Ag Pleez Deddy – Jeremy Taylor (All together now – Popcorn, chewing gum…)
Say ‘Popcorn, Chewing Gum’ to a South African and they will probably respond with ‘Peanuts and bubble gum.’ Say ‘Ag Pleez Deddy’, you’ll either get ‘won’t you take us to the drive-in’ or ‘Popcorn, chewing gum.’ Should you say ‘The Ballad Of The Southern Suburbs’ a lot of South Africans would look at you blankly. You could then add, ‘it’s a song by Jeremy Taylor,’ and they will probably go, ‘Oh, I only know Ag Pleez Deddy by him.’ You can then smile your smug, I know more than you about South African music smile and inform them that ‘The Ballad of The Southern Suburbs’ is the proper name of the song everybody knows as ‘Ag Pleez Deddy’.
It is marginally more ironic than rain on your wedding day that a song that so encapsulated the South African accent, its culture and people was written by a pom, for that’s what Jeremy is. He came to South Africa from England, poked fun at us till the government told him to Voetsek!! They did eventually allow him to return.
‘Ag Pleez Deddy’ nearly didn’t get recorded. According to Jeremy, he wrote a verse and chorus then threw it away because he thought it was dumb. Fortunately for us, he then read an article saying that any serious writer will always finish what he starts otherwise you never learn. So he dug out the bits he had written and completed it.
The next issue was to get it recorded and this is where South Africa has a story to match the legendary Dick Rowe of Decca Records who turned down the Beatles, or the screen test at RKO Pictures that said of Fred Astaire, “Can’t sing. Can’t act. Balding. Can dance a little.” Jeremy took the song to Phil Goldblatt at Gallo records who decided that no one would buy it as it wasn’t commercial enough. ‘Ag Pleez Deddy’ was eventually recorded as part of the musical ‘Wait a Minim’ and went on to outsell any Elvis Presley single in South Africa.
Another famous recording of the song is from 1974 when Jeremy teamed up with the comedian and one time Goon, Spike Milligan for a concert at Cambridge University which was captured on the double album, ‘An Adult Entertainment.’ During this performance, he does have to explain that Eskimo Pies are a kind of ice cream.
Well into his seventies, Jeremy is still performing the song, although he now as to be politically correct and sing ‘Sugar balls’ instead of you know what, and despite this necessary change, the song will live on long after Jeremy eventually retires.
Interestingly, I have not come across many cover versions of this song, I have found a single by a guy called Rodger Bellamy who recorded it, and on Youtube, there is a parody of it by Leon Shuster and that’s about all. Perhaps this stands as testimony to the fact that Jeremy did it so well, no one else has felt they could do it justice.
Where to find it:
- Ag Pleez Deddy (1997) Gallo, CDRED608 (CD)
- Various Artists – The Best of SA Pop Volume 1 (1994) GMP, CDGMPD 40485 (CD)
- Original Cast Recording – Wait A Minim (1962) Gallotone, GALP1221
Ag pleez deddy won’t you take us to the drive-in
All six, seven of us, eight, nine, ten
We wanna see a flick about
Tarzan and the Ape-men
And when the show is over you can bring us back again
Popcorn, chewing gum, peanuts and bubble gum
Ice cream, candy floss and Eskimo Pie
Ag deddy how we miss
Nigger balls and liquorice
Pepsi Cola, ginger beer
and Canada Dry
Ag pleez deddy won’t you take us to the fun-fair
We wanna have a ride on the bumper-cars
We’ll buy a stick of candy floss
And eat it on the Octopus
Then we’ll take the rocket ship that goes to Mars
Ag pleez deddy won’t you take us to the wrestling
We wanna see an ou called Sky Hi Lee
When he fights Willie Liebenberg
There’s gonna be a murder
‘Cos Willie’s gonna donner that blerrie yankee
Ag pleez deddy won’t you take us off to Durban
It’s only eight hours in the Chevrolet
There’s spans of sea and sand and sun
And fish in the aquarium
That’s a lekker place for a holiday
Ag Pleeeeeez Deddy – VOETSEK!
Ag sies deddy if we can’t go out to bioscope
Or go off to Durban, life’s a henguva bore
If you won’t take us to the zoo
Then what the heck else can we do
But go on out and moer all the outjies next door
Words and Music by Jeremy Taylor, 1961
Leon Shuster parody: