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These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You)

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These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You)

‘Spread It Abroad’ is a long-forgotten musical revue from 1935 that had at least one memorable moment – ‘These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You).’ Eric Maschwitz, the song writer, around 1936 wrote ‘These Foolish Things’ for Anna May Wong. Maschwitz wrote the song after having worked in America, he had a rather romantic and deep felt affair with Anna May Wong and then, after it broke up, returned to England to be Head of Variety at the BBC. He missed Anna May terribly and it inspired him, in a melancholy moment, to write ‘These Foolish Things.’

These Foolish Things

In urgent need of a song for a radio revue, he ground out the words one Sunday morning and read them over the phone to composer, Jack Strachey. As Maschwitz recalled it, he went to sleep the night before the song was needed in a bit of a sweat with nothing specific in mind and somehow woke up with a title, "These Foolish Things," but nothing more. He did have in mind, however, a Cole Porter song (‘You're the Top’) in which Porter presents a list of many amusing qualities about the object of the singer's affections. Maschwitz explains, ‘It (You're the Top)’ was the first of what are now called romantic catalog songs (or list songs).

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Eric Maschwitz

 

Perhaps it's hindsight, or hindhearing, but the tune sounds as if it were dictated by the words in more than the literal sense. It's a compelling melody but repetitious: compelling because repetitious. The principal task is to provide a long, wistful line to accompany each of the foolish things and - what Strachey does best - to build to a climax, philosophic or despairing as the singer chooses, on the final 'oh, how the ghost of you clings'.

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Jack Strachey

 

Singer actress Dorothy Dickson introduced ‘These Foolish Things’ in the 1936 British musical comedy 'Spread it Abroad.' A modest hit, the production opened at London’s Saville Theater on the first of April and ran for 209 performances. French actor Jean Sablon was originally chosen to sing ‘These Foolish Things,’ but the death of King George V in January meant the show was delayed. Dorothy Dickson never did record the song. In short time Jean Sablon did get an opportunity to sing the song, and in 1936 he recorded ‘These Foolish Things’ as ‘Ces Petites Choses.’

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Dorothy Dickson

 

The song attracted little attention on its radio debut, and not much more when it was sung in Spread It Abroad. Still unpublished, it was discovered - as a manuscript on a piano, according to Maschwitz - by the singer-pianist Leslie Hutchinson, alias Hutch. When the West Indian-British cabaret star Leslie "Hutch" Hutchinson was visiting Maschwitz's studio and saw the "battered manuscript of 'These Foolish Things' . . . lying on top of the piano. He said: "I have a recording session in two days' time. May I use it?" And use it he did, whereupon it became a great success and was recorded by musicians all over the world.

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Leslie "Hutch" Hutchinson

 

Teddy Wilson was a fabulous pianist who had an unerring sense for material and talent. He never played a bad note or made a record that wasn’t, in musicians’ parlance, “tasty.” He recorded ‘These Foolish Things’ in a model of understated swing, set an even jauntier tempo to usher in a single chorus from the 21-year-old Billie Holiday. She brings a new note to the song: disappointment verging on anger. Wilson recorded a solo version a few years later and continuedto play it throughout his career.

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It has become an integral part of many jazz musicians’ repertoires; the list of artists who recorded it is staggering. Saxophonists seem to have a special fondness for it, from swing-era players like Don Byas and Lester Young, bebop masters Stan Getz and Art Pepper, to modern-day players Harry Allen and Scott Hamilton (who play in a more swing-era oriented style).

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According to Strachey, after ‘These Foolish Things’ he never wrote another song that achieved its level of success. Apparently, ‘A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square,’ which he and Maschwitz wrote in 1939, and which is a standard by any measure, did not qualify. As he states: "I've been trying to write another 'These Foolish Things' all these years and I have never managed it."

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Maschwitz and Strachey

 

Robin Miller comments, in his 1963 article, that it is quite possible that a certain kind of songwriting success is no longer possible because "The great songs of the 1930s were written by adults for adults. People with experience of life and love, who could appreciate wit and were not afraid of sentiment. And sentiment, of course, is what is revealed by every line, every note of 'These Foolish Things'."

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Anna May Wong

 

These Foolish Things, lyrics


A cigarette that bears a lipstick's traces
An airline ticket to romantic places
And still my heart has wings
These foolish things remind me of you

A tinkling piano in the next apartment
Those stumblin' words that told you what my heart meant
A fairground's painted swings
These foolish things remind me of you

You came, you saw, you conquered me
When you did that to me
I knew somehow this had to be

The winds of March that make my heart a dancer
A telephone that rings but who's to answer?
Oh, how the ghost of you clings
These foolish things remind me of you

The scent of smouldering leaves the wail of steamers
Two lovers on the street who walk like dreamers
Oh how the ghost of you clings
These foolish things
Remind me of you

How strange, how sweet, to find you still
These things are dear to me
They seem to bring you so near to me

The sigh of midnight trains in empty stations
Silk stockings thrown aside dance invitations
Oh how the ghost of you clings
These foolish things
Remind me of you
Remind me of you
Remind me of you

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Jean Sablon

 

Ces Petites Choses (French version of These Foolish Things)


Ce vieux billet, chéri, qui me rappelle
Les nuits à bord du Normandie, si belles;
La lampe qui repose,
Ces petites choses
Me parlent de vous.

Ce doux refrain d'amour que Crosby chante,
Le vent du soir là-bas qui se lamente,
Et votre porte close,
Ces petites choses
Me parlent de vous.

Chéri, pourquoi m'avoir quittée?
Pourquoi m'avoir quittée
Après ce que nous avons été ?

Se dire adieu lorsque la cloche sonne,
Ce vieux boudoir où ne vient plus personne.
Partout où mes yeux se posent
Des petites choses
Me parlent de vous.

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