Mad Dogs and Englishmen (song)

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Romney Brent sings "Mad Dogs and Englishmen", Words and Music, 1932

"Mad Dogs and Englishmen" is a song written by Noël Coward and first performed in The Third Little Show at the Music Box Theatre, New York, on 1 June 1931, by Beatrice Lillie. The following year it was used in the revue Words and Music and also released in a "studio version". It then became a signature feature in Coward's cabaret act.

The song is especially known for the line "Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun" with which most verses begin and end.

According to Sheridan Morley, Coward wrote the song while driving from Hanoi to Saigon "without pen, paper, or piano". Coward himself elucidated: "I wrestled in my mind with the complicated rhythms and rhymes of the song until finally it was complete, without even the aid of pencil and paper. I sang it triumphantly and unaccompanied to my travelling companion on the verandah of a small jungle guest house. Not only Jeffrey [Amherst], but the gecko lizards and the tree frogs gave every vocal indication of enthusiasm".[1]

The Noonday Gun[edit]

The lyric

In Hong Kong, they strike a gong, and fire off a noonday gun
To reprimand each inmate who's in late

refers to the Noonday Gun opposite the Excelsior Hotel in Hong Kong, which is still fired every day at noon by a member of Jardines. In 1968, Coward visited Hong Kong and fired the gun.

Churchill and Roosevelt[edit]

Coward wrote, "In Words and Music Romney Brent sang it as a missionary in one of Britain's tropical colonies. Since then I have sung it myself ad nauseam. On one occasion it achieved international significance. This was a dinner party given by Mr Winston Churchill on board HMS Prince of Wales in honour of President Franklin D. Roosevelt on the evening following the signing of the Atlantic Charter. From an eye-witness description of the scene it appears that the two world leaders became involved in a heated argument as to whether 'In Bangkok at twelve o'clock they foam at the mouth and run' came at the end of the first refrain or at the end of the second. President Roosevelt held firmly to the latter view and refused to budge even under the impact of Churchillian rhetoric. In this he was right and when, a little later, I asked Mr Churchill about the incident, he admitted defeat like a man."[2]

Cultural references[edit]

The song is quoted and referenced in Mad Dogs & Englishmen, a 1970 live album by Joe Cocker and others (and in the 1971 film from the same tour as the album), and in a 2002 Doctor Who novel of the same name. It is also quoted in a 1995 Canadian/British film of the same name. The song is also referenced in the 1964 novel, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch by Philip K. Dick. The song is performed in the second season of The Muppet Show, though was not likely seen by American audiences as it was added for British audiences.

The song is referenced in the Justice League episode "The Brave and the Bold".

Mad Gods and Englishmen is a 2006 comic strip by Simon Spurrier and Boo Cook, for the character Harry Kipling.

A 2013 episode of Tom Kapinos' Californication is also named after the song.[3]


  1. ^ Coward, Noël, The Complete Illustrated Lyrics 1st edition (1998), Overlook Hardcover, ISBN 0-87951-896-0
  2. ^ Coward, Noël. The Noël Coward Song Book, quoted in the sleeve note to Cowardy Custard cast recording, RCA SER 5656/57
  3. ^ IMDB

External links[edit]