Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day!

On this holiday, Mark Steyn explains a song that means the world to him:
With Mother’s Day coming up (in North America, anyway: in Britain, it’s the fourth Sunday after Lent), a young lad’s heart naturally turns to thoughts of serenading his mom. And, when it does, he quickly discovers the heyday of mother songs was a century ago. From the Gay Nineties to the Great War, mother songs were a Tin Pan Alley staple and among the biggest hits of the day: “Always Take Mother’s Advice”, “A Boy’s Best Friend Is His Mother”, “Your Mother Is Your Best Friend After All”, “That Old Fashioned Mother Of Mine”, “That Wonderful Mother Of Mine”, “That Old Irish Mother Of Mine”. Old Irish mothers were a thriving sub-genre all by themselves – “Mother Machree”, “Ireland Must Be Heaven For My Mother Came From There”. So were songs for southern mammies, for whose smiles one would walk a million miles. There are songs about dads with excellent taste in mothers: “Daddy Has A Sweetheart And Mother Is Her Name”, “I Want A Girl Just Like The Girl Who Married Dear Old Dad”. There are mother songs about mothers who sang songs, like “Those Songs My Mother Used To Sing” (1912). And songs about elderly mothers – “There’s A Mother Old And Gray Who Needs Me Now” – and even a few that hint at senile decline - “Baby Your Mother As She Babied You, Back In Your Baby Days”.

Other people’s mothers are a different matter. One of my favorite mother songs is by Ivor Novello and Dion Titheradge, and was introduced with appropriate rueful resignation by Jack Buchanan in the 1921 West End revue A To Z. Although it’s brimming with period detail, most fellows of whatever age will have encountered this situation at some time or other. As the verse says, “There may be times when couples need a chaperone/But mothers ought to leave a chap alone”:

My car will meet her
And her mother comes too!
It’s a two-seater
Still her mother comes too!
At Ciro’s when I am free
At dinner, supper or tea
She loves to shimmy with me
And her mother does too!

I like the way Titheradge keeps the conceit going:

We lunch at Maxim’s
And her mother comes too!
How large a snack seems
When her mother comes too!
And when they’re visiting me,
We finish afternoon tea,
She loves to sit on my knee
And her mother does too!

And he caps the thing with a twist in the final line:

She simply can’t take a snub
I go and sulk at the club,
Then have a bath and a rub
And her brother comes too!