Mathew Caulfield reports in the 001010 MMD that he has identified a tune
on his nickelodeon roll as Ching Chong, a 1917 song with music and
lyrics by Lee S. Roberts, a QRS artist at the time. He points out,
quite understandably, that the lyrics are not politically correct.
Obviously, the image of the Chinese as opium smokers is something that
a lot of people would like to forget, but I came across a surprising
fact not too long ago that might be of interest. In the 1800's, Great
Britain declared war on China two times over the problem of opium.
What you might not expect is that Britain was fighting for the right to
_import_ opium into China, despite the fact that China had forbidden
such activity a century earlier.
Basically, when trade was established with China, the two main products
exported were tea and silk. China was pre-industrialized, and they did
not want to import much from the West, so a serious balance of trade
began to develop. The two products easiest to sell to China were raw
cotton and opium obtained in India. Efforts by the Chinese government
to stop the flood of opium coming into the country was met by warships
and troops dispatched by Great Britain.
Incidentally, this is basically how Hong Kong came to be under British
rule for about 155 years. This ended with much fanfare only last year.
A final irony, as if one is needed, is that Britain knew of the
destructive force of opium and banned its importation into Britain.
I am certainly no authority on this subject, which cannot be reasonably
covered by just a few sentences, but by entering "opium wars" into a
search engine, you will get started. To sum up, if anybody is
uncomfortable with stereotypes, then suppression is not the answer.
By letting the sunlight in on this sad bit of history, it shows that
the English have infinitely more to be ashamed of than the Chinese.
Having said all that, I have typed up the lyrics to "Ching Chong",
which I copied from my QRS roll played by Baxter and Kortlander.
I also have the Connorized version, and I agree with Robbie that it
is just about the noisiest roll ever made.
- - -
Words and music by Lee S. Roberts (1917)
Way out in old San Fran
There is a Chinaman
Who's known for miles around
Wonderful place he keeps
Down where he eats and sleeps
Way underneath the ground
Each night the festive Chinks
Come there to wink and blink
And dream away the hours
They sing this funny song
As they are borne along
On beds of poppy flowers
Oh, Mister Ching Chong
You're the king of Chinatown
I love your sing song
When you have turned the lights all down
Just let me swing 'long
Thru the realms of drowsy land
Dreaming, while stars are beaming
Oh Mister Ching Chong Sing-Song man
When you're in Frisco town
Don't fail to drop around
And see this Ching Chong man
Wonderful things you'll learn
Down where the torches burn
He'll show you all he can
Then when the time is ripe
He'll fill your little pipe
And then a light he'll bring
Gently you'll float away
Far out on Slumber Bay
And softly you will sing...