Ernie (The Fastest Milkman in the West) – Benny Hill – 1971

Novelty songs should not be confused with parody songs.  Novelty song = a song that is comical or nonsensical and performed principally for its comical effect. 

 wozza and ooh wakka doo wakka day

In his blog, Googoogarjoob, my mate Wozza recently commented on one of my posts and mentioned Gilbert O’Sullivan.  It got me thinking about some of Gilbert’s songs.  Do you remember this one?

She’s got a brother like any other

Who got his nose caught inside a gate

And when they freed him it so relieved him

He just went, Ooh wakka doo wakka day

Catchy tune; the sort that bores into your mind and can hang around for days.  Nonsensical words, though. 

they’re nothing new

From Gilbert’s songs, I got to thinking about other novelty songs.

Novelty songs have been around for a long time.  They were popular in the days of music hall and very common in WWII as comic songs to encourage the troops.  Songs like K-K-K-Katy and Yes, We Have No Bananas

It seems to me, though, within 70s music this particular genre reached an all time low. 

who can forget

Dead Skunk (in the middle of the road), or Disco Duck, or The Streak ?

And what about, David Bowie’s dreadful, Laughing Gnome ? Or The Pipkins, Gimme Dat Ding ?

 70s hits every one of them!! 

But how many of you remember the novelty song I heard while driving yesterday?

back to the 70s

So, it’s 1971.  Dinner’s over.  Homework’s being avoided.  My mother and father are sitting back in their arm chairs. My brother, sister and I are sitting side-by-side along the three seater sofa – five pairs of eyes fixed on the big rent-to-buy, valve-driven, wood-grain finish, have-to-get-up-to-change-channels, Pye television. 

Benny Hill quoteNow, if you think some of the stuff on the tele today is a little “inappropriate” – the 70s were no better.  In fact, they were arguably worse as far as crude humour is concerned.  At the forefront of the risqué movement was Benny Hill and his self-titled show – The Benny Hill Show.

My father’s chuckling, my mother’s tut-tut-ing, and I’m confused, unable to fully grasp the meaning of the jokes that cause such loud guffaws from the television audience. 

“We should really turn this off,” my mother looks nervously across at her three children as another buxom blonde bounces across the screen.  Dad chuckles.  I’m still puzzled, but not admitting it, as another piece of innuendo floats away high over my head.

and then comes the song

Every episode had a song that was acted out.  Ernie (The Fastest Milkman in the West) tells the story of Ernie, a milkman who drives a horse-drawn milk cart.  He vies for the heart of Susie, a widow, with the bread delivery man – Two Ton Ted from Teddington.

Eventually, Ernie’s frustration gets the better of him and he makes the mistake of challenging  the bread man to a duel.  Ernie comes off second best.  He’s tragically killed when a rock cake hurled by Two Ton Ted connects underneath his heart.  To add insult to mortal-injury he’s then broadsided by a stale pork pie in his eye.

The story concludes:

But a woman’s needs are many fold and, Sue, she married Ted,

But strange things happened on their wedding night as they lay in their bed.

 The strange things are caused by Ernie’s ghost returning to haunt them.

 ernie fax

  • Benny Hill had a milk run when he was a teenager.  This song, originally written in 1955, was intended to be the introduction to a screenplay about Hill’s milkman experiences.  The film was never released.
  • The song was first performed on The Benny Hill Show in 1970.
  • The original song clip was made in black and white because there was a technicians’ strike at the time of filming – not that we’d have noticed, back in those days everything on our tele was black and white!
  • Ernie became the first novelty song to reach #1 on the UK singles charts – it sat at number one for four weeks over Christmas 1971.
  • Hill re-recorded the song shortly before his death in 1992 for the album, Benny Hill… The Best Of.
  • Another piece of trivia – The Benny Hill Show ran, in various forms, for a long, long time, from 1955-1989
  • Ernie (The Fastest Milkman in the West) lyrics
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4 Responses to Ernie (The Fastest Milkman in the West) – Benny Hill – 1971

  1. wozza says:

    They do get under yer skin, fersure.

    How many times did we listen to Back in Nagasaki Where The Fellas Chew Tobaccy And The Women Wiki Waki Woo?

  2. Greg.K. says:

    Ah! An oldie but a goodie….

  3. Esther says:

    You could probably say ‘Ying Tong’ was a novelty song which was released in the 50’s but reappeared on the charts in the 70’s…it’s one I remember anyway!

    • Greg.K. says:

      Well done Esther – we used to sing that, as you know, when you were little. Came out in 1956 (it’s older than me) and then re-released in 1973. Ahhh! They don’t make them like that any more.

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