Britain had had its own thriving music scene since the early nineteenth century, with songs about life in the isles, about nagging wives, trips to the seaside and the excitement of Piccadilly. However, by 1912 ragtime had conquered the native setting, the stars of music hall just couldn’t get their mouth round the Yankee invader’s syncopations and so left it to the snappy slick conquerors to take center stage.
From the early 1930s British pop started bouncing back in the shape of two gents, one dressed as an amiable tramp and the other as a well-dressed bookmaker with his hand on the others’ shoulder as they strolled across the stage. Flanagan and Allen singing in unison their songs about the delights of sleeping underneath the arches or else the open road, were only rivaled by the gormless but suggestive George Formby with his high speed ukulele, his wink and his tales of window cleaner peepers and laundrymen with wobbly eyes or leaning on a lamppost till a certain little lady came by. George became Britain’s biggest cinema box office star and went on be awarded the order of Lenin by the Soviets for his morale-raising during World War II.