“Not tonight, Josephine” to “Yes tonight, Josephine”

Josephine

 

 

Growing up in London in the 1950s, 140 years after the Battle of Waterloo, I knew that Napoleon was short and I knew the song “Boney was a warrior” and the phrase “Not tonight, Josephine.” Reading a biography of Napoleon I realise that I was left with the remnants of British propaganda.

I thought about “Not tonight, Josephine” as I read this morning of Napoleon divorcing Josephine. He was doing so because she was too old to give him the son he needed to found a dynasty. The divorce also gave him the opportunity to strengthen ties with either the Russians or the Austrians by marrying into their royal families. The Romanov’s could stomach “the Corsican upstart,” but the Austrians were in a weaker position. So Napoleon married Marie Louise, Archduchess of Austria. They had one child, and Napoleon had at least two illegitimate children.

Napoleon’s marriage to Josephine was successful in that they enjoyed each other’s company and loved each other in a way. When they first married Josephine was wildly in love with another man, and Napoleon, who loved Josephine strongly at the beginning, subsequently had a string of mistresses. Josephine knew about them but was very upset when he divorced her, although she well understood why.

But what about the phrase “No tonight, Josephine,” which I knew as a child? We British snigger as it implies a lack of sexual energy if not impotence. But where did it come from? I looked it up.

There’s no evidence that Napoleon ever said it. Nor is there any evidence that he was impotent or that his marriage to Josephine was not sexually satisfying. The phrase seems to come from a song with that title written in 1911 by Seymour Furth and sung by Ada Jones and Billy Murray. So it isn’t even propaganda.

But it is the title of a board game, a rock band, and a Slade song. I discovered too that it’s used in a splendidly silly 70s television advert for hair spray. In an atmospheric black and white film Josephine makes her way through the camp to Napoleon’s tent, where he is hard at work. Looking at her messy hair, he says in a thick accent “Not tonight, Josephine.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zr9DsmkhdQg

But even more fun is Johnnie Ray’s Yes Tonight Josephine, which I discover topped the charts for three weeks in Britain in 1957. Its lyrics (see below) consist mainly of the line “Yip yip way bop de boom ditty boom ditty” and lines like “I will squeeze and hold you tight, Pack each kiss with dynamite.” I like it very much. I’ve played it several times. It makes me want to get up and dance and squeeze my Josephine.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kKx6DJUAUE4

Yes tonight, Josephine

(Yip yip way bop de boom ditty boom ditty)

(Yip yip way bop de boom)

 

Promise me your lips are mine

(Yip yip way bop de boom ditty boom ditty)

Josephine tonights the time

(Yip yip way bop de boom ditty boom ditty)

I will squeeze and hold you tight

(Yip yip way bop de boom ditty boom ditty)

Pack each kiss with dynamite

(Yip yip way bop de boom)

 

Yes tonight, Josephine, yes tonight (yes tonight)

Everything, Josephine, will be alright (will be alright)

Well I’m gonna give my heart to you

Don’t ask me if I love ya ’cause you know it’s true

Tonight, Josephine, yes tonight (yes tonight)

 

I have loved you from the start

(Yip yip way bop de boom ditty boom ditty)

I will keep you in my heart

(Yip yip way bop de boom ditty boom ditty)

I will get you by and by

(Yip yip way bop de boom ditty boom ditty)

If I don’t I sure will try

(Yip yip way bop de boom)

 

Yes tonight, Josephine, yes tonight (yes tonight)

Everything, Josephine, will be alright (will be alright)

Well I’m gonna give my heart to you

Don’t ask me if I need ya ’cause you know I do

Tonight, Josephine, yes tonight (yes tonight)

 

I’ll be Jack and you’ll be Jill

(Yip yip way bop de boom ditty boom ditty)

Love me ’til my heart grows still

(Yip yip way bop de boom ditty boom ditty)

Baby when you hear me shout

(Yip yip way bop de boom ditty boom ditty)

Kiss me quick, knock me out

(Yip yip way bop de boom)

 

Yes tonight, Josephine, yes tonight (yes tonight)

Everything, Josephine, will be alright (be alright)

Well I’m gonna give my lips to you

Don’t ask me if I want ya ’cause you know it’s true

Tonight, Josephine, yes tonight

(Yip yip way bop de boom ditty boom ditty)

Tonight, Josephine, yes tonight

(Way bop de boom)

 

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