Mad Dogs and Englishmen (song)

"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.

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

The song's title refers to its refrain, "Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun." The song begins with the first 10 notes of "Rule Britannia". This song is considered a Patter song, because the lyrics Are mostly spoken rather than sung. one of the memorable lines in the first chorus are: "But Englishmen detest a siesta".

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 GunEdit

The lines

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

refer 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 RooseveltEdit

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 referencesEdit


  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. ^ "Ten Little Indians (1989)". IMDB. Retrieved 10 September 2015.
  4. ^ IMDB
  5. ^ "Mad Dogs & Englishmen | National Review". National Review. Retrieved 9 August 2019.

External linksEdit