Where or When

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"Where or When"
Song from Babes in Arms
Published 1937
Songwriter(s) Lorenz Hart
Composer(s) Richard Rodgers
"Where or When"
Single by Dion and the Belmonts
from the album Presenting Dion and the Belmonts
B-side "That's My Desire"
Released December 14, 1959
Format 7" single
Genre Doo-wop
Length 2:37
Label Laurie
Songwriter(s) Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart
Dion and the Belmonts singles chronology
"Every Little Thing I Do"
"Where or When"
"When You Wish upon a Star"
"Every Little Thing I Do"
"Where or When"
"When You Wish upon a Star"

"Where or When" is a show tune from the 1937 Rodgers and Hart musical Babes in Arms. It was first performed by Ray Heatherton and Mitzi Green. That same year, Hal Kemp recorded a popular version. It also appeared in the movie of the same title two years later. Dion and the Belmonts also released a successful remake of the song, which reached number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in January 1960. In 1963, The Lettermen released their version as a single, which peaked at number 98 on the Hot 100. The song was used for the 1992 biopic Sinatra, starring Philip Casnoff; Frank Sinatra performs the song on stage at the Paramount Theatre.

Babes in Arms[edit]

"Where or When" is the first number to appear in the original Broadway production of Babes in Arms. The musical opens in Seaport, Long Island, on a hectic morning that finds most of the adult population embarking on a five-month vaudeville tour. Soon after his parents' departure, twenty-year-old Valentine LaMar (played by Ray Heatherton) discovers at his doorstep a young hitchhiker named Billie Smith (played by Mitzi Green). Instantly smitten, he engages her in a discussion of movie stars, self-defense maneuvers, and Nietzsche's theory of individualism, at which point Val impulsively steals a kiss. Both admit to a powerful sense of déjà vu and sing "Where or When" as a duet.[1] MGM bought the screen rights to Babes in Arms in 1938, and the following year the studio released a film with that title, starring Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, that bore little resemblance to its stage predecessor; the characters and plot were substantially revised (by ten studio writers), and only two numbers were retained from the score.[1] "Where or When" was one that survived, appearing 37 minutes into the film,[2] sung by Betty Jaynes, Douglas McPhail and Garland in a scene depicting a rehearsal sequence, although Garland is cut short during her performance.[3]

Recorded versions[edit]

Use in popular media[edit]

  • Danny Tanner, Joey Gladstone, and Jesse Katsopolis cover the song in the Season 7 episode of Full House, "Too Little Richard Too Late"
  • The song appears three times, sung by Molly Johnson, in the made-for-TV movie ghost noir Gotham (1988). The 2nd time it is played, Molly is shown singing it in a night club and Virginia Madsen (playing the ghost) recites the lyrics over her performance.
  • In her Academy Award winning performance in Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, Ellen Burstyn sings "Where or When" while playing her piano, shortly after the death of her husband from a trucking accident.

Analysis of the lyrics[edit]

The lyrics of Where or When illustrate a memory anomaly known as déjà vu: [7]

"When you're awake, the things you think
Come from the dream you dream
Thought has wings, and lots of things
Are seldom what they seem
Sometimes you think you've lived before
All that you live to day
Things you do come back to you
As though they knew the way
Oh the tricks your mind can play
It seems we stood and talked like this before.
We looked at each other in the same way then.
But I can't remember where or when...
The clothes you're wearing are the clothes you wore
The smile you are smiling you were smiling then,
But I can't remember where or when...
Some things that happen for the first time
Seem to be happening again.
And though it seems like we have met before,
And laughed before, and loved before,
But who knows where or when..."

The line "Some things that happen for the first time..." is often misunderstood or misheard as "Some things that happened for the first time..." which changes the meaning. Rather than recalling past events which actually "happened", the lyrics refer to present events which "happen" for the first time, but which falsely seem to be recurring.[8][9]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Babes in Arms: History and Synopsis" (PDF). New World Records. Retrieved 11 August 2012. 
  2. ^ "Film Review: Babes in Arms". Judy Garland Database. Retrieved 11 August 2012. 
  3. ^ Burlingame, Sandra. "Where or When (1937)". JazzStandards.com. Retrieved 11 August 2012. 
  4. ^ MPS Records MPS 14.331 - Album A Capella III
  5. ^ Helen Ward · Harry James & His Orchestra
  6. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PKvZL7HmzMM
  7. ^ Déjà Vu, left column, half way down
  8. ^ Eli Marcovitz, M.D. , "The Meaning of Déjà Vu", Psychoanalytic Quarterly, vol. 21 (1952), pp.481-489
  9. ^ Alan S. Brown, The déjà vu experience, Psychology Press, (2004), ISBN 0-203-48544-0, Introduction, page 1