Louis Armstrong & His Savoy Ballroom Five – St. James Infirmary Blues (1928)
As my particularly relaxing holiday starts to approach its unwelcome end, I’ve been getting through a mountain of reading.
At the moment, I’m midway through Albert Camus’ masterpiece The Plague and I have had to break off to listen to this record as it has just been played by Rambert, the journalist from the novel, who has revealed it is the only record he owns.
Now, whether this is actually the version that Camus is referring to is another matter. According to Wikipedia, eighteen versions of this song (or close relations) had been recorded by 1930 and Cab Calloway then provided a version for the soundtrack of the animated film of Snow White made in 1933. The Plague, itself, is set in Oran in the 1940s.
However, I’ve always loved the recordings Louis Armstrong made with his Hot Fives and Sevens in the 1920s and so I’ve chosen his early recording. A bit scratchy but most other versions on YouTube seemed to be recorded at a later date – for example, I’ve also included an Armstrong version from 1959!
As an aside, I also spent a couple of hours the other day reading Lynne Truss’s Eats, Shoots and Leaves: an entertaining romp through the thickets of best practice in punctuation. Now, having done so, I have been worrying about the absence of an apostrophe in this song title and also whether I should write “Truss’s” or “Truss'”. My other half and I often come to hand to hand combat on this type of matter but, in the interest of fair play and splitting the difference, I have gone for both Truss’s and Camus’ at different times in this blog. The fence has been sat on.
Incidentally, for anyone looking for a pithy summary of one of Truss’s punctuation meditations, I have come up with the following, helpful, summary of how to punctuate the word “its”:
It’s always its unless it’s short for it is, in which case it’s it’s.
Thank you, I’m here all week.