No need to shout

It says a lot about the changed status of tobacco that as avuncular and wholesome a figure as Bing Crosby would appear on record sleeve smoking a pipe. Look at that jaw! Those kind twinkling eyes! The nice hat, and the colour-coordinated pocket handkerchief! This is as solid a slice of Middle America as ever practised his golf swing.bing

But Bing Crosby – and this is all that matters – Bing could sing. He was among the first singers to take advantage of the development of the electric microphone. Amplification freed the singer from having to produce the power and volume of an operatic tenor, just to be heard. Instead, a more quiet, intimate style of singing was possible – this is what came to be called crooning.

This is something a lot of rock bands could usefully learn. Let the microphone do the work. No need to shout.

Bing was the consummate crooner. His voice is warm, and expressive, and the arrangements were masterful. Yeah, the songs are mostly sentimental, but there is a place for that. This track, though is a bit of a break from White Christmas wholesomeness.

“Paper Doll” was a huge hit for the Mills Brothers in 1943 – really huge, they sold more than 10 million copies – and pretty much every singer of note recorded a version over the next decade, and inevitably Bing Crosby was among them. His take is superb, though the disc is a bit crackly, and it is best not to listen too closely to the lyrics. It is a jealous male song: Possessive Guy Spits Dummy after Failed Romance. Plenty of those around but this one is a bit creepy. He’s going to by a paper doll, “that I can call my own” and can’t ditch him for other men

When I come home at night she will be waiting
She’ll be the truest doll in all this world
I’d rather have a paper doll to call my own
Than have a fickle-minded real live girl

Makes her sound like an early-model inflatable woman, and it jars a bit coming from an upstanding gent like Bing. Just like him being a smoker.

  • Artist: Bing Crosby
  • EP Title: Memories
  • Side 2, Track 2: “Paper Doll”
  • Format: 7” EP 45 rpm
  • Label: Festival FX 10374
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Year: 1962 (recorded much earlier)

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