Kind of inspired by yesterday’s mention of Mack The Knife, here’s what wiki has to say about today’s featured song:-

“Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” is a song written by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin for the 1937 film Shall We Dance, where it was introduced by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers as part of a celebrated dance duet on roller skates. The music sheet is annotated with the word “Brightly”. The song is most famous for its “You like tomato /təˈmeɪtə/ / And I like to-mah-to /təˈmɑːtə/” and other verses comparing British and American English accent.

The differences in pronunciation are not simply regional, however, but serve more specifically to identify class differences. At the time, typical American pronunciations were considered less “refined” by the upper-class, and there was a specific emphasis on the “broader” a sound. This class distinction with respect to pronunciation has been retained in caricatures, especially in the theater, where the longer a pronunciation is most strongly associated with the word darling.

I’ve a 7″ AA single sitting in the cupboard with a version almost faithfully recorded by Martin Stephenson and Cathal Coughlan.  I’m sure I picked it up at a gig in 1990, quietly pleased that two of my favourite singers at the time had come together for what surely would have been a fun day in the studio. Not actually owning a working turntable at the time meant that I didn’t actually hear the version for a while – not until 1992 when it was included as an extra track on CD1 of Big Sky, New Light, a single by Martin Stephenson and The Daintees.

mp3: Martin Stephenson/Cathal Coughlan – Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off

I had long anticipated that the same version of the song was on both sides of the vinyl, or perhaps the duo had reversed roles with Cathal singing the lines Martin has sung on the A side.  I hadn’t really paid too much attention to the fact that the A side was produced by Mickey Watson (an occasional Daintee) and Martin Stephenson, but that the AA side was credited to Satan O’Sullivan.  I should have known better than to think the Microdisney/Fatima Mansions frontman would have played it straight:-

mp3: Cathal Coughlan/Martin Stephenson – Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off

This one will probably drive most of you bonkers, maybe switching it off after no more than 45 seconds.  There’s all sorts of things going on during its four minutes but not much in the way of singing, nor a suggestion that Martin Stephenson was even involved, but there is a section when the notes that make up the National Anthem of Ireland can be heard.

You say bananas, I say it’s genius.



5 thoughts on “YOU SAY TOMATO……

  1. I hadn’t heard either of these before, but I was irresistibly drawn to the AA side first. Compared to the Fatima Mansions ‘version’ of Shiny Happy People, this is positively mainstream! Loved both sides, JC, thanks for unearthing this gem.

  2. Love Martin Stephenson, some of his lockdown concerts that he did on facebook were fantastic. Just him and his guitars – still has wonderful voice. He is complaining about facebook now, as they have stopped him streaming his own songs due to copyright issues (even though he owns them!)

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