Sssssunday Sssssurealism

Leave it to Tin Pan Alley to turn centuries of ethnic and religious struggles into a catchy ditty. This song, though copyrighted by Jimmy Kennedy (lyrics) and Nat Simon (music), is a direct descendant of the humorous piece “Al-Bar the Bubul Emir” that was found in the pages of Captain Billy’s Whizbang, an early 20th century precursor to Mad Magazine.

Written in 1953, it was released the same year by the Canadian group The Four Lads, and covered by many others including the marvelous Bette Midler (where it originally came to my attention) and They Might Be Giants. The music bears an uncanny resemblance to Irving Berlin’s “Putting on the Ritz.”

Here, then, is “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)”, the TMBG version, in two different music videos, both cartoons, which is why it strikes me as rather surreal:

Istanbul was Constantinople
Now it’s Istanbul, not Constantinople
Been a long time gone, Constantinople
Now it’s Turkish delight on a moonlit night

Every gal in Constantinople
Lives in Istanbul, not Constantinople
So if you’ve a date in Constantinople
She’ll be waiting in Istanbul

Even old New York was once New Amsterdam
Why they changed it I can’t say
People just liked it better that way

So take me back to Constantinople
No, you can’t go back to Constantinople
Been a long time gone, Constantinople
Why did Constantinople get the works
That’s nobody’s business but the Turks!

Categories: Humor, Music | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Sssssunday Sssssurealism

  1. indigo bunting

    And this post was not dedicated to me why?

  2. Because you’re just not surreal enough.

  3. Some of us start the day singing this song. That does seem to explain a few things, now that I think about it.

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