Ah, yes, more vocal jazz. I’m always so excited to come across singles from genres and artists that I am fairly aware of, but with which I am fairly inexperienced in listening to or learning about. I could write about familiar artists like Queen and Depeche Mode any day of the week, whereas total outliers like One Two Trio and dBridge simply baffle me beyond words. No, the best stuff I’ve stumbled upon are the pleasant surprises from styles of music that I’ve no qualms about at all, yet to which I would never think to spend a good amount listening. For the most part, my brain tends to just kind of glaze over once I find myself needing to listen to a lot of the traditional pop of the 40s and 50s. Usually the music itself is good and the song is sung fairly well, but it also often comes saddled with antiquated ideas of romance and they just all sound so similar in terms of production. It’s certainly not the musicians’ fault – I know I need to keep an open mind on these kinds of things, but it’s just my personal taste anyway!
What I’m getting at is that I sorely wish I had heard of Lita Roza earlier. She belongs in this same breed of traditional pop, although she comes from the UK and not the US. After achieving a certain amount of high acclaim performing with various orchestras, she embarked upon a solo career in the early 50s. Shortly thereafter, she accomplished a #1 hit single with her cover of Patti Page’s “(How Much is) That Doggie in the Window”, making her the first woman to have a number-one hit on the UK charts. I listened to this single, and… it’s fine. I don’t care much for the Patti Page original in the first place, and while Roza’s version isn’t bad, per se, it’s always been a bit of a silly song to me and it’s clear that this isn’t quite her comfort zone. Compare this recording next to something like “Allentown Jail” or her rendition of the standard “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” and it’s clear to see where her talents truly lie.
My knowledge of popular music in the UK prior to the mid-60s is very, very poor, so once again, it’s always nice when I can open my mind up a little more to these genres that I don’t often explore. Lita Roza’s clear, crisp vocal delivery could probably be best compared to contemporary American vocalists like Jane Morgan or Kay Starr. This particular recording is backed by lush, sweeping strings and little else – though the occasional accordion leaps in for a bit of atmosphere! Lyrically, it’s a love song to the speaker’s unspecified hometown: “This is my town, where as a child I used to play”. It’s nice, sure – it’s always good and important that, no matter how successful or accomplished one becomes in life, they remember where they came from to keep themselves humble and realizing what’s really important in life. This sentiment is nailed down in the second verse: “I’ve seen the lights of Paris… But this is my town and it’s home”.
I think if this song falters in anything, it’s in the clumsiness of the lyrics in the bridge, which state, “When people talk of other places where they have been / I let them talk, for in my heart I know they’ve never seen”. It’s one thing to have pride in where one comes from, but to presume that others couldn’t possibly understand is something else entirely. The profession of pride in one’s hometown is certainly nothing new in music at all, but there isn’t even a specific name given to this place, which makes this moment of forced braggadocio seem a bit out of place. Still, when taken at face value, it’s a pretty nice song. While it certainly doesn’t disprove my theory about a lot of these voices and sounds in traditional pop sounding very, very similar, it’s a pleasant sound nonetheless. It’s been nice exploring the work of Roza while writing this up, and I certainly hope some more of her stuff pops under my radar fairly soon.