Mr Wu's An Air Raid Warden Now

Album: Golden Greats (1942)
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Songfacts®:

  • During the Second World War, George Formby served his country entertaining the troops throughout Europe and the Middle East including close to the Front. If there was no doubting his patriotism, the same could also be said of his friend from the Chinese laundry in Limehouse, London. George introduced Mr Wu in his 1932 song "Chinese Laundry Blues," found him a bride, a new job cleaning windows when his laundry went bust, and then in 1942 recruited him to walk the streets of London ensuring people complied with the blackout.

    According to the Brendan Ryan catalogue and discography of the Ukulele Man's work which was commissioned by the George Formby Society, he recorded "Mr Wu's An Air-Raid Warden Now" on May 31, 1942 for Regal Zonophone; it was written by Eddie Latta, and although fairly similar to the original, is an entirely different song. Running to around 2 minutes 45 seconds, Formby was accompanied by a full band.
  • While "Chinese Laundry Blues" could easily have fallen foul of the censor if two of its couplets hadn't been left unrhymed, in the age of political correctness this song has brought the odd rebuke on account of:

    He goes round every night to make the blackout sure
    So if you've got a chink in your window, you'll have another one at your door


    Far from being racist this is a rather weak pun.

    That being said, the song does also have a rather dubious - if subtle - final verse:

    A fire bomb dropped one day
    So close to him they say
    That he deserves a medal they all vow
    But perhaps what you don't understand
    He put the fire out but he didn't use sand
    'Cause Mr Wu's an air raid warden now


    Though it takes a little effort, it should soon become apparent what Mr Wu used to extinguish the fire. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexander Baron - London, England, for above 2

Comments: 1

  • Tony from Chesterfield, United KingdomWhat is missed by this review is that although a mildly racist term is used for Mr Wu, the song has a positive social message, and Mr Wu is portrayed in a positive manner. Mr Wu, is ethnically Chinese, and he's living in Britain and he's doing his bit for the war effort (which may involve weeing on incendiary bombs); the message is "everyone's in this together, no matter what colour they are". The song also has the effect of encouraging people to maintain the blackout in a humorous manner.
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