BitchTapes: Tales of the Jazz Age
For me, the 1920s stand out as one of the coolest times to be alive. The music, the parties, the changes in social mores, the fashion, the burgeoning of film and radio. (This is of course, with rose-tinted glasses neglecting the poverty, the subjugation of classes, ethnicities, and women—not to mention the violence brought on by prohibition.) Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby introduces high school English classes everywhere to the roaring twenties and its lavish galas filled with copious amounts of glamour and booze—set to a soundtrack of swinging tunes.
On the other hand, the trailer for Baz Luhrmann's Great Gatsby, released this week, gives us a Leo Dicaprio trying his best Paul Newman imitation and an indulgent take on an already-indulgent literary masterpiece. This includes using contemporary music instead of music from the renowned Jazz Age (didn't we learn this was a bad idea from A Knight's Tale?).
To right this terrible wrong, here's a playlist of some of the period's finest. (Sorry Yeezy and Hov, but Bessie Smith makes for a better Jazz Age soundtrack than Watch the Throne does.) You're encouraged to play these songs while watching the trailer or when re-watching episodes of Boardwalk Empire. More bathtub gin please...
1. "Riverboat Shuffle" - Bix Beiderbecke
Bix was born on the Mississippi among the riverboats carrying jazz up and down the Mid-U.S.
2. "Big Butter And Egg Man" - Louis Armstrong & His Hot Five
Featuring the vocals of May Alix, this early Armstrong track gets its title from the '20s slang term for a big spender. Indulgent enough for you, Baz?
3. "I Ain't Goin' To Play Second Fiddle" - Bessie Smith
No one should ever ask Bessie to play second fiddle. She will sing your ass under the table.
4. "Everybody Loves My Baby" - Clarence Williams' Blue Five
Featuring Eva Taylor's vocals, this 1924 composition (recorded here by Louis Armstrong and co.) was a popular standard for much of the 20th century.
5. "Mama's Got the Blues" - Fats Waller
Fats Waller penned some true classics ("Ain't Misbehavin'," "Honeysuckle Rose"), but got his start in the jazz halls. Lore tells of Waller getting kidnapped by Capone's men in order to perform at the gangster's birthday celebration.
6. "Ain't He Sweet" - Annette Hanshaw
Hanshaw represents the pop vocalists of the period with coy stylings and winks to the flappers of the day.
7. "Wild Party" - Fletcher Henderson
Henderson's composition preceded the big band era, but this song offers a window into what a wild party might've sounded like in 1925.
8. "The Pearls" - Jelly Roll Morton
Jelly Roll is often credited as the creator of jazz (debatable, but he was an early figure in arranging and composing), and his band of Chicago musicians showed the cities how to swing.
9. "Goin' Crazy With The Blues" - Mamie Smith
Early jazz drew much from the blues and Mamie Smith was one of the earliest black vocalists to cue listeners into what the blues were really about.
10. "I Found a New Baby" - Andy Preer & The Cotton Club Orchestra
The Cotton Club is a national landmark of the Jazz Age and though it had some serious problems with racial segregation, it did employ some of the best musicians of the day.
11. "Cake Walkin' Babies (From Home) [With Henderson's Hot Six]" - Bessie Smith
Penned by Clarence Williams, but sung here by Bessie Smith whose vocal stylings went on to influence just about every female jazz and blues vocalist ever.
12. "Ain't Misbehavin'" - Louis Armstrong
A Waller classic performed here by Armstrong, who was at the peak of his game in 1929. He made a name for himself with his cornet, but Louis' vocals are just as iconic a part of jazz history.
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