Cocktails for Two

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"Cocktails for Two"
from Murder at the Vanities
Song by Carl Brisson
Published 1934
Writer Arthur Johnston
Sam Coslow
Recorded by Carl Brisson, Duke Ellington, Zarah Leander, Spike Jones, Tommy Dorsey, Bing Crosby

"Cocktails for Two" is a song from the Big Band era, written by Arthur Johnston and Sam Coslow. The song debuted in the movie Murder at the Vanities (1934), where it was introduced by singer and actor Carl Brisson. Duke Ellington's version of the song was recorded in 1934 and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2007.

The song seems to refer to the ending of Prohibition in the United States. Mentioned discreetly in the song's introduction is that people could be "carefree and gay once again". The song was written in 1934, and the 21st Amendment, which ended Prohibition, was ratified a year earlier in 1933.

Alternative versions[edit]

16-second sample, as the musical mayhem begins

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"Cocktails for Two" is best remembered today due to the comic, sound effects-laden version by Spike Jones and His City Slickers. The Slickers first recorded it in 1944 with Carl Grayson supplying the vocal. It was their biggest all-time hit, reaching number 4 on the charts, according to Joel Whitburn. Sam Coslow hated Jones' irreverent treatment.[1] Even so, the recording's success earned him large royalties.[citation needed]

Jonathan and Darlene Edwards (Paul Weston and Jo Stafford) also lampooned the song on their first LP, The Piano Artistry of Jonathan Edwards, released in 1957.

Other covers include Zarah Leander's Swedish version for Odeon in 1934, Tommy Dorsey's swing version for Victor (#26145) on October 31, 1938, and Bing Crosby's performance for CBS radio on June 20, 1955.

In popular culture[edit]

Stan Freberg used the verse of the song in an episode of his 1957 radio show, without going on to perform the chorus of the song. Freberg asked Billy May, the orchestra leader, why he stopped after the introduction, and May said it was because "everyone already knows the chorus of this turkey."[2]

From mid-2006, Spike Jones' version was featured in a British advertising campaign for Schweppes.

Alan Alda's character Hawkeye Pierce also hums a few bars of the song during the opening of Season 1, Episode 9 (Henry, Please Come Home) of M*A*S*H.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Coslow, Sam (1977). Cocktails for Two: The Many Lives of Giant Songwriter Sam Coslow. Arlington House. p. 145. ISBN 0870003925. Retrieved 2013-05-10. ... the question I am most frequently asked is how I felt about Spike Jones's famous recording of 'Cocktails for Two' ... I hated it, and thought it was in the worst possible taste, desecrating what I felt was one of my most beautiful songs. 
  2. ^ "The Best of the Stan Freberg Shows": Capitol Records WBO 1035 (1959); "Madison Avenue Werewolf": Capitol Records T 1816 (1963); "The Stan Freberg Show: Direct From The Famous CBS Broadcasts": Radio Spirits SFRD 1-4 (1997)

Further reading[edit]

  • Coslow, Sam (1977). Cocktails for Two. New York: Arlington House. ISBN 0-87000-392-5.
  • Young, Jordan R. (2005). Spike Jones Off the Record: The Man Who Murdered Music. (3rd edition) Albany: BearManor Media ISBN 1-59393-012-7.