The behind-the-scenes "making of" documentary essay series about preparing songs for performance.
Let's Get Away From It All
-- (1941; Music by Matt Dennis; Lyrics by Tom Adair)
From the script for “A Little Travelin' Music”:
Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of Captain Joe Grimme, Co-captain Daniel Lentz and the entire Sounds of Indiana crew, welcome aboard Indiana Airlines flight 1013, with non-stop service from Bloomington to Pasadena (and then continuing on to Honolulu).
Our flight time tonight will be approximately two hours, including layover.
At this time, make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position and that your seat belt is correctly fastened. Also, your portable electronic devices must be set to “airplane” mode until an announcement is made upon arrival. Remember that smoking and flash photography are both strictly prohibited during this trip. Thank you for traveling with us.
Let's Get Away From It All
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and thank you for joining us in this journey across the United States. Let’s escape together for a while as we tour the country from east to west to the tunes of a little traveling music.
The Sounds of Indiana barbershop chorus presented what we call “The Travel Show” in 2018, following the same “standard documentary format” that had been so enthusiastically received for the previous year’s “The Indiana Show.” As before, this concert format presents a mix of chorus and quartet songs set around a particular theme, interspersed with slides of short video clips each paired with a Ken Burns-Style voice-over narration to introduce and sometimes close out each song.
In “The Travel Show,” as you might gather from the narrations above, we explored songs with geographical connections, both to cities and states. The Music Team chose to open the show with “Let’s Get Away From It All,” kicking off the theme of escaping, at least for a while, from the dull routine of day-to-day life. The name of the song was even in the running to be used as the name of the entire show!
Its spot in the ‘pre-credits cold-open,’ however, meant that “Let’s Get Away” didn’t receive the usual song-specific background info the way that all the others did, which segue from one number to the next. So, to briefly fill you in, this song was published in 1941, with music by Matt Dennis and lyrics by Tom Adair. It is often associated with Frank Sinatra, but has been recorded by many other artists as well.
The now-seldom-heard verse of the song sets up the refrain, whose theme is indicated by the title. Some notes (numbers) follow the lyrics.
I’m so tired of this dull routine,
Up to town on the eight fifteen .
Back and night, off to bed, and then—
Get up! And start it all over again.
Let’s take a boat to Bermuda,
Let’s take a plane to St. Paul,
Let’s take a kayak to Quincy  or Nyack ,
Let’s get away from it all.
Let’s take a trip in a trailer,
No need to come back at all.
Let’s take a powder  to Boston for chowder.
Let’s get away from it all.
We’ll travel ‘round from town to town,
We’ll visit ev’ry state
I’ll repeat, “I love you, sweet!”
In all the forty-eight . (Ain’t in great?)
Let’s go again to Niag’ra,
This time we’ll look at the “Fall”.
Let’s leave our hut, dear,
Get out of our rut, dear.
Let’s get away from it—
Really away from it—
Let’s get a- (let’s get a-)way from it all,
Away from it all,
Away from it all.
A few expository notes on the text:
1. Referencing a commuter train.
2. Quincy, Massachusetts, is a suburb city just south of Boston.
3. Nyack, New York, is a suburb village just north of Manhattan.
4. Referencing a wheeled container similar to a mine-cart, used to transport coal to the surface.
5. Alaska and Hawaii didn’t become states until 1959, eighteen years after the song was written.
Our own interpretation of this song is that a man is desperately trying to convince his wife to go away with him to some place to escape the daily doldrums, particularly because he has to come home at night, go straight to bed to sleep, and then get up again… with no time in between to do something else in bed, if you know what we mean. The persuasive attitude ends up being similar to “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” come to think of it, except he’s trying to persuade her to go out somewhere rather than stay inside, and we can only hear one side of the conversation (until the very end).
The music video in my head plays out like this:
The intro begins with a tuning pitch that already sets the emotional timbre: exasperation. “Here we go again,” the narrator sighs. But then, an idea strikes! And for the rest of the song, in his/our eagerness, he’s/we’re constantly interrupting, even tripping over, ourselves with new ideas: “Let’s go to Bermuda— no, to St. Paul— no, Quincy, Nyack! Something, anything!” Each new place is a new opportunity to win her over, and thus each new idea is a great one!
At first, she stands looking at us with her arms folded across her chest and one eyebrow raised. “Really? This again?” But our excitement is infectious this time. Slowly, gradually, it’s working.
“Let’s get away from it all,” we suggest at the end of the first chorus stanza.
“Honey, you know we can’t just…” The arms and eyebrow lower anyway.
“Let’s take a trip in a trailer,” we press on into the next. (“Ya know: something cozy and secluded, wink wink.”)
“But there’s so much to do around here!” she objects.
“No need to come back at all,” we wave away her concerns with a wink and a grin.
We’ve almost got her, so we go for a goofy comedy approach to break down the final barrier. “Let’s take a powdah,” we croon with an affected Boston accent, “tuh Bahston fuh chowdah!” In our normal voice, “Let’s get away from it all.”
She rolls her eyes and shakes her head, trying to conceal the beginnings of a smile, but we know she loves us, and has this whole time while the boredom has been growing in her, too, waiting for just this kind of release. At this point, she’s ready to give in and let go.
We wrap one arm around her shoulder and use the other hand to indicate a picture in the air in front of us. “We’ll travel round from town to town, we’ll visit every state.” We turn to face her, holding both of her hands in ours. “I’ll repeat, (lean in toward her ear) ‘I love you, sweet!’ in all the forty-eight! (stand straight) Ain’t it great?” Isn’t that a wonderful prospect? The key shifts up half a step in excitement.
“Let’s go again to Niagara,” we plead, with both our voice and our best puppy-face. “This time we’ll look at the fall.” (Since we didn’t when we were there on the honeymoon. Or maybe we’ll miss it again, for the same reason, wink wink, nudge nudge.) She laughs. This is a good sign.
“Let’s leave our hut, dear,” she joins in at last.
We’ve finally become Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds, frolicking around the kitchen, trading lines back and forth. The grey rain outside the window (the plodding of the daily grind) is contrasted with the brightly lit interior (the lightening vision of travel and escape).
“Get out of our rut, dear,” we corroborate gleefully now that she’s picked up the same tune.
“Let’s get away from it,” she repeats our phrase with the impression of a wink.
“Really away from it,” we interject for emphasis.
“Let’s get away from it all!” we both finish in harmony, standing cheek to cheek, clasping hands, grinning widely, and gazing forward eagerly toward the adventure that’s about to begin.
Overtones fade and camera pulls backward as scene fades to black.
November 4, 2018
PS: Just for a moment, I also want to brag a little about how cleanly the “pre-flight announcement” fit the theme of the show while also hitting all the necessary points for introducing a music concert.
• “Captain and co-captain” = “director and assistant director”
• “Flight 1013” = a hidden Easter egg for sharp listeners: the date of the concert was October 13, 2018, or 10/13
• “Bloomington to Pasadena” = the content of Act I, covering the eastern half of the country before jumping over to California
• “continuing on to Honolulu” = the content of Act II, covering the California coast, Hawaii, and beyond
• “two hours, including layover” = the approximate run-time of the show, including intermission
• “airplane mode” = a conveniently thematic way to remind people to silence their phone
I was simply tickled while putting this bit together, grinning to myself constantly, and couldn’t help sharing it with you in just a little more depth.