Even if you had drunk and eaten prudently last night, you would still be doomed, because “Some Little Bug Is Going to Find You Someday,” as Roy Atwell sang in 1926, on a 78 RPM record I found last night in the Internet Archive’s audio collection. Atwell is cheerful about microbial doom:
Eating huckleberry pie
Is a pleasing way to die
While sauerkraut brings on softening of the brain
When you eat banana fritters
Every undertaker titters
And the casket makers nearly go insane.
Quicker ends are available in the same archive. “I mur-dered her,” George Grossmith warbles with Addams-family-esque delight, in a 1915 ballad about disposing of his laundress, a neighborhood organ grinder, his mother-in-law, and, finally, his caddy (“I approached him with my mashie, and I finished with the cleek”).
While life lasts, of course, there is love. “Why you’re as exciting as knitting / You’ve worn out the sofa with sitting,” Ada Jones complains of her cheap boyfriend in a 1916 song with the echt New York title, “Out of a City of Six Million People, Why Did You Pick on Me?”:
You must spend almost a quarter
When you go out on a tear.
The best thing, you say, is icewater.
I bet you cut your own hair.
Also very New Yorky is Jones’s 1907 tune “He Lost Her in the Subway.” UC Santa Barbara’s Cylinder Preservation and Digitzation Project has even more Jones, including “Call Me Up Some Rainy Afternoon,” which features a naughty invitation to come over and “talk about the weather”—a trill very hard to get out of your head once you’ve heard it.
If you prefer your songs of romantic disillusionment with historical detail, there’s Maurice Burkhardt’s 1920 song “Who Ate Napoleons with Josephine (When Bonaparte Was Away)?”:
Who said, “Do this for me,
And I’ll do that for you,”
While Nap was fighting Prussians,
Austrians, and Russians
“When Walter Raleigh left Queen Lizzie like a gallant kid / Did she walk on someone else’s coat? You bet your life she did,” Burkhardt sings in a thick German accent (more phonetically: “Ven Val-tair Rah-lay layft Kveen Lizzie . . . ,” etc.). The cases of Romeo, Catherine of Russia, Mark Antony, and Rip Van Winkle are also adduced. Enjoy, in moderation.