We left Hugh Wade enjoying a “hit record” in 1946 (see http://elvirabarney.wordpress.com/2012/05/08/let-it-be-soon/).
His life-style, in many ways, had resumed its pre-war pattern. He still lived in the heart of theatre and club-land. Between 1945 and 1948 his address was 80 Long Acre (before the war he had lived at 73 Jermyn Street).He continued to be involved with providing music for Pantomime and Revues and, although I can find no hard evidence, was almost certainly playing piano at late-night clubs. Although his health was fading, he was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1948, William Wade’s photographs suggest that he was, to the end, a recognised figure on the club circuit.
Around this time, he collaborated with the actor/producer Leigh Stafford in the musical comedy “Maid to Measure”. This provided him with his second post-war success. This show was intended to be a comeback vehicle for Jessie Matthews. Matthews had been the most glittering of pre-war British stars but her career had been disrupted by scandal and controversy (see http://elvirabarney.wordpress.com/2012/03/14/evergreen-jessie-matthews-and-buddy-bradley/). She also had a reputation for unpredictability and suffered more than one breakdown.
The show was not the triumphant return its producer had hoped it would be. It opened in Edinburgh to mixed reviews, toured, was very well received at the King’s Theatre, Hammersmith but failed to take off at its most prestigious venue, the Cambridge Theatre. Its West End run was only 36 performances.Part of the problem was Jessie’s health but mostly it was the overall structure of the musical, whose flaws a strong cast (including a young Miriam Karlin) could not quite overcome. What was universally agreed was that the highlight of the show was a song, sung by Matthews, “Time May Change”. This was Hugh’s main contribution to the endeavour and, happily, took on a life of its own , becoming one of the major hits of 1948.
Early review of Maid to Measure
“Time May Change” is a trademark late Hugh Wade piece. Sentimental, wistful and with a distinctly nostalgic tone. The lyrics are functional, maudlin in print but effective when sung well, and the melody has an elegance to it,old-fashioned (even for the time) but full of emotion.
“Time may change the secret of the ocean
Time may change the language of devotion
Who knows what fate may have in store for us
Let’s make it more for us than ever before
Time may change the colour of the pages
Rearrange the tempo of the ages
These changing years may disappear from view
But time won’t change my love for you”
As with Hugh’s other compositions, some of the leading acts of the day recorded it. Again we see how the dance-band leaders from Elvira’s day – Ambrose, Geraldo, Joe Loss, Lou Preager – still held sway in post-war popular music.
Anne Shelton Jun-48 Decca F8898
Archie Lewis with The Geraldo Strings Jun-48 Parlophone F2294
Rita Williams Jul-48 Columbia FB3407
(Rita Williams sang with Lou Preager in the 1940s – she later formed the Rita Williams Singers who performed in innumerable variety shows on radio and TV in the 50s and 60s)
Joe Loss and his Orchestra (Howard Jones) Aug-48 HMV BD6015
Jack Simpson and his Sextet (Dave Kydd) Sep-48 Parlophone F2309
( Jack Simpson had been the drummer in Ambrose’s orchestra. A multi-instrumentalist, had he not concentrated, very lucratively is it happens, on the now despised xylophone he would be rememembered as the first great English jazz vibraphonist.)
Though I have a fondness for Simpson’s version, it is the recording by Archie Lewis that was the most popular and, in retrospect, the most significant. Lewis is a sadly neglected singer and deserves to be re-instated as one of the important black artists in the London musical landscape of the period. A baritone, he was known as “the Crosby of the Caribbean” or “the black Bing Crosby” and had a string of hits with a rather lugubrious take on a number of ballads that appealed to the immediate post-war audience. The best known and most typical is “In the Land of Beginning Again” which captured the mood of the time perfectly.
In many ways he represents the last in a line of sophisticated black cabaret artists that includes the BYP favourites Hutch and Turner Layton. “Time May Change” was tailor-made for him. However, it would have been Geraldo, a friend of Hugh’s, who would have chosen the song. That it was a sensible decision is evidenced by this early review in Gramophone,
“”Time May Change”, from ” Maid to Measure,” looks like becoming one of the hit tunes of the year, and Archie Lewis made a good choice in being among the first to record it. Full marks on all scores for this side.”
The song was indeed chart-bound, reaching number 4 (on sheet-music sales) and registering in the top twenty for 14 weeks. Sadly, by the end of its run on the Hit Parade Hugh was in steep physical decline.He was to have one more successful composition with “Souvenirs De Paris”, before his premature demise on the 10th of April 1949.
Here is a short clip from the end of Paul Rotha’s MOI film West Indies Calling (full version available on YouTube). The musicians backing Archie Lewis are some of the mainstays of the West End club scene and would have been familiar to Hugh and his associates.
Jessie Matthews did not record Time may Change ,unfortunately. She has been treated rather harshly in some histories of popular culture and is yet another in need of a little revisionist appreciation. A useful site is this one - Jessie Matthews.
The Jack Jackson and Archie Lewis versions of TMC are available as downloads from Amazon etc.