Treasures of Tin Pan Alley
by lan Whitcomb, Mel Bay Publications, Inc., book and cassette .
Ian Whitcomb came over with the same British invasion that brought the Beatles to our shores, and in 1966 he produced a rock single that shot to the top of the charts: “You Turn Me On.” And then he got lost in Tin Pan Alley. This energetic Briton became one of the most sedulous scholars of the great era of American popular song that began at the century’s turn and crested during the First World War. He kept performing—ragtime instead of rock—and now he has distilled a quarter-century’s worth of work into an anthology of the finest songs of the era: “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” “You Made Me Love You,” “Where Did Robinson Crusoe Go With Friday on Saturday Night,” Jerome Kern’s gorgeous “They Didn’t Believe Me,” and the lilting, melancholy “Till We Meet Again.” (After they wrote the waltz in 1918, Raymond Egan and Richard Whiting thought it was just another wartime potboiler, writes Whitcomb, but “when the song was published, there was no stopping this three-quarter-time juggernaut; five million copies were sold within the year. The song was the last big bestseller in sheet music.”) All the tunes appear just as they did in their original sheet music, and in case your keyboard skills have corroded some, Whitcomb also supplies a cassette of his own canny, lively, fond interpretations of them.