Culture

Pick of the pops: ‘Ain’t It Grand to Be Bloomin’ Well Dead’

‘Ain’t It Grand to Be Bloomin’ Well Dead’
Leslie Sarony
(1932)


To mark Hallowe’en, here’s a record that was described in the Daily Mirror on its 1932 release as ‘a macabre dance of death’. That’s probably overhyping it a little, but Leslie Sarony’s ‘Ain’t It Grand to Be Bloomin’ Well Dead’ is still the best song about attending one’s own funeral.

Sarony was born in 1897 and made his debut on the music hall stage shortly before the First World War. It wasn’t until the 1920s and ’30s, however, that he became really successful. By this time the drink-driven rowdyism of the music hall had passed into the more sedate world of variety, revue and radio, where the wit and imagination of Sarony’s songwriting could be more fully appreciated. Among his best known songs were ‘Don’t Do That to the Poor Puss Cat’, ‘Don’t Be Cruel to a Vegatabuel’, ‘The Lard Song’, ‘My Wife Is on a Diet’ and ‘Why Build a Wall Round a Graveyard’. There was also ‘Jollity Farm’, as covered by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, and the magnificently titled ‘Forty-Seven Ginger-Headed Sailors’.

‘Ain’t It Grand’, though, is the best of the lot, a splendidly laconic account of a funeral, from the sozzled mourners to the undertakers polishing their top hats with Guinness. It went on to become his biggest hit. ‘Macabre though it is,’ reflected the Mirror‘s reviewer, ‘there is a sort of gross vitality about the treatment that belies its implications, and I hardly know whether to bewail our modern cynicism or to chuckle over our cheerful ability to make a joke about the most serious subjects.’ Or, indeed, to nod along sagely to his wise advice:

We come from clay and we all go back, they say,
So don’t heave a brick, it may be your Auntie May.

Also available on YouTube is this 1931 footage of him singing about ‘Icicle Joe the Eskimo’ and, from towards the end of his long career (he lived till 1985), an extract from a live performance that includes (at 1’12”) an abbreviated version of ‘Ain’t It Grand’.

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