Friday, 28 October 2011
George Formby mostly ...
After spending ear earlier part of the week running up and down the country, the rabbit was pleased to slump in front of the television last night. On BBC4 he saw comedian Frank Skinner, a rabbit favourite, present a documentary of George Formby.
I suspect George Formby (1904 - 1961) is a mystery to overseas readers, but he is hardwired into the folk memory of British popular culture. He was a comedian in the tradition of Lancashire music hall comedians and a singer songwriter. His unique selling point accompanying himself on his banjo ukelele. It's difficult to get a grip on just how big he was in the 1930s and 1940s but he was mega - with earnings to match. One random fact the rabbit didn't know until researching this piece was that Formby was born blind due to an obstructive caul; his sight was restored during a violent coughing fit or sneeze when he was a few months old.
Hi songs are now real period pieces, little pieces of insight into a bygone world but they are very funny. The song above is the complaint of nerds and geeks the world over: Why Don't Women Like Me? Our man warms to his theme...
Last night I went out walking, my intentions were to click
But the sights I saw while walking out, they nearly made me sick.
I must admit I saw some girls, attractive little dears
Arm in arm with ugly men with cauliflower ears.
Now if women like them like men like those - why don’t women like me?
A mystery I'm sure all will agree. His songs are loaded with innuendos. In fact you end up with innuendo overload and everything becomes an innuendo, rather like Viz magazine's Finbarr Saunders - surreally I note that someone who is really called Finbarr Saunders is running for Knoxville City Council. I must drop him a line and ask if he is related. Here are a couple of frames from the Finbarr Saunders strip. For the record, the word between 'to' and 'it' in the speech bubble in the right hand flame is 'flick'. Tsk!
No, I don't know what he's really talking about either. Now back to George Formby. He and his wife Beryl became unlikely anti apartheid heroes. In 1946 Beryl and George toured South Africa shortly before formal racial apartheid was instigated. They ended up refusing to play racially segregated venues (when they arrived Formby - who was barely literate - didn't know what segregated meant but soon found out and didn't like what he found out). Beryl was presented with a bunch of flowers onstage by a little black girl and - thinking nothing of it - gave her a kiss. The result was uproar and the Formbys being escorted out of the theatre under armed guard.
The leader of the National Party, Daniel Malan - who was shortly to introduce apartheid - came to complain. Beryl slapped him in the face and unburdened herself of the immortal line:
'Why don't you piss off you horrible little man?'
Nice one Beryl.
Let us end with our man's Blackpool Rock - enough innuendos to make Finbarr Saunders (either one) blush...
With my little stick of Blackpool Rock, along the promenade I stroll.
It may be sticky but I never complain, it's nice to have a nibble at it now and again
Erm ... Quite so.