Hang your head in shame, A. Edward Sutherland. This was the film
director who allowed the first performance of the Fields/Kern classic
Remind Me to be interrupted and overlaid
with comedy business from Abbott and Costello!
The song was not written for the film concerned - One
Night in The Tropics. Kern and Fields had written a number
of songs for another, abandoned film project, and three of them
were called into service for the new film. Two songs were shoehorned
into the plot itself (though one, Back in
My Shell, makes no sense for the characters involved). Remind
Me however was sung by Peggy Moran, apparently dubbed, in
a nightclub. The splendid verse was omitted, and much of the lyric
was inaudible due to Bud's and Lou's shenanigans.
Despite this inauspicious start, the song's quality was noted and
many artistes picked it up and recorded it. Many cite it as their
favourite Fields lyric, and Deborah Grace Winer wrote: "If
you had to single out one song as the finest example of a Dorothy
Fields lyric, the overwhelming temptation is Remind Me. ... as a
popular song lyric, Remind Me is not only perfect, it couldn't have
been written by anyone else. From the first line ... it is quintessentially
Winer is right about the first line. The verse is a perfect introduction
to this twisting, entrancing lyric. The singer is on the brink of
falling of love with some charmer, and she lingers self-indulgently
on the moment, savouring her struggle between an inclination to
hold back and save herself the inevitable heartache, and the temptation
to succumb and give herself over to the romantic and sensual rush
of a passionate love affair.
The twists and turns start in that verse. Turn
off that charm - what a perfect phrase for the start of a
song, grabbing the listener's attention. Then I'm
through with love for a while clarifies the first line, but
immediately the singer starts to waver with ...
Turn off that charm,
I'm through with love for a while,
I'm through ... and yet,
You have a fabulous smile,
So if I forget ..........
Then the gorgeous, complex Kern melody starts, with its pulsating
Latin American rhythm. The lyric returns several times to the idea
originated with that initial Turn off that charm;
she knows she can't rely on her own self-control to stop her falling
in love, so she asks her prospective lover to help her out: Remind
me, not to find you so attractive ..... Remind
me, to be sorry that we met .... Remind
me to ignore you.
The ending of the song is perfect, with a beautiful trio of rhyming
phrases followed by the last line in which the singer finally gives
in. This last line was aptly described by Deborah Grace Winer as
".. the surprising deft mental turnaround that that 'buttons
up' the end of the song."
So when your charm begins to blind me,
I'll simply tie my hands behind me,
Don't let me kiss you, please remind me,
Unless, my darling, you forget
I once heard Barbara Cook talk about the great cabaret singer Mabel
Mercer, and she used the above lyric as an example of how Mercer,
unconventionally, relished the consonants of a lyric, emphasising
the n in blinnnnd me / behinnnnd me / reminnnnnd me.
There are a lot of great versions of this song, although some make
it a bit more sombre than the lyric requires. Ella Fitzgerald delivers
the most musically stunning version of the Kern melody. Although
not that expressive in most of the song, she gives a feeling rendition
of the end of the song, lingering on the "darling" in
the last line.
Margaret Whiting and Mary Cleere Haran, both singers with outstandingly
beautiful voices, recorded splendid versions of the song, although
Whiting, unforgiveably, omitted the verse.
A notable version is by Bobbie Baird on the An Evening With Dorothy
Fields disk. Although occasionally a little overwrought, she sings
and acts the song to the full. Because of the shifts in viewpoint
and indecison of the singer, it's a great song to see being performed,
and I loved seeing Morag McLaren deliver it at a recent concert.
The song is generally considered to be one for the ladies, principally
because of the line Remind me that the world
is full of men. However, both Mark Murphy and Michael Ball
have sung it, and altered that line to Remind
me that we shouldn't meet again (Murphy) and Remind
me not to gaze at you again (Ball).