The Bells of Hell Go Ting-a-ling-a-ling

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"The Bells of Hell Go Ting-a-ling-a-ling" is a British airmen's song from World War I. It is apparently a parody of another popular song of the time entitled "She Only Answered 'Ting-a-ling-a-ling'".[1] It is featured in the Brendan Behan's play The Hostage (1958)[2] and the musical film Oh! What a Lovely War (1969). The lyrics are:

The Bells of Hell go ting-a-ling-a-ling
For you but not for me:
For me the angels sing-a-ling-a-ling,
They've got the goods for me.
Oh! Death, where is thy sting-a-ling-a-ling?
Oh! Grave, thy victory?
The Bells of Hell go ting-a-ling-a-ling
For you but not for me.

Lines five and six quote St Paul's words on the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15: 55, used in the burial service: "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" There are alternate, darker lyrics for the third and fourth lines, used in the original stage musical Oh, What a Lovely War!:

And the little devils all sing-aling-aling
For you but not for me

The Behan version is:[2]

The Bells of Hell go ting-a-ling-a-ling
For you but not for me:
Oh! Death, where is thy sting-a-ling-a-ling?
Oh! Grave, thy victory?
If you meet the undertaker,
Or the young man from the Pru,
Get a pint with what's left over,
Now I'll say good-bye to you.

1966 film[edit]

A 1966 Mirisch Productions World War I war film with the title "The Bells of Hell go Ting-a-ling-a-ling" starring Gregory Peck and Ian McKellen, directed by David Miller and with a screenplay by Roald Dahl, was abandoned after 5 weeks filming in Switzerland.[3] The film, depicting the air raid on the Zeppelin base at Friedrichshafen, was abandoned after early snow in the Alps.[4]

A Perfect Hero[edit]

This song was also used for the opening and end credits to A Perfect Hero, a 1991 TV miniseries set in World War II England.

Tequila Vampire Matinee[edit]

The first two lines are also used in "Bells of Hell" a song from Kevin Quain's Tequila Vampire Matinee with "you" being replaced with "thee."

The Bells of Hell go ting-a-ling-a-ling
For thee but not for me

Salvation Army[edit]

Though usually associated with World War I, and apparently parodying the earlier song "She Only Answered 'Ting-a-ling-a-ling'" the song apparently also has links with the Salvation Army, as referenced in "The Mixer and Server, Volume 20" of 1911: "In London, the Salvation Army lassies and other street-praying bands are singing a song that has become universally popular in the crowded sections of the city." [5] It is notable that the lyrics of this Salvation Army version differ slightly both from the established "angels" version and the "devils" version in Oh, What a Lovely War!:

The bells of hell go ding-aling-ling
For you, but not for me;
The sweet-voiced angels sing-a-ling-ling
Through all eternity.
Oh, death, where is thy sting-a-ling-ling;
Oh, grave, thy victory!
No ding-a-ling-ling, no sting-a-ling-ling.
But sing-a-ling-ling for me.

Modern References[edit]

"The bells of hell go ding-a-ling-a-ling" is also the last line in the song by the Pogues, "My Blue Heaven."

References[edit]

  1. ^ Max Arthur (2001) When This Bloody War Is Over. London, Piatkus: 63
  2. ^ a b Mary Luckhurst, ed. (2006). A companion to modern British and Irish drama, 1880-2005. Malden, MA [etc.]: Blackwell. p. 252. ISBN 1405122285. 
  3. ^ http://ftvdb.bfi.org.uk/sift/title/26629
  4. ^ http://issuu.com/boxoffice/docs/boxoffice_100366/47
  5. ^ "http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=49675".