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Wednesday, 27 January 2021

Mickey’s Son and Daughter

Gorilla by The Bonzo Dog Band


In January 1971 (fifty years ago!), I went to Westfield College in London for the weekend to a friend’s twenty-first birthday party. Among his records, I noticed Gorilla by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, a humorous and quirky group of musicians in which Vivian Stanshall and Neil Innes were the best-known names. It was so entertaining I went out and bought it myself as soon as I got home. Even my dad liked it. One of its most memorable tunes is Mickey’s Son and Daughter.

Records usually get played for time and then put away and forgotten, which is what happened to Gorilla, but years later I heard Mickey’s Son and Daughter again, surprisingly at a ceilidh. The band had started off with Gallopede or some other dance in cut time, but then, as is the practice, they swapped to a second tune which I recognised as Mickey’s Son and Daughter. It fitted unexpectedly well. “The stork has brought a son and daughter to Mister and Missus Mickey Mouse”, I sang along to the future Mrs. D. while simultaneously attempting to impress her with my reeling skills. “It’s by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band,” I tried to explain.

As mentioned recently, our present-day folk band in which we play guitar and bassoon are currently meeting only through Zoom, and one of the regular agenda items is ‘Tune of the Week’. Anticipating my turn coming up again soon, I started to put Mickey’s Son and Daughter into MuseScore, and searched around for more information.  

Sheet Music - Mickey's Son and Daughter (Lisbona-Connor)

I had always assumed it to be written by Neil Innes or Vivian Stanshall like most of the other tracks on Gorilla, but, no, it wasn’t. It was written in 1935 by songwriters Eddie Lisbona and Tommie Connor, and first recorded by Henry Hall and the BBC Dance Orchestra. Other orchestras, including the Scottish Symphony Orchestra, included it in their Christmas concert programmes that year, drawing complaints in the press that it was not the sort of music leading classical orchestras ought to be playing. Nevertheless, it proved very popular.

Of the composers, Eddie Lisbona wrote dozens of songs for top performers, such as Gently (French Jolie) for Elvis Presley and Petula Clark (1961). Tommie Connor is best known for I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus (1952) and the English lyrics to Lili Marlene (1944). 

The Henry Hall and Bonzo Dog versions are very different. I used ideas from both in putting together this MuseScore version. Here it is arranged for guitar and bassoon with default piano chords. It plays just once without the repeat. 

And to encroach on the territory of Immortal Jukebox, here are the Bonzo Dog and Henry Hall versions, and another recorded for the Woolworth's Crown label by The Rhythm Rascals. 

 

The Rhythm Rascals: Mickey's Son and Daughter

If the above videos do not appear for some reason, then the links are: 


For the record, the full lyrics on the sheet music are:

A million million people are happy, bright and gay,
The bells are ringing the steeple, it’s a public holiday.

All the world is so delighted, and the kids are all excited,
‘Cos the stork has brought a son and daughter to Mister and Missus Mickey Mouse.
All the mayors and corporations, have declared such jubilations,
‘Cos the stork has brought a son and daughter to Mister and Missus Mickey Mouse.

Pluto’s giving a party and before the fun begins,
He’ll present a Gorgonzola to the father of the twins.
Mister Preacher’s eyes are glist’ning, and he’s fixing up a Christ
ning,
‘Cos the stork has brought a son and daughter to Mister and Missus Mickey Mouse.

The news is quickly spreading, the Christening day is near,
The town in happiness is heading to the party of the year.

All the cats and dogs are dancing, and the ‘ole grey mare is prancing,
‘Cos the stork has brought a son and daughter to Mister and Missus Mickey Mouse.
All the cocks are cock-a-doodling, all the lovebirds are canoodling,
‘Cos the stork has brought a son and daughter to Mister and Missus Mickey Mouse.

Pluto’s singing a chorus with the tortoise and the hare,
Clarabelle is in the barn dance with a great big grizzly bear,
All the world is so delighted, come along, you’re all invited,
‘Cos the stork has brought a son and daughter to Mister and Missus Mickey Mouse.

 

The Henry Hall recording has an additional section sung in animal voices. As best as I can make it out (please do let me know if you can get the bits I can’t), it goes:

There
s a crowd around the house of Mister Mickey Mouse
Let’s hear it split the air now lets see who is there
I
m Percy Pig the postman and I bring the telegram
I
m Charlotte Sheep and I have come to see the little lamb
I
m Donald Duck just waiting till my verse I can recite
I
m Henry Horse and I have brought my band to play all night
I
m Gertie Dog the … [cannot make out this line]
I
m Bertie Bleat the donkey, I am a silly ass

But who is this approaching just when all the fun begins
It’s Willy Wolf the wicked man, he’s come to take the twins
(in evil voice) Hello twins. Nice little twins.
(Mickey) Oh save my son and daughter
We
ll spray the sky with water [?]
(wolf) I
ve got more than I ought to
[sounds of a fight]
[cannot make out this line]
The bad old wolf has gone now
And we had to save the son and daughter of Mister and Missus Mickey Mouse.
 

Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Bloggers and Urinals

A postcard-sized notice appeared in the university toilets:

PLEASE DO NOT PUT CHEWING GUM IN THE URINALS
Next time I went, I took a pen, and, there being no one else around, added:
It makes it go hard and taste pissy.
I was a fifty-five year-old lecturer at the time.

I know! It was shameful. Cleaning the men’s urinals must rank amongst the most unpleasant jobs in the world. But what I am most ashamed about is that it was not entirely original. It echoes an item in Nigel Rees’s book Graffiti about cigarette ends becoming soggy and difficult to light. 

Yesterday’s post ended by recalling a similar incident from my student days when someone added a humorous comment to a humorous news sheet I had pinned to notice board. Who was the humourist in that case, me, or the person who made the undeniably funnier enhancement?

Which brings us to an issue that lies somewhere in between a simple dispute about terminology and a matter of deep philosophical importance of infinite significance to the future of humanity. What is a blogger?

Is a blogger only someone who posts blog posts, or can someone who comments but does not have a blog of their own also be considered a blogger?

It might not be as simple as it looks. It differs from writer and reader. What about blog writers whose posts consist of only a brief sentence or image but attract huge amounts of debate or comment? What about blog writers who do not allow comments? What if they allow only some comments? What if they never respond to comments or never comment on other blogs?

As for those who do comment, what if they make only brief or trivial remarks, or produce long erudite rejoinders that dwarf the original post and even take the subject off in a different direction?

This is something else I touched on yesterday. Rachel said that blog commentators without blogs were most definitely not bloggers. They are more like concert audiences or football spectators who could not in themselves (in that role) be considered to be musicians or footballers, even when their presence or participation alters the performances of the musicians and footballers on the stage and pitch, and even though the crowd is part of the football match experience.

I think there is more to it. When you go to a concert you don’t take your own instrument and play along, or at a football match you can’t run on to the pitch and help your team out (even though you know you could do better). But there are events at which large numbers of musicians play or sing together. Admittedly, it is not like singalong showing of ‘The Sound of Music’ where you dress up as Maria von Trapp (even the men), stand up, throw out your arms and join in with “The hills are alive …” as loud as you can. Cinemagoers are not film makers.

However, it seems to me that blog commentators are also a bit like members of facebook groups where the initial stimulus can be secondary to the responses. What, then, is a ‘facebooker’? Can you be a blogger on facebook?

If only life were simple. I feel truly in the urinals for arguing about it.

Monday, 18 January 2021

Writers At Heart

John Bull Printing Outfit 21

Bloggers are writers at heart. We paint patterns in words, feel their force and hear their harmonies.

A few have written for a living. At least one I follow, Brian Sibley, is an accomplished author and radio dramatist. He blogs but does not engage in comments. Another, Hameldaemepal, is, I believe, a retired journalist. He comments but does not engage in blogging. Others have enjoyed writing at work, say, as teachers or report writers. I even wrote computer manuals for a time.

Many of us have been writing all our lives. As a child, I tried to write stories and poetry, and intermittently kept an diary (“went trainspotting at monkey bridge”). I wrote a family newspaper to send to cousins (“Loch Ness Monster seen in River Humber”), forms for others to fill in at school (“Enter your name and address to join the Black Hand Gang” – so named because my John Bull Printing Outfit fortuitously contained a pointing hand symbol), and, as we did then, I liked writing letters. 

It continued after school. I attended a writers’ workshop in Leeds where one session was led by a tall chap called Harry. I’m not certain but suspect he was Jack Higgins. I should have paid more attention. At work, it was more fun writing spoof newsletters than studying for accountancy exams (“Mr. Hawkwind mugged on way back from bank with firms’ wages for the month of June. Over twenty pounds stolen.”). It got me into some trouble. Then, when I went late to university, there were spoof information sheets on notice boards.

I still have some of the university ones. The first arose out of the way we received assignment marks: through lists pinned up in the Department. Instead of by name, we were identified by anonymous numbers: 1501 62%, 0007 68%, 2486 55%. Number 0007 always did well, and, being a memorable number, everyone noticed. This irritated me somewhat because it was me. Very soon, my marks were public knowledge.

I could not resist retaliating with an imaginary set of results for an assessment of lecturers’ competence (never imagining that some years later such an exercise might take place for real). It went something like: 9507 74%, 8872 65%, 8077 58% … 9037 24%. Underneath it added: “Please would lecturer 9037 report immediately to Head of Department, Professor Brener.”

Never underestimate your readers. Next to the note at the bottom someone had written: “It is Professor Brener”.

Thursday, 14 January 2021

Snowy Pictures - compared to 2013

A short walk near the village this afternoon









And here for comparison is the same road on the 24th March 2013



Saturday, 9 January 2021

Re-reading Teenage Reading: James Bond

Ian Fleming: From Russia with Love (3*)

Continuing with novels I read in the nineteen-sixties, what would I make of James Bond now? Those books had all the glamour, excitement and adventure missing from the written version of The Saint. The library would not let you have them unless you looked old enough. One school friend was getting away with it a year before me, even though he was younger. Probably because his dad was Italian.

From Russia With Love parades all the comforts of discerning wealth. Why else would you want to read a whole chapter about Bond getting up and having his breakfast? He puts on his dark blue Sea Island cotton shirt, navy blue tropical worsted trousers and black leather sandals and enters his long, big-windowed sitting room for breakfast. The housekeeper brings him a Queen Anne pot of strong coffee from De Bry of New Oxford Street brewed in an American Chemex, a very fresh, speckled brown egg from French Marans hens, yellow Jersey butter and three glass jars containing Tiptree ‘Little Scarlet’ strawberry jam; Cooper’s Vintage Oxford marmalade and Norwegian Heather Honey from Fortnum’s, to eat with whole-wheat toast on his dark blue and gold Minton china.

Meanwhile, Bond’s assassin-to-be is receiving a naked massage from a naked female masseuse beside a swimming pool in a villa on the Russian Riviera. He has a money clip made of a Mexican fifty-dollar piece holding a substantial wad of banknotes, a gold Dunhill cigarette lighter, a gold Faberg√© cigarette case and a gold Girard-Perregaux wrist watch.

What is it? Product placement? We get detailed descriptions of how rooms are laid out and furnished. There is a long account of Bond’s flight in a British European Airways turboprop Vickers Viscount from London to Istanbul, landing at Rome and Athens. Oh if only I had the money. I’d fly off to the Orient in my black leather sandals for a naked massage.

Fleming invariably manages to slip a few snippets of plot into these passages: that Bond has gone soft while his intended assassin is a fit, strong, asexual psychopath, and there are detailed facial descriptions which helpfully reflect the underlying personalities of all the characters, naughty or nice. And, of course, the female Russian agent sent to seduce Bond has faultless breasts. 

In essence, the book is complete and utter nonsense: entertaining, but total nonsense (please substitute a word that sounds like molluscs if you must), and Fleming must have known it. Was is a struggle to make it sound so straight-faced and grown-up? 

The longer you persist the faster you turn the pages, right up to bloodthirsty fights on the Orient Express and the capture of the ugly Russian neuter, Comrade Colonel Rosa Klebb, in Paris. She looks like a toad and has breasts like badly-packed sandbags. At the end, we are left to wonder whether Bond has survived, although we now know he came back the following year in Dr. No.

Neuters, breasts, asexuality, spanking, casual misogyny, racism and other predilections and prejudices you might or might not be able to imagine, they are all there. Is that why the library would not lend them to children, or was it just that they mentioned sex? Is there any wonder that Englishmen of a certain generation are so often caught out by issues of social justice and inequality? Perhaps the books should have been restricted to the over-seventies. Then I might have had to wait until now to read them. 


Key to star ratings: 5*** wonderful and hope to read again, 5* wonderful, 4* enjoyed it a lot and would recommend, 3* enjoyable/interesting, 2* didn't enjoy, 1* gave up.

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Re-reading Teenage Reading: The Saint

Leslie Charteris: The Brighter Buccaneer (2*)
 
A while ago, I mentioned some of the novels I acquired through a nineteen-sixties paperback books promotion. What would I make of them now, I wondered.  

One was a Saint book by Leslie Charteris. On television, The Saint was unmissable viewing for me and six million other Britons. Episodes were set in Rome, Paris or other exotic locations, and full of humour, adventure and glamour. Roger Moore as Simon Templar was sophistication personified: savoire-faire in an eyebrow. In Belgium, Hugo, my foreign-language-exchange partner, was a big fan, too. We shared the affliction of believing after every episode that we actually were Simon Templar. We were both going to have white Volvo P1800s when old enough. I taught myself to draw the haloed Saint stick-figure, although mine always looked a bit limp-wristed.

The television series led me to Saint books in the local library. They were a comparative disappointment. They still are. Written and set mostly in gloomy nineteen-thirties London, the fifteen short stories in The Brighter Buccaneer are about a Simon Templar who is not in any way a role model for teenage boys. He is an outright criminal. True, he has principles and always outsmarts his adversaries, but he will take jewellery from batty old dowagers and suitcases of banknotes from tricksters. If that was all right then stealing the odd ream of paper and bottle of milk from school must have been fine.

There are some slick plot devices, such as when, at a ball, about to be caught red-handed with the diamond from the hostess’s necklace, the Saint kisses a girl who speaks up for him, who then walks off with the diamond in her mouth. But, too often, I found Charteris’s long-winded, ironic style, rather irritating. Here is one of the shorter examples:
It is a notable fact, which might be made the subject of a profound philosophical discourse by anyone with time to spare for these recreations, that the characteristics which go to make a successful buccaneer are almost the same as those required by the detective whose job it is to catch him. (p19)

He is a good writer, but no Jane Austen. The above leads to a lengthy description of the required characteristics: infinite wit and resource, unlimited memory for every out-of-the-way fact, inductive speculation, infinite sympathy, an unstinted gift for weird and wonderful friendships, the list goes on. Simon Templar has them, of course. He must have been a Yorkshireman.

Charteris wrote Saint stories from 1928 to 1963. Later books were by others in his name. Perhaps, instead of a nineteen-thirties collection, I should have looked for one from the –fifties or early-sixties, some of which formed the basis of television episodes. This one does not encourage me much.


Key to star ratings: 5*** wonderful and hope to read again, 5* wonderful, 4* enjoyed it a lot and would recommend, 3* enjoyable/interesting, 2* didn't enjoy, 1* gave up.

Friday, 1 January 2021

New Month Old Post: Posters on the Wall

Guinness, Smirnoff, Accountancy and Monty Python

(First posted 17th October, 2015. 1,040 words)

Athena tennis girl poster
There was a time when no self-respecting, young person’s bedsit would be complete without an iconic Athena poster. Along with the thousands of other young persons who had exactly the same one, it was a statement of your individuality. Full-blooded young males could have a sexy French lingerie model or the knickerless tennis girl absent-mindedly rubbing her naked bottom (gratuitously included here). The more emancipated might have the muscular man cradling a baby. For the rebellious it would be Jim Morrison or Jimi Hendrix surrounded by psychedelic swirls. The arty could choose a fine reproduction print, perhaps a Salvador Dali to indicate their leanings towards the avante garde. For the revolutionary Marxist it had to be Che Guevara. For those of a philosophical bent it might be seagulls in mid-flight, quoting Virgil: “They can because they think they can.”

Athena outlets sprang up in most large towns and cities, and for a couple of decades they made good profits. Not out of cheapskates like me though. My walls were adorned with a scruffy and eclectic mix of images acquired entirely free of charge. Here are some of them in my attic bedroom in our dingy shared house in Leeds in 1972, next to some colourful ink blots on blotting paper, the product of an idle, unsupervised afternoon at work.

One was a Guinness poster to show that independence and resilience were important parts of my individuality. You had to be pretty independent and resilient to drink the stuff. No one else I knew liked its burnt and heavy flavour. I’m not even sure that I did.

I had sent Guinness a sycophantic letter admiring one of their newspaper adverts: ‘How to Make Guinness’. Back came a roughly A2-sized poster in a cardboard tube.* It caricatured the process from harvesting the barley through to delivery by road tanker, and gave sound advice on how to avoid common errors such as brewing it upside down with the head underneath the body.  

Smirnoff poster: accountancy was my life
Then there was the Smirnoff poster: “Accountancy was my life until I discovered Smirnoff.” Well, it was true, accountancy was my life, and I dearly wished it wasn’t. Oh that something so simple as learning to handle a bottle of vodka could instantaneously transform it from the humdrum into one of glamour and excitement! But, from the other adverts in the series, I would rather have been the camel train trekker who used to take the caravan to Southend but now traversed the desert, or the mainstay of the Public Library who had escaped to carefree rural reverie, rather than the suited, cigar-smoking, nineteen-thirties City of Westminster gangster in the wide-brimmed Panama hat.

Anyone would have thought that accountancy was boring. Well, thanks to John Cleese and Monty Python, that is exactly what most of my contemporaries did think. Most damaging was the ‘Vocational Guidance Counsellor’ sketch about an insignificant little man whose careers advisor declared without doubt that the ideal job for him was chartered accountancy. “But I am a chartered accountant,” he protested. He wanted a new job, “something exciting that will let me live.” He wanted to be a lion tamer. Chartered accountancy was “dull, dull, dull ...”,  a career in which it was a positive advantage to be “unimaginative, timid, lacking in initiative, spineless, easily dominated, no sense of humour, tedious company and irrepressibly drab.” The sketch ends by asking for donations to The League for Fighting Chartered Accountancy: “this terrible debilitating social disease.” I am certain it influenced my subsequent rejection of the career. So much for independence and resilience.

The senior partner where I worked found the sketch so offensive it became practically a dismissable offence to admit you watched the programme. John Cleese, however, discovered that his own accountant was not offended in any way at all. When asked why, he explained it was because the sketch was about chartered accountancy, whereas he himself was a certified accountant.

But a fervent Monty Python fan I was, one of those who could recite ‘The Piranha Brothers’ and ‘Room for an Argument’ off by heart. We even used to audio-tape and transcribe the television shows so we could act them out ourselves in our shared house. My brother used the school’s photographic equipment to make a poster from the Whizzo Quality Assortment page of Monty Python’s Big Red Book. This showed a box of chocolates containing such delights as Crunchy Frog, made using only the finest baby frogs, dew picked and flown from Iraq. “Do you take the bones out?” “No, it wouldn’t be crunchy if we did.” That poster went on my wall too.

In 1973, I went with a group of mates to the Leeds Grand Theatre and Opera House in New Briggate to see Monty Python on tour. Many of the sketches, such as ‘The Parrot Sketch’, and the animations projected on to a screen, were straight from the television series, but there was some new material too. In one sketch a group of bowler-hatted city gents were sitting on stools reading newspapers in a cocktail bar. It got its first laugh simply by using language you would not then have expected in a theatre, not even in Monty Python: “I see Nixon’s had an arsehole transplant.” The punchline brought the house down: “It says here the arsehole rejected him.”

The programme for the show was in the form of a huge poster. Many of them ended up gliding gracefully across the vast auditorium in the form of paper aeroplanes, but with my bare walls in mind, I carefully rolled mine up and took it home. Here it is, well just the lower edge of it, at the other end of my attic room above a messy desk of reel-to-reel tapes, guitar music and the camera case. I still have it today in the Guinness cardboard tube, much faded, its corners damaged by drawing-pins and blue-tack.

Cluttered desk

Monty Python's Farewell Tour Official Programme


* With it came a smaller poster, ‘How to economise on Guinness’, which suggests mixing it half and half with champagne to make ‘black velvet’. This can be seen to the right of the ‘How to make Guinness’ poster.

I have now found a coloured copy of the ‘How to make on Guinness’ poster: