'In the era when the piano was king, sheet music of just one song could sell thousands of copies. In 1913, when the Australian firm Palings published a piano solo called Swiss Cradle Song, 125 thousand copies were sold. One of those copies found its way to New Zealand - and any reference to Switzerland was eliminated, when the piano solo was transformed into a Maori song of farewell.
The Swiss Cradle Song had nothing to do with Switzerland anyway. It was composed by a prolific writer of piano solos who lived and worked in Australia, and wrote under the nom-de-plume ‘Clement Scott.’ Mr. Scott was nothing if not internationally minded. The rest of his output included Russian Sleigh Song, Belgian Slumber Song, Egyptian Love Song, German Evening Song, Italian Peasant Dance, Irish Cradle Song, Japanese Lullaby, Arabian Night Patrol, Flemish Dance, Polish Dance and Grecian Legend.
The Swiss Cradle Song was a pleasant simple melody, in 4/4 time with a 16-bar theme. It was published with eight variations following the theme, and its cover announced with ‘violin and cornet parts included gratis.’
In spite of impressive sales, in its home country Australia, the Swiss Cradle Song did not cause any lasting mark. But after the music travelled the two thousand kilometres across the Tasman Sea from Australia to New Zealand, quite quickly the tune went into New Zealand’s hall of immortality'.
The excerpt above is from Max Cryer's sell-out book story Love Me Tender which tells the remarkable stories behind 40 of the world’s most popular songs. Some evolved from folk-songs, some are from musical theatre, while others hit the mark because a particular recording appeared at just the right time.
In some cases, one word made all the difference: Paul McCartney composed a tune but could only think of the words ‘scrambled eggs’ to fit it, but fortunately he later came up with the perfect solution – Yesterday. Marie Antoinette heard a peasant nurse sing an obscure lullaby to her princely son. The empress’s unexpected promotion of the song resulted in For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow now being listed by The Guinness Book of Records as one of the three most familiar songs in the world.
Love me tender - the book, sold out in ten days - and even received special mention in The Times of London. A second edition is already under way for the many people who want to know what's behind that old familiar refrain.