Home About Us Blog

Bishopsgate Blog
Discover | Enquire | Debate

The Bishopsgate Blog provides an added insight into all of our activities, Library, Courses, Events and Schools and Community Learning. Our regular blogs will feature speakers from our Cultural Events, photographs, documents, letters, posters and ephemera from the Library, up-to-date news and information on courses and first-hand accounts of our Schools and Community workshops.

Click here for more information.

Our bloggers

Courses's avatar.
Courses Our regular blogs will provide up-to-date news and information on our courses
Events 's avatar.
Events Featuring content from speakers our blogs give added insight into our events
Library 's avatar.
Library A new way to engage with the library collections and services.
Schools and Community 's avatar.
Schools and Community First hand accounts of our archive learning workshops

Schools and Community

Our inspired Schools and Community Learning programme delivers a range of workshops and projects using the unique and fascinating collections found within our world-renowned Bishopsgate Library. Our workshops are suitable for learners of all ages and are used by wide variety of audiences from primary school pupils to pensioners.

Our regular blogs will demonstrate how our Schools and Community Learning programme encourages discovery and enquiry amongst our wide-ranging participants.

Events

Culture and arts, heritage and history, ideas and independent thought all come together in our exciting events programmes. You can enjoy talks, walks, discussions and debates, or one of the many concerts that take place throughout the year.

Our regular blogs will give an added insight and perspective into our dynamic programme with content from speakers at our events.

Library

Situated in a Grade II* listed building, Bishopsgate Library’s beautiful reading room is a peaceful place to study that is open to all; a calm oasis amid the bustle of Spitalfields and the City. In our dedicated Researchers’ Area, you can consult our renowned printed and archival collections on London, labour, freethought and Humanism, co-operation, or protesting and campaigning.

Our regular blogs will provide a new way for you to engage with the library collections and services, new acquisitions, activities and future developments.

Courses

Our comprehensive range of short courses offer you the opportunity to discover, discuss and be inspired in a welcoming environment. Our courses are conveniently designed to take place throughout the day, including lunchtimes, after work and at weekends. We have five course strands, Arts and Culture, Words and Ideas, Languages, Performing Arts and Body & Exercise to choose from.

Our regular blogs will provide up-to-date news and information.

Bishopsgate Blog
Discover | Enquire | Debate

Lady Malcolm's Servants' Ball music sample

by Bishopsgate Institute on 16 / 06 / 2016

Ahead of Lady Malcolm’s Servants’ Balls, Auntie Maureen and Readers Wifes each present a playlist of sounds for your delight . 

Auntie Maureen

Dressed to her vintage-nines Auntie Maureen has selected ten original international pop songs from the 20s and 30s. 

Listen to Auntie Maureen's playlist.
Photograph of Auntie Maureen












1) Kikutaro Takahashi - Sendo Kawaiya (1935). 

In English the song is called Cute Girl Standing At The Prow.  It was written by Kikutaro Takashi but sung by Geisha Otomaru who was noted for her virtuoso shamisen lute playing, her dancing, her voice, her clothes and her lovely Western Sokuhastsu Victorian-inspired hairstyle.

2) Lucienne Boyer - Tango Français (1936).  

Lucienne’s melodious voice gave her the chance, while working as a part-time model wink wink nudge nudge, to sing in the cabarets of Montparnasse, making her ultimately a French star of the Parisian music halls and Broadway in the 1930s.

3) Slim & Slam - Boot-Ta La-Za (1939). 

This jive-talking ditty is full of linguistic acrobatics by word trapeze artist and inventor of the language of ‘vout’ Slim Gaillard.  According to his own storytelling he was left behind in Crete at the age of 12, worked in vaudeville as a tap-dancing guitar player, jammed in speakeasies owned by Al Capone, who was always nice to him, and invented the word ‘groovy’.

4) Evelyn Dall & Ambrose Orchestra - I’m All In (1936). 

In Evelyn’s own words: ”it all started when I developed into one of those pesky little kids that will stand up and sing, though no one wants to hear them". To get rid of some of her surplus energy, she went, whilst still a child, into a knockabout stage act called Fields, Martin and Dall, made up of herself and two boys: "I hit them and they hit me. Folks liked that kind of thing then. I didn't find it so hot though. After six weeks I was so black and blue I had to quit”.  She joined the Ambrose Orchestra as a vocalist in 1935, making her debut at a Sunday concert in Blackpool.

5) Viola Smith with Frances Carroll & Her Coquettes - Snake Charmer (1939) 

Viola had seven sister who all played instruments in her dad’s band Schmitz Sisters Family Orchestra. When she  joined all-women dance orchestra Frances Carroll & Her Coquettes she recorded the beat whipping Snake Charmer as one of America’s first professional female drummers.

6) Rita Montaner - El Manisero (1928) 

The famous Peanut Vendor! but here in Spanish as the first and the original immortalisation by Cuban star Rita Montaner.  After blossoming as a great recording voice, Rita made her stage debut in Havana in 1927 in blackface and male drag as El Calesero, the coachman. This classic song has been recorded more than 160 times, sold over a million copies of the sheet music, and was the first million-selling 78 rpm single of Cuban music. 

7) Jack Parnell & His Rhythm- The White Suit Samba (1952).  

The “Guggle Glub Gurgle” opening sounds of this quirky song were not made using traditional musical instruments but rather laboratory equipment worked into a samba tempo rhythm that was scored as “bubble, bubble, high drip, low drip, high drain, low drain.” 

8) Irving Aaranson - Let’s Misbehave (1928).  

Cole Porter penned this in 1927, originally for the female lead of his first major production, Paris.  It was binned before the Broadway opening in favour of Let's Do It, Let's Fall in Love but Aaranson and his Commanders commandeered it and made it a naughty hit.

9) Noel Coward - Any Little Fish (1931).  

Having written over hundreds of songs, Noel was King of theatrical and lyrical wit and this is why:
Any little duck can quack, any little worm can crawl
Any little mole can frolic in the sun
And make a little hole and have a lot of fun
Any little snake can hiss, in any little local zoo
But I can’t do anything at all, but just love you!

10) Val Rosing with Henry Hall & his Orchestra (1932) - Teddy Bear’s Picnic

More animal fun with a children’s favourite originally composed by John Walter Bratton in 1907.  Irish songwriter Jimmy Kennedy added the delightful words in 1932.  Local folklore has it that the small wooded area between the church and Staplegrove Scout Hut was the inspiration for his grizzly lyrics.



Readers Wifes

Regular Duckie DJs, Readers Wifes have created a top 10 of modern pop records influenced by the time. Here's little turntable teaser of what you'll hear. 

Listen to Reader Wifes playlist.

Photograph of Kim Phaggs and Chelsea Kelsey of Readers Wifes

1. Prince – Under The Cherry Moon

Off ‘Parade’, 1986.
The Minneapolis maven’s homage to Hollywood blockbuster musical comedies of the 1930s was somewhat casually tossed off in the middle of his unstoppable ‘80s purple patch… and promptly became nobody’s favourite film. Or even nobody’s favourite Prince film. Still, it looked the part and gave the world this gorgeous seductively old-school theme.
 
2. Sparks - Looks, Looks, Looks
Off ‘Indiscreet’, 1975

One can only wonder at the fun Sparks and producer Tony Visconti must have had when laying down this wickedly funny but surprisingly hard-hitting satire on popular culture’s (ongoing) preoccupation with appearances. An authentic ‘30s-style dance band twirls and booms, Russell swoops and croons and, while, the whole thing’s over in two-and-a-half minutes flat, by the end of it you feel like you’ve graduated from a masterclass in Hollywood Babylon. Sparks are just always, always spot on.
 
3. Chic – Dance, Dance, Dance
Off ‘Chic’, 1977

Any  Chic would do – at their late 70s peak they were a living, breathing reinvention of the dressed-up, dancing-in-the-face-of-adversity hedonism of New York a half-century before. Their biggest tune, Le Freak, harks back explicitly – Like the days of Stompin’ At The Savoy’ – while My Feet Keep Dancing has a tap dance solo slap-bang in its break. This, their debut hit, turns on its “yowsah yowsah yowsah” hook, a reference to jazz violinist and radio personality Ben Bernie’s popular catchphrase from the 1920s. You also hear the phrase in the film They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, the 1969 film about Depression-era dance marathons.
 
4. Queen – Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy
Off ‘A Day At The Races’, 1976

Only Freddie Mercury could have come up with this campy tribute to Scott Joplin-style ragtime. Naturally, being Queen it’s massively and marvelously O.T.T. in every conceivable way. Its lyrics reference the hallowed totems of our period – the Tango, The Ritz, Valentino - while, interestingly (perhaps) the track features on the band’s A Day At The Races album, whose title was itself an homage to the 1937 Marx Brothers comedy of the same name.
 
5. Bryan Ferry – These Foolish Things
Off ‘These Foolish Things’, 1973

Roxy Music were always part-science fiction future shock, part-art school iconoclasm and part old-style Hollywood glamour, and when frontman Ferry broke away for his first solo record the latter strand came up right to the fore. On These Foolish Things he served up perhaps the definitive version of Eric Maschwitz and Jack Strachey’s 1936 standard that references Garbo, Crosby, silk stockings, dance invitations and Gardenia perfume. And yep, we are including Billie Holiday’s and Frank Sinatra’s renditions in that – Bryan’s bests them all.
 
6. Wings – Goodnight Tonight
Single, 1979

When it came to plundering both the Jazz Age and the Music Hall, McCartney's previous band The Beatles were always at it – think Your Mother Should Know, or When I’m Sixty Four or Ringo’s crooning on Goodnight at the end of The White Album. We rather prefer, however, the sleeve and especially the video for Wings’ late-‘70s disco-influenced smash. Linda’s in a purple cocktail dress and the band have been given a complete black tie and tails makeover. As Lady McCartney flutters her fan, Paul flutters those famous eyelashes and the whole world swoons.
 
7. White Town – Your Woman
Off ‘Women In Technology’, 1997

The ‘90s was an era of unlikely Number 1 singles and White Town – aka Jyoti Prakash Mishra – delivered the most unlikely one of all. In reality, Jyoti was an Indian-born, Derby-based, box-bedroom-confined Pixies-obsessive but the exotic-sounding genius one hit wonder was based entirely around a looped trumpet from Al Bowlly’s 'My Woman’. ‘Your Woman might have marked a case of “Goodnight Sweetheart” so far as chart hits were concerned but White Town are still very much a going concern.
 
8. Dr Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band - Cherchez La Femme  (Se Si Bon)
Off ‘Dr Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band’, 1976

So many of these songs come from the 70s – a decade when the smart set turned resolutely from the drab denims and macrobiotic miserabilism of hippie authenticity. Think Bette Midler, or Cabaret or Big Biba’s mirrored, potted palms interior. Think the Rock Follies doing Glenn Miller is Missing on ITV and Elton John’s collection of $15,000 Tiffany lamps. Disco was no exception when it came to plundering the past, and August Darnell’s (later Kid Creole) first musical outfit mixed big band swing with the beefy bass bottom of Sandy Linzer’s de rigeur uptown production.
 
9. Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band – I’m The Urban Spaceman
Off ‘Tadpoles’, 1969

McCartney again, this time co-producing with Gus ‘Space Oddity’ Dugeon for the Monty Python–affiliated Neil Innes’s whimsical trad-jazz / music-hall / psychedelic pop shambles. Compared to ‘Dr Savannah’s Studio 54-style smoked-glass poise it all sounds very low-rent, tea-dance, and quintessentially British but a massive chart hit and a perennial on Ed ‘Stewpot’ Stewart’s Junior Choice nonetheless.
 
10.  Guy Marks - Loving You Has Made Me Bananas
From ‘Loving You Has Made Me Bananas’, 1969.

A surprise novelty hit in the UK almost a decade after its conception for Marks, an American impressionist-comedian who specialised in skits on Hollywood’s Golden Age leading men. It’s true its inclusion in our top ten pushes the boundaries of this piece - Loving You Has Made Me Bananas has hardly made a seismic impact on popular culture. But it’s in there because 1 -  It’s hilarious and 2 -  It’s a stalwart First Song Of The Night at Duckie, and has been for two decades now. We love starting off with it, as the mirror ball turns softly in an empty Tavern and we guffaw about Guy’s delivery of lines like “Oh, your red scarf matches your eyes”. So think on, on what you’re missing, turning up gone ten o’clock.

Lady Malcolm’s Servants’ Balls are on 24 and 25 June 2016.  Browse through our LGBT archive.
Stay up to date with all our activities by signing up to our newsletter.