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Song Details
Duration: 5:54 
Release Date: 1960  (Stavro Arrgolus) 
Lyrics By: Munro/Smith (Stavro Arrgolus) 
Music By: N/A (Stavro Arrgolus) 
Produced By: George Martin (Stavro Arrgolus) 
Released By: Parlophone PMC-1131 (Stavro Arrgolus) 
Published By:
Song Lyrics:
Setting Fire to the Policeman, by Munro-Smith

70 years ago, long before the days of the wireless and the cinematograph entertainment. We young lads had to make our own amusements.
Such games as stoning the lamplighter, and tripping the muffin man – provided harmless outlets for the release of our boyish energy.
But the most popular of all our escapades was undoubtedly the one called, quite simply, setting fire to the policeman.
Now this risky operation was invariably carried out at night. Since darkness made it less likely that we would be recognized, and at the same time lent dramatic emphasis to the spectacle of the flaming bobby.
Eh-There were several alternative methods and variations used in perpetrating this jape, but I will confine myself to describing the standard procedure we usually employed.
Three carefree young limbs would sally forth for the evening, each one knowing by heart what he had to do.
One lad, selected for his fleetness of foot, would be wearing plimsoles.
Another, chosen for his golden ringlets and generally angelic appearance, would be clad in a velvet suit.
Whilst the third, uh, the strongman of the party, would be carrying a packet of lucifers, and an enormous bucket which was half filled with kerosene.
The time of the rendezvous with the previously selected, but unsuspecting constable (always a man known for his good nature and his kindness to children), it was planned to the split-second. And it was so arranged that the encounter took place in the darkest portion of some ill-lit street.
On arrival at the appointed place the team would spring into action like clockwork. Pretending to blubber, you see, the velvet clad cherub would approach the officer and murmur, rather inaudibly through his sobs, that he was lost. Whereupon the worthy custodian of the law would kneel or bend down in order to make out what the pathetic infant was saying.
Now then, at this, at this precise moment, the bearer of the kerosene filled bucket would swiftly emerge from the shadows and empty the entire contents of his utensil over the peeler. Then, like lightening, the Lucifer was produced, struck, run along the hem of the blue tunic and, hey presto, yet another policeman in a state of combustion. Well done lads.
Very well, there’s no time to be lost in self congratulation. The fire brigade must be summoned before the constable can sustain any serious burns. So off like the wind goes our young runner to the nearest fire station, his twinkling plimsoles barely touching the pavement as he speeds on his errand of mercy.
Before long, the exciting sound of the horse-drawn fire appliance can be heard in the distance, growing louder every second. Now this sound, unfortunately, is something that is no longer to be heard nowadays. Pity. True the bell still rings, but where is the heavy rumble of the wheels, the jingling of the harness, the crack of the whip, the clatter of the hooves, the snorting and the panting of the horses? Now they were sounds to stir the blood… gone, alas, forever. And gone with them, half the fun of the fire, but I digress.
Our policeman is by now well and truly alight. See how he lights up the dingy street for yards around? Franticly he blows his whistle and flails himself about the body with his truncheon, in a vain attempt to put out the flames. A knot of eager spectators has now gathered and many a course jibe and ribald comment will be made at the expense of the luckless limb of the law. Perhaps a wag in the crowd will cry out something like “policemen should keep cool at all times”. Or an elderly slattern reeking of intoxicants may be heard to shriek “smoking on duty, that’s what ‘e’s a doing - ought to have the law on him, that’s what.” Each sally being greeted by a general burst of merriment from the assembled bystanders. Hehehe…
The policeman’s plight would seem to be desperate, but, help is close at hand. The fire appliance draw up with great commotion and the nimble firemen leap into action. There is no time to find a hydrant and the hand pump is operated at once from the emergency barrel which is always carried. Whist his perspiring comrades pump valiantly, one brave fellow takes the hose and gets as near to the incandescent officer as the heat of the flames will allow. The flow of water is released, and the stream is directed point blank at the target.
Much too soon it’s all over. There is nothing to look at, save the charred and saturated object, scarcely recognizable as a human being lying on the pavement.
The sightseers, their holiday mood gone, begin to disperse in silence and go about their business. Sometimes before they went, one of their number would make a collection on behalf of the gallant little lad who had the presence of mind to run to the fire station. On these days it was three tired, but very happy youngsters who trudged with their golden sovereigns and half sovereigns jingling in their pockets, very pleased with their evenings work and after all, who can blame them?
All this, as I say, took place more then 70 years ago. But even today, whenever I see a policeman I am still gripped by an almost insane desire to set fire to him.

Transcribed by RexJester (aka Daniel Armstrong)

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