We had Harry Nilsson’s A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night album when I was a kid. A gorgeous record, full of pre-rock and roll pop standards such as What’ll I Do, As Time Goes By, You Made Me Love You and This Is All I Ask. Arranged and conducted by the legendary Gordon Jenkins, it’s easily his best album.
The back cover of the record contained little illustrations of each song, plus accompanying notes. For the lead song, Lazy Moon, it mentions that the only known recorded version was by Oliver Hardy in Pardon Us, Laurel and Hardy’s first feature film.
I struggle sometimes over which is my favourite version. Nilsson’s is smooth and lush and moving. Ollie’s is a little more raw and more of its time. In the end, I let sentimentality win: because I love Laurel and Hardy beyond all sense and reason.
In the film the boys play escaped convicts. While on the run they join a group of cotton pickers, blacking up in order to blend in. As this is Laurel and Hardy, their sweetness and humanity allows them to get away with – just – the racism.
Ollie always sang, and spoke, beautifully. Although he sang in a few of their films, he didn’t do it often enough. My favourite is from Brats where he sings the kids to sleep with Go To Sleep My Baby. Again, sentimentality: I sang that song to all of my kids. And it always worked.
Lazy Moon is just a smashing little song. It’s proper craft. His girl has promised to meet him when the moon comes out, when all is bright and clear. So where is it, this moon that is surely aware of the singer’s predicament?
Ollie sings it very sweetly, almost boyishly, gently pleading for the moon to wake up and “light the way, bright as day.” Lovely.
And in this version, you also get the ‘plonk, plonk’ coda so Stan can do his funny little dance.