Saturday, November 13, 2010

At the Music Hall: "My Old Man," 1900

BBC Television
And my old man
Said, "Run along the van,
And don't dilly-dally on the way."
On went the van with my whole billet.
I'd run along with me old cock-a-linnet.
A-dillying, I dallied;
A-dallying, I dillied.
I lost the way and
Don't know where to roam.
Who's gonna put up
The old iron bedstead
If I can't find my way home?

Written by Fred W. Leigh and Charles Collins, My Old Man (Said Follow the Van) was made popular by British music hall sensation Marie Lloyd. Like many music hall songs of the era which were meant to be sung by women, it was mildly risqué, but most importantly told truthfully of the harsh realities of the lives of women and children at the turn of the Twentieth Century.

In this song, due to an inability to pay the rent, a family must move out of their flat. Told from the point of view of the wife, the song recounts that once the van is packed with their belongings, there’s no room for her. Her husband tells her plainly that she must walk behind the van. She does so, carrying the family’s pet bird.

The song is still popular today and has found itself repurposed as a chant used in a variety of sporting events—with vastly changed and rather vulgar lyrics. Let’s take a look at the song as it’s meant to be sung in this clip from a recent BBS bio-pic of the life of Marie Lloyd.

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