Julie London – London By Night

Another of the best albums of 1959 arrived this week, the wittily titled ‘London By Night’ by Julie London. While compiling the best of list for 1959 I listened to a load of albums on Spotify through noise cancelling headphones but playing the actual record is a much better listening experience. Having the sound vibrate the air molecules in the room, filling it up, bouncing off walls and filling my ears from multiple directions just feels so much better. Added to this the fact that I wasn’t doing something else while listening, just siting and listening, also helps to create a better listening experience.

My copy is a 1963 repress so not really very long after it was originally released and the entire process of recording, mixing and pressing would still have been analogue. Though my ears are not as good as they used to be, I,m pretty confident I can hear the difference. The sound is rich and full and it feels like it has a warmth about it which is often lacking when digital came along. This is not a scientific thing, I can’t really prove it one way or the other, it just feels like that to me.

On listening more closely to the songs they are a piece of social history and at times indicative of the place of women in the late 50’s. while sitting and listening to the lyrics rather than letting them wash over me I was struck by these words from “Just the way I am”:

If perhaps I’d been a little distant
If I tried to play a little hard to get
Do you think you might have fallen in love?If I’d been a trifle, inconsistent
If I hadn’t let you light each cigarette
Do you think you might have fallen in love?And if I’d wonder the way you like, him
Would I’ve been more appealing?
Had my chin been stronger
Had my kisses lasted longer
Would I’ve inspired that I adore her feeling
If I’d been little more, attractive
Had my power had not been so, overactive
Would you have not held that nose
Like some meek, sweet adolescent lad?
What a fool I was to ever believe
That someday you could love me,
Just, the way, I am

Written by a man, Bobby Troup, and sung by a woman. It is possible to read different things into the lyrics but it gives me the sense of things being entirely the woman’s fault. I decided to check if Bobby Troup was actually a man, and he was, he was also the writer of “Route 66”. When I looked up his songwriting credits I discovered this song was not originally sung by Julie London (although some of his songs were), but by June Christy 4 years prior, who I’ve never heard of but she has a nice voice.

Much of the above is just rambling, sorry, also I discovered Bobby Troup was the husband of Julie London.

Let me give you a special prize for staying with me this far. When I buy a used record I always hope for an inner sleeve that advertises other records as this was a sort of old timey music discovery route. Unfortunately this album had a plain white sleeve, however, I just discovered something inside the cover!

I don’t remember seeing an insert like this before, and it has the Peggy Lee/George Shearing album that is also in the top 30. I knew you’d be excited. I listened to tracks form some of the other albums by people I’d never heard of, like The Dinning Sisters, Glen Gray, Peters Sisters, Ray Anthony, didn’t like it. Harry James was ok, Sinatra, Garland, Cole and Kitt I already know, which just left Nelson Riddle, who I knew was often Sinatras band, so I gave that a listen, the band is great but I couldn’t listen to a whole album of songs that normally have vocals but are played as instrumentals.

I really should say a little more about who Julie London was, so here is the start of her wiki entry:

Julie London (born Nancy Gayle Peck; September 26, 1926 – October 18, 2000) was an American singer and actress, whose career spanned more than 40 years. Born in Santa Rosa, California to vaudevillian parents, London was discovered while working as an elevator operator in downtown Los Angeles, and began her career as an actress. London’s 35-year acting career began in film in 1944, and included roles as the female lead in numerous Westerns, co-starring with Rock Hudson in The Fat Man (1951), with Robert Taylor and John Cassavetes in Saddle the Wind (1958), and opposite Robert Mitchum in The Wonderful Country (1959).

In the mid-1950s, she signed a recording contract with the newly established Liberty Records, and released a total of 32 albums of pop and jazz standards during the 1950s and 1960s, with her signature song being “Cry Me a River”, which she introduced in 1955. London was noted by critics for her husky, smoky voice and languid vocal style. She released her final studio album in 1969, but achieved continuing success playing the female starring role of Nurse Dixie McCall, in the television series Emergency! (1972–1979), in which she appeared opposite her real-life husband, Bobby Troup. The show was produced by her ex-husband, Jack Webb.

A shy and introverted woman, London rarely granted interviews, and spent the remainder of her life out of the public sphere. In 1995, she suffered a stroke, which left her with permanent health problems, and died five years later of a heart attack.

Track List

1Well, SirBobby Troup, John Lehmann3:09
2That’s for MeRichard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II2:26
3Mad About the BoyNoël Coward2:11
4In the Middle of a KissSam Coslow2:19
5Just the Way I AmBobby Troup2:43
6My Man’s Gone NowGeorge and Ira Gershwin, DuBose Heyward3:50
7Something I Dreamed Last NightSammy Fain, Jack Yellen, Herbert Magidson2:36
8Pousse CafeNigel Mullaney, J. P. Jowett, Chris Foster2:53
9Nobody’s HeartRichard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart2:20
10The Exciting LifeEarl Hagen, Hubert Spencer2:31
11That Old FeelingSammy Fain, Lew Brown2:29
12Cloudy MorningMarvin Fisher, Joseph McCarthy2:13

And now for your listening and viewing pleasure, The Julie London Show from 1964: