The Aussie ‘Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay’

14 Mar

The first Australian performance of the song-and-dance act, ‘Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay’, was in a burlesque at the Melbourne Opera House  (a venue in Bourke Street which later became the Tivoli) in mid-May 1892.

The artiste who performed it was the London ingénue, Alice Leamar, later to become famous for her racy music-hall number, ‘And Her Golden Hair Was Hanging Down Her Back’. Since Lottie Collins was planning to set off to America, Leamar had come to Oz in her stead with a company from George Edwardes’ London Gaiety Theatre.

The lyrics given for Leamar’s Australian performances of ‘Ta ra ra’ include a sixth verse which I have not come across elsewhere. They were published in the Australian Melodist, a songbook series containing the words of the latest theatrical songs. I include these lyrics in full below for the ‘Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay’ fans out there.

The lyrics for ‘Ta-ra-ra’ give a vivid sense of how the verses set up the exultant gibberish of the chorus, allowing the song to jump happily between a knowing parody of demureness and a dervish of petticoats and limbs. In its characteristically cheeky prose, the Sydney Bulletin described Leamar’s performance of the chorus thus: ‘partly that of a spider getting enthusiastically off a hot stove and partly that of the native kangaroo… trying to break a record over a series of fences, and singing as she goes’.

A smart and stylish girl you see,
Belle of good society;
Not too strict, but rather free,
Yet as right as right can be!
Never forward, never bold,
Not too hot and not too cold,
But the very thing, I’m told,
That in your arms you’d like to hold!

Chorus
Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay,
Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay,
Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay,
Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay,
Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay,
Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay,
Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay,
Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay.

I’m not extravagantly shy,
And when a nice young man is nigh
For his heart I have a try,
And faint away with tearful cry!
When the good young man, in haste,
Will support me round the waist;
I don’t come to, while thus embraced,
Till of my lips he steals a taste!

I’m a timid flower of innocence,
Pa says that I have no sense,
I’m one eternal big expense,
But men say that I’m just immense!
Ere my verses I conclude,
I’d like it known and understood,
Though free as air, I’m never rude –
I’m not bad, and not too good!

You should see me out with pa,
Prim, and most particular;
The young men say, ‘Ah, there you are!’
And pa says ‘That’s peculiar!’
‘It’s like their cheek!’, I say, and
Off again with pa I go-
He’s quite satisfied – although,
When his back’s turned – well, you know –

I’m a quiet girl, although
To skating rinks I sometimes go –
There is no harm in that, you know,
It gives a modest girl a show;
For when with giddiness you reel,
You hardly have the time to squeal,
When round your waist an arm will steal –
I say, girls, don’t it make you feel –

When in a train I chance to be,
It’s odd how men will sit next to me;
It cannot be my fault, you see,
If they presume to make too free.
I cannot tell the reason why,
I never make the least reply
But, ‘Oh, you should not!’, and ‘Oh, fie!’
Yet when the tunnels come – oh, my!

I feel I am so prim and staid
That on the shelf I may be laid;
It’s very hard, for I’m afraid
I’m not cut out for an old maid.
Still mother tells me not to fret,
I’ve heaps of time to marry yet,
And when I’m someone’s little pet
I won’t be bashful then – you bet!

Sources

Argus (Melbourne), 16 May 1892, 6.

Australian Melodist, no. 20 (Melbourne: n.d.), 6-8.

Bulletin (Sydney), 17 September 1892, 8

On Alice Leamar: Roy Busby, British Music Hall: An Illustrated Who’s Who From 1850 To The Present Day (London, 1976), 100.

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3 Responses to “The Aussie ‘Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay’”

  1. jackie watson 24 September 2010 at 3:44 am #

    My gt.grandad was married to Alice Leamar[his stage name was The Great Morrell]I may be able to help you with info,lyrics etc. Yours,Jackie.

    • Toby Eccles 9 April 2011 at 11:56 pm #

      Hi Jackie,
      Do you know much about ‘Her Golden Hair Was Hanging Down Her Back’, and whether Alice Leamar performed it in Australia?
      I have a recording of a fragment of a localised version of the song, and am wondering if the early performances in Australia of the song could have adapted the lyrics to please the local audience.
      Cheers,
      Toby Eccles.

  2. Toby Eccles 9 April 2011 at 11:49 pm #

    Hi Melissa,
    Hope you’re well.
    You mention in this post the song ‘Her Golden Hair was Hanging Down Her Back’. Have you come across any mention of this song or the musical ‘The Shop Girl’ being performed in Australia, especially in Sydney? If so, were the lyrics of the song localised?
    I ask because I have a recording from the NLA of Sally Sloane singing some lines from it which have been localised:
    “There was once a simple maiden went to Sydney on a trip …”
    Sally called the song ‘With A Nasty Little Twinkle in Her Eye’.
    I always enjoy your posts on this site, and your articles when I come across them from time to time on the web. Such an amazing period to study.
    Say hi to Luke.
    Toby.

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