So last Christmas I received an album some people might not be able to stand: Anton Karas’ zither recordings. This included the famous Third Man movie theme.
The story of Anton Karas being discovered and hired to perform music for the film is legendary. What I didn’t know was the career Karas had on the heels of the Third Man. Everyone’s on the heels of the Third Man. I know I am.
Halfway through, the album lifts above the streets and sewers of Vienna with the voice of Kay Armen singing “I’m in the Middle of a Riddle”.
Kay isn’t known much today. In her prime during the 1950s she was ‘Charmin’ Kay Armen’, regularly heard on the radio in the quiz show “Stop the Music” and “Life with Luigi”, the trials of Italian immigrant Luigi Basco played by Irishman J. Carrol Naish.
Her performance of “Hallelujah” from the film “Hit the Deck” (1955) was featured again in 1974’s “That’s Entertainment”. “Come-on-a My House”, a hit for Rosemary Clooney, was written for Armen. In 1995, she received the National Medal for the Arts. She recorded “Middle of a Riddle” with Karas in 1950.
It’s the sweetest song to be stumbled upon. It was apparently included in the film “Brick” with Joseph Gordon-Levitt but I missed it under all the angst.
The lyrics trip along so finely with Karas’ zither. ‘Though I show I love you so, I’ve got a feeling you’re concealing a feeling that I ought to know’. It’s the most charming waltz and I hope Vienna dances to it nightly.
I’m glad to have discovered the song last year, then forgotten it and rediscovered it again the other night. That doesn’t happen often.
Now fans of Fiona Apple get to be as happy as I am. She’s covered it in harmony with her sister Maude Maggart for the compilation album Sweetheart 2014.
Part of me wishes she hadn’t touched it. I’m in the middle of a riddle ’cause it won’t belong to me. She’s done it no wrong though. But let’s not forget Kay Armen. She just lifts a little higher.