My Old Man : A Personal History of Music Hall, Hardback

My Old Man : A Personal History of Music Hall Hardback

4 out of 5 (1 rating)


Shortlisted for the Theatre Book Prize; former prime minister John Major takes a remarkable journey into his own unconventional family past to tell the richly colourful story of the British music hall.

Music hall was one of the glories of Victorian England.

Sentimental, vulgar, but patriotic and champion of the underdog, it held a mirror to the audiences' hopes, fears and the general absurdity of life.

Vast, smoke-filled auditoriums were packed every night throughout Britain.

Popular performers, such as Marie Lloyd and Vesta Tilley, were among the highest-paid and most celebrated figures in the land.

This was the world that John Major's father Tom entered at the age of twenty-one as a comedian and singer.

In 'My Old Man', the former prime minister tells his father's story as a springboard for an entertaining history of the music hall, from its origins in Elizabethan times through to its heyday in the nineteenth century and eventual decline with the rise of radio and cinema in the twentieth century.

Packed with colourful anecdotes, this warm-hearted account captures a golden, bygone age of entertainment.


  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 448 pages, 40 col illus, 2 col plates
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Variety shows, music hall, cabaret
  • ISBN: 9780007450138



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The subtitle of this book gives a very clear indication of the approach taken by John Major in this history. Major's parents were music hall stars (albeit in the twilight of that genre) who spent their whole working lives travelling the circuits. In an interesting and entertaining history of music hall Major revels in the stars and gives them all the same respect he feels for and believes is due to his own parents. He shows how big the big stars really were in Victorian times, how they conquered the world and how they appealed to and were loved by the lower layers of society (although not exclusively so). Music hall was live entertainment, driven by the immediacy and intimacy between the artiste and the audience. This makes it difficult to get a flavour of the top acts as even those few that were recorded sound stale and flat in the isolation of the recording studio. Not necessarily a rigorously academic history, this is nevertheless an entertaining tale and the heartfelt enthusiasm of the author comes through very strongly.

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