Pop Music was defined by one wise man as the music your father listens to. What YOU listen to is REAL music, not popular stuff, and the songs you find yourself humming are songs that will live forever and not disappear into the mass of forgotten “pop” music. Yeah, we’re always kidding ourselves about these things. Eventually, all we have left is our ability to say to a rising generation, “Yeah, just wait ‘til it’s YOUR turn to get ignored!” (P.S. They aren’t listening.)
Now, a few songs will roll along for generations. “In the Shade of the old Apple Tree” hit the pop charts in 1905, and was immediately recorded by everyone. One of the few romantic songs written in the form of a series of limericks,, it was catchy enough to encourage jazz versions in the thirties, and sentimental versions for a generation after that. It was probably also in the back of the mind of the writers of “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree With Anyone Else but Me”, setting off another series of recordings.
There were also parodies and, of course, a postcard jibe or two, as seen above, where a young man is pouting because all he’s finding in the shade of the old apple tree is apples.
Other songs, equally big hits at their inception, made more modest splashes. Mr. Moon Man was a reply song to Shine On, harvest Moon. The hero of Shine On has a girlfriend who is so terrified of the dark that she will only go out with him if the moon is bright. As it has been a rough year for weather, he begs the harvest Moon to stay bright. In the sequel, the moon is now asked to switch off, as “Two is company and three’s a crowd.” It was a big success in the hands of Jack Norworth and Nora Bayes, but it did not last as long as its predecessor, even when posted with these cousins of the Campbell Soup Kids.
(These kids were drawn by the artist responsible for Campbell’s trademark children, Grace Drayton, but at this point in her life she had not yet married Mr. Drayton, so that signature down there is R. Wiederseim.)
And this, nice though the card is, is a pop song that was swallowed by obscurity almost immediately. Yes, maybe you have heard a country chorus singing “Keep on the Sunny Side”, but this is a later song with the same title and different lyrics. It couldn’t keep up.
One of the oddest fates for any pop song hit was probably suffered by “All Going Out and Nothing Coming In”, which was a hit for Bert Williams. In his day the best-paid comedian on Broadway, and possibly the best comedian of his day (even other comedians said so. W.C. Fields, not known for generous praise, called him “the funniest man I ever saw.”)
His stage character was a slow-moving, often depressed, usually penniless individual. One song that described his financial situation was recorded by him in 1901, “All Going Out and Nothing Coming In”. It’s basically a description of the difference in your friends and family when your cash is running low.
It was a big hit, especially with postcard publishers, who thought of another application of the lyrics immediately.
The joke was popular enough to be repeated by other cartoonists, since it’s hard to copyright a specific gag (so to speak.)
But then it was picked up as an advertising slogan, one of the things many songwriters hope for. A popular chocolate flavored product which had been around since 1894, Cascarets was selling millions of boxes of their tasty but violent laxative tablets. See, the song…yeah, you figured it out. Cascarets issued tokens of its Laxative Angel and the slogan, but did not, so far, as I’ve seen, immortalize it on postcards.