Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze

This is exactly the sort of song lodged in the collective consciousness that makes writing this blog worthwhile! Why I woke up with it, I've no right idea. A look at the lyrics reveals a serious genderqueer narrative in the song that I'd never noticed before: not only is the girl described as "handsome" by the narrator (I know, not an uncommon description for a woman in those days) but at length, the daring young trapeze artist has purloined the singer's love away, trained her for the trapeze, made her "assume a masculine name" and by the last verse, she's wooing the girls in the audience who take her for the daring young man. Handsome, indeed!

It's possible (though I can't say for certain) that my first encounter with "The Man on the Flying Trapeze" was in the Popeye short from 1934, which of course I didn't see til I was a kid in the '70s, some 40-odd years later, and more than a century after the song was first published in 1867. If, in fact, my neuronal association with this song connects to Popeye, then perhaps this earworm manifested itself due to some references my pal Scott and I made several days ago to Popeye, the Robert Altman movie. Songs from said movie are also still stuck in my head from its debut thirty (gulp!) years ago. Music and memory: kind of awesome.

Artist (original): Gaston Lyle, Alfred Lee, George Leybourne
Year: 1867
Popularized: 1930s, various artists
Performed above by Henry Hall and His Orchestra, Len Berman on vocals, c. 1930s
Rating: Warm

1 comment:

  1. Dave and I first came across this song in a Clark Gable movie "It Happened One Night" from the same year as the Popeye short, 1934. Interesting how this happens!. Here's the clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UI_BF1q6uBY

    The movie was very much conventional in its treatment of gender roles, almost uncomfortably so.