Sing-along-a-Alice

14 September 2015

Frabjous day! To mark the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, why not join in a salute in song to Lewis Carroll’s genius, with our selection of music inspired by the greatest ever children’s (and adults’) story.

I’m late

From Disney’s 1951 version of Alice (which took characters from Through the Looking Glass, too), a short but perfect introduction to  the White Rabbit, as justifiably flustered as anyone might be running behind schedule for a meeting with the fearsome Queen of  Hearts.

You are old Father William 

By the time Alice meets the caterpillar she’s shrunk to his eye-level, but even at three inches tall she remains unfazed when asked to recite Robert Southey’s poem The Old Man’s Comforts and How He Gained Them. 

Not one for undue panic, is our Alice and so she embarks on what becomes You Are Old Father William. And never ones to shy away from an interesting interpretation of a song either, Massachusetts duo They Might Be Giants have their own take on the poem.

Lobster-Quadrille

The growling Gryphon and tearful Mock Lobster (not to be confused with the B52s’ Rock Lobster, of course) are in doleful mood  discussing school days, including ‘Reeling and Writhing… and the different branches of Arithmetic –Ambition, Distraction,  Uglification and Derision’ . Then the subject of the Lobster-Quadrille comes up. At Alice’s insistence, and she is, after all, a  pretty insistent young thing, the Mock Turtle sings, ‘Will you walk a little faster, said a whiting to a snail, there’s a porpoise  right behind us and it’s treading on my tail…’. 

Or rather, Carly Simon does. Before she found pop stardom, Bond themes and marriage to James Taylor she performed as a duo with her sister Lucy. This is from The Simon Sisters Sing the Lobster Quadrille and Other Songs for Children.

Soup, Beautiful Soup

Now it’s the turn of another unlikely pairing in the guise of Gryphon and Mock Turtle – British actor Donald Sinden and American comedian-actor Gene Wilder (not quite in the proportion of the Mock Turtle that Sir John Tenniel envisaged). 

The Mock Turtle’s paean  to ‘soup. beautiful soup’ is quite touching and Alice can hear its still mournful tones as she heads for an altogether more  stimulating event, the Queen of Heart’s flamingo-and-hedgehog croquet match.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Tom Petty plays the role of an altogether more sinister, almost psychotic Hatter in oversized hat in the video for the band’s 1985 hit Don’t Come Around Here No More. Eurythmic Dave Stewart is a sitar-playing, hooker-smoking caterpillar tempting Alice into nibbling on an up-and-down-sizing mushroom.

The video is the best ever Alice- themed pop promo and not for the faint of heart when at the end Alice in cake form is devoured by the band. Mind you, Alice actress Louise ‘Wish’ Foley did pick up a check for $2,500 and got to keep TP’s wonky glasses and the stand-by cake!


White Rabbit 

Expect Jefferson Airplane’s 1967 psychedelic anthem to get a rare outing on the nation’s airwaves in November. Part Alice, part Ravel’s Bolero, the band’s ‘glacial contralto’ and the song’s composer Grace Slick gives it her considerable lot. 

The Dormouse never said ‘Feed your head’ in the book, though it did go on a length about three sisters living in a treacle well. Then again, with its head stuffed into a teapot by the Hatter and March Hare, who knows what it said?

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