Music Of Woody Allen Films – a new irregular feature about the musical compositions that have helped to make Allen’s films sing.
Seems Like Old Times
Written by Carmen Lombardo and John Jacob Loeb in 1945
Used in Annie Hall.
Annie Hall is a film built on memories, and accepting times gone. It is a thread that is finally tied when Diane Keaton’s Annie – full of confidence – sings ‘Seems Like Old Times‘, as a goodbye to us. It is one of our final looks at one of film’s best characters.
‘Seems Like Old Times‘ was written by Carmen Lombardo and John Jacob Loeb. Carmen and his older brother Guy were born in Canada, but moved to America with their band The Royal Canadians in the 1920s. The band, which also featured two other Lombardo brothers Lebert and Victor, would garner international success, and sell hundreds of millions of records.
From their early days, Carmen was writing the music, and also sang with a trebly, trembly voice, which earned him the nickname of ‘Cryman Lombardo’. Meanwhile Guy took the baton and led the band and it is Guy’s name that would get top billing (although at least one source says Carmen was the driving force of the band). The band was a staple of New Year’s Eve broadcasts across America, in the height of the big band radio era, captured so well by Allen in Radio Days.
The first version of ‘Seems Like Old Times‘ is credited to the Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians. Released in 1945, it was actually the b-side to another tune (‘Symphony‘). Carmen regularly collaborated with John Jacob Loeb, until the mid sixties on stage productions such as Arabian Nights and Mardi Gras.
Woody Allen has used several of Lombardo’s songs in his films – in Zelig, Bullets Over Broadway and of course, ‘Annie Hall‘. But it is not any of the several hit versions of the years that Allen uses, but it is Diane Keaton. At this point in the film, we’ve only heard Keaton sing a song tentatively. But here she is full of smuldering confidence. And she sings a song about visiting the past – something the characters in Annie Hall physically do.
Annie’s singing subplot – and a lot of her character – was based on Keaton. She had moonlighted as a club singer before her acting success. We assume Allen chose the song, but it’s equally likely a song that Keaton has performed in the past. On piano is Artie Butler, who played in dozens of hits you know and love such as ‘Leader Of the Pack‘.
It is a trick that Allen has returned to again and again, using the rich lyrics of American song to add another element to his films. Jazz might be Allen’s default tone, but more often than not, his lyrically choices are spot on. There is another trick on show here that Allen would return to – letting Diane Keaton sing.
Allen actually returns to it just minutes later, using the song to soundtrack the wonderful, still need the eggs, final scene of ‘Annie Hall‘.
Need we say Keaton is wonderful in this performance? So wonderful in fact that her version of this song was voted by AFI as number 90 in their list of Greatest Music In Movies – the only appearance by an Allen film.
Carmen Lombardo died in 1971, six years before his brother. Their musical collaboration lasted 55 years in total. We will probably talk about Guy Lombardo again in this column at some point. Find out more about the Lombardos here and here.
Vaughn Monroe and His Orchestra had a #7 hit with the song in 1946, in a very big band arrangement.
Find all our the stories in our Music Of Woody Allen Films series. What song should we look at next?