"I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" is a popular American song which debuted in 1918 and was first published in 1919.

History[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Creation[edit source | editbeta]Edit

The music was written by John Kellette. The lyrics are credited to "Jaan Kenbrovin", actually a collective pseudonym for the writers James KendisJames Brockman and Nat Vincent. The number was debuted in the Broadway musicalThe Passing Show of 1918, and it was introduced by Helen Carrington.

The copyright to "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" was originally registered in 1919, and was owned by the Kendis-Brockman Music Co. Inc. This was transferred later that year to Jerome H. Remick & Co. of New York and Detroit. When the song was written, James Kendis, James Brockman, and Nat Vincent all had separate contracts with publishers, which led them to use the name Jaan Kenbrovin for credit on this song. James Kendis and James Brockman were partners in the Kendis-Brockman Music Company.

Becomes a hit[edit source | editbeta]Edit

The waltz was a major Tin Pan Alley hit, and was performed and recorded by most major singers and bands of the late 1910s and early 1920s. The song was a hit for Ben Selvin's Novelty Orchestra in 1919. The Original Dixieland Jass Band recording of the number is an unusual early example of jazz in 3/4 time.

The writer Ring Lardner parodied the lyric during the Black Sox scandal of 1919, when he began to suspect that players on the Chicago White Sox (a United States based baseball team) were deliberately losing the World Series to theCincinnati Reds.[1] His version began: "I'm forever blowing ballgames."

The song also became a hit with the public in British music halls and theatres during the early 1920s. Dorothy Ward was especially renowned for making the song famous with her appearances at these venues. The song was also used by English comedian "Professor" Jimmy Edwards as his signature tune - played on the trombone. Harpo Marx would play the song on clarinet, which would then begin emitting bubbles. The melody is frequently quoted in animated cartoon sound tracks when bubbles are visible. The title air, or first line of the chorus, is quoted in the 1920s song "Singing in the Bathtub", also a popular standard in cartoon sound tracks, including being repeatedly sung by Tweety Bird.

The song features extensively in the 1931 prohibition gangster movie The Public Enemy starring James Cagney. It also was sung by a white bird in the Merrie Melodies cartoon I Love to Singa. The song is also sung in the 1951 film “On Moonlight Bay” starring Doris Day and Gordon MacRae, which was the prequel to the 1953 film “By the light of the silvery moon”. A parody of the song was written and performed as "I'm Forever Blowing Bubble-Gum" by Spike Jones and his City Slickers. In Ken Russell's 1969 film Women in Love the song is featured in an unusual scene where two sisters, played by Glenda Jackson and Jennie Linden, wander away from a large picnic gathering and are confronted by a large herd of bullocks. In the early 1970s, The Bonzo Dog Band's stage show featured a robot that sang the title air while blowing bubbles. A solo guitar rendition is periodically featured within the action of Woody Allen's 1999 film Sweet And Lowdown.[2] Director Brad Mays paid homage to that scene in his 2008 film The Watermelon, in which actress Kiersten Morgan sings the song while dancing on a Malibu beach.[3]

West Ham connection[edit source | editbeta]Edit

The song is now better known in the UK as the club anthem of West Ham United, a London-based football club.

"I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" was introduced to the club by former manager Charlie Paynter in the late twenties. A player, Billy J. "Bubbles" Murray who played for the local Park School had an almost uncanny resemblance to the boy in the famous "Bubbles" painting by Millais used in a Pears soap commercial of the time. Headmaster Cornelius Beal began singing the tune "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" with amended lyrics when Park players played well.[4]

Beal was a friend of Paynter, while Murray was a West Ham trialist and played football at schoolboy level with a number of West Ham players such as Jim Barrett. Through this contrivance of association the club's fans took it upon themselves to begin singing the popular music hall tune before home games, sometimes reinforced by the presence of a house band requested to play the refrain by Charlie Paynter.[4]

In 2002 there was speculation that "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" was sung at the Boleyn Ground by visiting Swansea City supporters during an FA Cup-tie in 1921-22. After a goalless draw away at Vetch Field the two teams met at Upton Park only to share two goals in the replay which resulted in a further replay at Ashton Gate, Bristol, which the Welshmen won by a solitary goal. After such a marathon it is perhaps not surprising that a number of Hammers fans remembered the distinctive refrains and took the words as their own, if indeed the song had been sung by the opposing supporters.

To perhaps add some substance to that theory, David Farmer in his history of Swansea City FC does state, when recounting the period between 1920 to 1926, that in match reports "Bubbles" was sung at all home games. In one particular newspaper report of a match versus Bury on 8 January 1921 the comment is made : "At 2.20 pm came the ever popular singing of "Bubbles" from the main bank with one tremendous sway."

Some West Ham fans sing alternative lyrics. The second line's "nearly reach the sky" is changed to "they reach the sky", "Then like my dreams" is also changed to "And like my dreams". In addition the fans begin a chant of "United, United!" to cap it off.[4] There is a tradition amongst West Ham United fans whereby they blow bubbles at matches to accompany the singing of the song.

These touchline songs were a form of predecessor to the terrace chants that have since become a trademark of the game. It was adopted by West Ham's supporters in the late 1920s and is now one of the most recognisable club anthems in English football along with "You'll Never Walk Alone".

As a tribute to West Ham, the punk rock band the Cockney Rejects covered the song in 1980. The song is also distinctly heard in the movie Green Street,[5] starring Elijah Wood, and at the end of episode 3.6 of Ashes to Ashes which took place in 1983 and featured the death of a West Ham supporter.

In 2006 at the final match at Arsenal F.C.'s Highbury stadiumArsenal supporters broke into song to celebrate West Ham's defeat of Tottenham which secured Arsenal's spot in the UEFA Champions League on the last day. Similarly,Blackburn Rovers were heard singing 'Bubbles' in their dressing room after West Ham assisted them winning the Premiership in 1995 having held Manchester United to a 1-1 draw on the final day of the Premier League season, led byTony Gale (an eleven-year West Ham veteran who had moved to Blackburn earlier in the season).

On May 16, 1999, prior to a home game against Middlesbrough, 23,680 fans in the Boleyn Ground blew bubbles for a minute, setting a new world record.[6] At the Olympic StadiumLondon on 27 July 2012, as part of the 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony, I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles was used as part of the soundtrack to the event.[7]

Ice hockey connection[edit source | editbeta]Edit

In Norway, the song is known as the club anthem of Sparta Warriors, a Sarpsborg-based ice hockey club. The Norwegian version, rewritten and performed by Kai Robert Johansen, is titled "Blå Bobler" (Blue Bubbles).

Lyrics[edit source | editbeta]Edit

The original lyrics (as per the first publication) [1]

Verse 1[edit source | editbeta]Edit

I'm dreaming dreams,
I'm scheming schemes,
I'm building castles high.
They're born anew,
Their days are few,
Just like a sweet butterfly.
And as the daylight is dawning,
They come again in the morning.

Chorus[edit source | editbeta]Edit

I'm forever blowing bubbles,
Pretty bubbles in the air,
They fly so high,
Nearly reach the sky,
Then like my dreams,
They fade and die.
Fortune's always hiding,
I've looked everywhere,
I'm forever blowing bubbles,
Pretty bubbles in the air.

Verse 2[edit source | editbeta]Edit

When cattle creep,
When I'm asleep,
To lands of hope I stray.
Then at daybreak,
When I awake,
My bluebird flutters away.
Happiness new seemed so near me,
Happiness come forth and heal me.

Chorus[edit source | editbeta]Edit

I'm forever blowing bubbles,
Pretty bubbles in the air.
They fly so high,
Nearly reach the sky,
Then like my dreams,
They fade and die.
Fortune's always hiding,
I've looked everywhere,
I'm forever blowing bubbles,
Pretty bubbles in the air.

Notable recordings[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Notable recordings of the song include:

Singles Chart Success[edit source | editbeta]Edit

"I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles"
Single by Cockney Rejects
B-side West Side Boys
Released 1980
Genre Punk
Length 3:32
Label EMI Records (UK)
Writer(s) John KelletteJames KendisJames BrockmanNat Vincent
Producer Chris Briggs
Cockney Rejects singles chronology
"The Greatest Cockney Rip Off"


"'I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles'"


"We Can Do Anything"


Versions of the song have charted in the UK Singles Chart on two occasions, both coinciding with an FA Cup Final appearance by West Ham United. On 10 May 1975 a version recorded by the West Ham 1975 FA Cup Final squad entered the chart at number 31,[8] only staying in the top 40 for one week. For the 1980 FA Cup Final appearance the Cockney Rejects version of the song entered the charts at number 35 on 31 May 1980,[9] again only staying in the top 40 for the one week.

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