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Two Lovely Black Eyes

[ Roud 13631 ; Bodleian Roud 13631 ; Charles Coborn]

Walter Pardon sang Two Lovely Black Eyes on his posthumous 2000 Musical Traditions anthology Put a Bit of Powder on It, Father. Rod Stradling and Mike Yates commented in the album’s booklet:

Written by the Music Hall star Charles Coborn (1852-1945, real name Colin McCallum) who first appeared on the stage in 1879. This song was and first published and sung by him in 1886. In 1890 he followed it up with I’m the Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo. He continued performing until his death in 1945, aged 93 years. The song also appears in a few very late broadsides. The boxer Freddie Mills had a hit record with it in the ’50s, we believe.

Walter has changed the tune and chord pattern of the chorus from the original—very effectively too, I would suggest. Roud’s only other traditional source is Michael Leahy of Indian River, Ontario, Canada.

Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne sang Two Lovely Black Eyes on Stick in the Wheel’s 2019 anthology From Here: English Folk Field Recordings Volume 2. He noted:

This is one of the first songs I sang in public. I was very shy about my singing in the early days so I used to just sing round the house. I probably learnt that song when I was about 14 but I didn’t sing it in public until I was 17/18. So that was just a song that I sang at home. My family aren’t into folk music at all, but it was a bloke at my local folk club that used to sing it, so when I started to sing, that was one I already knew as I used to hear it a lot. I learnt the violin at school, mainly classical but you learn the odd folk tune and that was the stuff I liked. Then I taught myself melodeon and concertina.


Walter Pardon sings Two Lovely Black Eyes

Strolling so happy down Bethnal Green
This gay youth you might have seen
Tompkins and I, and his girl between
Oh, what a surprise
I praised the Tories, frank and free—
Tompkins got angry so speedily
And all in a moment he handed me …

Chorus (after each verse):
Two lovely black eyes
Oh, what a surprise
Only for telling a man he was wrong …
Two lovely black eyes.

Next time I argued, I though it best
To give the Tory side a rest
The merits of Gladstone I freely pressed
Oh, what a surprise
The chap I’d met was a Tory true
Nothing the liberals right could do
And this was my share of that argument, too

The moral you’ve caught, I can hardly doubt
Never on politics rave and shout
But let the others fight it out
If you would be wise
Better, far better, if you should let
Lib’rals and Tories alone, you bet
Unless you’re willing and anxious to get …