The Soundtrack For The Baby Boomer Generation

Step back to a time when singers were as bright as the stars in the heavens
and the music they sang was really swingin'. Stacks of wax to fit every occasion!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

The Swingingest Sexpot In Show Business

Artist: Abbe Lane
Songs: We're Not Children (a-side) and Femininity (b-side)
Label: RCA Victor 47-7169 (Black label with silver printing)
Number: J2PW-0722 and J2PW-0724
Songwriters: Jay Livingston - Ray Evans (Both songs)
Time: 2:25 and 2.14 (The printing on the label says 2:25 and 2:56)
Released: 1958 (?)

I wasn't going to post this single because I found out these two songs were on her album entitled The Lady In Red and it had been reissued recently on CD. But, when I located an original version of that album which somebody had digitized and uploaded to the internet, here, I found out something very surprising. The two songs on my single were different versions than were found on the album! That's right. They both had the same arrangements, of that I'm sure - the instrumentation was exactly note for note on both versions. And, yes, it's Abbe singing on both versions, but they seem to be different takes. On We're Not Children, the lyrics and length of the song is the same on both the single and the album, as is her phrasing and the way she interprets the song. It's just that I can tell it's not the same vocal take on each one, if you know what I mean. Femininity is a whole other story.
On the album, Femininity has an intro piece and lasts 2:56. Does the length sound familiar? It should, for that is what the song is reported to run as printed on the label of the single version. The problem with that is, though - the single version only lasts 2:14! And, to top it all off, the lyrics are totally different in some places, so I know it's a different vocal take!
What could have happened? After a lot of research, I still don't know the answer to that. One clue that led me farther away from the truth was the small printing underneath the titles of both tracks on the single: From the musical production "Oh Captain!" A-ha! After a little more research, I found out that Abbe did indeed premiere these songs in the Broadway musical Oh, Captain! and that there was an original cast album released. I figured that was the discrepancy - the single was from the Broadway show, put out before the album was recorded. But.... Abbe was on the RCA label and the cast album was released by Columbia, so she couldn't appear on it and instead had to have her vocal parts sung by Eileen Rodgers. So, that wasn't what happened. What did happen?
My theory as to what took place is this. As is the case with some songs in Broadway productions, often times the lyrics get "updated" when recorded outside of the production. It arises that references that are in the song when perfomed onstage are out of context without the full compliment of the Broadway show surrounding it on a "secular" album. There is nothing to confirm or deny my theory, that I can find, but here is what I think happened:
Abbe never got to sing the songs that she herself premiered on Broadway. I mean, now they were like her signature songs and somebody else had to sing them on the original cast album! That must have made her pretty angry at rigid Record Company rules and regulations. When her record company, RCA, got ready for her to release a new album, they made sure that these two songs would be included on it; because after all, she was practically famous with them already. So they recorded them, and because the lyrics had to be rearranged and one of the songs padded out to a more fuller length, they tacked on an intro to the beginning of Femininity and all was well. To appease her, I think they may have allowed her to record them again, singing the versions she had on Broadway, only never intending to do anything with these other versions. I also suspect that they intended to use the album versions of both songs on the single all along, as the tell-tale timing lengths printed on the label indicates. Sometime after the recording process, the master tape of these two songs must have gotten mixed up and sent to be used on the single instead of the album version masters, and it wasn't caught until it was too late. Well, that's my theory and I'm sticking to it! If anybody has any information about this, please contact me.

As to Abbe Lane herself, she had quite a career. Born in 1932, she began as a child actress on the radio and from there she progressed to singing and dancing on Broadway. In 1952, she married the Latin bandleader Xavier Cugat and his influence could be seen on her music, which favored Latin and rumba styles. The title of this post was taken from a 1963 magazine article about her after she had achieved her greatest success, which was as a nightclub singer. She appeared in Italian films and several television shows of that period, Toast Of The Town, The Flying Nun, The Brady Bunch, Hart To Hart, and Vega$. Fans of hers got to see her one final time in the 1983 film version of The Twilight Zone, where she played a stewardess. Today, she is still alive and well. Maybe I should try to locate her and ask about the mix-up on this record.

This having been my longest post so far, (but you get 2 songs for the price of 1!), I need to give you the link for these wonderful songs. Here is Abbe Lane singing the songs from her single We're Not Children/Femininity. And, she actually sings them better on the 45, so don't miss this one!

1 comment:

Brent said...

great blog, great entry! Much thanks!