Derek Hewitson, MY MEATLESS DAY (RP Weston and Bert Lee, 1917)
This week’s Friday Song is so obscure that posting the video which accompanies it feels like a bit of positive musical archaeology. As far as I can see, this version of ‘My Meatless Day, a wonderful comic song from 1917, does not exist anywhere online.
In fact, apart from the original version sung by Ernie Mayne (warning – it contains a nasty racist term) and a few shaky a capella versions, it’s pretty much a lost song. Even its authorship is not entirely clear.
I know the song because I used to accompany the guitarist and singer Derek Hewitson in the days when, with Tracey Baldwin, we were the trio Something Happened. ‘My Meatless Day’ was part of the wonderful and often strange repertoire of songs that Derek has collected and played down the years.
Researching ‘My Meatless Day’ now, I find one reference to it having been written by the songwriting team of RP Weston and Bert Lee. Although there’s no mention of it in any of the biographies of Weston and Lee, that may not be surprising since they wrote around 3000 songs together during their 21-year collaboration.
And what songs they were. How’s this for a list of comedy numbers that have stood the test of time? ‘Paddy McGinty’s Goat’, ‘I’m Henery the Eighth I Am’, ‘When Father Painted the Parlour’, ‘What a Mouth’, ‘Hullo, Hullo, Who’s Your Lady Friend’ – and after RP Weston’s death, Bert Lee was credited with writing ‘Knees Up Mother Brown’ with his son Harris Weston.
But Derek’s version has a very different melody and rhythm to the original – it has a folk club vibe. I suspect that, like much of his repertoire, it originates in the folk clubs of the 1970s. One peculiarity is that, in his version, the words of the last chorus are completely different from the lyrics of the original song.
Its theme, of course, is distinctly relevant in these days now that meatlessness is so much of our conversation – although today it’s not so much about helping to win the war as to save the planet.
It could be argued that the song is a very early musical joke at the expense of what we now call ‘virtue signalling’.
So here, making its first appearance online, is Derek Hewitson’s version of My Meatless Day’.
Take it away Derek…