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I Wanna Get Married: Nellie McKay vs. Gertrude Niesen

Posted by on Aug 13, 2008 | Comments (11)

One of the reasons, I’ve finally discovered, why I love Nellie McKay’s “I Wanna Get Married” so much is that while it operates as a satire, it doesn’t operate as a blatant, overt satire. It’s just a 19-year-old girl reacting to the idea of the 1950s housewife, that’s all—nothing more, nothing less. Young precociousness has a long tradition of successfully regurgitating the world’s own ideas back in its face without trying to color or polarize them with extemporaneous messages. The regurgitation itself is the message.

Here’s Nellie McKay, on The View, singing “I Wanna Get Married”:

I can think of no way Nellie McKay could have written “I Wanna Get Married” without having first heard Gertrude Niesen’s trademark of the same name, although considering McKay is such a dizzying creative force, well, hell, anything’s possible. Niesen’s “I Wanna Get Married” follows a similar meter, and it, too, is vaguely satirical. It comes from her smash role as the stripper Bubbles LaMarr in “Follow the Girls,” opposite Jackie Gleason, among others.

It took me forever to find this record, but click on the cover below to hear Gertrude Niesen, in 1944, singing “I Wanna Get Married”:

The liner notes of the Gertrude Niesen record tell of Niesen’s side career in flipping houses, a story that brings to mind the housing boom of 2002 as much as it recalls 1944: “Gertrude has been successfully dabbling in real estate for a number of years, buying a piece of property here and selling one there—at a substantial profit. People joked about her “white elephant” when Gertrude picked up a 50-room $2,000,000 Newport, RI mansion for $21,000 a few years ago. They laughed even more when the water pipes froze and burst. But Miss Niesen had the last laugh when she sold the estate a short time later for considerably more than she had paid for it.”

After releasing her stunning debut album, Get Away From Me, Nellie McKay, as this week’s Bohemian interview by Joy Lazendorfer points out, soon felt Sony’s enthusiasm for her brazenly inventive tin-pan-alley songwriting dwindle. She got dumped quickly. She’s put out a couple of not-as-good albums since, and she’s been appearing on and writing songs for Broadway. I’ve seen her live twice, and she’s fucking incredible. Go see her when she comes to town on Monday, August 18 at the Mystic Theater in Petaluma.


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10 comments

  1. lila
    August 13, 2008

    that was great! i love the reaction of elizabeth haselbeck, she almost seems excited to be in on the joke but then since she is a lot like the subject of the song she is the joke too..kinda priceless..can you tell i watch the view from time to time?

    a few years ago i watched and old vhs copy of valley of the dolls 2 at some random persons house..there was a song called ‘live with me’ i wanted to learn it but i couldn’t find the song online anywhere..you don’t have a copy of that soundtrack do you?

    thanks for the awesome blogging!

    Reply
  2. Gabe
    August 13, 2008

    The song you’re looking for is called “Come Live With Me,” and it’s from the original ‘Valley of the Dolls’ soundtrack which is currently available in most dollar bins across the country.

    If you ever want to talk the ‘Beyond the Valley of the Dolls’ soundtrack, I’m your man.

    Reply
  3. lila
    August 14, 2008

    oh! awesome..i do.. i do..its just i forgot that i did until i read your post..

    Reply
  4. Hemond
    June 4, 2009

    That was a great post…I love this site…Thanks

    Reply
  5. trey
    November 7, 2009

    If you happen to see this comment after all this time – you mentioned that it took you a while to find an online version of Gertrude Neisen’s “I Want To Get Married” – I recently had a desire to find a full version of the song online, too, after hearing it on a radio music program, and I wasn’t able to find it online (until I found the link to your post, which I greatly appreciate.) I’m just curious to know where you originally found this version, if you happen to remember or still have the source info. In any case, thanks for the track, and the post.

    Reply
  6. Gabe Meline
    November 7, 2009

    Thanks! I love the song too. I didn’t find it online — I transferred it from the original Decca 10″, which after lots of looking I finally found at Grooves, a great little record store in San Francisco.

    Reply
  7. Frank Desmond
    November 12, 2009

    I saw the show ‘Follow The Girls’ at the Broadhurst Theatre in 1944 when I was 16 years old. The song ‘I Wanna Get Married’ was very popular at the time and I was fortunate to hear Gertrude Niesen sing it in the show. I found the lyrics for the song online but could never locate the vocal. Thank you very much for providing that as it was the first time in over 60 years that I heard Gertrude sing it. It really brought back some memories. The performance I saw was a matinee and I had a third row center seat where I saw a very interesting incident between Gleason and Niesen during one of their skits. No room here. Perhaps another time.

    Reply
    • Harry
      April 1, 2014

      No fair! I wanna know the story of the “incident”!! :)

      Reply
  8. Dave
    February 19, 2011

    Haven’t you heard Evelyn Dall’s great recording of ‘I Wanna Get Married’? Evelyn performed it in the show in the UK. She really sells all the risque lyrics (for the time). The recording runs over two sides.

    Reply
  9. Harry
    April 1, 2014

    I just stumbled upon this because I’m thinking about singing the “Follow the Girls” tune for a friend’s wedding reception, in June. When I mentioned the song to someone, he asked if I meant the Nellie McKay song, which I hadn’t heard. Now that I’ve heard it, I think there’s MORE than a passing resemblance to the older tune! Even the melody is almost like the older one, but in a minor key! Interesting. Anyway, it’s now a bit easier to find recordings of Miss Niesen’s song, and there’s also a Pearl Bailey cover of the song on a CD, “For Adults Only/More Songs For Adults Only”. Great stuff…thanks!

    Reply

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