A would-be elegant
‘man about town’ or ‘masher’, personified by Vesta Tilley in a popular song of this name by Harry
B. Norris (1900). The song below is a parody, written by William Hargreaves for his wife, the male impersonator Ella Shields.
I’m Burlington Bertie:
I rise at ten thirty
And saunter along
Like a toff;
I walk down the Strand
my gloves on my hand,
And I walk down again
With them off.
‘Burlington Bertie from Bow’ (1915)
A light-hearted cockney
dance, popular during the 1940s, with a song and tune of this name to go with it. It was also known as the ‘Cokey-Cokey’,
especially in the version written by Jimmy Kennedy in 1945 and recorded by Billy Cotton and his Band, among others.
You put your left foot in,
You put your left foot out,
In, out, in, out, shake it all about,
You do the Hokey-cokey
you turn around,
That’s what it’s all about.
I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles
club song of West Ham United FC and probably the most famous English team anthem after Liverpool’s ‘You’ll
Never Walk Alone’. The song was a music hall favourite in the 1920s, a time when Pears soap was advertised using John
Millais’s ‘Bubbles’ painting (1886). Billy Murray, a youth who played for a local school team and tried
out for West Ham, bore a remarkable resemblance to the boy in the painting and his headmaster accordingly encouraged supporters
to sing ‘I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles’ at school matches. The headmaster was a friend of West Ham trainer
(and later manager) Charlie Paynter, who introduced the song to his club’s fans. The lyric’s pessimistic tone
marks it out from most football anthems.
I’m forever blowing bubbles, pretty bubbles in the air.
fly so high, they reach the sky,
And like my dreams they fade and die.
Fortune’s always hiding, I’ve looked
I’m forever blowing bubbles, pretty bubbles in the air.
John Kellette and Jaan Kenbrovin (version
usually sung by West Ham fans) (1918)
A song by the east
London group the Small Faces that reached No.3 in the British singles chart in 1967. The inspirational park has not been conclusively
identified, largely because of conflicting remarks later made by the band’s members. Little Ilford Park is named most
often by geo-musicologists but others have proposed Valentines Park, West Ham Park and Wanstead Flats. The ‘itchycoo’
nickname could have derived from the presence of biting insects or stinging flora. Alternatively, the song may have been about
Oxford – the lyric mentions ‘dreaming spires’ – or entirely drug-induced, with no connection to any
real park, in east London or beyond.
it’s the poor what gets the blame
traditional cockney expression of lamentation, taken from a music hall song that dates from the late 19th or early 20th century.
The song’s title is rendered either as ‘It’s the Same the Whole World Over’ or ‘She Was Poor
but She Was Honest’. A 1930 version by Bob Weston and Bert Lee was regularly performed by the comic entertainer Billy
Bennett (1887–1942). The lyric exists in varying forms, and has been lewdly adapted for drinking songs, but the gist
is always of a country girl who is seduced and abandoned by a wicked squire. Fleeing to London, she receives similar treatment
from gentlemen in positions of authority. Finally she throws herself from a bridge into the Thames at midnight. In one version
she drowns but in others she is rescued and rises to her feet to repeat the chorus:
It’s the same the
whole world over,
It’s the poor what gets the blame.
It’s the rich what gets the pleasure [or ‘gravy’],
it all a blooming [or ‘bleeding’] shame?
To be on one’s
Jack Jones is to be alone; on one’s own. This imperfect piece of cockney rhyming slang appears to derive from the music
hall song ‘’E Dunno Where ’E Are’ (early 1890s), written by Fred Eplett and made famous by Gus Elen.
The lyric concerns one Jack Jones, a former Covent Garden market porter who has come into some money and now considers himself
above his old workmates. He reads the Telegraph instead of the Star, calls his mother ‘ma’ instead
of ‘muvver’ and stands alone at the bar drinking Scotch and soda. However, modern usage of the term rarely implies
aloofness on the part of the person alone; more often it is close to the opposite – he or she may feel abandoned. For
example, ‘You lot went off and left me on my Jack Jones!’
And why you all over there on your Jack
You need to let me get behind your backbone.
D. Mills and C. Harris: ‘Dance wiv Me’ (song by
Dizzee Rascal feat. Calvin Harris and Chrome) (2008)
Streets of London
most famous song about London since the music hall era. Written in 1969 by Ralph McTell (b.1944), who grew up in Croydon,
it became a hit for him in 1974 and subsequently served as the title for his 1980s television series and his ‘greatest
hits’ album. The song recommends sympathetic observation of the lifestyles of London’s down-and-outs as an antidote
to feelings of loneliness or dissatisfaction. According to McTell’s official website there are 212 known recorded versions
of the song.
So how can you tell me you’re lonely,
And say for you that the sun don’t shine?
me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London,
I’ll show you something to make you change your
‘Streets of London’ (chorus)
An anonymously written ballad telling the first-person story of an Abraham Man, probably dating
from the beginning of the 17th century. The work exists in several forms; the ‘mad song’ entitled ‘Old Tom
of Bedlam’, reproduced in Percy’s Reliques, bears only a passing resemblance to versions that are nowadays
better known. Although it provides some biographical glimpses, much of the ballad consists of ‘strokes of sublime imagination’,
as Isaac D’Israeli put it, ‘mixed with familiar comic humour’.
With a heart of furious fancies,
I am commander,
With a burning spear
And a horse of air
To the wilderness I wander;
With a knight of ghosts and
I summoned am to Tourney,
Ten leagues beyond
The wide world’s end,
Methinks it is no journey.