American Icons: Anything Goes


Friday, September 13, 2013

American Icons: Anything Goes

This is our anthem to being naughty.

Before Broadway musicals got serious about West Side gangs or Fleet Street barbers, Cole Porter entertained audiences with frothy tales of socialites, gangsters, and nightclub singers. Anything Goes was his biggest hit, and while it's something of a period piece, the title song took on a life of its own, thanks to Frank Sinatra. It celebrates liberation from social constraints — or what some would call a disgraceful slipping of standards: short hemlines, women smoking, four-letter words. "We have something called the First Amendment that says that we do most of what we want," says historian Laurence Maslon. "And yet there's this Puritan streak in America that says, you can't do that, that offends me." Today the lyrics about fast cars and short stockings feel quaint.

To capture the sense of danger and titillation the song had in 1934, Studio 360 presents an update for the age of sexting, bailouts, and fries with bacon. (lyrics by Joe Keenan; performed by Bryan Batt, accompanied by Jesse Reeks on piano)


Bonus Track: "Anything Goes" revamped

Written by Joe Keenan and performed by Bryan Batt — read the full lyrics below.


Interview: Mel Brooks on seeing Anything Goes for the first time


Video: "Anything Goes" in the opening of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom


Video: Patty LuPone performs "Anything Goes" at the 1988 Tonys


Bonus: Joe Keenan's updated lyrics to "Anything Goes"

Times have changed.
Porter’s ditty was once risqué
But if Porter could see today
And decorum’s complete decay,
He would say,
“Though the Thirtie’s were hot as hell,
Everything that went then still goes ...
And a whole lot else as well!”

When gays can wed, and jaws aren’t dropping
When Barney and Ben go shopping for baby clothes,
Anything goes!

When dames as dim as Kim Kardashian
Triumph by acting trashy in tawdry shows,
Anything goes

The smut you can get today
On the 'net today,
Straight or gay today,
And all day today,
‘Cause burlesque today 
Is on your desk today,
Where nobody can oppose.

When girls of ten are adolescing
And proving the point by dressing like tiny ho’s,
Anything goes!

When grandma’s face is pulled so tightly
She looks like a Keira Knightley whose eyes won’t close,
Anything goes!

When stars whose thoughts are far from clever 
Are tweeting their fans whenever they blow their nose,
Anything goes. 

If airing your views you like
On Fox News you like,
If tattoos you like,
Or girls’ shoes you like,
If rendezvous you like
With Tom Cruise you like,
Just say you won’t disclose!

When Cary Grants and Spencer Traceys
Have turned into Kevin Spaceys and Russell Crowes
Anything goes!

When fast food chains serve fries with bacon
To folks who could be mistaken for buffaloes
Anything goes.

When half the nations filled with rancor
From living in homes their banker will soon foreclose,
Anything goes.

Though banks are all crooks today
With cooked books today,
When they fail today
They get bailed today,
And those banks today
Are saying, “thanks!” today
As their bonus pool just grows.

When men of god who preach with thunder
Are looking for fun with underage romeos,
Anything goes!

— anything? —
Everything goes! 

    Music Playlist
  1. Anything Goes
    Artist: Brad Mehldau
    Album: Anything Goes
    Label: Nonesuch
    Purchase: Amazon
  2. Anything Goes
    Artist: Frank Sinatra
    Album: Songs for Swinging Lovers
    Label: Capitol
    Purchase: Amazon
  3. Anything Goes
    Artist: Ella Fitzgerald
    Album: Night and Day: The Cole Porter Songbook
    Label: Verve / Polygram
    Purchase: Amazon


Bryan Batt, Julia Foulkes, Will Friedwald, Joe Keenan and Laurence Maslon

Produced by:

Eric Molinsky


David Krasnow

Comments [24]

Sandra G

If Stephen Sondheim isn't interested in updating his lyrics to "I'm Still Here" for us aging baby boomers, I'd love to see Joe Keenan give it a shot!

Aug. 24 2014 08:52 PM
Michele from Nj

Can anyone provide the violin piece if Anyrhing goes that was
Played directly after this piece aired ?

May. 19 2014 10:33 PM
Jim Heffernan from Hanover, New Hampshire

Cole Porter's song is timeless,but Joe Keenan's new lyrics are brilliant for our time. Porter would have loved them.

May. 18 2014 11:50 AM

Mr. John Karr of SF: look a little more closely please: I believe you've missed the arch to the eyebrows of Mr. Keenan's brilliant lyric. Do you believe that Cole Porter, in his original lyric, is a crusader for Old Testament values writing a sermon set to music you can do the Charleston to? No, rather its a party, and you're invited. Grab a drink and come meet your fellow party-goers. You'll be surprised how progressive we all are!

Dec. 27 2013 02:25 PM
John Karr from SF

I don't understand the first verse. Why is progress in the civil rights of gay people an example of laxity in societal morals?

Oct. 16 2013 01:40 PM
Jenny from Studio 360

Hi Melanie -- We've actually posted them above, just scroll up. Enjoy!

Sep. 27 2013 09:52 AM
Melanie Eiger

How can I obtain a copy of the lyrics Joe Keenan wrote to Anything Goes?

Sep. 24 2013 06:16 PM
Andrew Caldwell from Seattle

My good friend, playwright Robert Patrick, penned his own updated version:

Sep. 19 2013 03:41 AM
Robert Patrick

Huzzahs! Wonderful new lyrics! Here's a version I did for my friends for New Years.

Sep. 19 2013 03:40 AM
Dave from SE Pennsylvania

Hey Joe Keenan- great job- wit worthy of Porter.
Here's my humble contribution:

When Janet Jackson stirs our passion
baring her boob on a national
half time show- anything goes!

Sep. 16 2013 07:52 PM
Lucille from Brooksville, FL

I love the wit and wisdom in Joe Keenan's updated version of Anything Goes.
This was another great program! Thank you, thank you!

Sep. 16 2013 07:38 PM
Peg G from Bradenton, FL

Loved the updated lyrics for Anything Goes! Could you persuade Mr. Keenan to attempt an update of "We didn't start the fire"? I'll bet he'd do a fantastic job with that as well!

Sep. 15 2013 04:39 PM
Greg in NYC metro

Now that's tickling the ivories, what brilliance in the use of words, current events (and emotions), someone should do a flash mob dance scene in DC, all done by singing mimes ... oooh. On the WH lawn so that the dandelions won't grow ... anything goes.

Sep. 15 2013 03:32 PM
David from Studio 360

Joe KEENAN, and all you commenters, I'm so sorry about the typo. It's corrected above. We're so glad you liked the song as much as we did.

Sep. 15 2013 02:49 PM
Carl Ian Schwartz from Paterson, New Jersey

Cole Porter even wrote "bluer" versions of his own songs to play at parties...and some of these got into wider circulation. Nearly 40 years ago I dated an older man who was, in effect, my finishing school about Broadway history. He remembered a "naughty" version of "You're the Top!" (from the same show as "Anything Goes"):

You're the top!
You're the breast of Venus!
You're the top!
You're King Kong's penis.
You're a birds' eye view of a bridal suite in use...

However, at the time, the original lyrics were suggestive enough, as Broadway audiences tended to be sophisticated and knew the "codes."

Sep. 15 2013 11:51 AM
chris from York, Pa

the Kardashian rhyme was inspired, on so many levels

two thumbs up

Sep. 15 2013 11:31 AM
Joe Keenan from Los Angeles

Many thanks to those who liked my update of the song. My name, unlike Laurence's, is spelled correctly in the intro, but it mysteriously becomes "Keegan" just above the lyric.

Sep. 15 2013 10:50 AM

The 2013 version was excellent.
Why haven't you put the Keegan version on Soundcloud? I'm trying to find a way to post it to Facebook.

Sep. 14 2013 08:04 PM
anne winn from Dominica.

Worthy of Porter. Though I would prefer to be back when there was still some shock value and less schlock.

Sep. 14 2013 06:41 PM
Cynthia Hampton-Sosa from NY/NJ

Fantastic! Keegan did a hilarious, well-thought update.

Sep. 14 2013 04:47 PM
ann from PA

had to find the lyrics. Heard the song this morning driving. This is classic!

Sep. 14 2013 04:34 PM
M Uliana from PA

You made my day! A giggle for everyone; anyone can find a favorite topic covered.Carry on!

Sep. 14 2013 12:08 PM
Manuel T. Ortega from Half Moon Bay, CA


Sep. 14 2013 10:05 AM
Hillary Jetty from New Mexico

Joe Keegan's lyrics so totally nailed it. What a great update to a classic standard. Thank you for the giggles that brightened my morning!

Sep. 13 2013 03:01 PM

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