EVERY UK NUMBER ONE SONG: ‘My Old Man’s a Dustman’ – Lonnie Donegan

What was the number one song in the UK on 31st March 1960?

By Hayley Beasley Dye

British skiffle singer, Lonnie Donegan is back again with My Old Man’s a Dustman, which hit the top spot for 4 weeks.

Oh yes! Listening to this song, hazy memories of my brother and I singing this song to each other and prancing about our living room come rushing back. Sadly, I’m sorry to say that our old man was not in fact a dustman. However, My Old Man’s a Dustman is a joyful classic. I should probably find it irritating, but I don’t, I love it. All together now…”My old man’s a dustman, he wear’s a dustman’s hat, he’s wear cor-blimey trousers, and he lives in a council flat“. Amazing lyrics, amazing song. Don’t @ me.

Wikipedia

The song was written by Lonnie Donegan, Peter Buchanan (Donegan’s manager between 1956 and 1962), and Beverly Thorn; Thorn was not credited on the original release. According to his autobiography, Beverley Thorn was a pseudonym of Leslie Bricusse, the songwriter who wrote hit shows with Anthony Newley.

It probably has its origins in “My Father Was a Fireman”, a song sung by British World War I troops. The two songs share a lyrical similarity in their reference to “gorblimey trousers”. A song beginning with the line “My old man’s a dustman”, but otherwise sharing no lyrics with Donegan’s, is recorded as a playground song in the 1956 novel My Old Man’s a Dustman by Wolf Mankowitz. This song tells of the exploits of the protagonist at the Battle of Mons. A version concerning a football game and beginning “My old man’s a scaffie [dustman or street-sweeper, from scavenger]/He wears a scaffie’s hat” (echoing the first two lines of Donegan’s song) is recorded as a Scottish playground song during the 1950s. A very similar song, beginning “My old man’s a baker”, is recorded in Chester-le-Street in 1967. All of these songs share the same metric structure. The melody is borrowed from Stravinsky’s Petrushka. The song represented a change in style for Donegan, away from American folk and towards British music hall.

Lyrics

“Now heres a little story,
to tell it is a must
about an unsung hero,
that moves away a dust
Some people make a fortune
others earn a mint
my old man dont earn much
infact, hes flippin skint!
My old mans a dustman
he wears a dustmans hat
he wears cor-blimey trousers
and he lives in a council flat
he looks a propa ‘nana in his great big hobnail boots
hes got such a job to pull ’em up that he calls ’em daisy roots
Some folks give tips at Christmas
And some of them forget
so when he picks their bins up
he spills some on the step
now one old man got nasty
and too the council wrote
next time my old man went round there
he punched him up the throat!
My old mans a dustman
he wears a dustmans hat
he wears cor-blimey trousers
and he lives in a council flat
I say i say i say Les
Yeah?
I, er, i found a police dog in my dustbin
How’d you know he’s a police dog?
he had a policeman with him!
Though my old mans a dustman
hes got a heart of gold
he got married recently
though hes 86 years old
we said ‘here, hang on dad. youre getting past your prime!’
he said ‘when you get my age it helps to pass the time!’
My old mans a dustman
he wears a dustmans hat
he wears cor-blimey trousers
and he lives in a council flat
I say I say I say
eh?
my dusbins full of lilies!
Well throw them away then!
I cant, Lillie’s wearing them!
Now one day whilst in a hurry
he missed a ladies bin
he hadnt gone but a few yards when she chased after him
“What game do you think your playing?!”
She cried straight from the heart
“youve missed me! am i too late?”
nah jump up on the cart!
My old mans a dustman
he wears a dustmans hat
he wears cor-blimey trousers
and he lives in a council flat
I say… I say… I say…
Not you again!
my dustbin’s absoloutely full of toadstools
How do you know its full?
Cause theres not mushroom inside!
He found a tigers head one day
nailed to a piece of wood
the tiger looked quite miserable
but I suppose he should!
just then from out the window
a voice began to wail… it said
‘oy, wheres me tigers ‘ead?’
four foot from its tail!
My old mans a dustman
he wears a dustmans hat
he wears cor-blimey trousers
and he lives in a council flat
next time you see a dustman
looking all pale and sad
dont kick him in the dustbin
it might be my old dad…!”

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