Just ahead of the latest episode of our monthly audio adventure for members of The Mark Steyn Club, let me remind those despairing of the day's developments than there's nothing healthier than taking a short break from the hell of the hamster-wheel news-cycle and exploring the delights of our Tales for Our Time home page. It's configured in Netflix tile style, with the stories organized by category - thrillers, fantasy, romance, etc - which we hope will make it easy for you to find a favorite diversion of an evening. If it doesn't, please let us know.
Steyn Clubber Randy Hude is enjoying Psmith, Journalist so far:
New Mark Steyn Club member here. I am thoroughly enjoying this tale and the amazing performance by Mark.
Does anyone know what musical piece is played immediately before and after the story's narration? I've been listening with my infant son and he perks up and dances each time the music plays. Thanks in advance.
Your son has excellent taste, Randy. I hope he dances to it at his wedding. We always get questions about the music for each tale, and I'll let you in on the answer a little down the page.
If, like Randy, you're new to the Club, you can access more than three dozen of our cracking yarns here - and all previous episodes of our current adventure, Psmith, Journalist, here. And, with that, welcome to Part Eleven of a most unusual blend of Wodehousian whimsy and gritty documentary realism of the mean streets of New York. In tonight's instalment, Master Maloney explains to Psmith and Billy Windsor how it works in the tenements:
"I rubbered around," he said, "and did de sleut' act, and I finds t'ings out. Dere's a feller comes round 'bout supper time dat day, an' den it's up to de fam'lies what lives in de tenements to dig down into deir jeans fer de stuff, or out dey goes dat same night."
"Evidently a hustler, our nameless friend," said Psmith.
"I got dat from a kid what knows anuder kid what lives dere," explained Master Maloney. "Say," he proceeded confidentially, "dat kid's in bad, sure he is. Dat second kid, de one what lives dere. He's a wop kid, an—"
"A what, Comrade Maloney?"
"A wop. A Dago. Why, don't you get next? Why, an Italian. Sure, dat's right. Well, dis kid, he is sure to de bad, 'cos his father come over from Italy to work on de Subway.".
I have no idea whether P G Wodehouse's rendering of the Gotham vernacular is mere accurate transcription, but I've given it my best in this adaptation. Members of The Mark Steyn Club can hear me read Part Eleven of Psmith, Journalist simply by clicking here and logging-in.
Speaking of our theme music for Psmith, Randy and his dancing scion above aren't the only ones to be taken by it. Josh Passell, a First Weekend Founding Member of the Steyn Club, writes:
Well, someone's gotta ask it: what is the theme music that opens and closes each episode? A rag, judging by its syncopation. And the entr'acte music?
Both pieces of music are by Wodehouse's friend and songwriting partner Jerome Kern. You can hear me discussing a whole bunch of Kern & Wodehouse songs with a great Kern conductor and a great Wodehouse golf caddy here. In the teens, Plum and Jerry and their chum Guy Bolton were the most admired musical-comedy team on Broadway. As Dorothy Parker put it:
This is the trio of musical fame
Bolton and Wodehouse and Kern
Better than anyone else you can name
Bolton and Wodehouse and Kern...
That said, for Psmith, Journalist, which predates the Plum-Jerry-Guy partnership, I picked a couple of earlier Kern tunes written with other collaborators. The interlude is from his score for The Girl from Utah (1914), the show that produced Kern's first great standard "They Didn't Believe Me". As for the intro/outro music, that's one of my very favorite early Kern tunes, from a production called The Red Petticoat (1912). The song is called "The Ragtime Restaurant", with lyrics by Rida Johnson Young, best known for her magnificent "Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life", much parodied in Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein and elsewhere. "The Ragtime Restaurant" is a fabulous title and concept, but Mrs Young's lyrics, to my mind, do not quite do it justice, so I prefer to hear the tune instrumentally.
I'd assumed I was the only person on the planet to care a jot or tittle about "The Ragtime Restaurant", so I thank Mr Passell and young Master Hude for their enthusiasm. And I promise, if live music is ever again lawfully permitted, that one day we will get the Mark Steyn Show band to play on stage a full version of that splendid composition.
If you've yet to hear any of our Tales for Our Time, you can do so by joining The Mark Steyn Club and enjoy our nightly audio adventures every evening twenty minutes before lowering your lamp - or hoard the episodes and binge-listen at the weekend or on a long car journey, if your government still permits you to take one. For more details on that and other benefits to Steyn Club membership, see here - and don't forget our special Gift Membership.
Please join me right here tomorrow evening for another episode of Psmith, Journalist.