…I broke all the rules, yeah

The phenomenon began in London’s East End somewhere around 1840, either through the criminal element, as a means of excluding the “coppers” from pertinent communication, or (more likely) in the marketplace where traders could talk amongst themselves without their customers knowing what they were saying. After a while it simply became a way of speaking.

Cockney rhyming slang (CRS) involves the replacement of a common word with a word that rhymes with it, as found at the end of a short phrase.  One then utilizes the beginning of the phrase and omits the rhyming word.  For example:

Wife, (famously) rhymes with “Trouble and Strife,” and so: “Bloody ‘ell, the trouble’s been shopping again.”

Money, rhymes with “Bees and Honey,” as in: “Hand over the bees, mate.”

Head, rhymes with “Crust of Bread,” as in: “Use your crust, lad.”

Legs, rhymes with “Bacon and Eggs,” and so: “Cor, look at the long bacons on that one!”

Feet, rhymes with “Plates of Meat,” so you get: “It nearly knocked me off me plates.”

Coat, rhymes with “Weasel and Stoat,” as in: “Oy, where’s me weasel?”

Eyes, rhymes with “Mince Pies,” and Telephone rhymes with “Dog and Bone,” and so you get: “So I got straight on the dog to me trouble and told ‘er I couldn’t believe me minces.”

One of the wonderful things about CRS, and indeed language in general, is that it is ever-evolving and had you been wandering around the East End a decade or two ago you might have heard someone say, “So we was in the middle of a Leo and…” which was to say they were in the middle of an “all-dayer” (an all day drinking session), as derived from the once highly-popular “Leo Sayer.”

Born in Shoreham-by-Sea, on England’s south coast in 1948, and far from a Cockney himself (as a matter of fact he’s now a naturalized Australian citizen), Leo Sayer had seven Top 10 UK Singles in a row back in the 1970s. The streak began with “Giving it All Away,” a song that he gave to Roger Daltrey, who had his first hit, without The Who, with it in 1973 on his solo album, “Daltrey”.  

Actually, the then-unknown Sayer wrote or co-wrote ten of the album’s eleven tracks, not releasing his own debut album, “Silverbird” until later that year.  Today’s selection was his first hit as a recording artist, peaking at Number 2 on the UK Charts. In the U.S. “The Show Must Go On” was covered by (that “cover machine”) Three Dog Night, peaking at Number 4 on the Billboard Charts.

Three Dog Night had changed the last line of the chorus from “I won’t let the show go on” to “I must let the show go on,” which apparently upset Sayer who had invested a great deal of artistic energy in the (metaphorical) circus-themed song, even performing it dressed as Pierrot the clown.

Although Three Dog Night altered the song’s meaning, they did at least wear (American) clown makeup and, like the original, began their version with a brief rendition of Fucik’s “Entrance of the Gladiators”.  Still, it’s hard to imagine anyone performing it with quite the nuance…and urgency…of the scat singing Leo Sayer.


And be sure to “take a butchers” for yourself

(you know, take a look, as in “Butcher’s Hook”…)

The Show Must Go On

Baby, although I chose this lonely life

It seems it’s strangling me now

All the wild men with big cigars and gigantic cars

They’re all laughing at me now

Oh I’ve been used…used…

I’ve been a fool…oh what a fool

I broke all the rules…yeah

But I won’t let the show go on.

Baby, there’s an enormous crowd of people

And they’re all after my blood

I wish maybe they’d tear down the walls of this theater

And let me out…let me out

Oh, I’ve been so blind…yeah

I’ve wasted time, wasted, wasted oh so much time

Walking on the wire, high wire, yeah

But I won’t let the show go on.

 I’ve been so blind, oh yes, I’ve been so blind

Wasted my time, wasted so much time

Walking on the wire, high wire, yeah

But I won’t let the show go on.

Baby, I wish you’d help me escape

And help me get away

Leave me outside my address

Far away from this masquerade

I’ve been so blind, oh yes, I’ve been so blind

Wasted my time, wasted so much time

Walking on the wire, high wire, yeah

But I won’t let the show go on.

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