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.
Here they are, with another song between, in a recording from around 1931-1932 of the BBC’s Ridgeway Parade, which, according to commenter Otterhouse, played music hall songs from 40 years earlier:
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?
I and Josep didn’t coincide today. I hope he’s well.
- An organ-grinder at Archway
Pleasures and treasures of the Edwardian street, by a descendant of Scottish banditti.
- Four more African inflationary tunes
Ghana, Sierra Leone and the Congo are now represented, but so far there’s nothing from Zimbabwe or in French.
- Transvestite barrel organ dancers in 1930s Whitechapel and the 1860s London West End
With acrobats, clowns, and Doris and Thisbe, goddesses of wind.
- Trump takes up organ-grinding
“It’s out of tune, it’s who we are”
- From Charles Trenet, two musical De Gaulle anecdotes
Re the songs, L’âme des poètes and Douce France.