Feet Up (Pat Him On The Po Po)
Hit number 2: 21st November 1952
Weeks at number 2: 1
Kept off the top by: Here in my Heart by Al Martino
The first ever number two in the UK charts was You Belong To Me by Jo Stafford, however, it proved to be a resilient little number, battling to the top a few weeks later and, as such, is of no interest to us at all.
You can see why Feet Up (Pat Him on the Po Po) had no such strength of will, it is very much a hit because of the popularity of the person who sung it rather than on its own terms. Guy Mitchell was a very big hitter in the early months of the charts, he reached number one, sure, but, most importantly, we’ll also meet him again on the next edition of Keep Us Down.
Out of these songs, this lurches closest to novelty, yet, to the modern ear has more familiarity in style than a lot of the early chart hits.
It isn’t recognisable as what we think of as pop music though, what this is is a musical number desperately searching for a musical to be in. As such, it’s a more pleasant listen than the song that kept it from the top. Here in my Heart is light opera, it isn’t for now.
Feet Up doesn’t last though, it does not cope with repeated listens. It’s jaunty and jaunty is rarely enough. More problematic though are the Spike Jones style comedy sound effects and laughs. Jauntiness, as far as it is of worth is painful when forced.
And that’s a problem. Mitchell has a relaxed presence and isn’t a mile away from his voice being a drawl. It’s a nice thing to listen to but it doesn’t suit this song. The song is too frantic for it and the duel effect of the music and his laid back style mean he often seems to be reaching to fit the words in, it’s a song that you’d love to hear a Dick Van Dyke sing, indeed the two songs this reminds me most closely of are Step in Time and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which may suggest that in terms of musical theatre it was slightly ahead of its time? Or that musical theatre trends move slowly.
What it does have in common with Martino’s effort is that it shows that, in the early years, the charts were not for the young.
It’s almost a cliche that the teenager was invented in the 50s but the early charts do give us pause to think this true. This is a song, presumably one of the very few, about the act of slapping a baby’s bum just after it is born to induce breathing and a paean to the child and partner who saved his life from going off track. I’m all for left-field song topics but this is not a topic of interest to the young listener of the early 50s, it’s a song for young marrieds and the nostalgic middle aged.
And yes, like you, I though that Feet Up (Pat Him On The Po Po) was definitely sexual. The lyrics don’t steer you away from that thought early on either:
“Ain't seen a babe like this before
He's so good-looking, gonna have some more
Feet up, pat him on the po-po”
Tremendous! I briefly thought I’d found some sort of coded gay messages, I pictured gay pop fans in the early 50s giving each other furtive knowing looks while the squares had no idea.
What it actually was is more surprising than that. It’s actually a use of the word babe in pop music that actually means a baby rather than it just being a weird form of infantilised flirting.