Love For Sale

Reviewed by mojo

Okay, so Mojo has these elderly inlaws, both pushing 90. Both enjoy going on the occasional rant, especially if you encourage them by saying something provocative like, oh, say, "Hello". And one of their favorite rants is how Movies and Songs Nowadays Are Just Nasty Things All About Sex, and Why Can't We Have NICE Innocent Entertainment Like We Did When WE Ruled The World. Which is all very well and good.


Mojo happens to be a fan of old movies. I like Big Band music, too, but I ADORE movies, especially anything that has Gregory Peck or Cary Grant. Or Ingrid Bergman. And, okay, some John Waynes are a guilty pleasure. To be honest I'll watch just about anything put in front of me so long as it's not reality television, but I prefer better movies to stupid ones. Anyway, my point is, most of those movies are just CHOCK fulla sex! I mean, something like Double Indemnity or Gone With The Wind is NOTHING BUT. Even poor John Wayne, who had a great running character but was never really much of an actor, was usually obliged to paw or chew on some woman at some point in the script. The only difference is, they just didn't actually SHOW them, all nekkid and stuff, like they do now. But you could be watching, say, Gone With The Wind, and Clark Gable has just finished drunkenly threatening Vivian Leigh, and he picks her up and sweeps her upstairs, and my inlaws will start sighing and saying stuff like, "See? They don't make nice clean movies like THAT anymore!" while Mojo just stares all open-mouthed at them and wonders what sort of Disneyesque universe are they currently LIVING IN instead of watching this movie with Mojo.

I think, then, that this song slightly bothers me because unlike other things produced in the earlier part of the 20th century, "Love For Sale" just comes right out and SAYS things, instead of using any sort of metaphor to hide what it's saying. And what it's saying isn't particularly pleasant or Disneyesque; it's freakin' prostitution. Which Mojo doesn't really have any major problems with--fact is, I don't really see why it's illegal--but this song paints such a bleak picture of that particular world it leaves me rather depressed. What's next, Cole: an aching ballad about dog fighting? And then Wikipedia tells me one of the earliest hits of this song was done by Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians. Both of Mojo's parents happen to be Penn State grads--my mom was a professor's brat--and not a Christmas went by without us listening nonstop to record after Christmas record of Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians. The idea of a Donny and Marie-style choral group in the thirties not only singing "Love For Sale" but getting a hit out of it staggers poor Mojo's tiny brain.

And yet I just KNOW if I were to play this song for my inlaws, they would smile and tell me how today's music is all sex-sex-sex and not nice to listen to like THIS song. And being the polite, well-brought-up lass that I am, I would say something like "Uh-huh" and drop it. Because I find it rather depressing, even with Ella singing it--or perhaps BECAUSE Ella's singing it. Her girlish voice combined with such world-wearly lyrics just makes it extra-sad in my mind. This live version is considerably more bouncy, and the excellent piano backup in particular, combined with Ella's deliberate off-tempo phrasing, disguises it so well every time I hear this particular version it takes me half the first stanza before I can find my place in the song.

Anyway, it's a jazz standard, considered scandalous in its day, and she sang it many times. It's not one of my personal favorites, but it's okay. And while Mojo claims she is not an old fuddy-duddy and open to just about anything, we can all see it's clearly just a matter of time before she's screaming out the window at the neighborhood children telling them to stay off of her lawn...

Love For Sale (1960)

Click below to hear a sample--or scroll down for associated media: 
From What Album(s)?: 
Ella in Berlin: Mack the Knife
Disc Number: 
Cole Porter
Cole Porter

From Wikipedia:


"Love for Sale" is a song by Cole Porter, from the musical The New Yorkers which opened on Broadway on December 8, 1930 and closed in May 1931 after 168 performances. The song is written from the viewpoint of a prostitute advertising various kinds of "love for sale": "Old love, new love, every love but true love".

The song's chorus, like many in the Great American Songbook, is written in the A-A-B-A format. However, instead of 32 bars, it's 64, plus an 8-bar tag. The tag is often dropped when the song is performed. The tune, using what is practically a trademark for Porter, shifts between a major and minor feeling.

"Love for Sale" was originally considered in bad taste, even scandalous. In the initial Broadway production, it was performed by Kathryn Crawford, portraying a streetwalker, with three girlfriends (Waring's Three Girl Friends) as back-up singers, in front of Reuben's, a popular restaurant of the time. As a response to the criticism, the song was transferred from the white Crawford to the African American singer Elisabeth Welch, who sang with back-up singers in a scene set in front of Harlem's Cotton Club.

Despite the fact the song was banned from radio airplay, or perhaps because of it, it became a hit, with Libby Holman's version going to #5 and the "Fred Waring's Pennsylvanians" version going to #14, both in 1931. (All other 1931 recordings of the song were as an instrumental.)

Notable recordings since include Hal Kemp in 1939, Billie Holiday in 1945, Eartha Kitt in the 1950s, Ella Fitzgerald in 1956, and again in 1972 on her Ella Loves Cole album, Tony Bennett in 1957, Miles Davis and Cannonball Adderley for 1958 Miles, Dexter Gordon in 1962, The Manhattan Transfer in 1976, and Elvis Costello, live on the remastered Rhino Entertainment CD of his 1981 record Trust. Harvey Fierstein performs a memorable (if interrupted) version in the movie version of his play Torch Song Trilogy. Simply Red led by Mick Hucknall sang this song at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1992, and Harry Connick Jr. in 1999 on his album Come by Me.

Other vocal versions include Mel Torme's, Dinah Washington's, Diane Schuur's and Fine Young Cannibals'. The song has become a jazz standard, and is often performed in solely instrumentalist versions. Notable among these is the Arthur Lyman version, which revived the song as a single record in 1963.

The song was also performed during a sequence in a gay night club in the Cole Porter biopic De-Lovely (performed by Vivian Green) and during a similar sequence in Brian DePalma's The Black Dahlia.