Tag: comedy songs

Melodious Mirth 6

Well, I don’t need Wikipedia – did I just say that out loud? – to help me introduce this next genius of musical comedy.

But let me go back to the beginning. My cultural education began one day in the late 1950s when the family bought a smart new Grundig reel-to-reel tape-recorder.

For starters, this opened up a whole new world of creative opportunity – recording daft improvised conversations and roughly-scripted ‘comedy’ sketches, singing like the Chipmunks (using that handy 3-speed function knob!) or sometimes surreptitiously leaving the machine on when my parents were arguing about everything or nothing in the vain hope of shaming them into silence.

But the big thrill was being able to record stuff off the radio and play it back whenever you wanted.

Those were the dog days between Elvis and the Beatles when some of the best things on the air were novelty songs. And nobody performed a novelty song better than Bernard Cribbins.

Quite apart from his comfortable and completely natural singing voice, he brought a wealth of other talents and experiences to the job. Now 90 years old he has been an English character actor, comedy actor, voice-over artist and musical comedian with a career spanning over seventy years. Who could forget his hilarious portrayal of a loud, fussy and pretentious guest in the Hotel Inspectors episode of Fawlty Towers?

Image result for bernard cribbins fawlty towers

Two of his songs, presented below, were particular family favourites. In lieu of live footage – he was very much a studio man – these recordings are accompanied by charming amateur animations.

And if they fail to charm, well, you can always close your eyes and imagine. After all, you are in the hands of a master storyteller …

 

Melodious Mirth 4

No round-up of rib-tickling rhythms would be replete without that swinging sultan of singing satire – and avid aficionado of amusing alliteration, along with much wickedly-waspish wordplay – deep breath, big drum-roll! – Tom Lehrer. 

The wonderful Wikipedia [Enough already! Ed.] describes him as a retired American musician, singer-songwriter, satirist and mathematician. In the early 1970s, Lehrer  largely retired from public performances to devote his time to teaching mathematics and music theatre at the University of California. He’s best known for the pithy and  humorous songs that he recorded in the 1950s and 1960s which often parodied popular musical forms, though he usually created original melodies when doing so.

Lehrer’s early work typically dealt with non-topical subject matter and was noted for its black humour in songs such as “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park”. In the 1960s, he produced a number of songs that dealt with social and political issues of the day. The popularity of these songs has endured their topical subjects and references. Lehrer quoted a friend’s explanation: “Always predict the worst and you’ll be hailed as a prophet.”

The Cold War may be over but, perhaps sadly, the song I’ve chosen still has bite today. His elegant, laid-back style has hardly dated and that innocent insouciance – and jaunty piano – somehow subtly subvert the seriousness of the subject-matter. A short, sharp shock … [He’s at it again! You’re fired! Ed.]

 

Melodious Mirth 3

My mini-outbreak of musical mayhem continues with Spike Jones’s transatlantic legacy – one Terence Alan Patrick Sean Milligan who, disliking his first name, began to call himself Spike after hearing the City Slickers on Radio Luxemburg.

Further unacknowledged Wikipedia borrowings below, folks!

The “Ying Tong Song” (also known by its refrain, which is variously either “Ying Tong Diddle I Po”  or “Ying Tong Yiddle I Po” rather than the oft-quoted but apparently absent “Ying Tong Iddle I Po”) was a novelty song performed by the Goons, usually led by Harry Secombe. Spike claimed he wrote the song as a bet with his brother that he could not get a song into the hit parade that had only two chords (in this case G and D7).

It is a nonsense song, consisting of small verses interspersed by a completely nonsensical chorus. The origin of the title is said to have come from Harry Secombe’s mispronunciation of the name of Milligan’s war-time friend and fellow jazz musician, Harry Edgington. When Secombe repeatedly called him “Edgerton”, Milligan replied, “it’s Edgington, Edgington” and emphasized the point by saying “Yington, Yington” Elsewhere, Milligan mentions that Edgington was often referred to as Edge-Ying-Tong.

Secombe spoke the lead vocals, accompanied by Spike and Peter Sellers who sang along  as various Goon show characters – Bluebottle and Major Bloodnok, to name but two.  Secombe had a glorious tenor voice but, as he was signed to Philips Records, did not sing on any of the Goons’ Decca recordings of the 1950s – including this song – only speaking his words. Their producer was one George Martin, whose work with the Goons was a massive attraction to the Beatles when they came to sign with him in 1962 …

Ah, these wheels within wheels of time! It’s hard to describe why all of this makes me feel so happy, though I suspect such feelings are shared by many other Brits of my generation. We grew up listening to this stuff, lying on the floor beside our Dansette record players and flipping the 45s – or were they 78s? – over and over. As I recall, the other side was “Bloodnok’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Call” with special guest appearance from the Major’s ‘childhood sweetheart, spotty Minnie Bannister’ …

Warning: if you play these songs back-to-back, you may require medical assistance!