two thirds of the way through, Mickey Rooney whispers “here’s Lena Horne,” and on she comes. She starts to sing: “It seems we stood and talked like this before …” I sink. The intro must have been on the LP, but not in the film.
So if anyone knows of a recording of the whole of ‘Where or When’ by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, do please drop me a line, and I’ll retire happy to my desert island in a blue room in a small hotel in Manhattan. Thank you.
The film was crap, by the way.