Mad About the Boy

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"Mad About the Boy"
Song by Joyce Barbour, Steffi Duna, Norah Howard, Doris Hare
Songwriter(s)Noël Coward

"Mad About the Boy" is a popular song with words and music by actor and playwright Noël Coward. It was introduced in the 1932 revue Words and Music by Joyce Barbour, Steffi Duna, Norah Howard and Doris Hare. The song deals with the theme of unrequited love for a film star. It was written to be sung by female characters, although Coward (who was gay) also wrote a version which was never performed, containing references to the then-risqué topic of homosexual love.[citation needed] The song gained new popularity in 1992 when Dinah Washington's rendition was used in the Levi's television advertisement "Swimmer", directed by Tarsem Singh.


The song expresses the adulation of a matinee idol by a number of women as they queue outside a cinema and is sung by several female characters in turn.[1] The adoring fans sing of their love for their hero:

On the silver screen
He melts my foolish heart in every single scene (original version)

Coward later wrote additional verses for the New York production, to be sung by a male character. The lyrics make explicit reference to homosexual feelings with lines such as:

When I told my wife
She said "I've never heard such nonsense in my life!" (Broadway version)

The lyrics also make camp humorous reference to the supposed effeminacy of the character, who is likened to the contemporary film actress Myrna Loy, and to his repeated unsuccessful attempts at conversion therapy with his psychiatrist. The verses were never performed, as the management thought them too risqué.[1]

"The boy" was rumoured to be actor Douglas Fairbanks Jr, who, according to an American newspaper years later, "Noel loved...[but] Doug definitely didn't love him back, although the two men became good friends."[2] Another Hollywood star, Tyrone Power, has also been the rumoured subject of the song.[citation needed]

Dinah Washington version[edit]

"Mad About the Boy"
Mad about the boy mercury19.jpg
Single by Dinah Washington
GenreJazz, easy listening, traditional pop
Songwriter(s)Noël Coward
Producer(s)Quincy Jones

Dinah Washington recorded the song twice: firstly, on 24 March 1952 with orchestral accompaniment by Walter Roddell, and then on 4 December 1961 with Quincy Jones and his orchestra. Her 1961 recording is possibly the most widely known version of the song. The 6
arrangement for voice and jazz orchestra by Jones omits two verses and was recorded in the singer's native Chicago on the Mercury label.[3]

Her 1952 version was released as a single, but the 1961 version was not given a single release until 1992. The song was one of the 40 songs she recorded with Quincy Jones in 1961. Some of these were issued on two albums: I Wanna Be Loved and Tears and Laughter, both released in 1962. The song "Tears And Laughter" was released as a single, but "Mad About the Boy" remained unreleased until Golden Hits – Volume One, a 1963 compilation. By that point, Washington had moved from the Mercury label to Roulette. The recording was also issued on other Washington compilations.

Washington's version was popularised for a new generation when it was used as a backing track in a 1992 television advertisement for Levi's jeans. In the commercial, which is influenced by the 1968 Burt Lancaster film The Swimmer, a young man runs through an American suburban neighbourhood stripping down to only his jeans, invades private gardens and dives into a series of swimming pools to shrink his jeans. Washington's recording was re-released by Mercury as a tie-in in with the advertising campaign, and the cover art featured a shot of the shirtless man emerging from a swimming pool and bore the Levi's logo. The single entered the Top 50 in the UK Singles Chart.

Other recordings[edit]

The song has been performed by a number of other artists, including:


  1. ^ a b Morley, Sheridan (2005). Noël Coward – Life & times. Haus Publishing. p. 56. ISBN 978-1-904341-88-8. Retrieved 28 September 2009.
  2. ^ Hoare, Philip (1998). Noel Coward: A Biography. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 245. ISBN 978-0-226-34512-3.
  3. ^ "Sold on Song: "Mad About The Boy"". BBC Radio 2. Retrieved 29 September 2009.
  4. ^ "Jools Holland and His Rhythm & Blues Orchestra - the Golden Age of Song". Discogs.
  5. ^ "Esther Ofarim - Esther and Abi Ofarim - Esther & Abi Ofarim - Ofraim אסתר עופרים".

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