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Monday, March 11, 2013

Where Did The Naughty Little Flea Go (Sound Files, Lyrics, & Comments)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post showcases a sound file of & lyrics for the original composition of the Jamaican Mento song "The Naughty Little Flea" by Lord Flea (Norman Thomas). This song that is commonly known as "Where Did The Naughty Little Flea Go". Information about Lord Flea is also included in this post.

This post also showcase a sound file of & lyrics for a Ska version of this song by the Jamaican group "The Maytals". Information about The Maytals is also included in this post.

In addition, this post also includes my comparison of the lyrics to this song as sung by Lord Flea's & The Maytals with the same lyrics to this song that are sung by Harry Belafonte and by Miriam Makeba.

The content of this post is presented for historical, folkloric, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

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FEATURED EXAMPLES
Example #1: The Naughty Little Flea [10 inch] - Lord Flea and His Calypsonians



TheRealDJGIBS,Uploaded on Nov 25, 2011

Digital archive of Capitol 78RPM single 3659A;
The Naughty Little Flea by Lord Flea and His Calypsonians
(c)1956 Capitol Records, Inc.

Style: Jamaican Mento
Composer: Norman Thomas
Label: Capitol
Matrix No.: 21353
-snip-
Here's information about Lord Flea & Mento music from an IMDb Mini Biography that was written by Jon C. Hopwood http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0281360/bio

"The singer/composer Lord Flea, whose performance was the highlight of the 1957 film "Bop Girl Goes Calypso (1957)_, was the leading proponent of the Jamaican music genre "mento", which is a precursor of reggae and ska. Sadly, he died in 1959 at the peak of his popularity, having made mento a cross-over genre globally.

Although mento was marketed as "calypso" (a music genre native to Trinidad) in the U.S., it was quite a distinct genre and thrived until eclipsed by American rhythm and blues (R&B) and the development of reggae in Jamaica. .. Though mento was first recorded in the 1920, it wasn't until the 1950s that the genre began to be recorded in earnest. That decade is the "Golden Age" of mento music, and Lord Flea was its superstar.

Lord Flea was born Norman Thomas in Kingston, Jamaica in 1932. He studied music at the conservatory in Kingston, and became a trained dancer. The 18-year-old Thomas moved to Miami, Florida in 1950, and the following year, he married Catherine Anderson, an American citizen, with whom he had had three children: Katherine, Norman, Jr., and Henry.

His signature hit was "Where Did The Naughty Little Flea Go?" The title [Lord that] he bestowed on himself was keeping in accordance with calypso custom, whose musicians typically elevated themselves to musical royalty...

Lord Flea died in Miami on May 18, 1959 from Hodgkin's Disease in Jackson Memorial Hospital, after a hospital stay of many months. He was 27 years old...

-snip-
LYRICS: THE NAUGHTY LITTLE FLEA
(Norman Thomas/Lord Flea)

Where did the naughty little flea go
Nobody know, nobody know
Where did the naughty little flea go
Nobody know, nobody know

There was a naughty little flea
He crawls up on the donkey’s knee
He crawls some here, he crawls some there
He crawls over everywhere

Where does the naughty little flea go
etc.
Where does the naughty little flea go
He flea went up, he flea went down
Upon his face there was a frown
He started up, and then he plan
Upon the dog his body land.

Where does the naughty little flea go...

Then from a little shelter tree
Came that little naughty flea
For he had found a little nest
Where he could get some food and rest.

Where does the naughty little flea go...

He bit him here, he bit him there
He bit him almost everywhere
It was so nice, he wanted more
He had never bit this dog before.

Where does the naughty little flea go
Nobody know, nobody know
Where did the naughty little flea go
Nobody know, nobody know

He bit him here, he bit him there
He bit him almost everywhere
As just as he was drawin near
He jump and said “Killroy was here”

Where did the naughty little flea go...

There was a naughty little flea
He crawls up on the donkey’s knee
He crawls some here, he crawls some there
He crawls over everywhere

Where did the naughty little flea go...

Nobody know, nobody know
Nobody know, nobody know
[fade out]
-snip-
Transcription by Azizi Powell from the sound file. Additions & corrections are welcome.

Notice that the use of the word "does" for "did" in some of the lines, for example "Where does the naughty little flea go".

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Example #2: Little Flea - The Maytals



Jahbuzzz, Uploaded on Apr 28, 2011
-snip-
Thanks to TheRealDJGIBBS for the following information:
"...the Toots and the Maytals version was released on the Prince Buster label in 1966, out of Kingston, Jamaica. I believe it was released in the UK by Island record"

Here's some information about "The Maytals"/"Toots And The Maytals"
from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toots_and_the_Maytals
"Toots and the Maytals, originally called simply The Maytals, are a Jamaican musical group and one of the best known ska and rock steady vocal groups. According to Sandra Brennan at Allmusic, "The Maytals were key figures in reggae music. Formed in the early 1960s when ska was hot, the Maytals had a reputation for having strong, well-blended voices and a seldom-rivaled passion for their music. Frontman [Toots] Hibbert's soulful style led him to be compared to Otis Redding...

Toots & the Maytals hold the current record of number one hits in Jamaica, with a total of thirty-one."
-snip-
LYRICS: THE LITTLE FLEA
(C. Campbell)*

[Introductory lines]
Nobody know, nobody know
Nobody know, nobody know

[Chorus]
Where did the naughty little flea go
Nobody know, nobody know
Where did the naughty little flea go
Nobody know, nobody know

There was a naughty little flea
(Nobody know, nobody know)
Went down to town, someone to see
(Nobody know, nobody know)

Where did the naughty little flea go
Nobody know, nobody know

[instrumental]
Nobody knows, nobody know
[instrumental]

The flea went up, and the flea went down.
(Nobody know, nobody know)
Upon his face there was a frown
(Where did he go, nobody know)
For he have found a little nest
(Where did he go, nobody know)
Just where he could get some food and rest
(Where did he go, nobody know)

I said, Where did the naughty little flea go
Where did he go, nobody know
Where did the naughty little flea go
Where did he go, nobody know
Where did he go, nobody know

[fade out]
-snip-
*This is the composer's name that is given on that record
Transcription by Azizi Powell from the sound file. Italics mean that I'm uncertain about this transcription. Additions & corrections are welcome.

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COMPARISON OF THE VERSIONS GIVEN ABOVE WITH THE LYRICS SUNG BY HARRY BELAFONTE & MIRIAM MAKEBA

The title that is most commonly used for "Naughty Little Flea" song, "Where Did The Naughty Little Flea Go", comes from the chorus' first line. However, the title its composer Lord Flea used was "Naughty Little Flea" and the title for that song which The Maytals used was "Little Flea".

With the exception of this pancocojams blog, to date, it appears that all the lyrics for "Where Did The Naughty Little Flea Go" that are available online are for the version of this song that is sung by Miriam Makeba & Harry Belafonte. An example of Harry Belafonte's performance of "Where Did The Naughty Little Flea Go" doesn't appear to be on YouTube.

An example of Miriam Makeba's version of this song can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yp4-XOJmh-4. There's a lot of online websites that give the lyrics to "Where Did The Naughty Little Flea Go" as sung by Miriam Makeba. I'm not sure why her version is so popular online. In my opinion, that version is quite bland and lacks any authenticity. Miriam Makeba appears to have directed this song to a different audience than many of her other records.

Lord Flea's Mento version & The Maytals' Ska version of this song uses simplified lyrics that focus on the actions of a flea-flying, crawling, biting, "searching for someplace he could find some food and rest". In contrast, the Belafonte/Makeba lyrics include more verbiage. Those "naughty little flea" lyrics take much of the focus off of the flea, and instead provide funny, witty social commentary about certain aspects of Western (American/Western European) culture. For example, from http://www.lyricstime.com/miriam-makeba-the-naughty-little-flea-lyrics.html

He saw a lady round and fat
He smiled a smile and tipped his hat
He said oh yes I’m goin’ have a ball
Man look at all that cholesterol...

The naughty flea went to the zoo
Saw a skunk and bit him too
He bit him in the usual place
And said Holy Macro what a taste

Sum up friends well can you see
The big advantage of being a flea
Just remember what ever you do
That what you bite is what you chew
-snip-
While, I don't deny the value of these versions, in my opinion, there's nothing like the real thing, baby.

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ADDENDUM
I wonder if the online lyrics for Harry Belafonte's version of "Where Did The Naughty Little Flea Go" are actually miscredited to that singer. If not, then it just occurs to me that I remember another version of that song that Harry Belafonte performed. I specifically remember Belafonte singing:
Stratch, stratch me back
A little higher
Stratch, stratch me back
A little lower
It really is a fact
The more you itch
The harder you stratch

Now that I know better, the "stratch me back" fake Caribbean patois turns me off. But I have to admit that the stratching part ties in well with the theme of the flea, though I still don't understand why the flea is described as being "naughty".

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENT AND THANKS
Thanks to the musical legacy of Lord Flea & The Calypsonians and The Maytals.

Thanks to the composers of this song & the musicians who performed on these featured sound files. Thanks also to the uploaders of these featured sound files.

Thank you for visiting pancocojams.

Viewer comments are welcome.

5 comments:

  1. There was on verse of the Makeba version which went
    " The naughty flea went to a show
    There he saw Brigitte Bardot
    The naughty flea said What a feast
    she really is a delicious beast"

    ReplyDelete
  2. and it went " Scratch me back..... a little harder!!"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for sending in that verse, Mariam.

      I like it!

      Delete
  3. Love this song thanks for the comprehensive guide. Mariam has it right and it appears in that version in a performance on Swedish Television in the 1960's.

    ReplyDelete