We have an older section on our site which focuses on bicycles and all over the world. It’s interesting as is; however, we also realized that not only has that area not been updated in a while, but it also has a glaring omission:
The classic Daisy song (ie., A Bicycle Built for Two) is nowhere on it! So, we decided that it was time to fix that and give you some great information about an extremely famous song and a very popular bicycle for two: Daisy Bell and the tandem bike!
First, some notes about the bicycle that the song immortalized. The tandem bike discussed in the Daisy Bell song is a two-person bicycle. It’s called a tandem because of the seating arrangement: fore to aft rather than side by side.
Tandem bikes tend to be meant for two people, but there are some people who have designed tandem bikes for more than two riders! As a note, if the riders are side by side, the bike is called a sociable.
Tandem bikes were first patented in the late 1890s. They were used in the Second Anglo-Boer War and were popular for several decades. They declined in use after World War II and then came back on the scene in the late 1960s and into the 1970s.
The Tandem Club in the UK was founded in 1971 as part of this revival and new tandems were developed all over the world. Today, the tandem has improved due to better frame designs and a push for them to be good in both road conditions and off-roading.
The front rider steers and pedals the bike and is known as the captain, pilot or steersman. The rear rider only pedals and is known as the stoker, navigator, or rear admiral.
Traditionally, if the tandem was ridden by both a man and a woman, the woman would sit in the second seat. Nowadays, of course, riders are interchangeable, and the terms mentioned above aren’t really used anymore in favor of front rider and rear rider. Tandem bikes are used in competitive cycling or just for fun.
Tandems traditionally have two riders, but they can be built for three, four or five riders as well (“triples”, “quads”, or “quintuplets”). In the 80s and 90s, an eight-seat tandem bike was built and used in Philadelphia! More commonly though, we see two-seater tandems. The Daisy Song features a two-person tandem bike.
What is the Daisy Song?
The Daisy Song (Daisy Bell, Bicycle Built for Two) is a well known and popular song that was written in 1892 by a man named Harry Dacre. You may not have known the title, but you’ve likely heard the chorus before:
Give me your answer, do.
I’m half crazy,
All for the love of you.”
The song was written in the United States, by Dacre who had been born and raised in England but traveled to America to become a songwriter. He packed everything he owned, including his bike, and came over to New York City in 1891.
The inspiration for the Daisy Song
The inspiration for the Daisy Song came about after a run-in with a customs officer who made Dacre pay a duty for his bike. Outraged by the requirement, Dacre complained to everyone he could for months, including a friend and fellow songwriter named William Jerome. Jerome must have chuckled a little at his friend’s indignation and flippantly remarked that it was a good thing Dacre had not brought over a bicycle built for two.
Daisy Bell eventually took off and would one day became a well known and fairly famous song all over the world. It still enjoys a lot of popularity today. Many people know the song under a variety of names: Daisy, Daisy, A Bicycle Built for Two, and Daisy Bell, but the original title from the composer was Daisy Bell.
In Germany, the composition is known as Daisy-Walzer (Daisy Waltz). The Germans changed it up a little too; the song has three verses, an introduction, and an ending, and has an oom-pah-pah guitar accompaniment. Americans, on the other hand, know it best by the chorus, and the song has gone through a number of ‘remixes’, such as counter-melody with a bass accompaniment, as a solo or a duet.
Most people consider this song to be American and written by an American, but as noted above, Harry Dacre was an English composer who later changed his name to Henry Decker. And like many other artists, he had a hard time selling his song at the beginning. It wasn’t until he met a singer named Katie Lawrence who loved the song that it finally got some traction.
Katie Lawrence (Kate Lawrence) was an American music hall singer who wanted to take the song to Great Britain. She paid Dacre for a contract which she meant to give her the exclusive rights to sing the song in Great Britain.
The song was a success and it began to be heard on the lips of everyone! England was the first place to see its success and the song didn’t become successful in America until Jennie Lindsay sang it to amazing effect at the Atlantic Gardens on the Bowery in early 1892.
Between Lawrence and Lindsay, publishers were queuing up to be a part of the song’s success. Daisy Bell was quickly picked up and had the copyright notices of “This song may be sung in public without fee or license, except at music halls.” (As per the contract between Kate Lawrence and Dacre).
Daisy Bell Takes Off For Good
To use a modern day phrase, Daisy Bell went viral, flaring through England, America and then all over the world. The song was used for ads, early computers were programmed to ‘sing’ it, and it showed up in movies all over the place. Some examples of places where Daisy Bell has rung:
- The Hitcher with John Ryder (1986)
- Nat King Cole sang a cover of it in 1963 in the album “Those Lazy-Crazy-Hazy Days of Summer”
- Blur sang a cover of it as well as a B-Side on their single “Sunday”
- Futurama featured the song in Season Four, Episode 11 (Love and Rocket) where Bender sang the song over a montage of romance with the Planet Express Ship
- Mass Effect 2 referenced the song when the character Joker comments on the AI system “EDI” singing “Daisy Bell”
- In Modern Family the TV show, Dylan was riding a tandem bike with three other people at Disney World, singing the Daisy Bell song.
The song also had several parodies and satires, namely in the form of extra verses. For example, in 1892, “an answer” chorus was published to add to the song from the point of view of the woman in the song:
The Lyrics to the Daisy Song
Many people know the chorus, but the song is a great deal longer than that. We were a little surprised to read the lyrics actually, because… well, you always just hear the chorus! The Daisy song is a sweet little ode to the love of a man’s life, and while he can’t afford a carriage, she’ll look sweet on a bicycle built for two!
There is a flower within my heart,
Planted one day by a glancing dart,
Planted by Daisy Bell.
Whether she loves me or loves me not
Sometimes it’s hard to tell;
And yet I am longing to share the lot
Of beautiful Daisy Bell.
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.
We will go tandem as man and wife,
Ped’ling away down the road of life,
I and my Daisy Bell.
When the road’s dark, we can both despise
P’licemen and lamps as well.
I will stand by you in weal or woe
You’ll be the bell which I’ll ring, you know,
Sweet little Daisy Bell.
You’ll take the lead on each trip we take.
Then if I don’t do well
I will permit you to use the brake,
beautiful Daisy Bell
Now isn’t that a sweet song? Though if you put the woman’s answer to it, it takes a less romantic turn rather swiftly!
Over a hundred years on, the Daisy Bell song is still easily found being hummed or sang by people all over the world. Its catchy lyrics and folks-tune feel make it easy for everyone to remember, from children to elders, and there is absolutely nothing about it that is obscene or bad in any way (though some of the parodies might disagree, depending on where you find it!)
The tandem bike that it references is also popular. It had a slump in the early 20th century, but revived in the 1960s and 1970s and still holds on today as a great way to ride together and even compete as part of a team. And while the Daisy Bell song may now be seen as quaint or even old-fashioned, it’s still a part of our consciousness today and it’s not likely to be dislodged anytime soon.
Want to hear the song for yourself? Up above in the article, we have included a video with the song lyrics and tune. You can also find the song all over the internet. Chances are, you’ve heard the chorus even if you’ve never heard the rest! Enjoy!