I’m not sure when I first started collecting sheet music – although the box files of it in my attic study seem (like everything else relating to one of my collecting bugs) to be steadily reproducing – I’ve got a vague memory of starting to amass music at pretty much the same time I started crawling around on the floors of junk shops sifting through stacks of dusty 78s back in the 1980s. Since then, I’ve found it difficult to pass a charity shop without rifling through the boxes at the back.
This isn’t intended to be an in-depth look at the rise and demise of sheet music as a means of marketing popular songs (and I’m talking here about the type designed for use by the individual, rather than for the professional stage). The history’s fairly obvious: before the emergence of the gramphone record as a means by which ordinary folk could enjoy popular music in their own homes, the only way to do that (apart from the lucky few who owned a player piano) was by buying the music and playing it for yourself, and most families had at least one member who could bash a tune out of the family piano. Even when radio and the gramophone made recorded music accessible to the masses, sheet music thrived alongside the recordings, with the covers often featuring photographs of the recording artists associated with the tune. Eventually, the rise of studio produced pop made it harder to replicate the essence of the music on the piano. Sheet music struggled on through the 70s, helped by the companion music for acoustic guitar, and it’s still about, though these days mostly aimed at the aspiring performer. It’s the glory days of the 30s, 40s and 50s that I love, though and, rather than waste space with descriptions, here’s a few galleries of favourite genres.
To start with, here’s a few 40s classics, including a good few by ‘The Voice’, Frank Sinatra:
Closely-related, and very popular at the time, were songs from the movie musical hits:
And songs that relate specifically to the Second World War:
Odd companions, but contemporaries, and I’ll collect anything related to Noel Coward or the Marx Brothers:
Into the 50s, and rock’n’roll related material is hard to find, but here’s a few that come close (sadly, I suspect, not all originals):
And finally, just to show that this isn’t just about preserving the past, here’s some that I bought because I like to sing them:
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little foray into a slightly obscure corner of the MidCentury collecting world. Do please leave feedback on this or any of my other posts – may aim is to share my passions, not preach about them!