Pre-rock & roll pop songs with overtures
November 24, 2019 10:54 AM   Subscribe

Recently I learned that the song ”Paper Moon” has an opening part, which frequently gets cut from cover versions. Which other songs from the pre-rock & roll/Great American Songbook era have overture-type parts?
posted by pxe2000 to Media & Arts (27 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Almost all of them, actually. The thing we think of as "the song" was originally the chorus. The thing you're calling an "opening part" was originally the first verse. Sometimes there were multiple verses, sometimes just the one.

When all-instrumental jazz bands picked up the songs they tended to lop off the verse(s) and just repeat the chorus as something to play solos over. Jazz singers sometimes included the verse(s) and sometimes didn't.
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:04 AM on November 24, 2019 [9 favorites]

Response by poster: Can you give me some examples?
posted by pxe2000 at 11:15 AM on November 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

Another term for the often-cut first part is "verse intro" which leads into the chorus (also sometimes called the refrain), which was usually 32 bars.

More modern singers who dig in to the Great American Songbook sometimes will resurrect the verse-intro. (I'm using "modern" very broadly -- from Michael Feinstein reviving cabaret in the 80s & 90s, to today.)

There are so many that it's hard to pick out a few for examples. Like, the Gershwins, Rodgers & Hart, Cole Porter -- all of them typically wrote verse-intros.
posted by profreader at 11:19 AM on November 24, 2019

Best answer: Here’s an example:

Right before what is now usually thought of as “the beginning” of George and Ira Gershwin’s “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” there’s an intro (Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong’s version here does include it) :

Our romance won't end on a sorrowful note
Though by tomorrow you're gone
The song is ended, but as the songwriter wrote
The melody lingers on
They may take you from me, I'll miss your fond caress
But though they take you from me I'll still possess....

Then it goes into the part where many (most?) other versions begin:

The way you wear your hat
The way you sip your tea
The memory of all that
No, no, they can’t take that away from me.

The intro is sung in the original movie the song came from, Shall We Dance? with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:35 AM on November 24, 2019

Best answer: Old Man Sunshine, listen, you
Never tell me dreams come true
Just try it, and I'll start a riot
Beatrice Fairfax, don't you dare
Ever tell me he will care
I'm certain, It's the final curtain
I never want to hear from any cheerful Pollyannas
Who tell you fate supplies a mate, it's all bananas
They're writing songs of love, but not for me...
posted by Flannery Culp at 11:35 AM on November 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: More Gershwin:

There's a saying old says that love is blind
Still we're often told "seek and ye shall find"
So I'm going to seek a certain girl I've had in mind
Looking everywhere, haven't found her yet
She's the big affair I cannot forget
Only girl I ever think of with regret
I'd like to add her initials to my monogram
Tell me where's the shepherd for this lost lamb
There's a somebody I'm longing to see
I hope that she turns out to be
Someone to watch over me

Things have come to a pretty pass
Our romance is growing flat
For you like this and the other
While I go for this and that
Goodness knows what the end will be;
Oh, I don't know where I'm at...
It looks as if we two will never be one
Something must be done
You say either and I say eyether
You say neither and I say nyther;
Either, eyether, neither, nyther
Let's call the whole thing off!
posted by Flannery Culp at 11:37 AM on November 24, 2019

Best answer: I'm in the "almost all of them" camp. For example, here's the intro to Over the Rainbow.
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:40 AM on November 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Cole Porter, “I Love Paris”:

Every time I look down on this timeless town
Whether blue or gray be her skies
Whether loud be her cheers or whether soft be her tears
More and more do I realize

That I love Paris in the spring time
I love Paris in the fall
I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles
I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles

I love Paris every moment
Every moment of the year
I love Paris, why oh, why do I love Paris?
Because my love is near...

posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:41 AM on November 24, 2019

A lot of jazz musicians used to play the little overture that Charlie Parker put on "All The Things You Are"

When all-instrumental jazz bands picked up the songs they tended to lop off the verse(s) and just repeat the chorus as something to play solos over.

Um, no.
posted by thelonius at 12:00 PM on November 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: At words poetic, I'm so pathetic
That I always have found it best
Instead of getting 'em off my chest
To let 'em rest unexpressed
I hate parading my serenading
As I'll probably miss a bar
But if this ditty is not so pretty
At least it'll tell you how great you are

You're the top!

Or, on a seasonal note,
You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen
Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen
But do you recall
The most famous reindeer of all...

Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer
posted by Daily Alice at 12:20 PM on November 24, 2019

Best answer: My favourite – Cole Porter again, and the beginning of Anything Goes"

Times have changed
And we've often rewound the clock
Since the Puritans got a shock
When they landed on Plymouth Rock.
If today
Any shock they should try to stem
'Stead of landing on Plymouth Rock,
Plymouth Rock would land on them...

In olden days, a glimpse of stocking
Was looked on as something shocking.
But now, God knows,
Anything goes.
posted by MinPin at 12:35 PM on November 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

When all-instrumental jazz bands picked up the songs they tended to lop off the verse(s) and just repeat the chorus as something to play solos over.

Um, no.

For the most of these songs I can think of that became jazz standards, the head is the tune of the chorus, and the changes you solo over are the changes from the chorus. What am I missing?
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:43 PM on November 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Dozens of men would storm up,
I had to lock my door.
Somehow, I couldn't warm up
to one before.
What was it that controlled me?
What made my love life lean?
My intuition told me
you'd come on the scene.
Darling, listen to the rhythm of my heartbeat,
And you'll get just what I mean.
Embrace me...
posted by minervous at 12:58 PM on November 24, 2019

Best answer: I'm dreaming tonight of a place I love,
Even more than I usually do,
And although I know it's a long road back,
I promise you,
I'll be home for Christmas....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:25 PM on November 24, 2019

As Time Goes By was written for a Broadway musical. This version includes the intro.
posted by Homer42 at 1:36 PM on November 24, 2019

“White Christmas” has an intro, dropped in some recordings, about how much Christmas in LA sucks:

The sun is shining, the grass is green,
The orange and palm trees sway.
There's never been such a day
in Beverly Hills, L.A.
But it's December the twenty-fourth,—
And I am longing to be up North
posted by madcaptenor at 1:39 PM on November 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

Agreeing with nebula windphone. What you're speaking of is true of practically every song from the Great American Songbook. A great many of them are from shows, many of which have faded into obscurity so we think of them as standalone songs, and the verse was sort of the lead-in. Listen to recordings of the most loved standards singers (Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, etc etc) and many versions will have the verse as well as what you may be used to thinking of as the song, proper.
posted by less of course at 2:33 PM on November 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Here's one I like (despite the slight against fellows of a certain height like me) but honestly it's just about any song you could name.

He's a fool and don't I know it,
But a fool can have his charms
I'm in love and don't I show it
Like a babe in arms.

Love's the same old sad sensation--
Lately, I've not slept a wink
Since this half-pint imitation
Put me on the blink

And then the familiar "I'm wild again/beguiled again..." of Rodgers and Hart's beloved "Bewitched." It's kind of the exposition, because it's from Pal Joey, where it fits in as part of the plot.
posted by less of course at 2:41 PM on November 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

"Take Me Out To The Ball Game" is actually just the chorus.
posted by daisystomper at 2:44 PM on November 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square"

When two lovers meet in Mayfair, so the legends tell,
Songbirds sing; winter turns to spring.
Every winding street in Mayfair falls beneath the spell.
I know such enchantment can be, 'cause it happened one evening to me

With and without.
posted by jocelmeow at 2:51 PM on November 24, 2019

Best answer: Have you ever suffered that horrible thing
Of having your hostess ask you to sing
And just because you're so polite
You mumble through your teeth, all right
And suddenly a deathly gloom
Descends upon the entire room
And the whispering gallery starts to ring
With - hold your hats, she's gonna sing
Well, here I am with great regret
An innocent victim of etiquette
I'm going to sing but not for long
And though it's old, it's a lovely song
Why am I smiling and why do I sing
Why does September seem sunny as Spring
Why do I get up each morning and start
Happy and head up with joy in my heart
Why is each new task a trifle to do
Because I am living a life full of you
I'm singin' in the rain, just singing in the rain...
posted by littlemisslaika at 2:51 PM on November 24, 2019

Yes, it's the verse!
posted by lokta at 3:08 PM on November 24, 2019

Some pedantic notes. The verse is often less known because early recordings were limited in time so the intro/verse would be the first thing cut. Since the verse is usually sung once--although some rare songs use the same melody as the verse for the B-section, sometimes called the bridge, the breakup, the trio section, etc. --so as a listener, one doesn't "learn" the intro/verse which is heard once, unlike the chorus, which is usually repeated at least three times. Also some songs have several different intro/verses because songs were reused in different shows or in different movies and new intro/verses were written to fit the chorus into the story.

And on an almost completely different observation: the Beatles' "Hey Jude" is an AABA, 32 bar song with a four-minute coda on it: "Na-na-na--na, na,na, na--na, na,na, na. Hey Jude...." Surprised me when I realized it. Of course the Beatles learned the AABA structure mostly from songs written earlier, some by Brill Street writers who usually used that structure, and of course the Beatles began as a band that covered other folks' tunes.
posted by tmdonahue at 5:23 PM on November 24, 2019

Best answer: But you asked for examples. Here's a lesser-known one, from the musical "House of Flowers," music by Harold Arlen and lyrics supposedly by Truman Capote, but in truth many lyrics were written by others:

I done lost my ugly spell.
I am cheerful now.
Got the warm all overs soothing my worried brow.

Oh, the girl I used to be
She aint me no more.
I done closed the door
On the girl I was before.

Feeling fine and full of bliss
All I really wants to say is this:

I never has seen snow...
posted by tmdonahue at 5:26 PM on November 24, 2019

Best answer: I'm discontented with homes that I've rented
So I have invented my own
Darling, this place is lovely oasis
Where life's weary taste is unknown
Far from the crowded city
Where flowers pretty caress the stream
Cozy to hide in, to live side by side in
Don't let it apart in my dream
Picture me upon your knee
Just tea for two
And two for tea
posted by misteraitch at 11:57 PM on November 24, 2019

Best answer: When the only sound in the empty street
Is the heavy tread of the heavy feet
That belong to a lonesome cop
I open shop

When the moon so long has been shining down
On the wayward ways of this wayward town
That her smile becomes a smirk
I go to work

Love for sale...
posted by rd45 at 2:15 AM on November 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm a little late to the party, but Stardust, one of the most recorded of standards, is worth noting because there is a version with just the verse.

Nat King Cole singing the whole thing
Frank Sinatra singing just the refrain
Frank Sinatra singing just the verse

Music by Hoagy Carmichael with words added by Mitchell Parish a couple of years after the first instrumental recording. The frequently omitted verse:

And now the purple dusk of twilight time
Steals across the meadows of my heart
High up in the sky the little stars climb
Always reminding me that we're apart
You wander down the lane and far away
Leaving me a song that will not die
Love is now the stardust of yesterday
The music of the years gone by.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 7:12 AM on November 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

« Older Steel-Cut Oats: Can I eat?   |   The Only 3D Blu Ray I Really Want to Watch Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.