top of page

The Very Thought of You - Ray Noble Orchestra

Having heard the second (see last entry "Be My Guest"), in case you're wondering what the best ensemble brass break is, it's this.

I know, I know, the youtube clip credits it to Al Bowlly, and indeed it is Al Bowlly who is singing. But it was Ray Noble who wrote the song, and who did the orchestral arrangement and whose "greatest hit" it was. Al was on lead vocal (photo above).

And what a vocal. For a while in the 1930's, Al Bowlly was as big as it gets. He is widely credited with being the first of what became now as the "crooners", of whom the most famous later was one Bing Crosby, and sang on a number of US number ones in front of the Ray Noble Orchestra. But what always fascinated me was his beautiful, refined and unhurried vocal style, redolent with restrained but full of intense feeling, seemingly the essence of reserved Englishness. Which is all the more extraordinary when you realise he was half Lebanese and half Greek and was born in Mozambique, as a result of his parents meeting while on board a ship emigrating to Australia (they never made it, winding up in South Africa)! One of many examples of an epitome of Englishness to quote in these times of anti-immigration. Yes an Englishman through and through, though naturalised!

He had a pretty extraordinary life as well, a discovering his first wife in bed with another man on the night of their wedding - they were divorced as soon as he could arrange it, first auspices not being great - and sadly being killed by a German bomb in London at the age of only 43, shortly after finishing a performance. Still he married again in 1934, shortly after recording "The Very Thought of You", and this time it lasted until his death so the feeling on this vocal may well be directed at her, one Marjie Fairless.

But back to the track, from the so, so laid back piano intro, to the first presentation of the verse by the orchestra, to the precise, wistful vocal echoed by the band, till he sings:

"it's just the thought of you - the very thought of you - my love".

Then it happens, the warmth of their love spreads like a rising sun in the south of France, and the volume comes up, and you have to turn it up more, as the brass section does its bit. Feel that warmth travel up your spine in the depths of winter, a fitting song for a chilly St Valentine's eve.

bottom of page