Porter’s ‘Tale of the oyster’ received it’s first airing in 1929 in a show called ‘Fifty Million Frenchmen‘. Like many of Porter’s songs the ‘tale’ excoriates the snobbery and social climbing of New York ‘society’ and I suspect that this was why Gilbert Seldes who knew which side his bread was buttered on dismissed it as a ‘tasteless song about regurgitation’, rather like the oyster itself such direct criticism of the moneyed classes was plainly more than Seldes and his audience could stomach. In response to Seldes’ criticism the producers dropped Porter’s material from the show which, shorn of its redeeming features, promptly sank without a trace. Porter’s songs however live on long after the show and Seldes’ deliberate missing of the point have faded into obscurity. It’s sung below by Grant Doyle accompanied by Nigel Foster at a performance given on October 31st, 2012 as part of the 2012 London Song Festival. Enjoy :-).
Video Source: Grant Doyle sings "The Tale of the Oyster" by Cole Porter – YouTube. Published on Mar 1, 2013 by Grant Doyle.
Lyrics: The tale of the oyster
|Down by the sea lived a lonesome oyster, |
Every day getting sadder and moister.
He found his home life awfully wet
And longed to travel with the upper set.
Poor little oyster!
|Fate was kind to that oyster, we know, |
When one day the chef from the Park Casino
Saw that oyster lying there
And said, ‘I’ll put you on my bill of fare.’
Lucky little oyster!
|See him on his silver platter |
Watching the queens of fashion chatter,
Hearing the wives of millionaires
Discuss their marriages and their love affairs.
Thrilled little oyster!
|See that bivalve social climber |
Feeding the rich Mrs Hoggenheimer:
Think of his joy as he gaily glides
Down to the middle of her gilded insides.
Proud little oyster!
|After lunch Mrs H complains. |
She says to her hostess, ‘I’ve got such pains!
I came to town on my yacht today,
But I think I’d better hurry back to Oyster Bay.’
Scared little oyster!
|Off they go through the troubled tide, |
The yacht rolling madly from side to side.
They’re tossed about till that poor young oyster
Finds that it’s time he should quit his cloister.
Up comes the oyster!
|Back once more where he started from, |
He murmured, ‘I haven’t a single qualm,
For I’ve had a taste of society,
And society has had a taste of me.’
Wise little oyster!