“Harry lived and breathed music; when not rehearsing, writing, designing, acting or at work on business management, he was composing.”
Harry was a self-taught composer, whose mind whirred with so much music that he had a piano in every room of his Hampstead home. He sang at the piano when he first performed his German parody, Mien Faderland and when he sang his first big hits, parodies of Wagner and ‘Take-offski’.
He loved the piano so much that he had one specially designed with two keyboards, so that wherever he was on stage the ivories were in reach. Naturally, he proposed to Fay by playing an improvised comic love duet.
Harry composed over 60 songs and the variety of his output was extraordinary. It ranged from savage pastiche to witty satire, anarchic whimsy to rag-time dance and poignantly romantic love ballads. Many have stood the test of time, pre-figuring some of the silliness of The Goons, the sardonic charm of Noel Coward and the melodies of Ivor Novello.
The 2020 Pélissier’s Follies Song Book has 12 songs.
Music Arranged & Orchestrated by Paul Smith (Opera Tottie).
Produced by Anthony Binns & Jaudy Pélissier
Recorded at Heavy Entertainment.
Copyright Pélissier Communications Ltd.
Song Categories and Opening Lyrics
(Lyrics by Heinrich Heine)
And if the little flowers could see how pierced my heart with grief
Then surely they would weep with me to bring my heart relief
I Want Somebody to Love me
I’ve searched the world, where can I find
A lover who’s constant, never unkind
There is a land where dreams come true
A land that only lovers know
When love is in the making, lover’s far and wide
Day’s garish light forsaking, sing at eventide
Welcome to The Follies
Bring your friends to see the Follies
Wheel ‘em round on trucks and dollies
Nonsense / Comedy
The Dog Song
There once was a mangy little terrier, petted by a family of three;
There never was a sharper or a merrier or a yappier little mongrel than he!
The Toothbrush and the Sponge
A toothbrush sat on a washstand, and tear stood in his eye
As he gazed a lot at a beautiful sponge, that hung in a bag nearby.
American Minstrel (Cakewalk)
The Dandy One Step
Say kid are you up for dance?
Why, Harry I’m waiting the chance.
Well, hun, can you wag time
Well sure, if it’s ragtime.
Jane from Maiden Lane
When our country cousin Jane, first arrived in Maiden Lane
She’d a naughty little twinkle in her eye.
All on the Road to Brighton
The noble horse has had its day and so has the bicyclist
This is the fin-de-siècle age of the automobiliste
Oh, What a Happy Land is England!
Oh, what a happy land is England. Envied by nations near and far
Though William Shakespeare’s dead, we’ve got Game of Thrones instead.
The first ever biography of H.G. Pélissier, satirist, composer and bohemian – one of the most famous Edwardians before WW1. A visionary forerunner of The Goons and Monty Python.
Recommended in The Times Writers' Favourite Books of 2022 by Quentin Letts.