The following is the final in a series of three guest posts by Music Division Archivist Anita M. Weber. See Part One, “Let’s Get Away From It All: Natural Wonders” and Part Two, “Flashpoints: An American History Tour.”
For many of us it just isn’t summer without a vacation at the beach. Or do you call it the shore? Like countless others, I’m missing the sand and surf this year. So here is a short musical trip to the waterside to end our summer.
Composers have long taken listeners to the seaside, writing numerous paeans to lovely ocean waves and tempest-tossed seas. Debussy’s La Mer, Elgar’s Sea Pictures, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s “The Sea and Sinbad’s Ship” from Scheherazade all bring to mind the power and majesty of the water.
But not all songs rhapsodize about the beauty of the sea. Instead many remind us of the fun one can have at the beach.
On the eve of World War I, Harry Carroll and Harold Atteridge wrote “By the Beautiful Sea” while they were under contract to write musicals and revues for the Shubert family of Broadway producers.
This charming little ditty has an easy-to-sing melody that captures the fun of the seaside as lovers Jane and Joe motor off to the shore anticipating wave jumping, swimming, and perhaps a kiss or two.
By the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea,
You and I, you and I, oh! How happy we’ll be,
When each wave comes a-rolling in,
We will duck or swim, and we’ll float and fool around the water.
Over and under, and then up for air,
Pa is rich, Ma is rich, so now what do we care?
I love to be beside your side, beside the sea,
Beside the seaside, by the beautiful sea.”
A kicker comes in the second verse: neither Joe nor Jane is a millionaire, Joe is married, and Jane is a hairdresser. A big surprise to me who innocently sang this chorus as a child!
Fifty years later we find Artie Resnick and Kenny Young taking a different approach to the same topic. Instead of splashing in the water, their lovers find themselves some privacy “Under the Boardwalk.”
Under the boardwalk, out of the sun
Under the boardwalk, having some fun . . .”
Although inspired by the heat of New York and the beaches of the Jersey shore, this R&B/soul song, most memorably performed by the Drifters, takes us down to the Carolinas for some shag dancing on the beach.
The song’s slow lilt makes it perfect for the shag, a slowed- down version of the Carolina jitterbug that originated In South Carolina in the 1940s.
Of all the American music associated with the beach, California surf music may be the best known. And nothing epitomizes California surf like the Beach Boys. In 1962 cousins Brian Wilson and Mike Love wrote “Surfin’ Safari,” and this song has it all: the Woody, the surfer girl, the surfer lingo, and the best beaches:
At Huntington and Malibu
They’re shootin’ the pier,
At Rincon they’re walkin’ the nose…”
They’re anglin’ in Laguna in Cerro Azul
They’re kickin’ out in Doheny too
I tell you surfing’s mighty wild
It’s gettin’ bigger every day
From Hawaii to the shores of Peru…”
And it is all surrounded by that driving rhythm we’ve come to associate with sun, surf, and fun.
Let’s end our time on the water as the sun is going down and our appetites are at their peak.
The sea not only provides a location for frolic, but also succulent shellfish. At low tide it is possible to see people digging for clams, mussels, and snails for clambakes, chowders, and stews. In “A Real Nice Clambake” from Carousel, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein bring to life the joys of fresh shellfish shared with good friends.
This was a real nice clambake,
We’re mighty glad we came.
The vittles we et
Were good, you bet,
The company was the same.
Our hearts are warm, our bellies are full,
And we are feeling prime.
This was a real nice clambake,
And we all had a real good time.”
As Library of Congress music specialist Mark Eden Horowitz and singer/pianist Michael Feinstein discovered, Hammerstein collected recipes as he prepared to write “Clambake,” parts of which made their way into his lyrics.
I don’t know about you, but I could use a nice slice of pizza or some salt water taffy right about now to finish off my day at the beach!
A word about the sheet music in this and much of the previous two vacation blog posts: Since 1870 the Library of Congress has been the sole agent for copyright registration and deposit in the U.S. The Library holds millions of songs deposited for copyright registration that comprise the heart of the Music Division’s collections and are, in the aggregate, perhaps the greatest of its treasures. Music is arranged by serial number and searchable through the Catalog of Copyright Entries, although tens of thousands of titles by noted composers are classified and available through the LOC online catalog.
Over the past twenty-some years numerous digitization projects have made more than 100,000 titles accessible through a series of thematic “collections” available for perusal on the Library’s website from the comfort of your own computer.