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Title Composer Description View or Listen Date Posted
Daisy Bell Harry Dacre
Voice and guitar
The famous song about a bicycle built for two
mus  pdf  mid  mp3  xml  2007-10-06
Daisy-Waltzer Harry Dacre Voice and guitar
"Daisy Bell" with German words by Otto Rupertus.
mus  pdf  mid  mp3  xml 2007-10-06

Title: "Daisy Bell" (or "Bicycle Built for Two")

History

Bicycle built for two

The Daisyfield Music Archive website surely would be incomplete without the world's most famous song about a "Daisy".  And it's such a wonderful song too!

An American Song?

Most Americans would assume that "Daisy Bell" is an American song.  In fact, the song was written in America, but—not by an American.  The composer of "Daisy Bell" was an English songwriter, Harry Dacre, who wrote the song while on a visit to America that began in 1891.  (Dacre had changed his name from Henry Decker; see [Raph], pp. 233-234.)

Harry Dacre brought his bicycle with him on the ship from England.  He was unpleasantly surprised to learn from the U.S. Customs agent that he would have to pay duty on it.  When Dacre later told a friend (songwriter William Jerome) about his indignation at having to pay duty on his bicycle, his friend replied that he was lucky that he had not brought a "bicycle built for two."  This phrase started the songwriter along the train of thought that led to "Daisy Bell".

Publishers Not Interested

Dacre had trouble selling "Daisy Bell".  Finally, after trying several music publishing houses without success, he showed the song to the American music hall singer, Katie Lawrence, whom Dacre had met in London.  Lawrence (who was also called Kate Lawrence) loved the song and wished to feature it during her upcoming tour in England.  She paid Dacre for a contract giving her, she thought, exclusive rights to perform the song in Great Britain.

Popular in England Before America

In England, Katie Lawrence made a huge success of "Daisy Bell", beginning with her very first performance.  Because of this evidence of the song's viability, finding a publisher for "Daisy Bell" suddenly was no longer a problem for Dacre.  T. B. Harms & Company, 18 East 22nd Street., New York, and Francis, Day & Hunter, 195 Oxford Street, London both published the song in 1892.  The British edition bore a photograph of Katie Lawrence, and a notice stating, "This song may be sung in public without fee or license, except at music halls."  The publisher inserted the exception about "music halls" in recognition of Katie Lawrence's contract with Dacre.

After the success of the song in England, popularity in America soon followed, and has continued to the present day.

"Daisy Bell" Copyright Case

Katie Lawrence launched an interesting British copyright case concerning "Daisy Bell", the case known as Fuller v. Blackpool Winter Gardens. (Katie Lawrence's husband's name was George Fuller.)

After her performances in London had made "Daisy Bell" one of the most popular songs in England, Katie Lawrence learned to her dismay that the owners of the London's Blackpool Winter Gardens and Pavilion, a performance venue which was not classified as a "music hall", had begun regular performances of "Daisy Bell" in a popular act at that facility.  Believing that she owned an exclusive right to perform the song in Britain, Katie Lawrence sued for damages.  The Court ruled against her, the arguments turning on tricky technicalities in British copyright law.  In his decision, Lord Justice Smith held that the plaintiff's claim could only be valid if "Daisy Bell" was in fact a "dramatic piece".  Justice Smith wrote (see [Strong])

In my judgment, as a matter of fact, this song, 'Daisy Bell,' is not a dramatic piece; if it were, every boy in the street who sung it would be liable to be proceeded against for having performed a dramatic piece without the written consent of the author, which is wholly untenable.

Other Lyrics

Many alternate lyrics exist for "Daisy Bell", mostly humorous or satirical.  For some of these, see [Komuves]. Versions exist too in other languages.  On this website I include in PDF and Finale format a German version with words by Otto Rupertus, from a book published in 1906 [Büchler].  Rupertus's lyric is not a translation of Dacre's English.  Rather, it is an original love poem to a girl named Daisy; surprisingly, there is no mention in it of a bicycle!  But, it's a delightful lyric that may still find an audience in the German-speaking world.

Text by Harry Dacre

1

There is a flower within my heart
Daisy, Daisy
Planted one day by a glancing dart
Planted by Daisy Bell

Whether she loves me or loves me not
Sometimes it's hard to tell
Yet I am longing to share the lot
Of beautiful Daisy Bell

Chorus:
Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do
I'm half crazy all for the love of you
It won't be a stylish marriage
I can't afford a carriage
But you'll look sweet upon the seat
Of a bicycle built for two


2

We will go 'tandem' as man and wife
Daisy, Daisy
Ped'ling away down the road of life
I and my Daisy Bell

When the road's dark, we can both despise
Policemen and lamps as well
There are bright lights in the dazzling eyes
Of beautiful Daisy Bell

Chorus...


3

I will stand by you in "wheel" or woe
Daisy, Daisy
You'll be the bell(e) which I'll ring you know
Sweet little Daisy Bell

You'll take the lead in each trip we take
Then if I don't do well
I will permit you to use the brake
My beautiful Daisy Bell.

Chorus...

 

Remarks

I based the melody and guitar part on "Daisy-Waltzer" in Guitarre-Schule von F. Carulli (see references below); however I significantly reworked and improved the guitar part.

In creating computer-generated audio versions of "Daisy Bell" (see mp3 and midi links above), I am following a venerable tradition.  "Daisy Bell" was one of the first musical works to be performed by a computer.  The most well known early computer rendering was one by Max Matthews at Bell Labs in 1961, to accompany a computer-synthesized voice singing words of the song.  The voice-generation used techniques developed by Bell Labs physicist John L. Kelly.  Science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke was present at this demonstration and got the idea of having the computer HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey sing the song in a famous scene near the end of the movie.  Unfortunately, although invented over 40 years ago, technology for computer-generation of a voice singing the actual words of a song is not yet readily and inexpensively available, so my version still uses "Oohs" and "Aahs".

Acknowledgement

Thanks to Doris Mühlestein for helpful comments on Otto Rupertus's German text.

References

Clipart - Microsoft

Dacre, Harry, "Daisy-Waltzer", in Guitarre-Schule von F. Carulli, by Albert Büchler, Köln, 1906, pp. 115-117.

Daisy Bell. (2007, September 25). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 17:56, October 4, 2007, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Daisy_Bell&oldid=160209672

Ewen, David, ed., American Popular Songs From the Revolutionary War to the Present, Random House, New York, 1966 (507 pages).  [An encyclopedia of information about songs, arranged by title.  The "Daisy Bell" entry occurs on pp. 78-79.]

Fuld, James J., The Book of World-Famous Music, 5th Edition, Dover Publications, New York, 2000; "revised and enlarged" edition of the work originally published by Crown Publishers, Inc., New York, in 1966.

"Katie Lawrence on Holiday", The Era, London, Saturday, 7 July 1894, p.15a, quoted in John Culme's website, "Footlight Notes" http://www.gabrielleray.150m.com/ArchivePressText2003/20030111.html, visited 6-Oct-2007.  [This snippet discloses the name of Katie Lawrence's husband, George Fuller.]

"Katie Lawrence at the start of her career, 1883", photograph reproduced in John Culme's website, "Footlight Notes" http://www.gabrielleray.150m.com/ArchivePressText/20021005.html, visited 6-Oct-2007.

Komuves, Chris, "Daisy Bell".  [A web page http://chris.komuves.org/misc/daisybell.html containing information about the song, including several alternate lyrics, and links to other sites.] 

Raph, Theodore, The American Song Treasury, Dover Publications, New York, 1986; a "slightly corrected republication" of The Songs We Sang: A Treasury of American Popular Music, A. S. Barnes and Company, South Brunswick, New Jersey, and New York, 1964.  [For "Daisy Bell", see pp. 233-237.  Information about Harry Dacre and the history of the song appears on pp. 233-234.]

Strong, Albert Ambrose, From Dramatic and Musical Law: Being a Digest of the Law Relating to Theatres and Music Halls and Containing Chapters on Theatrical Contracts, Theatrical, Music and Dancing and Excise License, Dramatic and Musical Copyright, &c., Published 1898, "The Era" Pub. Office, in http://books.google.com.  [See pp. 82-83 for the "Daisy Bell" case.]

 

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