In 1897, a local band in Athens offered to play the British national anthem to a party of English volunteers in the Greco-Turkish war. Standing to attention with their caps doffed, ready to sing ‘God Save the Queen’, the volunteers were surprised when the band played ‘Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay’.
Whether this story is true or not, it underlines the extent to which ‘Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay’ became synonymous with British culture after it was first performed in London in late 1891.
The performer who made ‘Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay’ famous was the music-hall and burlesque artiste, Lottie Collins. With an East End accent and a childhood performing in the ‘alls (she first made her name at eleven in a skipping-rope act with her sisters), she too was as British as they come. It is almost hard to believe, given this, that ‘Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay’ began its days across the Atlantic as an African-American song. It was…
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