You're right out of a book,
A fairy tale I read when I was so high,
No armored knight, out of a book,
Was more enchanted by a Lorelei,
- Lyric as interpreted by Ella Fitzgerald (excerpt)
Composer: Harold Arlen
Lyrics: Johnny Mercer
From the 1945 Paramount Musical Motion Picture "Out of This World."
Certainly not one of Arlen's most famous songs, the infectious melody lends
itself to a wide variety of arrangements, however. Mercer's lyrics were way
ahead of their time; incorporating references to Medieval literature. Although
arguably unintentional, the lyric's intense mood of devotion is more space age
than World War II-era kitsch.
What is remarkable about this tune is the number of artists who've chosen to
Ella Fitzgerald sings the song very straight-ahead. The version in the
Harold Arlen Songbook series swings less than much of the other material. It
was Sammy Davis, Jr. who aced the "space age" feel that the song seemed
destined to somehow embrace. Davis's version features definitively bebop-style
screaming trumpet solos typical of his "way out" feel. These two recordings
are on opposite ends of the arrangement spectrum. To hear the two versions
played one after another is bound to amaze the listener with the versatile and
timeless nature of both Arlen's music and Mercer's words. Davis's version can be
found on any of the "Rat Pack" compilations currently on the market. And both
Harold Arlen Songbook volumes have been delightfully re-mastered and
issued on the UMVD label. The two-record set is pricey, but worth the money if
one wants to hear some of the finest work Fitzgerald turned out.
Frank Sinatra recorded two versions with two different arrangers. Tony
Bennett's versions are pretty much run-of-the-mill. The roster of talented
performers who chose to record this song ranges from Julie Andrews to Kenny
Burrell. Soul artist Marlena Shaw does this song in a particularly funky way,
with an obvious nod to Davis's recordings of a decade or so before her. Zany
jazz vocalist Mark Murphy performs the tune in his own inimitable style. It's
a version that modern jazz vocal buffs shouldn't miss.
All in all, fifty-one artists have licensed the song for recording. Dear
reader, copyright restrictions forbid anything but a brief excerpt of the lyrics
to this song. But to venture into the myriad interpretations of "Out of This
World" is to venture into the Harold Arlen songbook, following not the dated and
whimsical "Follow the Yellow Brick Road" from The Wizard of Oz, but
rather getting into a flying saucer and flitting around the planets with a
person in love and the object of their affection.
Artists interested in licensing the song for recording or obtaining sheet
music for performance, may contact: Edwin H. Morris & Co., Inc.; c/o MPL
Communications, 41 West 54th Street, New York, NY 10019.
"Out of This World" is also the title of a short film contained in the archives of the Prellinger Collection on-line. The film is about a woman's trip to the General Motors Building at the New York World's Fair in 1964 to see the "Kitchen of Tomorrow."