Song Of The Day 8/8/2014: The Four Lads - "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)"



How Original: "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" was written by old-time tunesmith Jimmy Kennedy. He also wrote one of my favorite old-time tracks by Gracie Fields, "The Barmaid's Song." Although the true songwriting credit was never legally sorted out (at least not clearly enough to me to summarize it), Kennedy was probably heavily responsible for the U.S. popularity of "The Hokey Pokey," another song with lyrics you can memorize in about thirty seconds. I imagine the wastebasket in the writer's room was conspicuously empty.

As far as we know the song was originally recorded by Canadian pre-rock whiffenpoofs The Four Lads in 1953, thirty years after Istanbul's name change, and smack dab in the middle of America's fascination with novelty tunes . But the most known version is that of They Might Be Giants, who upped the fear factor by recording it at maybe 150% the original tempo. It's also the one TBMG song that doesn't sound like a TMBG song -- that's to say, it sounds like a TMBG song, but not like one they came up with.
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