While others cherish all their lives and quote verses from the world’s great poets and song writers, some of us have only childish or banal words and tunes fixed in our brains. I can’t remember what was on the shopping list I left at home, but can recall all the verses of Sing a Song of Sixpence.
My uncle made strange songs up that I still remember. ‘There was a song that I recall, my mother sang to me, she sang it as she tucked me in when I was ninety three’ – (to the tune of the Christmas carol God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen ). It wasn’t till years later, when I heard old recordings of The Goon Show, that I realised he had borrowed that and other great works such as ‘ying tong, ying tong, ying tong…
What geniuses are they who write complete rubbish that will stay in our brains forever? They should be celebrated, though they can cause havoc. How many great operatic singers have had their career destroyed when, despite having memorised the libretto and rehearsed the sublime music, they open their mouths for the famous aria only to sing Bill and Ben, Bill and Ben, Bill and Ben, Bill and Ben, Flower Pot Men.
The best music can be stolen and abused; Tony Hancock in the classic comedy episode ‘The Blood Donor’ sang the words of the poster on the wall to the tune of the German national anthem, it is also a stirring hymn tune, but the words stuck in my head are ‘Coughs and Sneezes Spread diseases’.
When we were new migrants to Australia the Mavis Bramston Show was the first satirical sketch show to gain success on television there. Topics included the then controversial building of the Sydney Opera House, but the sketch seared in my mind forever had the song ‘Go to the tip, go to the tip, all the Australians go to the tip’. This struck a chord with our family as Dad was very good at creating useful things from scrap found at the municipal rubbish tip; it still comes into my head every time we go to the tip.
Not all verses I remember are worthless, though I hated learning poetry in infant school I have never forgotten the prayer we sang at the end of the day when we had put our chairs on the desks. Thankyou for the world so sweet, thankyou for the food we eat, thankyou for the birds that sing, thankyou God for everything. A simple verse that could replace all the world’s religions and please environmentalists.
Some of my remembered ditties are useful; also at infant school we learned the alphabet song. I know adults who still are unsure of the alphabet, but for me the letters are firmly entrenched as four parts ABCDEFG, HIJKLMN, OPQRSTU, VWXYZed. Never superseded by the Sesame Street version ending in Zee.
But let’s get back to the something silly. My brother had a story book with one of the characters a rag doll who was always losing her stuffing and when she did, all she could say was Piggle Poggle. Oh Piggle Poggle, became a family saying whenever anything went wrong. What a brilliant replacement for angry swear words and what if politicians just said Piggle Poggle when confronted with national disasters.
Children are still being imbued with the inane. Why on earth did I wake up one night with the words ‘Hello Tombliboos’ in my head? Watching too many episodes of The Night Garden? The Night Garden does have very soothing music, perhaps we should all watch it before going to bed.
Perhaps on our death beds, eyes closed, with relatives uttering meaningful words in case we are listening, the last music in our heads, the last words we try to utter will be such music greats as ‘Postman Pat, Postman Pat, Postman Pat and his black and white cat…’