The proud man on the bicycle of this cover is Harry Dacre writer of the timeless classic Daisy Bell. He was also the owner of the Frank Dean & C° publishing house. Born as Frank Dean (1857–1922) on the Isle of Man he started writing songs in 1882. After some minor successes he emigrated to Australia and later moved to America. He arrived there in 1892, with a song in his pocket that would become a mega hit. Daisy Bell (also known as ‘A bicycle built for two’) would conquer the world with an annoying earworm chorus:
Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do,
I’m half crazy all for the love of you.
It won’t be a stylish marriage,
I can’t afford a carriage,
But you’d look sweet upon the seat
Of a bicycle made for two.
Allegedly Harry Dacre had brought with him his bicycle, for which he had to pay import duty. A friend of his remarked: ‘You’re lucky that you didn’t bring a bicycle built for two, or you would have to pay double’. This witticism inspired Dacre to write a song about the pleasures of riding a tandem.
However, the source of inspiration for Daisy Bell could also have been Frances Evelyn “Daisy” Greville, Countess of Warwick. She was a celebrated society cyclist, feminist and socialist. But she is best remembered for her extramarital affairs, including her liaison with the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.
After a lukewarm start Daisy Bell went on to become a worldwide success. It was translated in different languages, and strangely in Sweden it was renamed Isabella. The song spawned numerous sequels, parodies and imitations.
We gladly entertain you with the following contemporary version by the English rock band Blur. But know that the band members themselves consider it to be one of the worst moments in their career…
In 1894 Harry Dacre himself wrote the sequel Fare you well Daisy Bell, the cover shown at the beginning. Its success however was as disappointing as the relation between Daisy and her beau: she became bored of the tandem and he rode away on a bicycle built for one. The author signed this cover with a pun: ‘yours-fin-de-cycle-ly, Harry Dacre’.
Stanley Kubrick immortalised the song in his film 2001: A Space Odyssey. In the final act the computer HAL-9000 sings the Daisy Bell chorus. This was a tribute to HAL’s great ancestor, an IBM model 704, the first computer to ever sing
. It happened in the Bell Labs in 1961 and they recreated the song Daisy Bell for obvious reasons. You can hear the recording of this earliest known computer-synthesized voice singing.
The science-fiction author Arthur C. Clarke witnessed this first ‘artificial singing’ demonstration. He was so impressed that he incorporated it in his 1968 novel 2001: A Space Odyssey. In the film, we witness near the end of the movie that HAL is deactivated. After the famous lines ‘I’m afraid Dave… Dave my mind is going, I can feel it…’ (2:43) he, she or it sings Daisy Bell increasingly slow and distorted, before finally shutting down (5:03).