When I’m in Barcelona I occasionally sing in Plaça del Diamant (Diamond Square) in Gracia in order to try out new stuff and hand out business cards. The neighbourhood radar works quite well, and there are certain young and not-so-young faces that almost always turn up. Several of the latter have taken to singing with me, and one guy is particularly remarkable.
A printer, a personality, Josep Viladot emigrated and worked on Brook Street, just off Fleet Street, London, when that was still wild and drunken newspaperland. On the metal roller shutters of his print shop door on c/ Verdi:
Abro cuando vengo, cierro cuando me voy; si vienen y no estoy, es que no hemos coincidido.
I open when I come, I close when I go; if you come and I’m not here, then we just didn’t coincide.
His repertoire consists of East End / music hall classics, but we focus on Daisy Bell.
I don’t know where my verse came from, and I don’t know the lyrics, but it worked quite well as a kazoo interlude in a Bruckner-style symphonic pastiche a 4th down from the chorus. However, that’s not the verse he knows, so I’ve swapped to the traditional version, which actually combines two songs, as Dany Rosevear explains:
Both of these songs were popular in the Victorian Music Hall. ‘Daisy Bell’ was written by Harry Dacre in 1892, ‘She was a sweet little dicky bird’ was by T.W. Conner and popularized by George Beauchamp. These are two separate songs but as a child I always heard them sung one following the other. The verses of both songs would have been tricky for children.
It’s a strange, gloomy relationship:
Give me your answer do!
I’m half crazy,
Oh, for the love of you.
It won’t be a stylish marriage,
I can’t afford a carriage,
But you’ll look sweet, upon the seat,
Of a bicycle built for two
She was a sweet little dicky bird,
‘Tweet, tweet, tweet!’ she went.
Softly she sang to me,
‘Til all my money was spent.
Then she went off song,
We parted on fighting terms.
She was one of the early birds,
And I was one of the worms.
Maybe the chorus shouldn’t repeat at the end – funeral marches sound surprisingly good on the organ, with kazoo – but who cares about the lyrics anyway?
We didn’t coincide today.
- An organ-grinder at Archway
Pleasures and treasures of the Edwardian street, by a descendant of Scottish banditti.
- Dear Customs@HMRC
Which EU import tariff is applicable to non-EU kazoos?
- Gorging Jack and Little Billee
The case for the defence.
- Sister Mary and the Bird
Translations from Welsh and Yiddish revealing ornithomancy amongst the 19th century north Welsh and Jewish Lithuanians.
- Transvestite barrel organ dancers in 1930s Whitechapel and the 1860s London West End
With acrobats, clowns, and Doris and Thisbe, goddesses of wind.