Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Peter Skellern: The End of the Show


Still haven't finished my magnum opus, but I must draw your attention to the song The End of the Show, originally on the album Holding My Own, and at last available on youtube courtesy of Vincent Paul Jones, and embedded below.




You could read my work in progress here, if you are so minded, but for the busy executive this is what I wrote about that song:

I do love the final song, send up of finale-type songs entitled The End of the Show. There is a massed choir of Skellerns, but the words are as hackneyed as possible.

There is no end I know
Like the end of a show
When the orchestra's packed up and gone
There is no peace I find
Like the one left behind

When it's time to lock up and go
Before the curtain's down
One last look around
There's no end like the end of a show.

Now, this is not exactly clever wit, and I initially thought: maybe he's talking about, you know, doing it - so "before the curtain's down" maybe meant before clothing was put back in place (after, y'know, doing it) - but again, the arrangement (more multitracked Skellerns and a wonderfully portentous spoken interlude) is more than enough in itself.

And, I'm minded to add now, the context of the song - ie coming at the end of a series of ditties which have been less than unabashedly solemn - is part of the comic effect. Because what he's been doing on the Holding My Own album is the antithesis of that song.

Could it also have been a farewell to his then record company, a sort of half-concealed two fingers? I dunno. But as leavetakings go, it's a good 'un: not a ha'porth of genuine sentiment and yet filled with a kind of daffy conviction at the same time. Conviction in the simple enjoyment of recreating an outmoded, overblown style.  Fun. That's the word I'm looking for. You remember fun, dontcha?

And that may be the key to Skellern's work, something which has informed his musical choices, not just in Holding My Own, but more generally. In an autobiographical documentary series simply called Peter Skellern and transmitted on the BBC in the eighties, he said:

The great thing about being brought up an unsophisticated mill town that nobody ever said this is good music or this is bad music because nobody knew that there was a difference. There was something dark and mysterious called Highbrow but that didn't concern us; that was for snooty people. All the rest was music - and its worth was not assessed by content but by effort involved in performing and enjoyment upon hearing. In other words, music was for pleasure. People played instruments or sang in choirs as a means of relief, of escape from a very drab world full of coal lorries, cotton, heavy machinery, linoleum, public baths and Sunday School, the mothers' union, public transport and opticians' waiting rooms.

I'll return to that programme when I eventually finish the main post about Skellern. Ta ta for now.

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