Friday, 5 March 2010

Bow Bells

"Bow bells are London bells. And no bells ring like Bow bells ring. A ding-dong, the sing song Bow bells ring. Bow bells are happy bells. And when they ring to me they bring a spring song, a ding-dong kinda thing ..." sings Donald Peers (I think) with Robert Farnon's Orchestra in Bow Bells, a number from the 1947 film Dancing With Crime which starred Richard Attenborough, Sheila Sim and a young Bill Owen. Robert Farnon was a Canadian who settled in London after WW2 and became the king of light orchestral sounds. His name has cropped up on countless credits, from TV themes like The Prisoner to collaborations with George Shearing. He also did the arrangements for Frank Sinatra Sings Great Songs From Great Britain, Sarah Vaughan's magnificent Vaughan With Voices, and worked extensively with Tony Bennett. Bow Bells of course are central to the whole Cockney thing. If you're born within the sound of the Bow Bells then you're a proper Cockney. The bells themselves are more in the City than the East End of London, being part of St Mary-le-Bow in Cheapside rather than the district of Bow. The church was hit during the Blitz in 1941 and it would be another 20 years before the bells rang out again (so oddly they wouldn't have been ringing when Dancing With Crime was released). You can argue til the cows come home about the true meaning of Cockney, and the attendant cliches and characterisations. One of the enduring Cockney teams is Gert and Daisy - the Cockney characters of Elsie and Doris Waters (their brother was one Jack Warner) who were particularly popular during WW2. One of their numbers was Cockneys At Heart - And Proud Of It Too. While the sisters were from the east end the song takes the term Cockney in the broadest sense. But then London's always been a broad church ... and its congegration likes a good old knees-up!


  1. I couldn't find it under "London Central," but Pulp's Bar Italia is a brilliant and non-obvious London tune.

  2. Thanks for that. We will be returning to central London in a short while with plenty of gems ...