It’s been almost three years since the last edition of the Special Feature known as Saluting Silly Songs. The GMC itself is a little different now than it was then, but it is lighter and breezier — or at least that’s my aim — so it should be a perfect fit for a feature that’s all about goofiness.
Mrs. BG was the inspiration for today’s song, because she happened to mention to me that we were out of bananas. Most people would treat that as the routine statement it was, but since I’m not most people I was reminded of an old song and immediately sang a few lines for her. She rolled her eyes and shook her head (she does that a lot around me) but the more I thought about it, I realized that “Yes! We Have No Bananas” was the perfect song to use for Saluting Silly Songs.
The song was published in 1923 by Frank Silver and Irving Cohn, and it was loosely based on a neighborhood fruit-seller who knew the best way to keep his customers was to avoid saying ‘no’ to them. So even if he was sold out of bananas, when asked about them he’d answer, “Yes! We have no bananas, but we have…” and he would go on to list the many wonderful things he did have available.
It might seem to be a pretty insignificant little ditty, but it was a popular choice for recording artists of the day, and it sold a lot of records. It also was a best-seller in sheet music. People just seemed to like it, for whatever reason.
It also inspired a variation that was recorded by several performers, including Eddie Cantor, titled “I’ve Got The Yes! We Have No Bananas Blues”.
The song became so popular that it began showing up in some odd places. For example, during the 1932 relief protests in Ireland, a rare period that saw Protestants and Catholics on the same side, the song became a rallying cry for the protesters. And when Great Britain banned the importing of bananas during World War II, it was common to see signs in grocery store windows proclaiming, “Yes! We have no bananas”.
It seemed too that the song lent itself to various fun treatments, some of them a little risque (use your imagination). But one that was just plain funny was this version by the irrepressible Spike Jones, who has appeared on the GMC several times and was the crown prince of silly songs.