Thursday, 19 May 2016

Noël Coward's "I Wonder What Happened to Him?" is splendidly smutty

I'm not terribly fond of comic poetry or comic songs (speciallywhen performed by a soloist accompanying themselves on the piano), or, indeed, of musical theatre in general. But Noel Coward quite often hit the mark, and "I Wonder What Happened to Him?", which was apparently a standard subject of conversation whenever British India Army officers got together, is one of his gems. It's from the 1945 stage musical, Sigh No More (which didn't do particularly well, despite containing some of Coward's classic songs). I was going to post a recording of Coward performing it - but I actually find it funnier on the page, and the recorded version misses out two of the filthiest (and funniest) sections, including one about gender reassignment. Here, for lovers of innuendo and double-entendres (i.e. British folk), are the complete lyrics (I presume "faggot" meant something else back then - although, with Coward, it may have been meant as a treble-entendre):

"I Wonder What Happened to Him?", Noël Coward
Verse 1 
The India that one read about
And may have been misled about
In one respect has kept itself intact.
Though 'Pukka Sahib' traditions may have cracked
And thinned
The good old Indian army's still a fact.
That famous monumental man
The Officer and Gentleman
Still lives and breathes and functions from Bombay to Katmandu
At any moment one can glimpse
Matured or embryonic 'Blimps'
Vivaciously speculating as to what became of who.
Though Eastern sounds may fascinate your ear
When West meets West you're always sure to hear -  
Refrain 1 
Whatever became of old Bagot?
I haven't seen him for a year.
Is it true that young Forbes had to marry that Faggot
He met in the Vale of Kashmir?
Have you had any news
Of that chap in the "Blues",
Was it Prosser or Pyecroft or Pym?
He was stationed in Simla, or was it Bengal?
I know he got tight at a ball in Nepal
And wrote several four-letter words on the wall.
I wonder what happened to him!
Refrain 2 
Whatever became of old Shelley?
Is it true that young Briggs was cashiered
For riding quite nude on a push-bike through Delhi
The day the new Viceroy appeared?
Have you had any word
Of that bloke in the 'Third',
Was it Southerby, Sedgwick or Sim?
They had him thrown out of the club in Bombay
For, apart from his mess bill exceeding his pay,
He took to pig-sticking in quite the wrong way.
I wonder what happened to him!
Verse 2 
One must admit that by and large
Upholders of the British Raj
Don't shine in conversation as a breed.
Though Indian army officers can read
A bit
Their verbal wit-has rather run to seed.
Their splendid insularity
And roguish jocularity
Was echoing through when Victoria was Queen.
In restaurants and dining-cars,
In messes, clubs and hotel bars
They try to maintain tradition in the way it's always been.
Though worlds may change and nations disappear
Above the shrieking chaos you will hear -
Refrain 3 
Whatever became of old Tucker?
Have you heard any word of young Mills
Who ruptured himself at the end of a chukka
And had to be sent to the hills?
They say that young Lees
Had a go of 'D.T.'s'
And his hopes of promotion are slim.
According to Stubbs, who's a bit of a louse,
The silly young blighter went out on a 'souse',
And took two old tarts into Government House.
I wonder what happened to him!
Refrain 4 
Whatever became of old Keeling?
I hear that he got back from France
And frightened three nuns in a train in Darjeeling
By stripping and waving his lance!
D'you remember Munroe,
In the P.A.V.O?
He was tallish and mentally dim.
The talk of heredity can't be quite true,
He was dropped on his head by his ayah at two,
I presume that by now he'll have reached G.H.Q.
I'm sure that's what happened to him!
Refrain 5 
Whatever became of old Archie?
I hear he departed this life
After rounding up ten sacred cows in Karachi
To welcome the Governor's wife.
D'you remember young Phipps
Who had very large hips
And whose waist was excessively slim?
Well, it seems that some doctor in Grosvenor Square
Gave him hormone injections for growing his hair
And he grew something here, and he grew something there.
I wonder what happened to her- him!


  1. Whenever I see the pudding-faced loudmouth Abbot and her former desiccated paramour Jewemah together I am reminded of Coward's quip about the Queen of Tonga and her PM at the 1953 coronation.

    1. Noel Coward quips are very welcome, SDG - but being reminded that Diane Abbott and Jeremy Corbyn once "enjoyed" a sexual liaison is liable to put me right off my dinner.

  2. Catching up late with the 7 May 2016 edition of the Spectator, I came across this contribution from Petronella Wyatt:

    I have recently returned from Jamaica Inn, Ochos Rios, the most swellegant hotel in the Caribbean, where Noël Coward and Ian Fleming used to water-hole. The owner, Eric Morrow, showed me prints of Fleming in the bar with Coward performing his risqué version of Cole Porter’s ‘You’re the Top’. (‘You’re the breasts of Venus,/ You’re King Kong’s penis/ You’re self-abuse.’) ...

    1. Mind you, I suspect he was more interested in King Kong than Venus. It must have been fun being in his company, especially as he would ask the men he fancied if they were homosexual, and if they said no, would never bother them again. Considerate.