Hidee Hidee Ho #11 and #16. Bob Dylan meets Minnie the Moocher, Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie

By Tony Attwood

“You’re willing to pay him a thousand dollars a night just for singing? Why, you can get a phonograph record of ‘Minnie the Moocher’ for 75 cents. And for a buck and a quarter, you can get Minnie.”

That comment from Groucho Marx in Night at the Opera (1935) takes us back to the origins of the two versions of Bob Dylan’s “Hidee Hidee Ho” that appear on the New Basement Tapes.

It’s a song that I feel a certain historic relationship with because my mum used to sing the lyrics starting “Hidee hidee ho” to me as a child (my father played in a dance band and my mum knew all the songs of the 1930s, as they remained popular in the war years and 1950s.

So I knew about Minnie the Moorcher, which is where the phrase comes from.   The man best associated  with the song is Cab Calloway (who wrote it with Irving Mills) and years and years later in 1980 he could still perform it as this extract from the Blues Brothers film shows…

But even this doesn’t take us back to the origin – because Minnie was based on Willie the Weeper from 1927 performed by Frankie “Half Pint” Jaxon.

That version didn’t get exposure because of its drug references, so it is Minnie not Willie we remember.   And it seems Minnie was a real person – or at least that is what was claimed in a 1951 obituary of Minnie Gayton who had the nickname “The Moocher” because of her habit of begging for food from grocers.   But more than likely the desperately unfortunate Minnie of real life gained her nickname from the record.  

So, anyway, Cab Calloway gave the world the hit “Minnie the Moocher” in 1931 and the line “Hi De Hi De Hi De Ho”.  The song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.  Many versions of the song existed as in performances the singer and the band extended the song and audience interaction.

Here is a very early film version of Calloway singing the song – I do hope you have a moment to watch and listen to this clip.

So popular was Minnie there were lots of other Minnie songs written – I particularly remember that we had a 78rpm record of “Minnie the Moocher’s Wedding Day”

Anyway, that’s where it all starts, and Bob Dylan took the phrase from the song and used it in one of his poems which was then retrieved from the sketchbook that was in turn used to create the New Basement Tapes albums.

In fact it was used twice – each time with almost the same lyrics to give us Hidee Hidee Ho #16 and #11.

Now I have written those in the reverse order from the norm, simply because I think 16 is a much much better version, and if you are only here for a moment, I hope you’ll play that one (if you don’t have the album that is).   This version comes from Rhiannon Giddens and Elvis Costello working to Bob Dylan’s words.  The other is by Jim James, and I’ll come to that in a moment.

So for #16 we have Rhiannon Giddens – lead vocal, Elvis Costello – acoustic guitar, vocal,   Taylor Goldsmith – acoustic guitar, vocal, Jim James – bass, vocal, Marcus Mumford – mandolin, vocal, Jay Bellerose – percussion.

Here it is

Hidee Hidee Ho #16 | Official Music Video

The New Basement Tapes perform “Hidee Hidee Ho #16,” featuring lead vocals by Rhiannon Giddens, from the Showtime Networks documentary Lost Songs: The Basement Tapes Continued, premiering Friday, November 21st at 9PM ET/PT, and the album Lost On The River: The New Basement Tapes. Pre-order Lost On The River, the album produced by T Bone Burnett and written and performed in creative collaboration by The New Basement Tapes, comprised of Elvis Costello, Rhiannon Giddens (Carolina Chocolate Drops), Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes), Jim James (My Morning Jacket) and Marcus Mumford (Mumford and Sons). Pre-order on Amazon: http://smarturl.it/TNBT_AmzCDDLXPre-order on iTunes: http://smarturl.it/TNBT_iTunesDLXPre-order the exclusive box set: http://smarturl.it/tnbtd2c “Hidee Hidee Ho #16” written by Bob Dylan, Rhiannon Giddens and Elvis Costello, with lead vocal by Giddens.

Gepostet von Showtime Networks am Freitag, 7. November 2014

And the lyrics

Hidee Hidee Ho making love wherere we go
Hidee Hidee Hee making love just you and me

Hidee Hidee Ho making love wherere we go
Hidee Hidee Hee making love just you and me

How could she reject me
Send me on my way
How could she suspect me
Of leading her astray

I met her accidentally
And I asked to see her home
She told me she wouldn’t mind
And then commenced to roam

Hidee Hidee Ho (making love wherere we go)
Hidee Hidee Hee (making love just you and me)

I took out my little pen knife
And showed it at this rake
He looked at me as if to say
You’re making a mistake

I do not frighten easily
Yet no weapon I possess
No matter what you thinkin’, son
You better second guess

Hidee Hidee Ho (making love wherere we go)
Hidee Hidee Hee (making love just you and me)

Hidee Hidee Ho (making love wherere we go)
Hidee Hidee Hee (making love just you and me)

Hidee Hidee Ho (making love wherere we go)
Hidee Hidee Hee (making love just you and me)

There is an extraordinary plaintive wistfulness in this realisation of the lyrics that seems to capture the essence of the words perfectly.  It’s a recording I can play over and over without ever getting tired of the song.

As for #11 this is the version written by Jim James and recorded with himself on lead vocal and mellotron, with Elvis Costello on slide guitar, Rhiannon Giddens on violin and vocal, Taylor Goldsmith on acoustic guitar, Marcus Mumford mandolin, Jay Bellerose drums, Zach Dawes bass, Griffin Goldsmith drums, Bo Koster piano, plus SI Istwa and Jessica Kiley on background vocal.

The lyrics are slightly different – but it is the music that goes in an utterly different direction.

How could she reject me
Send me on my way
How could she suspect me
Of leading her astray

I met her accidentally
And I asked to see her home
She told me she wouldn’t mind
And we commenced to roam

Hidee Hidee Ho (making love wherever we go)
Hidee Hidee Hee (making love just you and me)
Hidee Hidee Hoo (making love just me and you)

I took out my pen knife
And showed it at this rake
He looked at me as if to say
You’re making a mistake

I do not frighten easily
Yet no weapon I possess
No matter what you thinkin’, son
You better second guess

Hidee Hidee Ho (making love wherever we go)
Hidee Hidee Hee (making love just you and me)
Hidee Hidee Hoo (making love just me and you)

Hidee Hidee Ho (making love on the highway bump)
Hidee Hidee Hee (making love in a pile of rope)
Hidee Hidee Hoo (making love on the driveway ramp)

This version relies on the contrast between the gentility of the music (particularly the additional voices in the chorus) and the violence suggested within the lyrics.  Somehow it makes me uncomfortable.

Of course that is just my reaction – I am not for a second suggesting that just because I don’t feel at ease with this version it is in anyway a lesser musical representation, it is just my reaction.  Perhaps it is so far away from the pure fun of Minnie the Moocher I remember from my earliest years that I can’t quite come to terms with it, whereas there is something in the melody of the #16 version that draws me in.

We also have a live version of #11 – if you have read through my ramblings above you will not be surprised to know this doesn’t draw me in to #11 any further.  But it is just my view.

But let me end with something quite different.   The music of the 1920s is not my only contact with that era because I also see PG Wodehouse as the greatest of all the British writers of humour – equalled only by Douglas Adams.   And PG Wodehouse was of course writing his Bertie Wooster novels.

The first Bertie Wooster story appeared in 1915 and thus the series was well underway by the time Minnie the Moocher appeared.   I am not convinced that in any of the original stories (as opposed to TV and film adaptations) Bertie actually does play Minnie the Moocher on the piano but in the brilliant TV series featuring Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry this scene occurs.  If you like British humour, you might enjoy this…

(Or put another way it still has me rolling around and I’ve seen the whole programme half a dozen times.)

I hope you found something of interest in this review.  Writing it gave me a lot of pleasure and fun.

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4 Responses to Hidee Hidee Ho #11 and #16. Bob Dylan meets Minnie the Moocher, Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie

  1. Michal says:

    As someone who explored lately, to some extent, Hugh Laurie’s musical facet, my educated guess is that bringing Minnie the Moocher into the Jeeves and Wooster world was part of Laurie’s extra contributions to that TV series.

    Laurie is known as a hugh (and a very knowledgeable) admirer of blues and early jazz music, and he would later on record another (completely different) version of Minnie the Moocher with the charity Band from TV (which he joined as a part time member, while he was living in California during his House MD years). That recording was a semi-professional production, and in retrospect, was part of the baby steps of what would later evolve into Laurie’s additional and late in life career as a professional blues musician (to which he has devoted a large part of his life during 2010-2014, as for now).

    Here is the Band from TV “making of Minnie The Moocher” video –
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xaIJQkhe20g

    The final version of Minnie The Moocher by the Band from TV –
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ozIVH99lpUM
    ____

    Thanks for the writing, it was fun to read and hear as well.

  2. TonyAttwood says:

    Michal thank you for the links and extra versions.

  3. Michal says:

    “Laurie is known as a *huge*… admirer of blues and early jazz music…”. Sorry for the freudian typo 🙂

  4. Aaron G says:

    I think you’ve missed the obvious here..Dylan is just a massive fan of 80s sitcom Hi-de-Hi!! He wrote this in advance of the show airing as an attempt at the theme song!! It all makes sense now.

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