Sunday, 31 October 2010

Gnome Thoughts ... 26 (Private Hopper, public Craddock)

Below is one of the few clips from Lipstick On Your Collar currently available on youtube, though I don't know how long for, so hurry.

It's a fantasy of Hopper's some time before the unfortunate business in the 2i's Coffee Bar: he has been briefly introduced to the one he thinks is The One, though they haven't yet talked or gone out together, let alone discussed The Seagull.

But that first fleeting encounter is enough for him to fashion her into a key worshipper at the shrine of Hopper-as-Craddock: "Maybe you should take a cold shower," as the girl's uncle, interrupting this ill-advised workplace reverie, suggests.

Gnome Thoughts ... 25 (1957 charts, Lipstick, Macca plays The Fool)

The main point of looking at those 1950s CDs was to see what was in the charts before rock'n'roll, but I'm going to reproduce the tracklistings and my brief prewritten notes for the last three volumes anyway. 

 This is the first volume to have a subtitle - "Over Easy" - which suggests there may be a companion volume reflecting the increasing popularity of rock'n'roll in the charts but I haven't come across it yet. Compare the 1956 volume which has at least four rock'n'roll classics; it didn't all stop the following year, y'know.

I do, however, note that among these big names of easy listening there are only about four I'd be surprised to find in the US charts at the same time; some earlier volumes have been more evenly balanced.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Gnome Thoughts ... 24 (1956 charts, Hullensian overtaken)

As we cruise into the second half of the fifties in this series rock'n'roll is really kicking in, though big ballads and old-fashioned razamatazz can still be found in this representative cross section of what the British public were being subjected to over the airwaves. Rock With the Caveman, an early and not wholly convincing British attempt to rock, was written by Lionel Bart. Ronnie Hilton's No Other Love is the old guard, still in good voice.
Interesting footnote: Anne Shelton's corny but cheerful Lay Down Your Arms, which features at the end of Lipstick On Your Collar, was engineered by ... Joe Meek, producer extraordinaire: the future was just around the corner. And note this volume ends with Heartbreak Hotel, which was to change the lives of the young Lennon and McCartney.

Gnome Thoughts ... 23 (1955 charts)

As this compilation series heads for the mid-fifties there are one or two portents of what is to come: the Sinatras and the Mario Lanzas may still be present and correct, but the last two tracks are Pat Boone doing Ain't That a Shame and - even more worrying - Bill Haley's recording of Rock Around the Clock, the number which caused cinema seats in the UK to be ripped up when it featured on the soundtrack of The Blackboard Jungle (Glenn Ford as a do-gooding teacher, although he actually listens to jazz in the film; the song was stuck on as an afterthought).

Rock'n'Roll split listeners: no longer would kids listen to the same stuff as their parents. Yes folks, the "pop filth" rot starts here, this year, even if the majority of the tracks on this compilation are still geared towards wholesome family listening.

Haley was soon to have his own comeuppance: when he toured Britain and people saw a podgy middle-aged man with a kiss-curl, his appeal waned and Elvis Presley quickly took his place, inconwise, and in later years he went slightly bonkers and paranoid, according to Ian Whitcomb, but this moment was his. Pat Boone covered Fats Domino and Little Richard, trying to sanitise their raunchy records but such was the power of the originals that gambit couldn't last too long. Little Richard said the kids might have had Boone records in open view but his, Richard's, recordings would be under the bed.

Gnome Thoughts ... 22 (1954 charts, Goon Rock)

As 1955 approaches this world is not set to last much longer. Johnny Ray, the final artist on this compilation, is not rock'n'roll, exactly, but the OTT delivery is taking us away from that world of politeness and kids listening to the same records as their parents. Beware the 1955 volume ...

Gnome Thoughts ... 21 (1950-53 UK charts, Hoagland concedes)

Having talked in recent posts about the sickly nature of the pre-rock'n'roll British charts, now seems a good point for a quick look at some typical fare.

The Fabulous 50s is a CD series on the Xtra label, an offshoot of the ultra-cheapo Delta Music. I bought the first few volumes for work purposes because they were there - specifically, going cheap in the Bond Street branch of HMV - then my male need for completion forced me to buy later volumes as the UK's public domain laws permitted each subsequent issue.

Gnome Thoughts ... 20 (Stop Dreamin' at Guildford)

 I have just seen Stop Dreamin' at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford, where it's running till 6th November.

Sad to report that it didn't really work for me - though I did hear audience members say otherwise, both during the interval and at the end.

In fairness to Ray Cooney, he has dropped a character since a tryout in Windsor (Royce Mills, the imaginary "Mr Music" who only the dad could hear) so there must have been a lot of frantic rewriting, and perhaps all it needs is more time to develop.

But on the basis of what I saw last night, despite the verve of the performances and the effective use of some of the Chas and Dave songs, it seemed less than the sum of its parts, and I'm afraid that was down to the book - in other words, the Cooney end of things.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Gnome Thoughts ... 19 (Reasons to be Cheerful, Lipstick on Your Collar, Joe Brown)

Further musical connections, presented in more fragmentary a form than usual; an explanation will be furnished for the above image in due course.

Engaged in the happy task of buying books for work for work on Thursday, I chanced upon a tome entitled Desert Island Lists. Yup, it did what it said on the tin: several decades' worth of the choices made by Plomley's guests.

On the offchance, I skimmed the index for Alan Klein: nope.

But Lionel Bart was there, and one of his choices was ... Peter Seller's Lonnie Donegan-style rendition of Any Old Iron.

Did that collision of things American and English - skiffle and music hall - help inspire Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be? Listening to it again (post 15, here), it rocks, however comical the intent. Which brings to mind Dave Marsh's summary of the Diamonds' cover of Little Darling (quoted way back in the Doowop Dialog[ue] here): a recording "as exciting as it is insincere."

On Friday I saw Reasons to Be Cheerful (above), a new musical featuring the songs of Ian Dury, at Theatre Royal, Stratford East - yes, the very same stage where the Fings ... mob and Alan Klein's characters in What a Crazy World first strutted their stuff. I'm not going to give a detailed review of it here except to say that it was a joyous occasion: the theatre is the right size to make musicals seem intimate, not overpowering.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Gnome Thoughts ... 18 (Myles Rudge and Ted Dicks programme)

Have just listened to, and thoroughly recommend, "Right", Said Ted and Myles, which can be heard until October 26th on BBC Radio 7 by going to the page here, where you can even find a link to my earlier entry about the pair (it seems I constitute the "buzz").

The programme, presented by Philp Glassborow, was first broadcast in 2004 and appears to be drawn from a single interview in which Myles Rudge (lyrics), Ted Dicks (music) and Bernard Cribbins were all present, plus some additional contributions from George Martin.

But this is not going to be a review so much as a noting of points in the programme which have a bearing on this series of posts: in other words, how do these songs fit alongside those of Alan Klein and others of that era?

Monday, 18 October 2010

Gnome Thoughts ... 17 (more songs by JP Long)

Further investigation into JP Long takes us back to Stratford East as, along with M. Scott, he wrote Oh It's a Lovely War, the 1917 music hall song which helped inspire the Theatre Workshop musical.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Gnome Thoughts ... 16 (JP Long and My Old Man's a Dustman)

Have just found JP Long's lyrics for the original version of My Old Man's A Dustman, actually entitled What D'Yer Think of That?

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Gnome Thoughts ... 15 (Myles Rudge and Ted Dicks alert)

This is to alert readers that a programme about the writers of Bernard Cribbins' comedy songs, Myles Rudge and Ted Dicks, is going to be broadcast on BBC Radio 7 on Tuesday 19th October at 2.30pm if you're in the UK. And even if you're not, Radio 7 has a Listen Again facility for one week.

Don't bother clicking (or, armed with this new knowledge, refrain from further clicking of) the above image, which is a screengrab. Instead, go to the relevant BBC 7 page here, where it should be available on the BBC iplayer soon after the broadcast.

I'll be very interested to hear the programme, as I don't know much about the writers (Rudge is on the right, above), although I do remember reading Noel Coward praising one of the Cribbins hits on Desert Island Discs.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Gnome Thoughts ... 14 (Alan Klein: corrections & clarifications)

Consider this post a Guardian-style Corrections and Clarifications column for earlier entries, as this is the first opportunity I've had to read the sleevenotes for the Well At Least Its British and New Vaudeville Band CDs.

Most of the information below, including direct quotations from Alan Klein, comes from these sources; Kieron Tyler and Mark Frumento are the respective writers.

First of all, the friend with whom Klein toured Europe before turning professional wasn't necessarily George Bellamy (above): Klein formed his "country and western duo" with Bellamy after the season at Butlins where the Tornado-in-waiting had been the guitarist with the Al Kline Five, though I suppose they could have been friends before that. And I note the pair played folk as well as country - which helps to explain the range of styles on Well At Least Its British:
Success seemed assured: appearances on the BBC's Saturday Club and billings with Alma Cogan and David Whitfield meant George and Alan [as the duo were called] were on their way.
But Klein eventually "had enough of interpreting the transatlantic sound and split from George," so it would seem that What a Crazy World was the result of his disenchantment with playing rock'n'roll at Butlins and country music with George Bellamy- plus a hefty dose of irritation with the charts:

Everything was so Americanised. All the hit records were covers of American songs.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Gnome Thoughts ... 13 (Alan Klein interview)

More information about Alan Klein, thanks to Spencer Leigh, author of Halfway to Paradise, who very kindly sent me a 2008 interview from his On the Beat show on Radio Merseyside. 

This post also makes reference to sleevenotes by Kieron Tyler and a 1962 press release I assume was written by Ken Pitt, Klein's publicist (not manager, as I thought) at the time, but Spencer's interview is the backbone of this piece so I'm indebted to him for allowing me to transcribe it here.

According to wikipedia, Alan Charles Klein was born in Clerkenwell, London, on 29th June 1940. Ken Pitt (if it is he) takes up the story:
After leaving Grammar School, and being interested in Commercial Art, he studied at St Martin's School of Art. He bought a ukele, learned to play, and started composing. His father then bought him a guitar, and Alan worked hard at it, playing in pubs, clubs and anywhere they would let him.

Spencer Leigh (italicised in bold throughout) begins his interview with Alan Klein by asking:
Rock'n'roll came along in 1956, so is that what turned you on?

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Gnome Thoughts ... 12 (Damon Albarn on Alan Klein)

Have just come across the original context for Damon Albarn's remark about Alan Klein's influence - a 1995 article in Q magazine about Well At Least Its British, reproduced on a Blur forum:
This is the most colloquial record that I own. I discovered it quite by accident about five years ago in a charity shop, and it was instrumental in me making Modern Life Is Rubbish, and changing, and getting an idea of my own self.