The Kangaroo Hop
Billy Williams & Fred Godfrey — London: Francis, Day & Hunter, 1912; American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) lists title as “Sherlock Holmes Smarter Brother Cues,” with credit to Godfrey alone and publisher as Colgems EMI Music.
“Animal” dances were all the rage just prior to the start of the Great War: the turkey trot, the camel walk, the grizzly bear, the bunny hop — and the king of the jungle, the fox trot, which was introduced in 1914 and remained a basic step for decades. Here, Billy Williams and Fred Godfrey offer an Antipodean specimen for the terpsichorean zoo. These dance steps, most of which hailed from America, were roundly condemned as “vulgarities” by the more staid arbiters of cultural fashion in Britain. As one newspaper reported, “[t]he disapproval expressed by the Imperial Society of Dance Teachers of the Bunny Hug, the Wallaby Leap, the Kangaroo Hop, and similar ‘freak’ dances is likely...to lead to their ostracism from the ball-room and the revival of more graceful dances.”1 Another newspaper put it simply that “[t]he Bunny Hug is doomed; the Wallaby Leap must go; the Kangaroo Hop is under notice. So say the dancing masters.”2 The snifty ones were not entirely able to excise the Kangaroo Hop from existence, however, as the following account from a letter home in 1915 by a young soldier in the Gallipoli campaign attests:
Amazingly, The Kangaroo Hop was revived from its long slumber for the 1975 comedy film The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes Smarter Brother, in which Gene Wilder, Madeleine Kahn, and Marty Feldman inexplicably launch into an energetic rendition, though whether their choreography matches the moves suggested above is uncertain. The song is also heard in Tracks, a 2014 Australian film.
Billy Williams recorded no fewer than eight versions of this song: ca. April 1912 for Favorite, 26 July 1912 for Zonophone, ca. August 1912 for Columbia, ca. September 1912 for Edison Blue Amberol, ca. September 1912 for Jumbo, ca. September 1912 for Pathé, ca. November 1912 for Homophon, and ca. August 1913 for Pilot. Reissues appeared on several other labels.4
Jack Charman as “Ted Yorke” (The Winner 2280, 1913)
Cosmotheka [Dave and Al Sealy], on LP “Wines And Spirits” (Highway SHY-7001, 1977)
The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes Smarter Brother (1974); Tracks (2014).
1 “Freak dances doomed,” Sheffield Evening Telegraph, 12 August 1912.