Tuesday, 11 May 2010


Davieslisten, really: the continuation of my quest to work out how ace broadcaster Russell Davies manufactures, on a regular basis, that there radiophonic Red Fire. I've been paying close attention to the latest Russell Davies show (broadcast last Sunday and available online here  until about 9pm BST Sunday 16th May) and have been pleasantly surprised to find that it's less "May-minded", to use his phrase from last time. In fact, there isn't really much to do with dates in this edition at all.

True, the first recording came from fifty years ago but thereafter the driving force behind the selection of this week's records was a phrase which appeared in that first song: "some day" or "someday". This then provided an excuse to play a range of songs employing one or other version of that word or phrase. Well, no, not excuse, as the subtle differences in nuance were genuinely interesting. And that week's choice of container allowed some comparatively unusual choices for this programme, including Judy Collins' famous version of Someday Soon.

Well, I say "famous" ... having talked about absorbing music unconsciously when very young a couple of posts ago, this song was both familiar and not familiar in a different sort of way from my experiences in that airy cafe in the early sixties: the words "someday soon" I remembered having heard sometime in the past, along with its fragment of tune, but this either penetrated my ear so long ago, or I listened to so idly, that only the phrase stuck around in what I presume were the intervening decades. Nothing else; had someone written entirely new words around the title and presented it as an all-time classic I wouldn't have been any the wiser.

And the singer who I must have heard could have been Melanie Safka or Pete Seeger for all I knew. Maybe they've recorded versions; I don't know. I think I vageuly thought that Seeger's My Rainbow Race, recorded by Melanie, may have been the song which contained that refrain, and it was maybe vague hope for a better tomorrow, possibly along the lines of Neil Young's After the Goldrush. But as I never rushed to check, and as this was pre-internet days where checking that kind of thing would have involved a lot of effort, that sort of became lodged in my mind. It was an answer of sorts and it made a kind of sense: we'll all go off with the Martians, because they won't be all prejudiced. Or something.

Diversion: Prelude, a group who had success in the UK with an acapella version of After the Goldrush used to do, live anyway, a subtly altered Ebony Eyes which included as part of that corny spoken word section ("The plane was way overdue" etc):
And then came the announcement over the loudspeaker: Would those having relatives or friends aboard Flight 1203 please report to the morgue across the street.
Diversion over, I do know, or rather I know now, that the writer - of Someday Soon, I mean - was part of a duo called Ian and Sylvia and there is a youtube clip of the reunited pair with Collins, singing the song together, which you can find here.

Below, in full, is what Russell Davies said, before and after he played the Collins recording (transcribed by me, so I've had to guess at punctuation). This to me is simply good broadcasting, and something he does week after week, year after year: he doesn't stuff you overfull with facts but gets to the heart of a song, distinguishing it in this case from much of what he normally plays, and explaining why it resonated with him. And, as described in the earlier entry about his style, the language is colloquial but polished at the same time.
Now, there's a species of North American "someday" that we haven't quite hit on yet, and it takes  a kind of character piece to nail it down. I believe I have one here; at least it's a song I've always treasured as being an expression of longing that you know is doomed: the person expressing it is too far seduced by the situation and can't see that what is being longed for will never go right. It's a classic song of living in the sticks, actually, where your smalltown heroes look like legends but are actually probable rats. This is a Canadian song by Ian Tyson, seventy six years old as we speak, and it comes from a reversal of personal experience: the song is sung by a girl in love with a rodeo rider, and Tyson was one of those, back in his twenties before an injury sidelined him for long enough to learn to play the guitar. This song wouldn't work as a Tin Pan Alley or a cabaret item - it's just a natural for a species of country rock, and I first learnt to love it in this performance by Judy Collins.

[song plays]

The words "My parents cannot stand him" made us all sit up at the time - there were aspects of this situation that we could recognise. It's a sad song because "Someday soon, going with him" means no, she's probably not going to do that, and if she does, we fear for her wellbeing.
Finally, here is the song in the context of that week's playlist:
Dean Martin — Someday (You’ll Want Me To Want You)
Anita Ellis — If Sunday Comes Ever Again
Bing Crosby — Someday Sweetheart
[original movie soundtrack] Someday My Prince Will Come
Judy Collins — Someday Soon
Leroy Jones — Someday You’ll Be Sorry
Dick Robertson & His Orchestra — Goodnight, Angel
Peggy Lee — The Folks Who Live On The Hill
Patti Austin — The Man I Love
Ella Fitzgerald — All The Things You Are
Ray Jessel — The Short-Term Memory Loss Blues
Maxine Sullivan — I’m Crazy ‘Bout My Baby (& My Baby’s Crazy ‘Bout Me)
I have also talked with someone else about this Red Fire business: just how do you put a lot of records together and a) make it sound like they belong together and b) the sound of your voice is not merely something to be tolerated until the music strikes up again? Obviously Russell, or any other presenter, could say: "Well, whaddaya know - a good song, oh, and here's another good song. And - what are the chances - a third good song, etc." And I suppose on his show that is really all that is happening, except that the flimsy container - the construct which holds that particular batch of songs together - is pleasing in itself.

It All Seems So Easy. When someone who is very good does it. Maybe I'll just give up before I've begun. It's worked for me in the past. But watch this space just in case I don't. Now let's see: Golden Teardrops, Lonely Teardrops, Lonely Boy by Benny Hill, Fool on the Hill, Fool If You Think It's Over, It's Over, In Dreams, Japanese Boy (hey, it was by Margot Sandeman - keep up) - er, and so on. You get the idea with that one, as UK comedian Harry Hill would say.

Which reminds me of a (sort of) joke which no one has ever laughed at but which I consider amusing. The scene is a police station, and the Big O is pouring his heart out to a not unsympathetic but distanced cop. Finally, after a lull, the cop says:
I understand your distress, Mr Orbison, but unless you can provide evidence of forced entry, I'm afraid the sprinkling of stardust and a whispered injunction to go to sleep do not in themselves constitute a criminal act. Was he wearing anything unusual?
The other "amusing" thing is sort of painful because it was inspired by something probably only of interest to those in the UK following the latest election developments closely, but the musical references are strictly US. In other words, I can't think of many  people who will get both halves.

Anyway, I thought of it, on the bus to work this morning while listening to Radio 4's Today programme, and as it's my blog I can just go on and write it right down. Maybe no one will ever read it, but here it is anyway. Ready? There was reference to the Fabian Society on that programme. and this is what I thought to myself:
Fabian Society, is it`? Fabian Society? Bobby Rydell's got a fan club, but oh no, that's not good enough ...
You've been great. Goodnight.

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