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.


That Hank said...

Judge Dread's musical forefather.

Catch Her in the Wry said...

The 1930's were full of innuendo. Mae West was also popular back then and she was one of the best double-talkers. Cole Porter did the same, but in a more sophisticated musical manner. Even in hard times, everyone seemed to keep their sense of humor back then. If I could go back in time, it would be the 1930's - but only for the humor.

William Flack said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
William Flack said...

Back in 1986 I went to see the Smiths. They played George Formby's Why Don't Women Like Me over the PA shortly before the Smiths took to the stage. It was obvious what a big influence Georgr Formby was on Morrissey. That song could almost be a Smith's song.

I love Mae West too. She did not always use innuendo though and said stuff that can still shock. Eg when she turned the saying "a good man is hard to find" into "a hard man is good to find". Oscar Wilde eat your heart out.

sybil law said...

Reading about people like George and his wife make me wistful for those days, and I definitely wasn't even born, yet.

Petit fleur said...

Thanks for the cultural history lesson. I love stuff like that.

"Why don't you piss off you horrible little man!" I have to remember this for the next time a horrible little man pisses me the hell off.


tony said...

Yea,I saw The Programme Too.It Was Good. But I STILL Think It Looks Like A Banjo!

white rabbit said...

Hank - Ermmm... You lost me there.

Catchy/Sybil - It is weird, there is a general 1930s nostalgia despite fascism, Stalinism, depression, mass unemployment and other nasties characterising the decade - plus a great big world watr at the end of it. I sortv of share this nostalgia. Perhaps it is a memory of our penultimate incarnations (No! I don't really believe that!)


William - That Mae West quote is seriously single entendre... No other interpretation. She also is quoted as saying 'I generally avoid temptation unless I can't resist it' which is a straight lift from the great and good Oscar.

Little Flower - It wins the Nobel Prize for insults - and a more deserving target is difficult to imagine.

Tony - Technically George's musical instrument of choice was a banjo ukelele - also known as a banjolele. Fact :D

That Hank said...

You don't know the English ska great Judge Dread? I'd think he'd be right up your alley. Here, check this song out:

Sarcastic Bastard said...

It's his teeth. Women don't like him because of his teeth. There--mystery solved.

white rabbit said...

Hank - okay, I wss thinking of Judge Dredd wgho was different..

SB - that would explain it. I'll dig George up and point this out.