“Let’s Misbehave” was introduced in one of Porter’s earliest musicals, “Paris” (1928). This show (produced by Ray Goetz, Irving Berlin’s brother-in-law) marked something of a turning in Porter’s career as he had finally reached a point after several failures in the 19 teens and early 1920s where he was willing to put himself into the hands of a professional whom he would allow to guide him. Goetz thought that Porter’s American and Parisian background were well suited to the task of writing a “French” musical, a popular theme of the day. Interestingly, the only other song in the show which has remained an evergreen ever since, “Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall in Love” actually replaced ”Let’s Misbehave” before the New York opening of the show. Porter’s biographer, George Eells, wrote that “in opting for “Let’s Do It”, Cole discovered that there was infinitely more humor in a provocatively insinuating proposal (“Let’s Do It”) than a direct proposition (“Let’s Misbehave”)”.
“Misbehave’s” lyrics are cheeky and amusing. The sentiments expressed define Porter’s attitude to casual sex with its exhortation to ‘misbehave’. He suggests a light-hearted frolic of no lasting importance. The verse impudently asks “If you want a future darling? Why don’t’ you get a past?” and then seductively suggests how:
“We’re all alone No chaperon Can get our number, The world’s in slumber, Let’s misbehave” It’s getting late And while I wait, My poor heart aches on, Why keep the brakes on? “Let’s misbehave”
A well-known critic of the day, Gilbert Seldes, also wrote that “Porter discovered the facts of life and zoology at the same time – he became the great leader of the habits of rabbits school of popular song.”
“They say that bears Have love affairs, And even camels; We’re merely mammals, Let’s misbehave”
Despite being dropped from “Paris”, “Let’s Misbehave” is a suggestive, bright and snappy tune that has been used by a number of film/documentary and musical revue makers over the years. While there are a host of interpretations of “Misbehave” in the public domain, I’ve chosen to highlight two; a more sedate and seductive version by Colleen McHugh (listen for the references to “Let’s Do It”) and a jaunty rendition by Trevor Ashley from a revue entitled Easy Virtue (2008).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2M0pKmGBlM8 (Colleen McHugh)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7M01fofK20E (Easy Virtue)