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The-Second-Last-Woman-in-England

November 15, 2013

Book Soundtrack: 1953 Radio

The first half of 1953 was, it’s fair to say, a trying time for Mrs. Wallis. And though the goopily uplifting “I Believe,” as recorded by Frankie Laine, was topping the musical charts for much of that period, it doesn’t seem to have been quite uplifting enough: Mrs. Wallis still shot her husband three times, on June 3, while he was watching TV.

What else might she have been listening to, in the months leading up to her touch of homicide? The few songs to challenge the juggernaut of “I Believe” were largely bouncy, vaudeville-style numbers like Guy Mitchell’s “She Wears Red Feathers (and a Huly-Huly Skirt)” or Lita Roza’s immortal recording of “(How Much is)That Doggie in the Window.” Both were massive hits, and frankly, if I had to listen to either of them very often I might be tempted to plug somebody.

But don’t be tempted to assume that Mrs. Wallis – and, let’s be fair here, Mr. Wallis – was merely the victim of unbearably bad radio. Perry Como’s “Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes” owned February’s charts, and while Mr. Como may not have been a true jazbo, it’s a peppy tune and he had a nice, warm, Bing Crosby-esque sound. And the year had kicked off in righteous style, with Jo Stafford’s gorgeous “You Belong to Me” – balm, surely, for even Mrs. Wallis’ jittery soul.

Listen to the songs

 

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