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Prince John is, not surprisingly, infuriated when he hears what the people of Nottingham are singing about him. So, he decides the town should sing “a new tune.”
“Double the taxes,” he cries “triple the taxes! SQUEEZE every last drop out of those insolent, musical peasants.”
It’s left to Alan-a-Dale to explain what happens next. Whereas before the town was merely oppressed by high taxes, now it’s been completely ruined. Anyone who can’t pay their taxes ends up in a dungeon deep inside Nottingham Castle. And since everyone was destitute to begin with, this means the entire population of Nottingham is imprisoned (even the minstrel rooster, who sadly sings about the woes of the town).
Has its ups and downs…
Outnumber the downs…
But not in Nottingham
I’m inclined to believe,
If we were so down,
We’d up and leave,
We’d up and fly if we had wings for flyin’…
Can’t you see the tears we’re cryin’?
Can’t there be some happiness for me?
Not in Nottingham.
The song is intermixed with various scenes of the townspeople sleeping in the dungeon. There is even a chain gang of raccoons being led inside, presumably after a long day of hard labor. It seems the only ones not locked up are Friar Tuck and the two church mice. Tuck is ringing the church bell to announce the evening service, but nobody is coming. Nevertheless, the friar is determined to keep hope alive, even though no one has donated to the church’s poor box in ages. This gives Mrs. Church Mouse an idea; there’s one last farthing saved in their little home in the church wall, but she decides the poor need it more than they do. Cue the arrival of the Sheriff of Nottingham to ruin the moment (it’s almost like he has an internal sensor to let him know when there’s any money around).
When the wolf takes the just-donated farthing for “taxes,” Friar Tuck reaches his limit with the fat Sheriff. He forces the wolf outside to give him a good thrashing with a quarterstaff; unfortunately that gives the Sheriff grounds to arrest the badger for high treason and he’s led off to jail to join the rest of the people of Nottingham.
I’ve always liked “Not in Nottingham,” it’s so sad but it also perfectly sums up the desperate situation happening in the town. Roger Miller’s performance is rich, smooth and a joy to listen to. What do you think of the song “Not in Nottingham”? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!
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