National Archives of Australia

Issue 3 July 2011

What a gem! Saucy hit parade

National Archives staff often unearth exciting or unusual records from among the millions of items held in the collection. These records are placed on the Archives’ Gems Register. ‘What a gem!’ showcases amazing finds from the Archives’ collection.

‘Stay out of my pantry’, ‘Don’t bite off more than you can chew’, ‘Hopalong chastity’ and ‘He’d rather be a girl’. These are a few of the ‘bawdy’ songs written and performed by American Ruth Wallis in the 1950s and 1960s. Her novelty songs, heavily laden with double entendre, pushed the boundaries of contemporary taboos with their references to sex, infidelity and homosexuality.

In keeping with the largely conservative social attitudes of the Menzies era, Wallis’ albums were banned in Australia. When she arrived in Melbourne to tour the country, copies of her albums were seized by Customs agents. Apparently this merely served to make Wallis’ music even more popular.

Saucy Hit Parade is one of a number of albums, imported mainly from the United States or England, confiscated by the Collector of Customs in Melbourne between 1950 and 1968. These albums were most probably examined for censorship purposes. Saucy Hit Parade seems to have been part of the Collector of Customs’ library collection, as it has an item and identification number assigned in the top right-hand corner.

Ruth Wallis’ Saucy Hit Parade album cover, 1960. NAA: C4489, 31

Want more?

View Archives records relating to this article:

Fact sheet 149 – Sound collections in Sydney

‘An indecent obsession’, Memento, 13, 2005, pp. 13–15

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