Archibald Joyce was known as ‘the English Waltz King’ and ran a very successful society band playing for the very best balls and parties throughout the country in the years before and after the First World War. He also composed many waltzes and other pieces that were extensively played and recorded. Of the waltzes, Dreaming was the most popular, and a work like Songe d’Automne was even recorded by jazz legend, Sidney Bechet. Unlike his contemporaries Ketèlbey, Haydn Wood and Eric Coates, however, he found it hard to adapt to the changing times and never wrote the suites and characteristic pieces that would have enhanced his career. The waltz, A Thousand Kisses, was so entitled following a remark by a friend at the sight of a beautiful woman coming into the room – “she’s worth a thousand kisses!” The piece was obviously a known favourite of Charlie Chaplin who included it in the music soundtrack he later added to his silent classic, The Gold Rush.
He first came to prominence with the publication of his Songe d’Automne Waltz (1908) which fast became a hit. The style of this piece was unusual from its contemporaries in that the principal melody was in a minor key played in a relatively low tenor register.
The following year he repeated this success with his Visions of Salome Waltz (1909) also in the same low-pitched minor-key style. He was billed by his publishers Ascherberg Hopwood and Crew as the “English Waltz King”.
His music was immensely popular with dance orchestras of the period together with amateur pianists. The piano solo sheet music for his waltzes sold in very large quantities in the UK. He continued primarily with his distinctive waltzes until the start of the WW1 period. His other principal hits during this period were Dreaming waltz (1911), Charming and The Passing of Salome waltzes (1912), 1000 Kisses and Always Gay waltzes (1913) and Remembrance waltz (1914).
He co-wrote the musical Toto with Merlin Morgan (musical director of Daly’s Theatre in London). After a try-out in Plymouth it opened at London’s Duke of York’s Theatreon April 19, 1916. Despite good initial reviews it did not take off and was withdrawn after only 77 performances.
He continued conducting his own orchestra for a number of years until the early 1920s. During the early 1920s, his orchestras recorded material for the Aeolian Company’s Vocalion Records label in London. He had recorded for the Gramophone Company HMV-label in London as early as 1912 previously.
His music was familiar worldwide during its period. He was credited as conducting “the first modern dance band in Britain” His waltz “Dreaming” was provided with lyrics by Earl Carroll and introduced in the US by Miss Kitty Gordon in Oliver Morosco‘s comedy with music, Pretty Mrs Smith (1913). (“The Sensation Waltz Song of Two Continents: Dreaming” (sheet music)). “Songe d’Automne” (“Autumn Dream”) and “1000 Kisses” were incorporated into Charlie Chaplin‘s latter-daysound trackadded to his The Gold Rush. In the US a conventional method of gaining public exposure for a song was to arrange to have it included a revue: in this way Joyce’s “Vision of Salome” (1909) was included in Florenz Ziegfeld Jr’s Follies of 1910.
Harold Bride‘s recollection that the orchestra was playing “Autumn” as the Titanic foundered in 1912 has led to speculation by Walter Lord that he was in fact referring toSonge d’Automne, which was part of the repertory of the White Star Line orchestras and with which he would undoubtedly been familiar.
After the early 1920s, there was a small trickle of material for many years. His last composition of any note is his Bohemia – concert waltz for piano (1942) which finishes off his career with a hefty hat-tip to both the waltz and to the piano which effectively made him.