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Date: 18/04/14

Bowser & Blue - "Polka Dot Undies" (1986)

To plug the gap whilst I'm writing - or, rather, trying hard not to write - a couple of somewhat long-winded articles over which I hope to procrastinate long enough so that I won't have to write them because they'll have lost their topicality, here's this.

George Bowser and Ricky Blue are both English by birth, but Blue ( Elger) left Liverpool at an early age and grew up in the US and Canada. Surrey-born Bowser emigrated to Canada in 1970, and later met up with Blue in 1978 to form a duo performing songs and comedy with the agenda of "having fun and making money". At which they seem to have been more than a little successful.

I had never heard of them until one dark night sometime in the late 1980s, when the legendary Dr. Demento played this track on his show (as heard by me being beamed out of the US Armed Forces Network in Germany).

Polka Dot Undies falls into the category which I call the 'deliberate near-miss rhyme' song, in which the first line of a couplet sets up a rhyme which the listener expects to be scabrous or otherwise shocking, but then veers off at the last moment, not to rhyme at all, and even for the last word of the second line to actually be the first word of the one after it.

Examples from childhood (well, from my childhood anyway) are the verse which starts, "As I was walking past St. Paul's...", and the one which begins, "There once was a farmer who sat on a rock...". You can see why I turned out this way, can't you? Especially bearing in mind that I must have heard the first one when I was no more than five or six years of age.

Those instances have come down through the generations as an under-examined aspect of the oral tradition (although I warmly recommend Iona & Peter Opie's classic work, The Lore And Language Of Schoolchildren for further reading on the subject in general), and that tradition gradually wore them smooth to the point where further change would be superfluous. But Polka Dot Undies was specifically and intently written to create the same effect which, even if you disapprove of the style, you have to admit takes some talent to work out.

Enough theorising; here are Bowser & Blue from their eponymous 1986 album, where they match the near-misses to a great fake-folk-blues arrangement and Ricky Blue's almost worryingly accurate take-off of a certain terminally-overrated bore from Minnesota: