Louis by Martin Heavisides


(1927) Heart Beat Skin (Original composition)

Armstrong’s first charted hit was Muskrat Ramble in 1926, and he’s never been long off the charts after that year, not even in the over forty years since his death. 1927 was a breakthrough year featuring at least half a dozen hits, possibly more — it all depends whose figures you trust (and there are good reasons for thinking none of them fully reliable). One of the most legendary hits of that year, with music and lyrics by Armstrong himself, in spite of the fact that (like The Trumpet Player’s Lament, a solo number cut from the release print of the 1938 movie Dr Rhythm) no copy of it seems to have survived — not a single disc of the thousands sold that year or in the two or three following — was Heart Beat Skin. The only clear indication it existed was the frequency with which it was cited in the twenties and for decades after, in spite of the fact that Armstrong doesn’t seem to have performed it after 1932 at the very latest. He certainly didn’t record as many versions as he did of Hello Dolly, regrettably on both counts. Just the one of Heart Beat Skin so far as anyone knows, and that one hasn’t survived. Still, as recently as fifteen years ago there were aging residents of homes who didn’t need much prompting to spill vivid memories of the impact that song had on their lives when they were in their teens or early twenties. True, often as not they seemed to be describing Cornet Chop Suey, Potato Head Blues, Tight Like That or Struttin’ With Some Barbecue, but you’ve got to expect things to slide together in people’s memories at that age. Apart from these memories and impressions spanning seven decades, which give tantalizing notions of a musical classic that seems just on the edge of possibility to reconstruct, we have only three lines of lyric — I would guess, the three opening lines:

“Where does the heart beat? All through the skin

 Everywhere a vein is, poundin’ like a drum.

 Poundin’ from the inside, how’s about that?”



Martin Heavisides’ Dossier: The Linnet’s Wings: essays, scholarly intros, 1 full length play. Living Theatre, 1 live playreading. Crossing Chaos Press, 1 novel. Frigg, Mad Hatter’s Review, JoCC, Dog Oil Press et al: fiction, poetry, CNF, autofantasy, unclassifiable specimens. http://theevitable.blogspot.ca/ http://movingpicturewrites.com


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