Close Your Eyes (Bernice Petkere)
The profile of this popular 1933 standard at jazzstandards.com provides a good introduction, but note that, contrary to what Jazz Standards reports, there were at least three versions recorded prior to Ray Noble’s 7 December 1933 recording with vocalist Al Bowlly. Recordings by Freddy Martin and His Orchestra (vocal: Elmer Feldkamp), Ruth Etting, and Lew Stone and His Band (also with vocal by Al Bowlly) all preceded the Noble recording.
Wikipedia lists 21 recorded versions, while the collection at Second Hand Songs encompasses 38 recordings under the original title, primarily from 1957 on. They’re missing a couple of 1933 English lyric recordings which I’ve included, those by Ruth Etting and Lew Stone. They’ve also yet to recognize the exquisite German lyric version recorded by The Comedian Harmonists, Komm’ im Traum (1934), which I was very pleased to find.
I’ve also included a Swedish lyric version, absent from the Second Hand Songs inventory. Titled Stjärnehär, it was recorded in 1934 by Gösta Jonsson Orkester, with the vocal by the legendary Swedish singer, composer and enfant terrible, Johnny Bode.
Bernice Petkere bios:
Bernice Petkere (pronounced “pet care”) was born in Chicago to Canadian parents. She began as a performer in vaudeville. In a 1998 interview she said: “My mother started my aunt and me (I was five) as an act called ‘Baby Dolls’…on the Pantages Circuit.” As a teenager, Petkere sang with a dance band and became a pianist for Waterson, Berlin & Snyder, an important publishing company. She started writing music in the 1920s.
“Starlight (Help Me Find The One I Love)” was her first published song (1931), and Bing Crosby recorded it for Brunswick. She wrote many radio themes when her second husband, Fred Berrens, was musical director at CBS. In the first years of the Great Depression, she created some lovely, haunting hits that were recorded and sung in America as well as abroad. One of her most successful numbers is “Lullaby of The Leaves.” It was through lyricist Joe Young that she was introduced to ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers), of which she was a member for over six decades.
In 1932 composer-publisher Irving Berlin, for whom she had worked as a pianist, invited her to write for his prestigious company. For Berlin she wrote “The Lady I Love,” which was popularized by Russ Columbo. Petkere declared, “I never was pals with the other women composers, or even the male ones. I had a private life in Manhattan. I lived at Hotel Pierre. My first husband, Eddie Conne and I lived elegantly…You had to be businesslike about music, and I was. Only a couple of music executives ever got what I call ‘fresh’ with me, and I let them have it, smack in the face like you never saw. I never smoked and I never drank, do you believe that?”
She often wrote the lyrics as well as the music. One of her most successful songs, “Close Your Eyes,” was an international sensation in 1933 and is considered a “standard.” The on-going play between major and minor chords gives this song a distinct personality. Several of Petkere’s songs have this melancholy minor feeling to them. When asked if she was reflecting the tenor of the Depression in her music, she said absolutely not — it was just her “thing” then.
Freddy Martin and His Orchestra, vocal by Elmer Feldkamp – recorded 25 July 1933
Ruth Etting — recorded in Los Angeles, California on 21 September 1933
Lew Stone and His Band, vocal: Al Bowlly — Decca F 3783, recorded in Chelsea, London on 1 December 1933
Ray Noble and his Orchestra, vocal: Al Bowlly — HMV B-6441, b/w Did You Ever See a Dream Walking? (m. Harry Revel, w. Mack Gordon), recorded in London on 7 December 1933
The Comedian Harmonists — German version: Komm’ im Traum, 1934
From the Wikipedia profile:
In 1927, unemployed actor Harry Frommermann was inspired by The Revelers, a jazz-influenced popular vocal group from the United States, to create a German group of the same format. According to Douglas Friedman’s 2010 book “The Comedian Harrmonists” in August 1929 both groups appeared on the same bill at the Scala in Berlin and became good friends. Frommermann held auditions in his flat on Stubenrauchstraße 47 in Berlin-Friedenau, and, once the group was assembled, it quickly began rehearsals. After some initial failures, the Harmonists soon found success, becoming popular throughout Europe, visiting the United States, and appearing in 21 films.
Profiles of The Comedian Harmonists:
The slides in the first video below are from the 2005 German TV series Abenteuer 1927 – Sommerfrische.
Jean Carson — B-side of the 1955 HMV Records 78 rpm single In Love for the Very First Time (POP 124), orchestra conducted by Reg Owen
Frank Chacksfield and his Orchestra – from the LP Close Your Eyes, Decca Records, 1956
Gene Ammons Quintet — recorded on 16 June 1960 at Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ; released on the Gene Ammons LP Boss Tenor (Prestige PRLP 7180)
Gene Ammons (ts)
Tommy Flanagan (p)
Doug Watkins (b)
Art Taylor (d)
Ray Barretto (cga)
Nancy Wilson — final track on her 1966 Capitol Records LP Tender Loving Care (ST 2555), arranged by Billy May — note: The track in the video is 7 seconds shorter than that on either Tender Loving Care or the compilation noted by the provider.
Kurt Elling — title and initial track on his debut studio album, released in 1995
Nellie McKay — penultimate track on her album Normal as Blueberry Pie – A Tribute to Doris Day, released 13 October 2009
The introduction prominently quotes the 1955 Julie London recording of No Moon At All, which appeared on London’s debut album, produced by Bobby Troup.