Category Archives: Repeal Day

Repeal Day!

Happy Repeal Day! On this day in 1933, Utah ratified the 21st amendment, fulfilling the three-quarters majority needed to repeal Prohibition, so hoist a glass of your favorite beverage today to celebrate. As for me, I’ll be in New York, preparing for a day of Willy Wonka cocktailing tomorrow, at Junior Merino‘s Liquid Lab.

I’m excited about this. A couple of times a month, Junior and his wife, Heidi, open the doors to his Bronx office to a small group of bartenders and spirits writers, allowing them to mix and discuss cocktails, talk about techniques and ideas, and sample unique and unusual ingredients, some of them otherwise unavailable in the United States. This is followed up with dinner and cocktails, and the whole day is paid for by liquor-company sponsors that Junior and Heidi line up.

I hope to have photos and a follow-up post in a few days.

Repeal Day playlist

I wish I could take a minute this Repeal Day to post a list of swell goings-on around town, but alas, Providence doesn’t seem to have anything going on. I could dig around in my books and find a classic cocktail to post (and I may still do that), but why follow the crowd?

Instead, I figured I’d help you program the music for your happening bash. The following songs, unless Wikipedia has lied to me yet again, all have some peg in 1933, the year that Prohibition finally ended. Some of them were written a year earlier but premiered in 1933, whereas the rest are fully Repeal Year babies.

Some of the songs are performed by their original artists, but most are not, and most are also not 1933 recordings.

Included in the mix are two very different versions of Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler’s “Stormy Weather,” just to show how versatile these songs are. Enjoy.

  1. Fred Astaire, “The Carioca.” From 1933′s Flying Down to Rio, the first Astaire/Ginger Rogers picture. It’s always nice to remember that Astaire could also sing.
  2. Hoagy Carmichael, “Lazy Bones.” The (only?) instance of a song performed by its composer. Hoagy ‘n’ me went to college together. I’ve eaten in the former cafe where he wrote “Star Dust,” and he’s the third-best thing about the film version of To Have and Have Not.
  3. Henry Hall, “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” Number three said nix on tricks, I will build my house with bricks. He had no chance to sing and dance ’cause work and play don’t mix. This is from the Disney short, “Three Little Pigs,” which premiered May 27, 1933.
  4. Louis Armstrong & Duke Ellington, “Drop Me Off in Harlem.” Louis + Duke = Nothing else to say.
  5. Maude Maggart and Fiona Apple, “(It’s Only A) Paper Moon.” Maggart and Apple are sisters, and they join up on this fun a cappella recording of Arlen and Harburg’s standard.
  6. Jerry Orbach, John Lesko, & Various Artists, “Lullaby of Broadway.” Okay, fuck it: this is a stretch. In 1933, there was a musical film called 42nd Street. In 1935, a song called “Lullaby of Broadway” first appeared in an unrelated movie. A later Broadway production of 42nd Street co-opted “Lullaby.” It wasn’t in the source material, though, so it’s a cheat. Y’know why I say “fuck it”? It’s always nice to remember that Orbach could also sing.
  7. Jimmy Durante, “Inka Dinka Doo.” You’re the top. You’re Inferno‘s Dante. You’re the nose on the great Durante.
  8. Doc & Merle Watson, “Stormy Weather.” A little more Harold Arlen, this time writing with Ted Koehler. Doc Watson, who’s still kicking around at 85, is a country and bluegrass pioneer. Merle, his son, died in 1985.
  9. Ike & Tina Turner, “Stormy Weather.” Tina Turner, who’s still kicking around at 69, is … aw, to hell with it, you know who she is.
  10. Bill Evans & Stan Getz, “Night and Day.” Finally, a little Cole Porter, but I’m gonna cheat you of the lyrics because I’m a son of a bitch. Porter wrote this for his 1932 play, Gay Divorce, but 1933 saw it become a hit, when Fred Astaire recorded it.
  11. Bryan Ferry, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.” Recorded for his 1974 album, Another Time Another Place.
  12. Frank Sinatra, “You’re Getting to Be a Habit With Me.” From Frank’s sublime Songs for Swinging Lovers.
  13. Ginger Rogers, “We’re in the Money.” I began with Fred, so it makes sense to end with Ginger. This is her original recording, from Gold Diggers of 1933. This song’s a good reminder of the context in which Prohibition was repealed; the lyrics directly mention the Depression and bread lines. (In fact, sociologist David Hanson even links the Depression directly to the repeal of Prohibition.)

Oh, and because I love you, an embedded YouTube video of the always-dapper Ferry singing “Smoke”:

Neo-prohibitionism

If you think Repeal Day, 74 years ago, was the end of the story, think again. Check out this great, exhaustive site by David J. Hanson, a professor of sociology at the State University of New York in Potsdam:

Alcohol: Problems and Solutions

The gist of the site is to explore, even-handedly, the effects of alcohol use and abuse on both individuals and society. Hanson explores just about every facet of this topic you can imagine–youth drinking, binge drinking, alcohol and health, drunk driving, you name it.

Among the resources, though, is a long page of prohibitionist personalities and organizations, both past and present. It’s remarkable how many groups are today actively seeking to discourage and restrict adult drinking behavior. Hanson writes:

Because Prohibition is now recognized by most people as having been a disastrous failure and currently lacks strong political support, modern prohibitionists are using a different approach to achieve their goal.

Their tactic is to establish cultural rather than strictly legal prohibition by making alcohol beverages less socially acceptable and marginalizing those who drink, no matter how moderately. Like the anti-alcohol activists who preceded them, the neo-prohibitionists of today (often called reduction-of-consumptionists, neo-drys, or neo-Victorians) don’t distinguish between the use and the abuse of alcohol. Both should be reduced.

I think this Repeal Day, we owe it to ourselves to take some time and read up on these groups and their tactics.