The Public Records 12/10/18
Hey there and howdy all you Public Recordians. The holiday season is in full swing and we’ve redecorated for the occasion. Have you noticed the difference in An Sibin? Anyhoodles, continuing with our good cheer and welcoming of World Wide Folk December series, we will continue with another disc from the annals of recorded European music.
For the week of December 10th, 2018, The Public Records is happy to share Elsa Lanchester’s Bawdy Cockney Songs (Everest Records/Tradition, 1968). This album, while English, is quite similar to the French cafe music of last week. The tunes on here were for cabarets and other types of working class entertainment of early 20th century England; and while many of the tracks on this one are quite innocent by today’s standards lyrically, when you read between the lines, you find the subject matter to be quite bawdy – as the title suggests.
The singer, Elsa herself, you may not think you know. She was a redheaded English comedian, cabaret performer, and actor. You know her as the Bride Of Frankenstein – which was her big break. Lanchester, who was born in 1902, also was in Marry Poppins, Willard, Witness For The Prosecution, and many more. She was married to Charles Laughton.
Elsa’s parents were traditional bohemians who never officially married, were vegetarians, pacifists, and encouraged their children to follow their dreams (all pretty wild for 1900s England). This upbringing led her and her older brother, who became a puppeteer and marionette maker, into the world of the performing arts.
Elsa began studying dance early, and studied with Isadora Duncan in Paris until the First World War broke out. When the Great War began, Elsa moved back home and at around age 12 began her own dance school back in England. After the war, she opened her own Children’s Theatre and nightclub, the Cave Of Harmony. It was in this club, which was a place for contemporary theater and cabarets.
She used to cabaret to bring back a revival of earlier Victorian songs and ballads – which are what are on this album. Her club and the theater she put on there, led to more gigs at more theaters and eventually film. She and Laughton moved to Hollywood, CA and continued working separately and many times together. In the 1950s she released most of her adult-themed albums. Elsa Lanchester past away in 1986 at the age of 84.
Let’s celebrate the work and life of this funky lady by tipping back a hot toddy or two and getting a little bawdy ourselves….