Whilst looking up some Oscar Brand songs, I came across again Jeremy Irons singing The Hole in the Elephant's Bottom.
I posted the item below in 2014 and again in 2018 but enjoyed the read and the listening and thought you, dear readers, may as well.
Jeremy Irons' rendition is, imho, the definitive version of all the ones available on Youtube. Links for some of the others are at the end of the post.
Not only is it a great rendition, Irons' facial gestures, pauses and inflections are comic genius.
Enjoy, but a little risque.
The Hole in the Elephant's Bottom
As America had its vaudeville, so England had its music halls.
Music hall is a type of British theatrical entertainment popular between 1850 and 1960. It involved a mixture of popular songs, comedy, specialty acts and variety entertainment. The term is derived from a type of theatre or venue in which such entertainment took place. British music hall was similar to American vaudeville, featuring rousing songs and comic acts, while in the United Kingdom the term "vaudeville"' referred to more working-class types of entertainment that would have been termed "burlesque" in America.Originating in saloon bars within public houses during the 1830s, music hall entertainment became increasingly popular with audiences, so much so, that during the 1850s, the public houses were demolished and music hall theatres developed in their place. These theatres were designed chiefly so people could consume food and alcohol and smoke tobacco in the auditorium while the entertainment took place. This differed somewhat from the conventional type of theatre, which until then seated the audience in stalls with a separate bar-room. Early music halls included the Canterbury Music Hall on Lambeth and The Middlesex, in Drury Lane, otherwise known as the Old Mo.By the mid-nineteenth century, the halls created a demand for new and catchy popular songs. As a result, professional songwriters were enlisted to provide the music for a plethora of star performers including, more notably Marie Lloyd, Dan Leno, Little Tich and George Leybourne. Music hall did not adopt its own unique style. Instead all forms of entertainment were performed: male and female impersonators, lions, comiques, mime artists and impressionists, trampoline acts, and comic pianists such as John Orlando Parry and George Grossmith were just a few of the many types of entertainments the audiences could expect to find over the next forty years.Music hall in London was the scene of important industrial conflict in 1907 with a dispute between artists and stage hands on the one hand and theatre managers on the other, which ended in a strike. The halls had recovered by the start of the First World War and were used to stage charity events in aid of the war effort. Music hall entertainment continued after the war, but became less popular due to upcoming Jazz, Swing, and Big Band dance music acts. Licensing restrictions had also changed, and drinking was banned from the auditorium. A new type of music hall entertainment had arrived, in the form of variety, and many music hall performers failed to make the transition. Deemed old fashioned and with the closure of many halls, music hall entertainment ceased and the modern day variety began.
The Oxford Music Hall, c 1875
Music hall songs were often contemporary, humorous, catchy and sometimes a little naughty. Frequently the performer sang the verses with the audiences joining in on the repeated choruses. Music hall songs could be romantic, patriotic, humorous or sentimental, as the need arose. Songs such as Where Did You Get That Hat, I’m Henery the Eight I am, Ta Ra Ra Boom De Ay, It's a Long Way to Tipperary, I Belong to Glasgow and Has Anyone Here Seen Kelly all began life as music hall songs.
One popular music hall song was The Hole in the Elephant's Bottom
Here is the link to click on to hear Jeremy Irons singing his version:
The same Jeremy Irons audio but with Scar from The Lion King singing those same verses is amazingly well done and worth a look:
There are a number of versions of the lyrics, verses having been added and deleted at various times.
The original lyrics, believed to be from the days of World War 1, predate political correctness, hence the use of words and viewpoints that would be considered unacceptable today. I have retained them to show the progression to the present day.
Here is a common set of lyrics:
My ambition's to go on the stageAnd now you can see that I've got on.In the pantomime I am engagedTo play the elephant's bottom.Now the girls all think that I'm itWhen they sit in the stalls I can spot 'emAnd I wink at the ones in the pitThrough the hole in the elephant's bottom.Now this part doesn't have any wordsThere is nothing that can be forgottenI spend all my time pushing property turdsThrough the hole in the elephant's bottom.One day we played in a farceAnd they stitched up the backside with cottonIt split and showed all of me bumThrough the hole in the elephant's bottom.One day two queers came inOn the stage before anyone could stop 'emBut they gave me a lovely bouquetThrough the hole in the elephant's bottom.The manager said 'That's all wrong!'As they sit in the stage you could spot 'emSo I use a telescope nowThrough the hole in the elephant's bottom.My landlady packs up my mealsOne day I went out and forgot 'emSo now every day she feeds me with bunsThrough the hole in the elephant's bottom.There are pockets inside of the clothFor some bottles of beer if you've got 'emBut they hiss and they boo if I blow out the frothThrough the hole in the elephant's bottom.Now the fellow who plays the front partAs an actor he is simply rottenThrough bad beer he does nothing but fartWhile I play the elephant's bottom.Some people may think this song goodOthers may think that it's rottenThose who don't like it can just push their noseUp the hole of an elephant's bottom.
Here is another set of lyrics, incorporating images and terms from World War 2 (the Oerlike gun reference, as an example, is to a large, WW1 gun):
My ambition's to go on the stage;From this you can se that I've got 'em.In pantomime I'm all the rage,I'm the hole in the elephant's bottom.His balls they hang so lowI think I could knot 'em,As I wink at the girls in the pitThrough the hole in the elephant's bottom.The man who plays the front partIs absolutely rotten,All he can do is to fartThrough the hole in the elephant's bottom.Oh! the girls think that I'm it,As they sit in the stalls I can spot 'em,And I wink at the girls in the pitThrough the hole in the elephant's bottom.A young lady stood at the stage door.She said you're a film star I can spot em.You're Douglas Fairbanks, I said me Mam no thanksI'm the hole in the elephants bottom.One night we performed in a farceAnd they stuffed up the bottom with cotton,But it split and I showed my bare arseThrough the hole in the elephant's bottom.There are pockets inside in the clothFor two bottles of Bass, if you got 'em.But they hiss and they boo when I blow out the frothThrough the hole in the elephant's bottom.Now my part hasn't got any wordsBut there's nothing that can't be forgotten,I spend all my time pushing property turdsThrough the hole in the elephant's bottom.‘Twas awfully dark one night after the showAs we went to our digs at West Tottham,So to light up the night I shone a red light,Through the hole in the elephant’s bottom.Some may think that this story is goodAnd some may believe that it's rotten,But those that don't like it can stuff it right upThe hole in the elephant's bottom.Should the Japanese make an attack,Then hundreds of bombs they will drop 'em,But we'll keep 'em at bay with an Oerliken gunThrough the hole in the elephant's bottom.
Some alternative versions:
Roy "Mister Music Hall" Hudd:
One final thought:
The song always reminds me of the elephant prop in the opera at the beginning of Phantom of the Opera: