Who Were You With Last Night?
Fred Godfrey & Mark Sheridan — London; New York: Bert Feldman; Melbourne: Stanley Mullen, 1912; American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) lists publisher as Glenwood Music; Swedish lyrics by Ernst Rolf, 1918; copyright renewed by Godfrey, 1939 [Library of Congress].
Note: Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) apportions royalty shares as follows: Godfrey (25.0%), Mark Sheridan (25.0%), Glenwood Music (50.0%)
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Music Hall historian Peter Gammond calls Who Were You With Last Night? “one of the finest ‘rattling good choruses’ in the music-hall repertoire. Its melody is absolutely right for the personal attacking approach on the audience who are being asked the question....It goes at a rattling pace with its raggy characteristics emphasised by the linking riffs in the piano accompaniment.”1 Fred Godfrey recalled, however, that every music publisher in London at first turned down Who Were You With Last Night?:
A pedant might point out that the song’s title is ungrammatical, but Fred knew better than to subject a Music Hall audience to a whom.
The 4 January 1913 issue of The Era remarked,
In the same issue, The Era (p. 31) asked:
Who Were You With Last Night? became one of Mark Sheridan’s greatest hits. War songs historian Max Arthur notes that the song’s chorus was still “extremely popular...with soldiers at the beginning of [World War One].3 Indeed, the Derbyshire Courier related: “The rain [at a parade] made it not too comfortable marching with full kit, but the boys of all the units seemed well enough pleased with themselves, and the Fifth [Derbyshire Battalion] went out singing with great gusto ‘Who Were You With Last Night’.”4 A 1915 newspaper report from the Western Front noted: “In a [Belgian] township through which we passed, we saw a London battalion coming out of the baths, where they had had a cleansing plunge, and their clothes fumigated. They were singing ‘Who Were You With Last Night’.”5
The title became a sort of catchphrase before the war, and made its appearance in all kinds of unlikely places. Students in Cardiff, for example, used it to hoot down the suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst: “Mrs. Pankhurst, the leader of the Women’s Social and Political Union, was subjected to a running fire of interruption from students in the hall....‘I was in London yesterday,’ she began, and the students, amid great laughter, sang ‘Who were you with last night?’”6 Religious movements were not spared, either. As the Derbyshire Courier reported of a public meeting of “Kensitites” [followers of anti-ritualist John Kensite] in Chesterfield, “Irreverent outbursts were made during a short prayer by Mr. Ferguson, and a chorus of greeting silenced the lecturer when Mr. J.J. Kelly and another stalwart appeared. Mr. Waterman proceeded to read the 53rd chapter of Isaiah, and was immediately challenged with ‘Is that a correct translation of the prophet?’ The questioner refused to sit down, a number of others gathered round him, and above the general hubbub sounded the strains of ‘Who were you with last night?’”7 Not even the House of Commons could escape the song’s embrace, even as late as 1929: “Then there was Mr Lloyd George, who, absent yesterday when other people had expected him to be present to defend his quick cure for unemployment, now came in to cheer the two swallows who, he hoped, presaged a Liberal summer. Unionists and Socialists joined in a demonstration of mock welcome, and cries of ‘Where were you yesterday?’ shading into a chant of the title of a music hall song, ‘Who were you with last night?’ made him blush, presumably for his political laches.”8
Not everyone was enamoured with the song, however. In Devon, at a meeting of the Board of Guardians of a workhouse in Okehampton, “the vicar and his wife were compelled to leave during the singing of one of the songs, which was, the General believed, ‘Who were you with last night?’ There were, as the Guardians knew, several brazen-faced women in the House, and he did not think the Workhouse was the place for the reproduction of ‘low music hall songs.’”9
The song is still sometimes used to get a comic point across. In the pantomime Red Riding Hood, staged at the Opera House, Cork, Ireland, in January 1999, singer Mon Murphy “raised the roof” by dedicating Who Were You With Last Night? to Bill Clinton (The Stage, 7 January 1999, p. 18).
Who Were You With Last Night? was interpolated in numerous pantomime productions in 1912 and 1913. The first film to make use of it was a Swedish production called Trötte Teodor (1931), where it is given the title Var har du vatt I natt? It is also heard in the 1933 film comedy That’s My Wife, starring the now-forgotten Claud Allister, Frank Pettingell, and the delightful Betty Astell; in Beloved Enemy (1936), starring Merle Oberon, Brian Aherne, Donald Crisp, and a young David Niven; and on the soundtrack of the 1948 film of Terence Rattigan’s play The Winslow Boy, starring Robert Donat. In the 1986 British TV miniseries Lost Empires, starring Colin Firth and Laurence Olivier, Who Were You With Last Night? is heard playing from a merry-go-round at a fun fair in the summer of 1914. The song was revived once more for the 2015 film The Dressmaker, starring Kate Winslet.
Bert Courtney (Cinch X-2-42594, ?)
Arthur Lovell (Coliseum 281, 1912)
Harry Fay (Zonophone Twin 1013, 1912)
Harry Cove (Polyphon 5560)
Stanley Kirkby (Pathé 8648, 1912; Edison Blue Amberol 23129, ? [cylinder])
Albert Whelan (Jumbo 903, 1912; Jumbo 1092, 1913)
Arthur Leslie (Columbia-Rena 2003, 1912; Phoenix 344)
Bob & Alf Pearson, 1930s; reissued on cassette tape “Bob & Alf Pearson” (Evergreen Melodies E27, 2002/03 catalogue)
Harry Davidson & His Orch., 1930s; reissued on CD & cassette tape “Harry Davidson” (Evergreen Melodies C77 [disc], E77 [tape], 2002/03 catalogue)
Debroy Somers’ Band, in “It’s A Lovely War” (Columbia DX-199, 1930)
Four Happy Tommies and Charles “Nat” Star & His Band, in “Songs Of The Western Front” (Sterno 614, 1930)
[unidentified], in “Old Time Music Hall Successes” (Eclipse 711, 1933)
Don Porto’s Novelty Accordion Band, in “Recollections Of 1914–1918” (Eclipse 813, 1933)
Bertha Wilmott and Fred & Leslie Douglas, with André Astan & His Orch., in “A Radio Parade — Comedyland” (Sterno 1440, 1933)
Larry Brennan & His Winter Gardens Band, in “Comedy Land” (Regal Zonophone MR-1341, 1934)
Columbia Light Opera Company, with orch. cond. by Charles Prentice, in “Drury Lane Pantomime Memories” (Columbia DX-640, ca. 1934)
——— (medley version); reissued on cassette tape “Primo Scala” (Evergreen Melodies D53, 2002/03 catalogue)
Reginald Dixon, in “Dixon Request Medley” (Rex 8771)
———, on LP “Sing Along At The Tower” (Odeon SCX 3542, 1964)
———, on CD “Reginald Dixon At The Wurlitzer Organ Of The Tower Ballroom, Blackpool” (EMI CDP 7 96076 2, 1991 [rec. 1963])
———, reissued (version unknown) on CD & cassette tape “Reginald Dixon” (Evergreen Melodies CY9 [disc], SY9 [tape], 2002/03 catalogue)
Winifred Atwell, in “Make It A Party” (Decca F10796)
Ribton & Richards, with the BBC Variety Orch. & the Palace of Varieties Chorus (BBC radio broadcast, December 26, 1948)
The Coronets, in EP “Make It A Party” (Columbia SEG 7617)
Terance Casey (organ solo), in “Father’s Favourites, No. 2” (Columbia DB249)
Mammoth Fair Organ, in “Fun ‘O The Fair — Selection” (Regal MR-434)
Margery Manners, in 7-LP set “Palace Of Varieties — Old Time Music Hall” (BBC CN-1426, 1976 reissue of recordings made 1952–58)
Betty Huntley Wright, in 7-LP set “Palace Of Varieties — Old Time Music Hall” (BBC CN-1426, 1976 reissue of recordings made 1952–58)
[unidentified community singing], on LP “Singing In Public House” (BBC Recorded Programmes Library LP-23203; rec. in “The Lilliput”, Jamaica Road, London, June 7, 1956)
Verdi and Jimmy Silver & His Music, on LP “Party Time At The Astor Club” (Decca LK-4290, 1958)
Mickey Ashman & His Band, on EP “Who Were You With Last Night” (Gazell GEP-24, 1959)
Chorus arr. & cond. by Alan Paul, on LP “BBC Scrapbook For 1914” (Philips International Series 6382 045, 1964)
Mrs. Gladys Mills, on LP “Everybody’s Welcome At Mrs. Mills’ Party” (Capitol ST-6055, 1964)
Celia Hunt, on LP “The Entertainers” (London TW-91359, 1964)
The Gaiety Playboys, on LP “The Good Old Days, From The Famous City Varieties Music Hall — Leeds” (CBS 63077, 1967)
Tommy Trinder, on LP “You Lucky People” (Silverline DJSL-037, 1974)
Beryl Reid, on LP “Music Hall Singalong” (Music for Pleasure MFP-50174, 1974)
Glen Daly, on LP “Memories of the Music Halls” (Pye NSPL-15079, 1976?)
Phil Kelsall, on LP ”Phil Kelsall’s Blackpool Sing-Song” (Note NTS-196, 1980)
Original BBC-TV Cast Recording, on LP “EastEnders Sing-Along” (BBC REB-586, 1985)
Geoff Love’s Singalong Banjo Party, on LP “The Best of British” (Music for Pleasure DL-41-1074-3, 1985)
Hallmark of Harmony, on LP “Your All-Time Barbershop Favourites” (Music for Pleasure MFP-5793, 1987)
Stage, Film & TV Interpolations
Sung by Happy Attwood in pantomime Puss In Boots, Victoria, Burnley (January-February 1913); by Lottie Cora in pantomime Dick Whittington, Grand, Nottingham (January 1913); by Aubrey Fitzgerald in pantomime Humpty Dumpty, Grand, Leeds ( July 1913); by Lottie Holland in pantomime Cinderella (Queen’s Opera House, Workington [Cumberland] (January 1913); by Adah le Creu in pantomime Sinbad The Sailor, Hippodrome, Altrincham [Manchester] (December 1912); by Evelyn Major in pantomime The House That Jack Built, Fulham Theatre, London (January 1913); by Olive Plant in pantomime The Forty Thieves, Hippodrome, Hamilton, Scotland (January 1913); by Pip Powell in pantomime Puss In Boots, Her Majesty’s, Melbourne, Australia (December 1912–March 1913); by Beatrice Read in pantomime Robinson Crusoe, South Parade Pier, Portsmouth (January 1913); by “London’s Pet Boy,” male impersonator Claire Romaine; by Edmond Russell in pantomime Humpty Dumpty, His Majesty’s, Aberdeen (1912–13); by Cissie Thompson in pantomime Goody Two Shoes (Theatre Royal, Exeter (January 1913).
Interpolated in films That’s My Wife (1933); Beloved Enemy (1936); The Winslow Boy (1948) ; The Dressmaker (2015).
Interpolated in TV miniseries Lost Empires (ITV television, UK, 1986).
1 Peter Gammond, The Good Old Days Songbook: Sixty Songs from the Golden Age of Music Hall (London: British Broadcasting