Updated: Oct 13, 2021
A tune that I will always associate with The Goon Show is ‘Crazy Rhythm’. It was often played by Max Geldray and the orchestra at the end of episodes as a playout, meaning if the programme ran under time there wouldn’t be silence! Many of the recordings that exist feature the performance in full.
Here’s a studio version by Max Geldray and the Wally Stott Orchestra:
The song was written in 1928 for the musical Here’s Howe, which ran for two months (May and June) in 1928 at the Broadhurst Theatre in New York. The music was composed by Joseph Meyer and Roger Wolfe Kahn, with lyrics by Irving Caesar.
More information about Here’s Howe is available from the Internet Broadway Database.
One of Joseph Meyer’s most successful compositions was ‘California, Here I Come’, co-written with Buddy DeSylva for the 1921 musical Bombo. The song was performed by Al Jolson, who is often also credited as a co-writer. Although, as my grandfather – a Jolson fan and something of an expert on songwriters of the first half of the 20th century – will tell you, Jolson often negotiated a songwriting credit even when he hadn’t really contributed much!
Lyricist Irving Caesar also has a link to Al Jolson, having scored his first major hit with ‘Swanee’ (a song he co-wrote with George Gershwin). The song became a hit when Jolson heard it and recorded it in 1920. That’s more a fact included to prove to Grandad that I have been paying attention to his Jolson anecdotes.
Finally, Roger Wolfe Kahn is worth mentioning too as he seems a fascinating man. Several online biographies say he reportedly learned to play 18 different instruments (presumably not at the same time) and led his own orchestra at the age of 16. It’s at this point I have in my head the scene from the Tom & Jerry episode set at the Hollywood Bowl, when Jerry ends up conducting the orchestra while Tom is the only person on stage, and has to run around playing each instrument as Jerry points to it.
While I haven’t been able to find a version of ‘Crazy Rhythm’ from the musical itself, there is a recording of the track by Roger Wolfe Kahn and His Orchestra – so we can safely say this is how it was originally meant to sound.
There was a popular early version by ‘Whispering’ Jack Smith, but within less than 10 years there were faster, livelier covers emerging that were much more akin to Geldray’s take.
It quickly became a staple jazz band number as an instrumental or with Caesar’s lyrics and has been covered countless times, including by Nat ‘King’ Cole, Bing Crosby, and Shirley Bassey:
(On YouTube, the notes claim incorrectly that the song was written by George Gershwin.)
I enjoy the simplicity of the lyrics, which seem to be a rather eloquent way of telling someone to piss off.
Crazy rhythm, here's the doorway I'll go my way, you'll go your way Crazy rhythm, from now on, we're through Here is where we have a showdown I'm too high hat, you're too low down Crazy rhythm, here's goodbye to you
Thanks to the researchers at Colorado public radio station KUVO, which has not one but two articles about ‘Crazy Rhythm’, available here and here.
Episode 15 of the second series hit the airwaves at 9:30pm on 6 May 1952. Unfortunately, as with much of the first four series, no recording exists so we don’t know whether ‘Crazy Rhythm’ featured. The Radio Times listing is available here.