Monday, 18 October 2010

Gnome Thoughts ... 17 (more songs by JP Long)

Further investigation into JP Long takes us back to Stratford East as, along with M. Scott, he wrote Oh It's a Lovely War, the 1917 music hall song which helped inspire the Theatre Workshop musical.
You can find lyrics and audio for two versions, from 1918 and 1930, at Michael Duffy's firstworldwar website here, where it's described as "somewhat satirical."
When does a soldier grumble? When does he make a fuss?
No one is more contented in all the world than us.
Oh it's a cushy life, boys, really we love it so:
Once a fellow was sent on leave and simply refused to go.
But another song credited to Long and Gilbert Wells from 1914 seems straight, which suggests either that Long is not the lyricist, or it was too early for cynicism:

Be a soldier, be a man!
Be a hero, I know you can.
And don't forget, my boy, when you're marching off to war.
It's a grand old country that you're fighting for.
When you're facing the shot and shell,
To your birthright, lad, be true.
And do as your fathers did before you
In the days of Waterloo.
Twenty six songs written or cowritten by Long can be found on the Music Australia website here, where you can click for the complete sheet music for eight of the songs and, in a couple of cases, listen to archive recordings.

Not sure how many of these you could call "somewhat satirical," but Do They All Go to See the Sea? has a go at just about every species of holidaymaker:
Do they all go to see the sea,
Or some other little bits of scenery?
Giddy young "nuts" o' every sort,
Each of them thinking he's a sport,
Watching the girls go to and fro,
Hoping the stormy winds will blow,
Do they all go to see the sea?

One of e'm says "What a slender waist!
But isn't her costume awful taste?"
Another replies, "Well, it's rather warm -
But never mind taste, it's jolly good form!
Do they all go to see the sea?

Couples on their honeymoon
Canoodling morning, night and noon,
They gaze at the tide, but there's no doubt
They don't know whether it's in or out
Do they all go to see the sea?

So-and-so's wife, perhaps, you'll trace
Down at some old seaside place
Saying, "My Dear, I'm glad you came:
If you talk in your sleep, don't mention my name!"
Do they all go to see the sea?
Wonder whether the young Benny Hill might have heard it? It's certainly pitched at his level. There is also a comedy song called The Rest of the Day's Your Own where someone gets work as a farmer's boy only to be faced with a huge pile of tasks. Eventually he gets them all mixed up, which leading to the pay-off:
I got the sack this morning,
So the rest of my life's my own.

In general, however, the songs in the collection seem to be either patriotic or sentimental - or both, as above - so not much evidence, on this occasion, of a neglected but incisive social commentator who might merit further investigation for this series.

Still, at least you know where to start if you're that way inclined - and you can find a list of more songs at the sheetmusic warehouse here. This is particularly a good place if you're searching for rare songs - though be warned it's not a library, but a stockist, and it's usually not that cheap. But what's fourteen quid when you could possess wonders such as this from 1955?

Long had no involvement in the above: he died in 1950. But quite apart from Oh, It's a Lovely War and the Ur-Dustman his immortality would have been assured by the following exhortation to partake in an activity from which the subject of the above song must, alas, be forever debarred:


What's that, Sooty? Accustomed to the instant gratification of the internet you demand - as a right, no less - to see the lyrics of that song for a few fleeting seconds' diversion?

Oh, alright then - but be warned there is a melancholy, Hardyesque strain in this tale of the passing of youthful vigour:

Writen and composed by Paul Pelham and J.P.Long

1. Now, have you every heard about the Wibbley,Wobbley Walk?
Well, just in case you've not, I'll tell you on the spot!
The Wibbley, Wobbley Walk is just another kind of way
Of sayng that the b'hoys are out upon their holiday.
And note that half a dozen fellas out upon the spree
In half a dozen minutes, they're full of jollity.

2. At the seaside health resort you see some gay old boys
Who once were fond of sport and knew the taste of port
You'll see their feet in bundles-then you'll know without a doubt
That Virtue's been rewarded with a bad attack of gout
The band is playing on the pier but they don't care a jot
They know it's quite impossible to do the Turkey Trot!

So(And) they all walk the Wibbley .Wobbley Walk
And they all talk the Wibbley ,Wobbley talk
And they all wear Wibbley ,Wobbley ties
And Wink at all the pretty girls with wibbley, wobbley eyes!
They all smile the Wibbley, Wobbley Smile
When the day is dawning
The all through the Wibbley,Wobbley Walk
They get a wibbley, wobbley feeling in the morning!

(from the Mark Sheridan website here)

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