No pontificating this time; just a youtube clip of a fave Van song, from Saint Dominic's Preview.
Tuesday, 31 July 2012
Sunday, 29 July 2012
As Tommy Cooper would say, "That's nice." Have just checked the radio schedule for today and seen that instead of Part Two of Street Corner Soul at 8pm on Radio 2 there is the first of a two part tribute to Peggy Lee. The forthcoming schedule on the BBC website doesn't go further than next Sunday, which is the concluding part of the programme. So will Street Corner Soul continue its run after that? Who knows?
Sunday, 22 July 2012
Saturday, 21 July 2012
I suppose it's partly about the melancholy of time passing. I recall a family holiday in Spain and seeing a fairly young guy singing and playing accordion in a pub, giving out flyers which seemed to be of the group he was formerly part of. I must have been around ten, but I think I caught a sense that something sad was going on: I mean, he hadn't printed new flyers of his own, so his fortunes since the split obviously hadn't been that great, and he was sort of trading on our supposed knowledge of his past. I seem to recall a sense of desperation at one point - unless it was just that he was putting all his passion into the climax of a certain song. Or both. I could be romanticising the vaguest of memories, but I hope he endured.
When I grew a bit older and became interested enough in fifties rock'n'roll and doo wop to try to see those heroes who were still around I soon became aware that parting with my 50p or however much it was could as easily be an occasion for sadness as joy.
Or maybe not so much sadness as numbness or puzzlement: sitting bemused while everyone around me seemed to be whooping it up, lost in the fifties tonight, with no sense of the yawning gulf between the energy and delight on the records and the cold rehashing of those feelings onstage. I tried to write - and may even finish sometime - a play about a former child star who becomes aware that it almost doesn't matter what he does onstage: the audience will fill in from their stock of memories. Once he twigged that, he sings a new song for himself and exits for good. "If memories were all I sang, I'd rather drive a truck," as another teen idol succinctly put it.
The Independent article is interesting because it suggests a reason why some critics react, in print, in much the same way as those starry-eyed audiences. The columnist distinguishes between two critical vices. The first involves writing about what what - in the critic's mind - the piece ought to have been.
The other version [...] consists of reviewing the performance you hoped you might get before you actually turned up ... or, to put it another way, of reviewing the performance you'd love to say you'd been at. This too involves critical inaccuracy but it's driven, in this case, by an admiration for the artist in question rather than an indifference to his or her intentions. The review I'm thinking about in this respect was one that followed Paul Simon's Graceland concert in Hyde Park the other night and which, in the course of a 360-degree rave, described Simon's voice as "faultless".
I went to that concert, very much enjoyed it, and found myself in tears at at least two points [...] But I don't think I'd have described Simon's voice as "faultless". He's 70 years old now and it isn't what it was ... but that hardly mattered. Its frailties were integrally part of the emotional content of the show. That critic, it seemed to me, wasn't reviewing what he'd actually heard, but what he wanted – in his admiration for a great singer-songwriter – to be true. His was an inaccuracy of love, not condescension.
Wednesday, 18 July 2012
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.
Wednesday, 4 July 2012
Have just learnt that Eric Sykes has died. This is my 2005 review of his autobiography. The above image comes, I presume, from Very Important Person: not a big role, but a pleasing one.
Given his contribution to postwar British comedy - writing for the Goons and developing Frankie Howerd's comic persona being the least of it - Eric Sykes is entitled to write his memoirs any way he pleases, and the result is a warm book, rich with anecdotes: according to this, the real-life Sykes has had about as many mishaps as his screen persona.
It has to be said, however, that the book is thinner (if that's what you're looking for) on comic (or personal) analysis, but perhaps that's appropriate: he once talked in an interview of having to reassure a puzzled and angry Tommy Cooper that he shouldn't try to pull apart his gift but simply be grateful; and as Sykes has, in any case, already written elsewhere about his own comedy heroes, it's not too difficult to sit back and accept this book for what it is. What comes over when watching the Sykes sitcom is the warmth of the perormers and that is faithfully conveyed here.
Read Graham McCann's biography of Frankie Howerd if you want a more detailed account of the innovation that Sykes' scripts represented, or try David Nathan's The Laughtermakers (long out of print) for material about Sykes. Or just watch The Plank (with Sykes and the instinctive Cooper) and marvel - probably the wisest course of action.