Wake Up, John Bull!

 

 

Billy Williams & Fred Godfrey, 1911; Harry Carlton also a co-author, according to Godfrey letter assigning rights to Billy Williams dated Jan. 31, 1911; manuscript of music and lyrics in author’s collection.

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HMV-Victor 120087-B
Columbia-Rena 1645-A
A Canadian reissue of Billy Williams’s Zonophone
recording.
The song may have had particular
resonance in Canada, since Robert Borden’s Conservatives, on the strength of the votes of
hundreds of thousands of newly arrived immigrants
from Britain, won the 1911 federal election on an
anti–free trade platform:“No truck nor trade with the Yankees!”
Phoenix 038-B

 

Like It’s The Only Bit Of English That We’ve Got, from 1907, this song decries what was seen as the pernicious inpouring of foreign goods and people into the UK. Billy Williams calls the attention of “Free Traders and Tariff Reformers” to the following admonition:

(Chorus)

Wake up, John Bull,
What’s the matter with you?
Why don’t you close your open door,
The same as they do on the foreign shore?
Don’t leave it too late, John,
Till you find out their worth,
Or some day you’ll find yourself
Pushed right off the Earth!

(Verses)

You’ve got a crowded house, John
You’re hospitable, it’s true.
You welcome every stranger
With a cheery “How d’ye do?”
It doesn’t matter who they are,
Or nationality;
They make themselves at home, John,
For your house is always free!
You let them do just as they like and use your open doors,
You look after them much better, John, than you look after yours.

You’ve got a loving wife, John,
And she’s got a lot of sons;
They’ve always been quite ready, John,
To stand behind your guns!
But when their duty’s over,
And for work they’re forced to roam,
Why do they leave their own fireside,
The place they call their home?
You say you’ve got no work for them to do, John, over here,
Well, why do other nation’s sons find work here ev’ry year?

 

Recordings

Billy Williams recorded six versions of this song: 21 April 1911 for Zonophone, ca. April 1911 for Edison Standard Cylinder, ca. April 1911 for Columbia-Rena, ca. April 1911 for Homophon, ca. April 1911 for Pathé, 2 August 1911 for Favorite. Reissues appeared on several other labels.1

 

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Note

1   For comprehensive discographies of recordings by Billy Williams, see Brian Rust, British Music Hall on Record (Harrow, UK:
    Gramophone, 1979); and Frank Andrews and Ernie Bayly, Billy Williams’ Records: A Study in Discography (Bournemouth, UK:
    Talking Machine Review, 1982).