18/1/15 – Noël Coward – Mad Dogs And Englishmen – 1931

Noel Coward“I wrestled in my mind with the complicated rhythms and rhymes of the song until finally it was complete, without even the aid of pencil and paper. I sang it triumphantly and unaccompanied to my travelling companion on the verandah of a small jungle guest house. Not only Jeffrey (Amherst), but the gecko lizards and the tree frogs gave every vocal indication of enthusiasm”.

So said Noël Coward of his delightful composition Mad Dogs And Englishmen written in 1931 apparently on a train between Hanoi and Saigon. More spectacularly he wrote it without instrumentation and it might be considered as an early Rap with superior lyrics. Joe Cocker used the title for his touring entourage and subsequent live album in 1970.

He was born in 1899 and was a prolific playwright, songwriter. He sang, acted, produced and directed films and worked as a screenwriter, he also wrote short stories. Most of us of a certain age group remember his immortal role in the Italian Job in 1969, his last film. One of his most famous plays was Blithe Spirit, a huge success it was made into a film in 1941.

Famous for his wit and his style he was a British institution, a master of words and observation, an expert in living life and one of the most memorable entertainers that Britain has ever produced. He died of heart failure in 1973 at home in Jamaica at the age of 74.

In tropical climes there are certain times of day
When all the citizens retire to tear their clothes off and perspire.
It’s one of the rules that the greatest fools obey,
Because the sun is far too sultry
And one must avoid its ultry-violet ray.
The natives grieve when the white men leave their huts,
Because they’re obviously, definitely nuts!

Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun,
The Japanese don´t care to, the Chinese wouldn´t dare to,
Hindus and Argentines sleep firmly from twelve to one
But Englishmen detest-a siesta.
In the Philippines they have lovely screens to protect you from the glare.
In the Malay States, there are hats like plates which the Britishers won’t wear.
At twelve noon the natives swoon and no further work is done,
But mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.

It’s such a surprise for the Eastern eyes to see,
That though the English are effete, they’re quite impervious to heat,
When the white man rides every native hides in glee,
Because the simple creatures hope he will impale his solar topee on a tree.
It seems such a shame when the English claim the earth,
They give rise to such hilarity and mirth.
Ha ha ha ha hoo hoo hoo hoo hee hee hee hee ……

Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.
The smallest Malay rabbit deplores this foolish habit.
In Hong Kong they strike a gong and fire off a noonday gun,
To reprimand each inmate who’s in late.
In a jungle town where the sun beats down to the rage of man and beast
The English garb of the English sahib merely gets a bit more creased.
In Bangkok at twelve o’clock they foam at the mouth and run,
But mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.

Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.
The toughest Burmese bandit can never understand it.
In Rangoon the heat of noon is just what the natives shun,
They put their Scotch or Rye down, and lie down.
In the mangrove swamps where the python romps
There is peace from twelve till two.
Even caribous lie around and snooze, for there’s nothing else to do.
In Bengal to move at all is seldom ever done,
But mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun