Knees up, Mother Brown

Original Text: 
Version 1: Anthony Hopkins, Songs from the Front & Rear: Canadian Servicemen's Songs of the Second World War (Edmonton: Hurtig, 1979): 17. M 1679 .18 S66 Robarts Library. Version 2: Howard Roberts, London pub entertainer, 1950-. Reported Jan. 29, 2001.
1.2Knees up, Mother Brown.
1.3Come along, dearie, let it go,
1.4Ee-I-Ee-I-Ee-I-O.
1.5It's your blooming birthday,
1.6Let's wake up all the town,
1.7So, knees up, knees up,
1.9Knees up, Mother Brown.
2.2Knees up, Mother Brown,
2.3Under the table you must go,
2.4E-i, E-i, E-i-o.
2.5If I catch you standing,
2.6I'll saw your legs right off,
2.7Knees up, knees up,
2.8Don't get the breeze up,
2.9Knees up Mother Brown.
2.11Knees up, Mother Brown,
2.12Under the table you must go,
2.13E-i, E-i, E-i-o.
2.14If I catch you bending
2.15I'll pull your drawers right off
2.16Knees up, knees up,
2.17Don't get the breeze up,
2.18Knees up Mother Brown.

Notes

1.1] The editor notes: "... the universally used form of a `Knees Up' is complete here, except that it can be repeated and repeated perhaps faster and faster each time as many times as the singer can stand, or until his breath gives out. It was also often introduced at the end of other songs as a kind of flourish. It's the kind of song that works up a thirst, and was sung endlessly." Back to Line
1.8] perhaps, "Don't get out of breath -- and so breathe heavily," though more pungent possibilities exist. Back to Line
2.1] With a keen feeling for the spirit of the occasions on which this song was performed, Howard Roberts writes:
the dates upon which I've heard and sung this version of Knees-Up have been countless over the years; from at least 1950 onwards (probably my first exposure to it), and in all situations since from weddings, wakes, pubs, impromptu parties and, on occasion, although the environment would obviously preclude any active participation, with the exception of the odd joyful individual, on board the bus on a day trip to the seaside or wherever, usually on the return ride home. (Always a good feature of day outings on the bus in the UK -- a good old sing-song on the way home.)
As a sidebar, the song is commonly introduced, not by its title at all but by simply saying to the audience something to the effect of "Let's 'ave a good old knees-up then!" They all know what's coming. Equally as often, without any prompting, a knees-up will suddenly self-generate and blossom throughout the crowd in seconds.
Back to Line
2.10] Lines 2.14-15 are alternates to lines 2.5-2.6. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
1939
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 1998.
Rhyme: