Tuesday, 8 December 2020

From Another Age

 When I made my Happy Find the other day, I also picked up this little booklet containing a few Christmas carols and songs, with the words in full, and fairly simple piano arrangements. I liked the look of the artwork and thought it might be fun to bash my way through some old favourites over the festive season. Then I took a closer look at the booklet and realised that it was produced by the Esso company, to be given away at petrol stations. 
On the inside of the back cover is 'Call at the Esso Sign' ('The Esso sign means happy motoring – Call at the Esso sign'), a song I remember all too clearly from my boyhood. As it says under the words and music, 'No doubt you have seen the Esso Petrol Advertisements on Commercial Television and you may remember the catchy little song [I do, I do]. Here are the words and music, try them yourself and [trigger warning here] see if you can imitate the accents used by the singing Esso petrol pump globes.' Said globes are depicted at the foot of the page – a fine range of cheery racial stereotypes. Truly England in 1960 (the year of this publication) was another country – one in which there was still such a thing as 'community singing': opposite the Esso song is a page of Community Songs – 'Old Macdonald had a farm', 'Landlord fill the flowing bowl', 'Rolling home', and a couple of rather surprising items, 'John Brown's Body' (chorus and refrain only, to be repeated seven times, omitting the last word of the first line each time) and the lovely 'Drink to me only', with words by Ben Jonson ('To Celia'). 
Wishing you Happy Motoring for 1960.

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