Sunday, 30 January 2011

Orchids: You Have Two (I Have None) aka Happiness

Stately is, I think, the word to describe this 1955 recording by the Orchids on Parrot Records: the tempo feels unrushed, processional.

I was wrong to describe their more famous Newly Wed as "lumbering" earlier, as that implies clumsiness; what can, perhaps, be said is that the change in Newly Wed's tempo between the wordless opening and the entry of the lead vocal (Gilbert Warren?) is unusual - to these ears, anyway. (I did say I wasn't an expert. Unlike Billy Vera, who describes it properly here.)

You Have Two (I Have None) seems marginally faster, but the disjointed feel of Newly Wed, which fits perfectly with what little we can glean of the couple's story ("Hearts broken - broken in two, / Don't leave me here ..."), is replaced by what sounds like calm assurance or resignation, though at the point of highest emotion ("Tell me you love me, Show me that you care") it becomes clear that the song is a plea for union rather than a celebration of a union already achieved; we aren't given any indication of her feelings either way.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Crackerjack Meets King Lear

Do you remember the BBC children's show Crackerjack and its tradition (at least before Chas and Dave gave them a theme tune composed with the same care that Lennon and McCartney expended over I Wanna Be Your Man) of a panto-type finale utilising the pop songs of the day?

Have you ever read, seen or been obliged to study King Lear?

Have you ever stopped to ponder what King Lear might have been like if put through the Crackerjack process?

Ah, but did you then transform that idle thought into some semblance of action?

Well, I - or rather a persona I constructed - did.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Soulboy (new film about Northern Soul)

Unlike he whose mortal remains swirl in infinitesimal pieces around the east coast of Scotland, I'm not any kind of a Northern Soul expert so can't really comment on accuracy of detail in this film - an issue with several punter reviews of the DVD on a well-known shopping website.  (Now, had it been doowop ...)

But what I can say, as I'm reasonably sure my late friend would have done, is that this is essentially a coming of age tale which is fairly simple in outline: no huge surprises after the various plot strands have been set up, and the resolution probably won't make you whoop with astonishment either.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Let George Do It or LENNON/YS

Yes, echoing the title of a film by his idol, let George be the one to taunt you with visions of what might have been, specifically the prize which could have been yours had you chosen to enter our John Lennon songwriting competition.

The prize has now been awarded to the only person who submitted an entry and it is, as I forecast, a copy of the 1968 Yellow Submarine Gift Book (spooky).

I had intended to produce a few scans here but it seemed more fitting to reproduce such images as I could find on the net: why should those who chose not to enter be rewarded with uniformly high quality reproductions which might act as a substitute for the experience of owning such an item instead of a tantalising glimpse of riches now unattainable?

So below are a variety of images, from a well known auction site and elsewhere. Note that one seller is quite open about the scribblings which have lowered the value of the item.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Gerry Rafferty

That it may have been inevitable doesn't make the death of Gerry Rafferty any less sad. I got to know his work through his second Humblebums album, Open Up the Door - and a few days ago, listening to stuff fairly randomly on spotify, clicked on My Singing Bird and marvelled once again at  the perfection and simplicity of it


You could draw comparisons with McCartney, and wonder why (at that time) he hadn't had similar success, though my immediate elder brother (whose album it was, and who had already seen them live) said that maybe the trouble was he didn't have a George Martin producing him.

I don't know. But today, reading an obituary in the Guardian written by Michael Gray, his personal manager ("employee not Svengali") during the time of his greatest solo success, one passage leapt out:

He did not want to have to out-platinum himself: he had money enough, and disliked being recognised. But behind an aggressive front, and a strong awareness of his own musical excellence, was fear. He turned down working with Eric Clapton, McCartney and others, telling [his wife] Carla "nobody was good enough". In truth, he dared not sit down with superstars without a drink or five. So he sat at home – now 300 acres of Kent farmland and a Queen Anne house in Hampstead, north London – and convinced himself he could work alone with [Hugh] Murphy. Carla said later: "He was just stalling for time. Maybe some new project would suddenly happen, but I knew he'd crossed the line as far as the record business went."

Spotify link to My Singing Bird here.  
Full Guardian obituary here.
STV interview from 2001 here
The TRUE story of how I fell out of love with Donovan here.
Strangers on a train: meeting Jake Thackray here.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Eric & Ernie by Peter Bowker with Victoria Wood as Sadie

This isn't really to do with music - or only with music as an incidental ingredient - but I feel compelled to write something about Peter (not David) Bowker's dramatisation of the early years of Morecambe and Wise which was shown on BBC 2 last night and will presumably be available to readers in the UK for a further week on the BBC's iplayer here.

As with Beatle-related biopics I am both helped and hampered by my knowledge of the subject, so that it's hard to judge it - or, indeed, to submit to simple enjoyment.

Others can do that. Mine is another voyage.

John Lennon Competition Results

Time has now been called on our John Lennon songwriting competition (see post here, but it's academic now).

I have to report that as no entries by other hands have been received then technically the prize has to go to me, as the only person to have contributed a snatch of song in the appropriate mode. True, it was intended merely as an example of how to go about things but if it's the winner by default then my hands are tied. So I can only say - as I would have done to any worthy winner - very well done.

Ooh, I'm all excited now - never win things, me. What could the prize be? Perhaps a vintage copy of the Yellow Submarine Gift Book from 1968, telling the story with lots of colour drawings and possibly written by Hunter Davies?