All The Birds

from by Mal Webb

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about

I did a song for Mum Susan's 70th birthday. I played it live at the big family party and everyone sung along and played their harmonicas gloriously. Mum loved it (and managed to retain her composure throughout... watch the video of the performance on YouTube www.youtube.com/watch?v=XN9dYJuYFi4 )
On the studio recording (below), that's my Grandad doing the intro, taken from a 1970 recording (I was 3 1/2)... how BBC does he sound?! And that's Mum playing the clarinet from the same recording... that took a little bit of fiddling to make it fit. Thanks to my aunts Margaret and Jean for their fine contributions, like the poem mum wrote (I've included a link to a photo the original). And thanks to Mary and Alice for editing, ideas and a few arched eyebrows (Alice wanted it to be "a keg of kisses"... noice!)
Here's a few useful facts: "Bilione baci" means 1,000,000,000,000 kisses in Italian. Mum really did cook us brain for our birthday breakfasts... yum! She took up hamonica at 65, but isn't into blues at all. She was a fan of a Canadian series of books about a girl called Susannah, so her mum, my granny, used to called her Susannah Boardinghouse. Aunt Margaret told me mum wrote the poem "Laugh and you'll get there" when she was about 6 or 7, but mum doesn't recall writing it at all! But she does remember the family quoting it often. Of course, this song was written in secret, so I found that out afterwards. Paul Mills bullied my brother John at school and mum was a classic for saying things like "well, I hear he's not very happy at home...". There are many other little in jokes, but they could never be explained.

Original Poem: malwebb.customer.netspace.net.au/LaughAnd.jpg

lyrics

On all my birthdays, you compose for me a little poem
So witty, sweet and guaranteed to always scan and rhyme
But now’s my turn to burst with birthday verse for you, Mama
With some slight trepidation; gosh, I hope it’s up to par
But if you think it’s rubbish
If it makes you wince or sob
Of course, you’ll just forgive me; you’re my mother, that’s your job!
My birthday treat of lambs’ brains, you would cook with Highland pride
If only I could write a song so yummy, crumbed and fried!

May all the birds sing for you
All the frogs and insects too
May every voice rejoice with boisterous glee, the day you came to be
Born to this fond family throng
Warmly warbling all life long
A hundred hugs, bilione baci barely begin to show
How we love you so

You’ve been a keen birdwatcher since the days you wore a nappy
Your sisters had to test you bird by bird ’til you were happy
Binoculars and field guides make the blood rush in your veins
It’s fab you found a fella who’s more into birds than trains
Adept at clarinet and rather handy on piano
A voice so sweet and lilting, yes indeed, I’m quite a fan, oh!
But when you play harmonica, I’m chuffed down to my shoes
It’s such a hoot to hear you toot and NEVER play the blues ...

You might’ve noticed that the chorus doesn’t use your name
The second-person pronoun might seem just a little lame
But you are known as Susan, Sue and Mum and Granny too
Susannah Boardinghouse as well, your sisters swear it’s true
They also told me of a poem you wrote when young of age
Oft quoted by your family, it was really all the rage
It came in handy in a fix, when spirits failed or faltered
So here it is, sung jauntily, but otherwise unaltered

Laugh and you’ll get there ×2
Which way is it to London? Question
Laugh and you’ll get there ×2
Answer. I don’t know how to laugh. Question
Laugh like this: Ha ha ha ha ha. Answer
Like this? Ha ha ha? Question
No! Laugh and you’ll get there ×2
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha pom pom!

You learnt Italian to enhance your social work’s effect
But how annoying was it when they all spoke dialect
You taught us all compassion, empathy and social skills
But John and Cath weren’t up for that with bully boy Paul Mills
You used to sing a lullaby, a song called Barbara Allen
I’d nod off by the second verse, “When green buds they were swellin’”
I wished I’d stay awake a little longer just because
I’d wake up later dwellin’ who this Allen woman was ...

© Mal Webb 2009

credits

from Not Nor Mal, released September 2, 2016

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Mal Webb Melbourne, Australia

Vocal adventurer, multi-instrumentist, looping beatboxing songwriter Mal Webb sings his songs about all manner of stuff, using all sorts of vocal techniques (like sideways yodeling) and plays guitar, bass, mbira, slide trumpet, trombone, chromatic harmonica, bass and piano. He's like Bobby McFerrin, Aphex Twin and Cole Porter playing scrabble. Ani DiFranco said to Mal: "You're a freak!"
Noice.
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