18 March 2018

Wine + Meat and Two Veg + Trapped Wind = The Berries, Juniperwise

A few days ago, surfing the net in a rare moment of relaxation, I came across a Fairport Convention parody from 2013 by John Watterson, aka Jake Thackray tribute act Fake Thackray. The "refreshed" lyrics make friendly mockery of the toping habits of individual members of the group, with whom he has performed:
In desperation Simon might
Have to resort to Diamond White ...
He is glancing down at a lyric sheet so I'm guessing that this recording was made at an aftershow gathering, the words dashed off for the occasion. They are pretty good even so, and if Mr Watterson regularly appears with the Fairports perhaps we can look forward to a series of variant versions of increasing poignancy added to youtube as age modifies his subjects' capacity for indulgence.

Watching this brought to mind a long-suppressed Fairport-derived ditty of my own entitled Meat and Two Veg, supposedly extracted from the doctored EP seen at the top of this post. Some years ago I tweeted that image, along with a request for the song, to Martin Kelner's BBC Radio Leeds programme. No deception was intended, as it was self-evidently a spoof of a spoof, or so I thought; I felt a little ashamed at the possibility of my request being taken seriously - though this might well have been a double bluff by the mischievous Mr Kelner. Anyway, at that point I hadn't thought much beyond the title itself but that miniscule twinge of guilt translated itself into a moral impulse to conjure the whole song into being - to make the lie true, as Tennessee Williams' Maggie the Cat says under slightly different circumstances.

Here, quietly and without fanfare, is the result:

Meat and Two Veg

The changing rooms
Have cubicles
You could have gone in the-e-ere
But once you'd showered, then
You simply had to strut round bare.

Then you got dried
And put on shorts
So fashionably high cu-u-ut
Please try adjusting them
Cause then I'd only see your butt ... but

Meat and two veg
I saw your meat and two veg
Feel my time is up, and it's drivin' me close to the edge
Meat and two veg
I saw your meat and two veg
You turn away for a moment, then it all comes round again.
As this was in the same ballpark, so to speak, I brought my reworking to the attention of Mr Watterson, who was kind (or tactful) enough to say he would print it off "in case an opportunity should arise".

A few days later those two songs set my mind drifting back to a time, many years ago, at the Barrows, Glasgow's equivalent of Brick Lane, when I happened upon a Bill Oddie solo LP, not in pristine condition but serviceable. I had never seen a copy before but stupidly tried to haggle over the modest enough price; I was brusquely dismissed by the seller and there was no way back. I never saw that album again, and couldn't even say what label it had been on, nor had I had much chance to take in the song titles.

So why am I mentioning it in this context? Because I'm reasonably certain that one track was entitled If I Had a Gibbon in Tow - technically more TC than FC, I suppose, as this must surely count as an off-kilter Dyble.

Anyway ... my final recollection for this post is about a song which also falls into the Folk Mock bag. Around the mid seventies I attended a folk concert in the McLellan Galleries in Glasgow. I believe one of the performers was Josh MacRae, and I certainly recall someone else singing The Kirk O' Birnie Bouzle, but what I chiefly remember is a duo who leavened their act with comic songs. The magic of the internet reveals that these two were John Watt and Davey Stewart, and this is the song which has long lain in some dusty corner of my mind. You can listen to the song on soundcloud here, though my memory insists it was sung acapella at the gig.

When it comes to what I'm gonnae, I mean going to, call Folk Mock I submit that the above is - to use George Best's recurrent phrase on that infamous Wogan Show - different class. My own effort is  infantile and Mr Watterson's more skilful effort is tied to a specific occasion and audience (even if  the extended Fairport family contains multitudes). John Watt's song, however, transcends mockery of Mr Leitch and could be seen as a kind of reclaiming of him by his native Maryhill:

Annabelle Rosabelle Jamieson McGee,
Sixteen stone o flesh and bone
And only twenty three.
Do I see her often? Yes I do sir!
Every Friday at ra broo sir!
All she gets she hands it o’er tae me,
Annabelle Rosabelle McGee.

Annabelle Rosabelle, hair like mouldy hay,
Feet like clugs and packit lugs
And in the family way.
Plastic earrings, windae hingin,
Prams o washin, steamin, mingin;
Tells me that our love is here to stay,
Annabelle Rosabelle McGee.

Our greyhound Bob sits in wur close and looks out for her,
He knows that Annabelle knows all the tricks,
Will gie him a fix;
And then some day he’ll be top dog and then –

Annabelle and Bob and me we’ll live just like the sheiks;
We’ll have vats o Lannie, a thoosand trannies,
And golden lame breeks;
Diamonds aa aroond wur cludgie,
Electric blankets for wur budgie,
We’ll change oor motor car each seven weeks;
Annabelle, thank you, Rosabelle,
Annabelle, thank you, Rosabelle,
Annabelle Rosabelle McGee.

You can buy a CD of the 1976 album by John Watt and Davey Stewart, Shores of the Forth, on the Springthyme Records website here, where you can also download a pdf of the lyrics for free. The site includes a link to five of the album tracks, including Annabelle Rosabelle, on soundcloud. A useful glossary is included, for example:
‘Lannie’ – Lanliq, an intoxicating beverage.
I intended to draw to a close here but thoughts of Donovan reminded me of a somewhat cruder attack upon the minstrel boy. Disc and Music Echo (now an ever-fainter echo, as it has long gone the way of NME) used to have a comic strip entitled EC Ryder which once featured a number which ran thus:

I now see that the artist, J Edward Oliver, has archived all his strips, which can be viewed here. Below is the complete strip featuring the above, entitled Trick or Trait; click on the image to enlarge.

Not, it should be said, that Donovan is above tampering with his early songs himself in live performance. I have heard him singing: "Yellow is the colour of my true love's teeth" and tweaking Jane Bowers' Remember the Alomo so that "Big John Wayne lay laughin' and dyin' ...

But let's bring things full circle (it all comes round again) with the Barron Knights' Merry Gentle Pops which includes a parody of Catch the Wind and, bizarrely, a snatch of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore's Goodbye, not exactly sober in its original form, which is used here merely as narrative ballast.

The Donovan segment is brief and not particularly sophisticated (says the man responsible for Meat and Two Veg):
Jingle bells, jingle bells,
Jingle all the way
The party's really swinging
It's in its second day

Donovan's playing Santa Claus
And he's in such a state
He's fallen down the chimney
And landed in the grate

"From the chimney I emerged
All dressed in red,
And someone said
Your beard has blown off in the wind"

But there is a goodhearted cheeriness about the Barron Knights which seems particularly attuned to the festive season - gentle but merry, indeed - and I smiled at a later reference to "The Hollies and the Ivy League".

Related posts:

The TRUE story of how I fell out of love with Donovan
On Again! On Again! or Strangers on a Train (Jake Thackray)

John Watt died in 2011. The Scotsman obituary can be found here.

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