Click on arrow to hear the song performed by Derek B. Scott, Professor of Critical Musicology, University of Leeds, to his own piano accompaniment c. 1985.
"Champagne Charlie" (1867) is the most famous of the songs sung by George Leybourne (1842-84), who was a major figure in the star system that developed around the music halls in 1860s. The toff or "swell" character of this period appealed to socially aspiring lower-middle-class males. Leybourne was the most acclaimed of the swells, but the character he portrayed was double-coded: he might inscribe admiration for wealth and status, but he subverts bourgeois values in celebrating excess and idleness ("A noise all night, in bed all day and swimming in Champagne," boasts Charlie). This may be the first example of popular music used for advertising: Charlie recommends "Moët's vintage only." — Derek B. Scott
Scott, Derek B. The Singing Bourgeois: Songs of the Victorian Drawing Room and Parlour. 2nd ed. Aldershot, Hampshire; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2001.
Scott, Derek B. Sounds of the Metropolis: The 19th-Century Popular Music Revolution in London, New York, Paris, and Vienna. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.
Last modified 25 March 2009