Notes

The behind-the-scenes "making of" documentary essay series about preparing songs for performance.

Save the Daylight for Somebody Else (But Save the Moonlight for Me)

-- (1921; Music by Harry von Tilzer, Words by Jack Mahoney)

From the script for “An Indiana Bicentennial Celebration”:

Song Intro:

In addition to these classics, Harry von Tilzer commented on the national popular mood of the 1910s and 20s, particularly as influenced by World War 1, with such unique titles as “Buy a Liberty Bond for the Baby”,”You’re a Good Old Car, but you can’t climb hills”, “You’ll have to put him to sleep with the Marseillaise, and Wake him up with oo-la-la”, and this song from 1921.

Recap: the Sounds of Indiana barbershop chorus presented what we call ‘The Indiana Show’ in 2017, one year late in celebrating the state’s bicentennial anniversary.  This was the official premier of what has become our “standard documentary format” concert: a mix of chorus and quartet songs set around a particular theme, interspersed with slides or short video clips each paired with Ken Burns-style voice-over narration to introduce and sometimes close out each song.  ‘The Indiana Show,’ in particular, explored songs by composers or performers born in, or groups formed in, our home state.

 

Harry von Tilzer wrote dozens of hit songs in the early 1900s; he continued writing even after he branched off from Tin Pan Alley to found and manage his own Harry Von Tilzer Music Publishing Company.  The prolific number of his compositions was perhaps surpassed only by his younger brother, Albert, who later joined the publishing company as well.  Both men seemed to favor long titles for their songs, often comprising the entire main or first phrase or line of the chorus.

Save the Daylight was performed in ‘The Indiana Show’ by the Sounds of Indiana’s resident competition quartet, Jordan River Crossing.  Unlike some of von Tilzer’s other songs, this one had never before been arranged for barbershop; the printed sheet music we found online was for von Tilzer’s standard voice and piano.  Its publication date of 1921, however, left the piece in the Public Domain, and therefore allowed SoI director and JRC baritone Joe Grimme free reign to “barbershop-ify” it.  But since I’m not in the quartet, I didn’t get a copy of Joe’s new version, so I can only share with you Jack Mahoney’s original lyrics (punctuation added):

Folks are savin’ daylight while the sun is so bright.

Maybe they’re right; I like the night.

While they’re savin’ time I’m losin’ something you see:

Lots of lovin’ that belongs to me.

Just sixty minutes less beneath the tree.

 

You can save the daylight for somebody else,

But save the moonlight for me.

Daylight’s good for plantin’ crops; the farmers need light.

But I would rather plant a kiss on two lips at night.

Give me the moon with someone that I love.

Daytime has too many eyes that see.

 

Old Father Time goes on the same; he watches us each day.

But I just laugh at Father Time; I’ve thrown my watch away.

You can save the daylight for somebody else,

But save the moonlight for me!

 

A month or two into their work on the song, JRC realized that, besides just a funny title (as the von Tilzer’s tended to use), the subject of this piece is actually a criticism of Daylight Savings Time!  Here’s what Wikipedia tells us about the first observations of DST in the United States: “During World War I, in an effort to conserve fuel, Germany began observing DST on May 1, 1916.  The rest of Europe soon followed.  The plan was not adopted in the United States until the Standard Time Act of March 19, 1918, which confirmed the existing standard time zone system and set summer DST to begin on March 31, 1918 (reverting October 27).  The idea was unpopular and Congress abolished DST after the war, overriding President Woodrow Wilson’s veto.”  So even though Daylight Savings was no longer in effect in the US by 1921, it must still have been a popular enough subject for conversation (or complaint) to have an entire song written about it.

 

Again, not being a member of the performing quartet, I can’t offer you much insight on the actual preparation of this piece for concert, but I do want to share with you a “deleted scene” from the first draft of the script for the show.  Instead of the typical voiceover narration, the original introduction for Daylight included speaking parts for each quartet member, who ended up engaging in verbal repartee directly with the narrator.  This precedent of speaking to the narrator like a character in the show would have set up a related joke in Act II.

 

NARRATOR: Harry’s younger brothers were so impressed by their sibling’s new surname—

 

LEAD steps forward.

LEAD [addressing projector screen]: Eeexcuse me, Mr. Narrator?

N: ...Yes?

LEAD: Are we only doing the one Harry von Tilzer song?

N: That’s all that’s in my notes.

[image appears on screen]

BARI [stepping forward]: But he put out so many other tunes!

N: Well, I did mention—

BASS [stepping forward, waving a hand dismissively]: The standards.  The classics.  He was a man of the 1910s, of World War I!  You’re missing some really unique titles!

N: Such as...?

 

[during following, images continue appearing on screen, forming a pile of sheet music covers]

 

TENOR [stepping forward and striking a patriotic pose]: “Buy a Liberty Bond for the Baby.”

BASS: “Pardon me, my dear Alphonse”

     BARI: “After you, my dear Gaston”

[pantomiming together, holding doors open and bowing out of each other’s way]

 

LEAD: “You’ll have to put him to sleep with the Marseillaise”

     TENOR: “And wake him up with oo-la-la!”

[pantomiming together, napping on hands / fluttering eyelashes]

 

N: I don’t think—

BARI: “On the Banks of the Rhine with a Stein”! [as if waving a glass in the air]

BASS: “Play that Umpah, Umpah, Umpah on Our Umpah Honeymoon”! [as if playing a trombone]

 

N: I really don’t see how—

LEAD: “You’re a good old car”

     Q-ALL: “But you can’t. climb. hills.”!

[all pose as if two are sitting in a car, one with a steering wheel, one demurely, and two pushing/grunting from behind; after speech, driver imitates hitting an old car horn: “enh, enh”]

 

N: [beat]  And do you actually know any of those songs?  Von Tilzer’s tunes were primarily published for voice and piano.

[Quartet breaks pose and huddles, heads together.  Indistinct conversation for a couple seconds.]

TENOR [pops head up]: “Keep off the grass”!

Q-ALL [glaring at him]: That one’s instrumental.

[TENOR grimaces apologetically.  All return to huddle for just a moment, until]

 

BARI [popping up with his hands up]: That’s it!  We do happen to have one arranged just for you, Mr. Narrator.  [BASS elbows him.]  Oh!  And for the lovely people, too.  [Gestures at audience.]

N: Go on?

BASS (over pitch): “Save the Daylight for Somebody Else”

     TENOR: “But Save the Moonlight for Me!”

 

QUARTET: SAVE THE DAYLIGHT

 

NARRATOR [several seconds after applause, as if making sure quartet won’t pop in again]:  Well, as I was saying, Harry von Tilzer’s younger brothers…
{script continues normally}

 

This scene is somewhat a leftover from an earlier concept of the show with more break-out acting from the chorus, before the straightforward voiceovers and slides were really locked in as our preferred format.  As a last point, the song itself also fits into our story arc of the relationship between Joe and Nellie: here, at least to me, Joe is more or less having a monolog with himself about trying to plan another date with Nellie, although this time he’s being thwarted by the sun instead of the clouds and rain!

 

Next week, we’ll find out if he finally managed to put something together.  ;)

In harmony,

Andy

 

February 10, 2019