SONGS FOR A SMOKE-FILLED ROOM - Elsa Lanchester
TRACK LISTING: Never Go Walking Without Your Hat Pin, If You Peek In My Gazebo, Fiji Fanny, When A Lady Has A Piazza, The Rat-Catcher's Daughter, At the Drive-In, If You Can't Get In the Corners, The Husband's Clock, Please Sell No More Drink to My Father, Linda and Her Londonderry Air, Catalogue Woman, Lola's Saucepan
IMPRESSIONS: As a wee nipper I first became aware of this album by hearing "Never Go Walking Without Your Hat Pin" on the Dr. Demento Show circa 1977. These are a type of double entendre British music hall songs you either appreciate or you don't. I 'preciate. Many thanks to the irrepressible Terry Frost for jogging my memory on this one by playing "Fiji Fanny" on his latest Paleo-Cinema podcast #101.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: Never Go Walking Without Your Hat Pin, Fiji Fanny, When A Lady Has A Piazza, At the Drive-In, If You Can't Get In the Corners, The Husband's Clock, Please Sell No More Drink To My Father, Linda and Her Londonderry Air, Lola's Saucepan
GUEST ARTISTS: Charles Laughton ("remarks")
FACT SHEET: SONGS FOR A SMOKE-FILLED ROOM is, I suppose, Elsa Lanchester's first album but I can't really be sure of that. I can tell you that this album and its 1958 follow-up "SONGS FOR A SHUTTERED PARLOR" were re-released (for some odd reason) only three years later in 1961 as "BAWDY COCKNEY SONGS" and "MORE BAWDY COCKNEY SONGS". Lanchester co-founded a theatre called "The Cave of Harmony" in 1924 which put on plays by the likes of Pirandello and Chekhov where she was also a dancer. In her autobiography, Lanchester says she gathered out-of-print songs in the British Museum to utilize as filler material to "re-create the Victorian era under the title of 'The Old Mahogany Bar'" She was seen performing her bawdy music hall songs at the 'Cave of Harmony' by such luminaries as H.G. Wells, Aldous Huxley, Evelyn Waugh, James Whale and future husband Charles Laughton who provides brief introductions to the songs on this record. Oddly enough, while Lanchester mentions this period and her gathering the songs in her autobiography, she makes no mention of these two record albums; perhaps because she never considered herself to be a "singer " but a "...diseuse who tells a story rather than sings it". This term is nicely defined by Laughton in his introduction to the first album track when he compares her to Rex Harrison in "MY FAIR LADY". Years later at the Turnabout Theater in Hollywood, Lanchester had a long-running stage show in which she revived these songs and this probably led to their transciption onto vinyl at this time.