Come Josephine in My Flying Machine: Inventions and Topics in Popular Songs 1910-1929
Liner Notes   Cat. No. 80233     Release Date: 1977-01-01
The creation of popular music in America has been closely tied to the ways the music was performed, the growing and changing composition of the audience, and the emergence of highly commercial entertainment enterprises. The adaptation of certain mechanical, optical, and electrical devices to the needs of entertainment has also influenced popular music. The marked local or regional character of much of our music in the nineteenth century either faded or became part of the mainstream. In America, moreover, the development of popular song has been affected by diverse ethnic and social forces that have made this music not only rich in content and quality but also an influence throughout the world. In the end, the whole became more important than the parts.

Although love songs and sentimental ballads have accounted for most popular music, the topical song has always been important in America. Stephen Collins Foster wrote durable pieces about horse races, a dog, and imaginary southern homes. James Bland, another gifted writer, used golden slippers, tapioca, and silver trumpets as subjects. In the present century, Irving Berlin used the telephone, a mythical rag-time band, violins, pianos, and girls on magazine covers as inspiration.Early published music clearly reflects theAmerican’s preoccupation with things—with inventions, devices, gadgets, and diversions of all kinds. There were “The Railroad” (1828), “The Lighthouse” (1841), the “Atlantic Telegraph Polka”(1868), “Velocipedia” (1868), “At the Roller Skating Rink” (1884), and “Snap Shot Girl” (1899). Telephone songs were particularly numerous:“The Telephone Polka” (1877), “The TelephoneWonder” (1884), “Kissing Papa Through the Telephone” (1889), and “My Own Little Tele-phone Belle” (1903), to cite a few.

Songs about new inventions became less numerous after 1930, probably because fewer gadgets of great importance were introduced, especially inventions that seemed useful in courtship. In this, however, song titles are no accurate barometer. Although there may be no song devoted solely to the refrigerator, the line “I’ll stock my heart with icy frigid air” in “I’m Through with Love” (1931) was an obvious pun, and the more explicit phrase “picking on a wishbone from the Frigidaire” appeared cleverly in “Two Sleepy People” (1938). But the older inventions and things, along with a few new ones, did hold the attention of songwriters. There were, to name a few, “Flying Down to Rio”(1933),“Cocktails for Two” (1934), “Chattanooga Choo Choo”(1941), and “The Old Piano Roll Blues”(1950). There were also big-band favorites such as Billy Strayhorn’s wonderful “Take the A Train”(1941),with words that nobody seems to recall. There was even a witty put-down of the world of things with its ugliness and dangers in “Civilization”(1947), a fast-paced indictment of a materialistic society gone mad with taxicabs and A-bombs.

Various Artists

Come Josephine in My Flying Machine: Inventions and Topics in Popular Songs 1910-1929

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