Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A nickel in the National Jukebox

The greatest work distraction ever has been invented. It is the Library of Congress National Jukebox!

What the Library of Congress has done is, it has loaded up a million of recordings from the early 1900s and put it up there for you to access. There is opera and blues, to name two categories I love. There is a lot of other stuff too. Wait, what is this? There is an interactive facsimile of the 1919 Victrola Book of the Opera. How about that? All this is free aside from that you have to consider that, like everything else, we pay for it with our taxes. It is very easy to use. I tried it just now when, you guessed it, I was supposed to be working.

"Warning: Historical Recordings may contain Offensive Language." It reads.

Hahahaa. As if today's recordings do not! That is a good one.

They should have heard the song I danced to in Zumba class yesterday! It was by a band called Pitbull. I asked. The Zumba version is a little cleaner than the real version. Well, I digress.

Naturally, you know me, I put a virtual nickel into that National Jukebox and went looking for the most politically incorrect thing I could find.

Al Jolson is a good place to start. I give you "The Spaniard Who Blighted My Life."

Ha, ha! I do not want to give it all away but it is great when he rhymes "Spanish onion" with "bunion."

What else? I love the title "Movin' Man, Don't Take My Baby Grand!" But that does not sound offensive enough for my purposes.

Oh, I see. For the really un-P.C. stuff you want "Ethnic Characterizations."

"I's Gwine Back to Dixie," performed by -- got to love this -- the Haydn Quartet. This is kind of sedate number, mournfully harmonized. Wow, is this one a window into the past or what? It is strange to hear these voices of long-dead men suddenly coming out of your laptop.

Equal strokes for equal folks, here is "The German's Arrival." It is a 1906 by a singer named Frank Wilson. It spoofs a German immigrant. Ah, this must be the reason for the disclaimer. They are afraid German-Americans are going to riot in the streets and turn over police cars.

Ha, ha! I wish I could catch more of this song. All I can catch so far because of the surface noise is yodeling and mention of breweries. But it sounds like a classic!

I read once that in the vaudeville era, ethnic groups would go to vaudeville shows hoping to hear themselves roasted, because when they did, it signaled to them that they were included, that they were in the club. Times have sure changed since then!

One thing that reminds me of, a few years ago there was that movie "The Wedding Crasher." Owen Wilson would crash weddings and hustle the bridesmaids, if I remember correctly. Anyway, I read a little essay in a women's magazine that, my heart went out to the writer. She was a woman of color and she regretted that the movie had not included an African-American wedding. And I saw in that essay a flicker of the old vaudeville era: a wish to be in on the joke, to be "in the club." Unfortunately people are so afraid to offend now and my guess is that was why an African-American wedding was not in that movie.

Back to the Library. One more before the work day closes in, why not? Let me see what I can find.

Here is an early corny recording, like something out of an old movie, of "My Old Kentucky Home." Odd, but inevitable, to see this in the "Ethnic Characterizations" category. Is it, considering this is a solo violin, no voice? The Library of Congress is playing it safe.

OK, here we go: "An Evening at Mrs. Clancey's Boarding House." By the Victor Vaudeville Company. In 1908.

This is not so much a song as it is a skit. All those brogues! And the conversation they are having! I would not want to reprint it here but it is fascinating.

It is amazing to hear these old recordings.

Talk about a window to the past!

No comments:

Post a Comment