Talking Shit

Throwback Tuesdays: Phil Spitalny - "What's the Use?"

Today's throwback comes from wayyyy back in the way-back machine's gears: 1930, when Phil Spitalny's orchestral jazz compositions were pop hits. It's hard to imagine a time before popular music was splintered into a thousand different subgenres, but think about it: Beyond classical and real folk traditions, there was basically just music. Now they have a creaky charm, but Spitalny's songs probably powered the classy nightclubs that occupied South Beach's art deco buildings before they were retro. Maybe flappers danced to them, daring to show their knees!

There's actually a less tenuous local connection for this song. At the peak of his career, the Ukraine-born Spitalny was known for leading his all-girl orchestra (arguably the first), but he later decamped to Miami Beach. Here, he was a music critic for local newspapers of yore -- the Miami Beach Sun and the Miami Beach Reporter -- before he passed away in 1970.

This song, "What's the Use," was released as part of the Hit of the Week record series, which were pressed on laminated flexible cardboard to keep prices down during the Great Depression.

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Arielle Castillo
Contact: Arielle Castillo