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The "Colonel Bogey March" is a popular march that was written in 1914 by Lieutenant F. J. Ricketts (1881–1945), a British military bandmaster who was director of music for the Royal Marines at Plymouth. Since at that time service personnel were not encouraged to have professional lives outside the armed forces, Ricketts published "Colonel Bogey" and his other compositions under the pseudonym Kenneth Alford. Supposedly, the tune was inspired by a military man and golfer who whistled a characteristic two-note phrase (a descending minor third interval) instead of shouting "Fore!". It is this descending interval which begins each line of the melody. Bogey is a golfing term meaning one over par. Edwardian golfers in North America often played matches against "Colonel Bogey".
The sheet music was a million-seller, and the march was recorded many times. "Colonel Bogey" is the authorized march of The King's Own Calgary Regiment (RCAC) of the Canadian Forces. Many humorous or satirical verses have been sung to this tune; some of them vulgar. The English quickly established a simple insulting use for the tune, where the first two syllables were used for a variety of rude expressions, most commonly "Bollocks", then followed by "...and the same to you." The best known, which originated in England at the outset of World War II, goes by the title "Hitler Has Only Got One Ball". A later parody, based on a 1960's television commercial which used the melody, sung by schoolchildren in the United States, is called "Comet", and deals with the effects of consuming a popular brand of household cleanser.
The Bridge on the River Kwai
The English composer Malcolm Arnold added a counter-march for use in the 1957 dramatic film The Bridge on the River Kwai, which was set during World War II. Although the lyrics were not used in the film, British audiences of the time fully understood the subtextual humour of "Hitler Has Only Got One Ball" being sung by prisoners of war. Because the tune is so identified with the film, many people now incorrectly refer to the "Colonel Bogey March" as "The River Kwai March". (In fact, Arnold used this name for a completely different march that he wrote for the film.) Because the film concerned prisoners of war being held under inhumane conditions by the Japanese, there was a minor diplomatic flap in the late 1970s when the "Colonel Bogey March" was played during a visit by the Japanese prime minister to Canada.
Other uses in popular culture
- The tune was used in and episode of Ripping Yarns: Escape From Stalag Luft 112b as the prisoners are driven into the camp.
- The tune was used in an episode of the UK cult television series The New Avengers.
- In the Doctor Who serial "The Face of Evil", The Doctor (portrayed by Tom Baker) whistles the march to show his disdain of his alien antagonizers as he explores a planet. The Doctor also whistles the march in the serial The Invasion of Time.
- On Farscape, in the episode Mental as Anything, John Crichton whistles the tune while trapped in a cage heated with coals.
- Red Skelton used this march on his pantomime of the "Little Old Man at the Parade." He managed to elicit both hilarious effects and emotional effects from the course of the march.
- On The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, the ULA Peacocks Football fight song was sung to the tune of the march.
- On The Simpsons episode 7F24, "Stark Raving Dad", the first birthday song Bart writes for Lisa is sung to the march.
- On Friends episode "The One with all the Poker", the six friends whistle the tune while they are preparing Rachel's CVs.
- In a Saturday Night Live "Weekend Update" sketch, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler sang "The Bobo Shoes" song to the tune of the "Colonel Bogey March".
- In the Lost episode "Catch-22", it was whistled by Desmond, Charlie, Hurley, and Jin as they march across the beach.
- The tune has also been frequently used in British and American television commercials, including for MasterCard and Miracle Whip; as well as in several German commercials for Underberg, and a 1970s New Zealand commercial for Nestle Peanut Extra chocolate.
- The actor John Candy used this piece almost as a signature theme tune throughout his television and film career. In SCTV, this was the theme tune for Candy's recurring fictional character Johnny LaRue. He performed renditions of it in his films "Volunteers" and "Planes, Trains and Automobiles". Candy was in the audience for the American Film Institute's tribute to David Lean, director of Bridge on the River Kwai. When Lean rose to accept his award, the orchestra played "The Colonel Bogey March" ... and a camera cut to show Candy's reaction.
- The British TV show Hyperdrive on BBC2 uses the tune as its theme.
- On Magnum, P.I. the tune was whistled by Magnum over the telephone to Higgins, before detonating a miniature demolition charge, destroying a scale replica of the bridge from the film The Bridge on the River Kwai, that had been built by Higgins.
- The Japanese show Takeshi's Castle used the Colonel Bogey march for the game "Slip Way".
- For many years, Getty Oil used the Colonel Bogey March in their TV and radio ads.
- Since 2001, the tune has been used as part of the Saskatchewan In Motion advertising campaign, a provincial program encouraging physical activity.
- On the Benny Hill Show, this tune was used in game show sketches where the host (Benny Hill) asks contestants to name that tune. After one strange guess, the female contestant guessed After The Ball. which he tells her she's half right. Then the gentleman contestant (Jackie Wright) guessed I've Got A Lovely Bunch of Coconuts, in which Benny quips, "Are you boasting again?"
- In 1950 or 1951 the early Australian digital computer CSIRAC "stunned" an audience by playing the march for the first digital computer music performance.
- In the 1960s British comedy revue Beyond The Fringe and in the 1970s Broadway revue Good Evening, Dudley Moore performed a satiric arrangement of the march in the style of a Beethoven piano sonata, in which the coda drags on for nearly two and a half minutes as a parody of the style. This item was identified in the playbills of both revues as "The Kwai Sonata" ... adding to the misconception that this piece was written for the film "Bridge on the River Kwai".
- It was covered by the punk/Oi! band Cock Sparrer on the album Shock Troops.
- In the Nintendo DS game Nintendogs, you can find a record labeled ‘Colonel Bogey’. It says it is written by ‘Alford’ and when you play it, your dogs walk round in circles.
- Japanese children sing this melody with improvised lyrics of "Monkey (in Japanese, saru) -Gorilla-Chimpanzee" after a 1963 NHK children's program, Minna no Uta, used it as an opening theme.
- Yoko Ono, in her book Grapefruit, relates a story of having put on a conceptual show in which one piece consisted of ten minutes' complete darkness. When the piece was performed in London, one audience member began whistling what Ono referred to as "the theme from Bridge of River Kwai", and soon the entire audience had joined in.
- Bodrex, an Indonesian aspirin, used the same tune for the theme song of their commercial.
- A trailer for the upcoming video game Major Minor's Majestic March features this march.
- The Costa Rican first founded (1887) high School, Liceo de Costa Rica, uses it as part of his musical scene. Was taken as for one of the Student Political Parties in the 1930s decade until recently.