Thursday, 31 January 2013

Tiger, Tiger or Let the newt see the steam train


Ah, I know what I did now. Tried for too much in the same day. Like Icarus. Or Bruce's Big Night Out.


Going out for lunch today, before breaking away from the confines of Shopping City (ooh, adventurous), I went into that gift-shop-cum-art-materials store Tiger again, to see what musical pairing might surprise and delight me today.

And I wasn't disappointed: Mystery Train, and what sounded like a Ray Davies demo or early Kinks song called So Long. And what with the train taking Elvis's baby, and Ray bidding farewell - they sort of went together. Ish. I won't bother embedding Mystery Train as you can find it on a recent post about Junior Parker here, but this is So Long - as I now know, from the album Kinda Kinks:



 And the point is you wouldn't expect to hear either in the shopping mall. Reminded me of another sort-of pairing on a Friday or Saturday night Radio 1 programme called, I think, The Friday or Saturday Sequence: Them's version of Baby Please Don't Go, followed by Bobby Charles' See You Later Alligator.

Anyway, I goes off for my unnecessary lunch (really an excuse to be away from work for a bit; I have adequate provisions there), am forced to explain the concept of lemon tea, etc, in the cafe I chose (and I have to endure horrible music, audible through the earplugs I habitually wear in such situations) and on the way back I think: I know, I'll go into Tiger again. Anything can happen, musically speaking, in the next six minutes.

There doesn't seem to be any sound for about half a minute, unless it was an exceptionally long fade to a track whose burden I have just missed, but then It's Only Love by the Beatles begins, with what sounds like real (ie imprecise and all the better for it) doubletracking. Maybe that was the album Lennon said they doubletracked the *rse off, or some such phrase. (No, you look it up.) And a woman near me is half-singing along, or just registering her pleasure in hearing this again, so it's a kind of tripletracking.

Oh boy, I think, and fall to wondering just what they (whoever "they" may be, given that I know the selection is random) will find to follow this. It'll have to be good.

To my surprise, and not really in a good way, it's the terminally unhip Sing, Sing, Sing by Benny Goodman - I'm sorry, but it just doesn't fit. It's before rock'n'roll and all the associated genres began. I leave the shop dejected, replacing, as I go, the notebook I had been planning to buy. Didn't fancy standing in a queque for two minutes to hear the track play itself out. Besides I bought a notebook last time. Still haven't used it.

Then, as I work back to work, I think about it. I'm desperate to create a narrative, some kind of order and meaning in the shunting together of those two songs. And in the five minute walk between Shopping Hell and my place of work, I get it. Or something, anyway.

In The Hours and the Times, or The Hours and the Days, or whatever - it's got Ian "Nowhere Boy" Hart in it, anyway - John Lennon finds a moment of communion with a air hostess when they dance to a lesser known Little Richard track, a cover of Fats Domino's I'm in Love Again. There had been some quite aggressive banter between them earlier - You're not playing your part, Dolly Bird." / "Nor you yours" - but when the Georgia Peach mumbles some nonsense at the start - not sure whether it's a genuinely live track or some bit of gimmickry - and Lennon/Hart begins a comical but unselfconscious rooster strut, in thrall to the man who, along with Elvis, showed him The Way, the air hostess succumbs. Not sure whether it's the prelude to a seduction, and it's a while since I saw the film, but if it is it's not calculated. They find themselves to be worshippers at the same shrine, that's all. And listening to Little Richard, Lennon is a fan, like her, not a star.



Now - and this is a bit of a stretch - might Sing, Sing, Sing have been Eppy's recording of choice had a similar opportunity ever presented itself?

Beat. 

No? Oh, alright then.

Oh, actually it wasn't It's Only Love, was it, that was associated with Epstein but You've Got to Hide Your Love Away. 

Just had a quick look at Revolution in the Head, which says "the lyric is the hollowest which Lennon ever perpetrated" and that the working title was That's a Nice Hat.

The only other thing I want to say in this post has nothing to do with my two forays to Tiger. I mention it simply because it appealed to me. It's a detail about Benjamin Britten I read in yesterday's Guardian. Apparently Britten used to compose in his head while walking in the countryside, and Chris Watson suggests that birdsong, and possibly other sounds, found their way into his work.
I felt certain Britten would reflect on the sounds around him while considering his compositions. It goes back to the idea that we hear everything – but don't really listen much. When we do take the trouble to listen, it's an engaging and creative process. I'm sure that's something Britten felt.
But it's a non-musical moment which seems more important - at least it's saved for the end of the article, and although it's difficult to explain precisely why it matters, I have no doubt that it does.
Britten was a very private man. Had he taken his daily walk along the beach, or at Orford Ness nature reserve, he would have met lots of people. But there's one lovely encounter I was told of, when he walked down to the railway path and encountered two lads by the track. They had a jam-jar with a newt in it. He asked what they were up to and they said: "We're waiting for the two o'clock train to come out of Aldeburgh, so we can show this newt what a steam train looks like." They liked it – and thought the newt might, too.


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