Saturday, September 22, 2012

Great Love Songs (35 & 36)

My little post yesterday about the comforting familiarity of being back in Beijing (where everyone seems to know me) of course put me in mind of On The Street Where You Live, one of the best songs from Lerner & Loewe's My Fair Lady. It was my old college drinking buddy The Bookseller (another big fan of musicals - it's NOT just a gay thing!) who first got me into the habit of singing this on the way home from the pub at night during my student days in Oxford... where there were just a handful of streets we seemed to traverse dozens of times a day... and where love seemed always in the air... and where there wasn't very much residential space in the city centre (other than the colleges themselves), so such late-night ebullience didn't seem too likely to disturb people's sleep. After lapsing from the habit for years, I found it powerfully revived on moving to Beijing - perhaps because I am so often walking home drunk at around midnight here. In my first year, particularly, returning each night from the 'Adventure Bar', I would frequently burst forth into joyous snatches of this song on the brief walk home.

Here's the scene from the film, with a young Jeremy Brett playing the infatuated Freddy (although I gather his singing was overdubbed by an actor called Bill Shirley). I doubt if this will stay up on Youtube for long, so enjoy it while you can.

And here's a great instrumental version by jazz pianist Errol Garner.

In fact, largely as a result of how ferociously cold Beijing was in my first winter here (and even in autumn; the second half of October was absolutely bloody freezing that year), it was another song from that show that I found myself singing even more often, the song that has become most associated for me with my sojourn here in Beijing - Eliza's fantasy of simple creature comforts, Wouldn't It Be Loverly?

Audrey Hepburn's singing in the film was famously dubbed by Marni Nixon, although some of her original test recordings of the songs resurfaced some years back, and are, I gather, included in the extras on the latest DVD editions. Unfortunately, I can't find Audrey singing this on Youtube, but you can check out her rendition of I Could Have Danced All Night. It doesn't have the polish or power of a professional singer, but there's a simplicity and zest about it that is as captivating as... well, as captivating as Audrey always was. Fellow devotees of the classic musicals may be interested in this posting, in which the same scene from the film as above is overdubbed with the original theatrical cast recording, in which Julie Andrews was the voice of Eliza.


Mike Cormack said...

Me and the wife really like musicals, especially the classic 50s ones, but also Grease, Saturday Night Fever, etc. They're just so joyous! Oklahoma is amazing, like an expression of the confidence of Ike-era USA.

Froog said...

Did you hear that a laowai am-dram production of 'Oklahoma' got closed down after its opening night here in April? (I missed it myself, but the guy playing Jud was coming in the bar a lot around then.)

That was an early sign of how crazily paranoid the government was getting!

Even musical theatre is potentially subversive??

Froog said...

Writing this post has unleashed a great flood of soppy nostalgia in me. I think I might set aside my Sunday afternoon to watch My Fair Lady again. It's been a few years since I last saw it.

Froog said...

And gawd knows how this went up on Friday! Gremlins with the Blogger scheduling widget again!!

Froog said...

I might almost have included this pair as 'Great Drinking Songs'. Poor Freddy finds that the pavement won't stay beneath his feet any more becauses, distracted by love, he feels as if he's floating along, wing-heeled. With me, it's more of a drunken staggering or unnoticed trip hazard problem.

Wouldn't it be loverly? lodged itself in my brain during that brutal first winter in Beijing because of the appositeness of its opening lines:
All I want is a room somewhere,
Far away from the cold night air...

Is Wouldn't it be loverly? really a 'love song', though? Well, I think the longing for material comforts such as a roaring fire and a nice bit of chocolate might well be considered a species of love. But it's clear that Eliza is quite a traditional girl at heart, and that all these other elements of her imagined ideal life are but accessories to the core requirement of a loving relationship with a man; the heart of the song is -
Someone's head restin' on my knee,
Warm and tender as he can be.
He takes good care of me...

So, yes, it's a 'love song' - but one about the idealisation of love, rather than an actual instance of it.