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Tracks Unwrapped

I'm In The Seventh Heaven

 

Feel the way my heart keeps thumpin'
Notice how my two eyes shine
See the way my feet keep jumpin'
Jumpin' with joy, I'm some lucky boy

 

The first time I heard this song was on an old 78 rpm shellac Columbia record by Paul Whiteman's Orchestra from 1929 (Little Pal was on the other side, a number also recorded by Al Jolson 1929). It is quite simple and catchy - one of those numbers that digs itself into your subconscious. Every now and then it comes to the surface, cheerful and bouncy.

Here it is by 'The King Of Jazz' and his Orchestra recorded in New York on April 5th 1929.

 

 

 

 

Bix Beiderbecke takes the two cornet solos. This was a time when Bix was not at his peak. He had been in the Rivercrest Sanatorium between December 1928 and Bix BeiderbeckeJanuary 1929 suffering from DTs caused by his drinking and had then gone back to his home town, Davenport in Iowa. He rejoined Whiteman on March 4th, 1929. A month later, they made this recording. A few days after that, Bix was in the studio with Frankie Trumbauer and a smaller group recording some nice solos on Wait Til You See Ma Cherie and Baby, Won't You Please Come Home.

Bix Beiderbecke

On Seventh Heaven, The Rhythm Boys (Bing Crosby, Harry Barris and Al Rinker) take the 'vocal refrain', and I love the 'Whaa' after 'without the wings'. The Bix Society gives the personnel for the recording as:

Charles Margulis, Harry Goldfield (tp); Bix Beiderbecke, Andy Secrest (c); Boyce Cullen, Bill Rank, Wilbur Hall (tb); Frank Trumbauer, Chester Hazlett, Irving riedman, Roy Maier, Bernie Daly, Charles Strickfaden (reeds); Kurt Dieterle, Matty Malneck, Mischa Russell (vln); Roy Bargy, Lennie Hayton (p); Mike Pingitore (bj); Mike Trafficante (sb); Min Leibrook (tu); George Marsh (dm); Bing Crosby, Al Rinker, Harry Barris (voc):

The solos are interesting in that it is not Bill Rank and Frankie Trumbauer featured, but: Bix, straight mute & Charles Strickfaden, baritone sax (16) – Chester Hazlett, alto sax (8+4) – Bix, straight mute & Charles Strickfaden, baritone sax (8) – vocal trio (32) - Roy Bargy & Lennie Hayton, piano (16) – Kurt Dieterle (8)

Paul Whiteman was very supportive of Bix, keeping his chair in the band for him while he was unwell and unreliable. There is not much film footage available of Bix Beiderbecke, but here is a rare clip of him with Paul Whiteman's Orchestra in 1928 playing My Ohio Home in which Bix stands up to take a couple of short breaks. Unfortunately you have to leave this page for this rare video (click here).

 

I'm in the seventh heaven
It's easy to guess, my baby said yes
I know I've just thrown a great big seven
For she is the prize, what lips and what eyes

 

Say It With Songs movie poster

 

 

I'm In The Seventh Heaven was written by Lew Brown, Buddy DeSylva, Ray Henderson and Al Jolson and was featured in the 1929 Jolson film Say It With Songs. In this heart-wrencher, Al Jolson plays Joe Lane, a radio singer who kills a radio manager in a fistfight after learning that the man has made improper advances towards his wife. On his release from prison, Joe visits his son "Little Pal" at school and when Little Pal tries to follow Joe downtown, the boy is hit by a truck and becomes paralysed.

Say It With Songs did not do particularly well. One reviewer says: 'I think with the general description of this plot you get the idea of the general mawkishness (of the story). Director Lloyd Bacon doesn't try to control Jolson's incredible overacting for the camera. Those two factors were what mainly sank the film.'

In this clip from Say It With Songs, Joe prays his sick child will get well. His wife takes the recording of Little Pal from the record sleeve .... get your handkerchief at the ready. Little Pal was played by child actor, Davey Lee, who is 'best recalled as the young tyke with the Buster Brown hairstyle who crawled onto Al Jolson's lap while the star sang the best-selling song "Sonny Boy" in the early talking film The Singing Fool (1928).'

 

 

 

 

 

She knows that I've got all the stuff, got all the things
She thinks that I'm angel enough without wings
And that's why I'm in the seventh heaven, heaven
Having a heck of a time

 

So why 'Seventh Heaven'? What happened to Heavens two to six? For that matter, what happened to Heavens eight to ten, because we find another one at Eleven? Or rather 'at Half-past Eleven, when my idea of heaven is a nice cup of tea'. Come to that, why are all cups of tea 'nice'? I have never heard anyone talk about a 'nasty cup of tea'. 'Anicecuppatea' seems to have become part of the English language.

Here is a scene from 'Father Ted' where Mrs Doyle tries to persuade Father Ted and Father Jack to have a nice cup of tea.

 

 

 

Muhammed's Paradise

 

'Seven' and 'eleven' of course are two of the few words that rhyme with 'heaven', but there is more to it than that. In mythology the 'seven heavens' refer to the seven divisions of the Heaven, the abode of immortal beings. Many religions refer to 'seven heavens'. The idea of seven heavens originated in ancient Mesopotamia. Sumarian incantations of the late second millennium BCE make references to seven heavens and seven earths. One thought is that the notion of seven heavens may have been derived from the magical properties of the number seven, like the seven demons or the seven thrones. In Hinduism, according to some Puranas, the Brahmanda is divided into fourteen worlds. Among these worlds, seven are upper worlds and seven are lower worlds. In the Jewish Talmud, the universe is made of seven heavens. In Islam, the Qur’an mentions the existence of seven samaawat customarily translated as 'heaven'.

Muhammed's Paradise

In these belief systems, the ‘seventh heaven’ is usually the highest, the place where the Gods live. In early Sumarian poems there was a fellow named Gilgamesh. We are not sure whether he was just a fictional character or a Mesopotamian king, but whichever, he was pretty awesome. Allegedly, he was  a demigod of superhuman strength (probably played by Brad Pitt) who builds the city walls of Uruk to defend his people and travels to meet the sage Utnapishtim, who survived the Great Flood. Anyway, Gilgy says to his chum Enkidu, in the ‘Epic of Gilgamesh’: "Who can go up to heaven, my friend? Only the gods dwell with Shamash forever".

 

 

 

 

It is there, perhaps, that we find violinist Joe Venuti and the honey-toned voice of Smith Ballew. In the Whiteman version, the singer is having a 'heck of a time'. Here the singer is having a 'wonderful' time. Surely these are sanitised lyrics from what must originally have been, or was implied, as 'having a Hell of a time'?

Smith Ballew

 

Smith Ballew

 

 

 

In Judaism, ‘the Biblical authors pictured the earth as a flat disk floating in water, with the heavens above and the underworld below. The ‘ragiya’ (firmament), a solid inverted bowl above the earth, coloured blue by the cosmic ocean, kept the waters above the earth from flooding the world. (There was obviously a leak in Noah's day and occasionally across the Somerset Levels). From about 300 BCE the three-tiered cosmos was largely replaced by a newer Greek model which saw the earth as a sphere at the centre of a set of seven concentric heavens, one for each visible planet plus the sun and moon, with the realm of God in an eighth and highest heaven …’.

We can conclude that if you are in the seventh heaven you are probably a god and therefore have little chance of getting it together with ‘my baby’, or perhaps being a god, you can do as you please.

 

I'm in the seventh heaven
It's easy to guess, my baby said yes
I know I've just thrown a great big seven
For she is a prize, what lips and what eyes

 

Now the lyricist goes off on tangent, unless they have gambling in Heaven, but that's crap. In this Nathan Detroit moment the singer has got lucky in the crap game throwing a seven with his dice. The dice game 'Craps' is also known as 'Seven/Eleven'. The English have to take responsibility for the origin of Craps from an early game called 'Hazards'. It may go back as far as the Crusades, but French gamblers who called it 'Crapaud' (meaning 'toad' because of the way people crouched over a floor) took the game to New Orleans where a high roller called Bernard Xavier Philippe de Marigny de Mandeville made it popular. During World War II, Craps became popular among soldiers, who often played it using an Army blanket as a shooting surface - known as the "army blanket roll".

I had no idea that the game of Craps is so complicated (click here). It would come as no surprise to find that it could be studied at university in a joint degree with Poker and Bridge.

Here is a video Francis Albert singing Luck Be A Lady Tonight in concert with
Quincy Jones conducting the Count Basie Orchestra with Basie on piano.

 

 

 

'Seventh Heaven' has been the title of several movies, an American TV show, a Broadway musical by Victor Young and even a CD of 'calming music for relaxation, anxiety, sleep and panic attacks' (I'm not convinced!).

 

Our final version of I'm In The Seventh Heaven is a swinging, toe-tapping recording from Keith Ingham and Marty Grosz.

 

 

Keith Ingham

 

 

Guitarist Marty Grosz is probably best known for his work with Bob Wilbur although he also worked with Kenny Davern, Dick Sudhalter and pianist Keith Ingham. On this recording they had a nine-piece band that included cornetist Peter Ecklund, Dan Levinson (on clarinet and C-melody sax), Scott Robinson (on clarinet, tenor, baritone and bass sax), violinist Andy Stein (who can sound very close to Joe Venuti), trombonist Dan Barrett, drummer Arnie Kinsella and either Joe Hanchrow on tuba or bassist Greg Cohen. In the 1960s, Keith Ingham played with Sandy Brown, Bruce Turner, and Wally Fawkes before moving to New York City.

Keith Ingham

 

See the way my feet keep jumpin' .....

 

 

She knows that I got all the stuff, got all the things
She thinks that I'm angel enough without wings
And that's why I'm in the seventh heaven, heaven
Having a heck of a time

 

 

More Tracks Unwrapped:

Just A Gigolo
Lover Man
Fables Of Faubus
Jeeps Blues

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