Morpheus on… Well I Got Up This Morning…

…and I heard an ice-cream cart go past. It had a digital recording of an 8-bar tune (NOT a blues number) being played on one of those little Swiss musical mechanisms. You know the ones – they have a clockwork drum with pegs that twang the teeth of a spring-steel comb, to produce a 30-second tune. In My Day, they were put in cigarette boxes, jewelry boxes and the like.

Anyhoo, this lead me to musing on the ice-cream vans of my youth. The main two were Mr Whippy (whose S&M connotations were lost on a ten-year-old boy) which played “Greensleeves” (public domain) and Tonibell – who had their own custom tune. And all of these vehicles had one of these little acoustic Swiss music mechs – attached to an AMPLIFIER. You could hear them coming, three streets away.

All of which reminded me of one of the most ABSURD moments of my life.

It was back around ’69 and I had a Very Important Appointment the next morning (a job interview) and not being a Morning Person, I was PARANOID that I would oversleep. The thing was, at that time in my life, I only had ONE alarm clock – and I was getting used to its alarm, thus could “tune it out”.

Now the clock in question was a (Swiss) MECHANICAL clock that for an alarm, had one of the above-mentioned music mechs, which played “Good Morning” from “Singin’ In The Rain”. And it was those ice-cream vans that gave me an idea…

Being a “handy” chap, I connected a microphone to the clock, plugged it into my large amplifier, placed a couple of pillows on top, to avoid feedback – and ramped up the volume. Trouble was – I hadn’t thought it through…


Yes – it hadn’t occurred to me that the amp would ALSO amplify the damn CLOCK!

I figured I’d get used to it. I was WRONG! After four hours, I finally nodded off – from total EXHAUSTION rather than sleep – and just two hours later…

DING!!! DING!!! DING!!! – DING!!! DANG!!! DING!!! – DING!!!-DING!!!-DE!!!-DANG!!!-DANG!!!-DANG!!!…


I got – nay, SPRANG from my bed. Oh, I was AWAKE alright. As was everybody else in the BUILDING!! Not to mention half of freakin’ LONDON!!!

I didn’t even get the damn job…


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by littlealfie on August 4, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    Nice story.

    Reminded me that our local ice cream van plays “On The First Day Of Christmas” on its rounds! It’s driven by a HUGE Sikh guy in a turban so it’s not gonna be ME who tells him it’s inappropriate!

    Oh, and the old thing about telling the children that they only play the tune when they have no ice cream left only works ONCE and they NEVER forget that you did that to them!


  2. Posted by theworldaccordingtomorpheus on August 4, 2009 at 7:27 pm


    I always sing “…and a partridge UP a pear tree” – a la Charlie Drake.

    Around here, we have a “Hi-Di-Hi” (or “The Village”) Tannoy which, around 4 p.m. most days, plays incomprehensible Thai lyrics to the tune of “Auld Lang Syne” – which sounds weird in the middle of July!

    Then again – anthem-writers often take liberties. The Yanks have their own lyrics to “Land Of Hope And Glory” and even “God Save The Queen”. The former was written by our very OWN Eddie Elgar back in ’02, but no-one KNOWS where the other tune originates. Suffice to say it was written when America was still “untamed”. (Which would be… well – NOW!)

    But my favourite “anthem” tale comes from around 130 years ago, when a British composer was commissioned to write one for an “emerging” African country (known in the F.O. as a L.T.A.C. – Little Tin-pot African Country). He couldn’t be arsed, so submitted a MUSIC-HALL tune! He got away with it for YEARS, until a civic dignitary from the country (I’ll be damned if I can recall which) was visiting London and he decided to have a night out…

    Apparently, the anthem is still in use!

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