Researching Yiddish penny songs (tenement song broadsides of theater and variety show songs, 1895-1925)
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Monday, March 16, 2015

STEAM: in America, everything runs on it. (Yiddish vaudeville nonsense.)

So here is my first living room recording of a Penny Song. This one, "Steam," is a Yiddish theater song parody written by Louis Gilrod "to be sung with the English melody It looks to me like a big Night to-Night. I suppose immigrants were impressed by all the steam engines?

Roger, the pianist, is camera shy so I'm experimenting with ways to do the videos. This time I put up a background which looks like a wrinkled sheet but is actually a true official photographer's backdrop. But I am not going to iron it, so it looks like my clothes.

Here's my translation:

Here in the land everything goes with a "Hurry Up!"
The businessman in store and street, the worker in the shop
Somebody goes around quickly, somebody gets rich even faster
Everything goes here at top speed, nobody thinks anything over

Because America runs on steam, business on steam, work on steam
You live out your years and before you look around
Everything is running on steam!

A guy's very beloved wife dies. He accompanies her to the funeral with carriages
And then two or three hours later, hear what can happen:
The same carriage, another woman, he drags her right into the synagogue!
Very broadly he sings the wedding vows: "You are married to me."!

Because everything in America runs on steam. A funeral on steam, a wedding on steam
The rabbi is good and pious; for money, he'll do everything on steam

Loving bridegroom and bride, both good and pious
They go to the marriage canopy and become man and wife on steam
A table, a bed, a mirror, a room is fixed up quickly
And five months after the marriage, they already have a kid.
What?! Such a short time? Aw, come on, don't ask, good people!

Here in America things happen quickly: love on steam, children on steam
He winks at her and she winks at him
With them, everything happened on steam!

In New York restaurants everything happens very quickly
You get a sickness as a side dish, oy, you can get swindled
In a beautiful restaurant where the music plays I ate a dinner in the daytime and that night I felt...

That everything in America goes on steam, you get devoured on steam, pushed around on steam,
I think these cramps are going to do me in
I was running all night on steam!

Here is the original song, a classic recording (click to listen):

Egbert Van Alstyne wrote the music, the original English lyrics were by Harry Williams. At the top of the sheet music it says: "Respectfully dedicated to Mr. Mason Peters (but this doesn't go if his wife hears it) Copyright 1907

Old Peters was a patsy, his wifey ruled the day
He didn’t dare go out at night unless she was away.
So, once, he took the family and put them on a boat
Said he: "Go out and have some fun, but I must be the goat."
Then Peters dashed uptown and said to bachelor Brown:

"It looks to me like a big night tonight
Big night tonight, big night tonight
For when the old cat’s away, why the mice want to play
And it looks like a big night tonight."

They started out that evening to paint the blooming town
Said Peters, "Let’s be devilish!" "I’m with you, sir!" said Brown.
They got some chorus ladies and took them out to dine
Then both of them decided they would corner all the wine.
And every time it came they’d warble this refrain...

It looks to me ...
I sent the folks out to sea, but they can’t see through me so...

Old Peters, like a lily, began to fade away
They piled him in a cab and took him home at break of day.
But when they turned the corner he gave a fearful shout
A light was in the window and his wife was peeking out.
"Don’t leave me boys!" said he, "My finish I can see!"

It looks to me ... (could be "fight" instead of "night")
I sent the folks out to sea, but they're home, Holy Gee! So it...

For sheet music and/or performances contact me:

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