The crows are gathering behind her on the jungle gym and I have the kids sing a song. I asked my kids, what’s a… they were about that school age… and I said “What’s a song that you sing in school?” and they gave me “Risselty-Rosselty.” I looked it up and it was public domain — you know, it’s an old folk tune that goes back forever. And I used it, and I gave them four of five stanzas, whatever, of the song, the actual song.
I got a call, I think it was from Peggy Robertson, Hitch’s assistant, and she said “We need more lyrics for the song.” I said “Why?” She said, “It won’t cover the scene on the jungle gym.” So I wrote… I don’t know how many more stanzas — enough to cover the whole bird kingdom arriving on that jungle gym and they used whatever they needed.
The irony of it is that I still get royalties from ASCAP! I had to join the American Society of Composers and — whatever it’s called — Publishers, ASCAP, in order to allow me to use the lyrics in the film. I still get royalties from ASCAP on “The Birds” for the lyrics I wrote for that scene!
The song itself appears to have originally been a Scottish folk song titled “The Wee Cooper O’ Fife“…
There was a wee cooper lived in Fife
Nickety nackety noo, noo, noo
And he has tae’n a gentle wife
Risselty-rosselty, hey, pomposity
Nickety nackety noo, noo, noo.
Actress Vivien Merchant, who memorably played Chief Inspector Oxford’s gastronomic wife, died 25 years ago today. She was married to playwright Harold Pinter and sadly became an alcoholic after their divorce in 1980.