23. Who put the Benzedrine?

Posted on 01/02/2017


23. Who put the Benzedrine?

Benzedrine was an early amphetamine drug developed to keep airmen awake on long bomber flights, which it did nicely. But it also affected behaviour and in later decades which entered pop culture and led to singers being called names like Amphetamine Annie.

The song makes good comic use of the idea that somebody had invaded Mrs Murphy’s larder to insert Amphetamines into her Ovalitine (a chololate drink for those who have not come accross it). Mrs Murphy had taken to Ovaltine as she did not feel that she was quite ‘on the beat’ (not a phrase Mrs Murphy would have recognised before taking Benzedrine. Afterwards she was up all hours and keeping the neighbours awake:

‘now she wants to swing, the Highland Fling

she says that Benzedrine’s the thing that makes her spring’

The song also says she has not had such fun since she left ‘old Ireland’ but maybe she was Scottish, given her penchant for the Fling. Maybe she was related to President Trump’s mother, who came from near Stornaway in the Outer Hebrides.  But back on Benzedrine:

‘she stays up nights making all the rounds

they say she lost about 69 pounds

now Mr Murphy claims she’s getting awful thin

and all she say si ‘give me some skin’ mop’

This language (the song dates from the mid 1940’s’) is a precursor of beat language. If you look at Harry the Hipster’ Gibson’s videos he is an astonishing pianist, jumping around and rolling his eyes as he played. He was a very gifter musician and taught classical music at the famous Juillard School in New York and playing the clubs at night. He was discovered by Fats Waller.

A Fred Astaire movie had the title song;

‘how could you believe me when I said I love you when you know I’ve been a liar all my life

Said to be the longest Hollywood film song title. The girl sings:

Didnt your mother never teach you no manners’

To which Astaire replies

‘I have no mother, we were too poor’

Thats a neat joke; luckily not a likely reality.

Although Astaire’s lyric is a bit shocking it caused no media trouble. Harry the Hipster’s song, however, caused him to be banned from the radio as it mentioned drugs. He did recover his fame later in life.

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