Saturday, 24 July 2010

Greece is still the word: The Gospel at Colonus 28 years on

I wrote in an earlier entry, here, about seeing the superb acapella group 14 Karat Soul at the Edinburgh fringe in an early production of Lee Breuer's The Gospel at Colonus coupled with another piece, Sister Suzie Cinema.

That post discusses my experience of seeing the group over the years, but the reason these notes have not been added as a postscript to that entry is that they have a momentary urgency - or will do if you are reading this before the end of August 2010: a bigger production of The Gospel at Colonus, featuring major gospel stars, is about to come to the Edinburgh Festival proper in August, which prompts me to add a bit more about  the show and about the original performers,14 Karat Soul, here.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Swanee Upping Concluded - Part Two

As so often when I've alighted on an idea for this blog, it's difficult to let go. I have been looking around the net for Sooty-related material and found that in 2006 Matthew Corbett, under his real name, presented what appears to have been a fairly low-key one man show in the place he now lives about his time with Sooty, entitled "25 Years Sticking Your Hand Up a Teddy Bear's Bottom."

Monday, 19 July 2010

Swanee Upping Concluded

The investigation is over and the mystery solved, thanks to the kindness of strangers on the BBC Radio 7 comedy messageboard, here, and some of those directly involved in Huddlines. Thank you to all who helped.

The regular lyric writers on Huddlines during that period were Jeremy Browne and Richard Quick (writing separately, Alan Stafford, the programme's last commissioned writer, says) so I may have got it wrong about Steve Brown's contributing to the show - although as Phil Pope did say he used to write with Steve Brown on Spitting Image and that Brown also contributed material to Radio Active, it's certainly not beyond the bounds of possibility he may have made the occasional contribution to Huddlines.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Further Up the Swanee

Received a delightful message from Phil Pope (see previous post), claiming to be "honoured" (as who should not) by his mention in this blog - but disclaiming any credit for the Sooty song.

Which leaves Steve Brown in the frame ... only it now occurs to me that as the melody of Swanee was unaltered in the Huddlines broadcast - even the verse was used - adding topical lyrics would not have been beyond the capabilities of any number of writers who contributed to the show over the years. I can't remember the whole of the verse as sung by Roy Hudd in the broadcast but I do recall in place of the original's "Somehow I feel / Your love is real" his chuckling treatment of the new-minted description of the vanished bear -
He's small and blonde,
He waves his wand...
- a fragment which I decided, on balance, not to incorporate into my oration.

I think (but am not certain) that the Corbett father-son friction would have been around 1977-78, but I don't know whether that was when it became a news item, so I can't even be precise about the year Huddlines might have picked up on the story.

A few more details can be found here in an article written on the eve of Matthew Corbett's final TV show, although my memory of the Tibballs book suggests that when Harry is quoted in the article as saying "my son had cleaned me out" he may have been making a literal reference to all the tiny, painstakingly constructed Sooty sets being removed from his workrooms as part of the deal with his son; in the Tibballs book he talks about feeling red hot needles were going through him as he watched all this precious cargo - his life, in effect -  being loaded up and taken away.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Up the Swanee

Had what can only be termed a Russell Davies moment a few minutes ago. Which made me realise I may have been unnecessarily harsh in my dismissal, during an earlier entry, here, of that seasoned broadcaster's favoured method of selecting music for his show. But before elaborating on that - and in a transparent attempt to entice the reluctant reader onwards - let's go back ... back ... back ...

Back, in fact, to some unspecified date - which, I realise, isn't terribly satisfactory, although I can probably place it in 1997 or before. I was in Argyle Street, just off Oxford Circus (probably walking to Marshall Street Pool, which closed that year), walking past the London Palladium, when I espied none other than ... Phil Pope.

If you're American the name may not mean much to you but Phil Pope, along with Steve Brown, had the UK song parody field all sewn up in the 1980s. If it wasn't one, it was the other. Radio, TV, live theatre - I still remember Steve Brown's Barry White parody Aerobic Love, sometime in the eighties at the Edinburgh Fringe which culminated (the song, not the festival) in his getting up from the keyboard to reveal a perfectly constructed paunch.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

A Distant Love - the Dells

One of my all-time faves from the Dells' doo wop years. One of the sides on the double album of Vee-Jay material licensed by Dick James's DJM which I found in Biggars music shop in Glasgow around 1976 - and a few days ago I was surprised to find it (the shop) was still there. I think the recording on that album was an alternate take as at the end of the record I possess you can clearly hear one of the singers start to sing the wrong words ("Across the -"). This is almost witlessly simple as a piece of songwriting but the singing has a nightclub kinda feel, reminding me that they recorded with Sarah Vaughan. Or possibly Dinah Washington. I won't check, as I'm still hurting from having been told that a friend won't read my blog; I'm only sorry the rest of you out there have to suffer. Anyway, this is such a simple song that on occasion I've taped the bass part and sung over it: along with In the Still of the Night one of the doo wop numbers which feels graspable by someone who can't sing in any accepted sense of the word. But I love this song for its directness.