One hundred years ago today, at midnight Central European Time, the event that shaped the twentieth century came into being. Or at least the British Empire’s participation in it began.
Germany had invaded Belgium that morning so we were a bit late. (A squad of Germans had invaded Belgium the previous evening but had jumped the gun – so to speak – not getting the delaying telegram in time and were recalled. They were soon back though.)
Yet those were not the first shots. Hostilities had started seven days earlier on 28th July when Austro-Hungarian troops opened fire on Serbia in response to the true first shots – the ones fired by Gavrilo Princip and which killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie but even those had their roots in the welter of national entanglements which plague the Balkans even yet.
Those entanglements were mirrored in the system of alliances that dictated that Germany had to attempt to defeat France first before swinging round to take on Russia and so necessitated a march through neutral Luxembourg and Belgium.
Ironies abounded. Without attacking Belgium, Germany might have avoided war with Britain and so the holding up of the German armies by the BEF at Mons and later the Allies at the battle of the Marne might not have succeeded and so gained Germany the victory in the west it desired. Russia managed to invade eastern Germany earlier than the Germans had anticipated and troops were hurriedly withdrawn fron the Western Front to face the threat which I believe was actually defeated at the Battles of Tannenberg and the Masurian Lakes before these reinforcements could get there.
The Great War is remembered for the bloody stalemate of the trenches yet in these first encounters when it was still a war of movement daily casualties were enormous – especially for the French – much higher than in most later battles; though the Somme has a grim reputation in Britain.
I heard a woman on BBC Radio 2’s Pause for Thought this morning say she refused to call it the Great War “as there was nothing great about it.” Wrong meaning of great I’m afraid.
I remember hearing this on the radio in the 1970s and thinking it was very different indeed from the stuff Ellis produced when he was with Love Affair, but I don’t think I ever caught its title. I’m not even sure I realised at the time that Ellis was a band name. I recognised it straight away when listening to last Sunday’s Sounds of the Seventies on the iPlayer.
Another Graham Gouldman composition; but this one was most definitely a hit – for the almost anodyne Herman’s Hermits. In the US, where the Hermits had huge success, it was only released as a B-side but in the UK it reached no. 7 in 1966.
No Milk Today is lyrically very curious as a pop song, what with its emphasis on the down side of life. It has a very British feel to it, though, with its evocation of the daily morning delivery and terraced housing, “just two up, two down.” Nowadays the line, “the company was gay,” is likely to be read differently from back then!
For some reason I really like the bells in the “but all that’s left” sections of this.
Herman’s Hermits: No Milk Today
It seems the Hermits also recorded a version of Tallyman (see last week’s post) but it was never released, being thought not commercial enough by the group’s producer Mickie Most. This is a version they recorded in a BBC session. It’s introduced by the voice of Radio 2’s Sounds of the Sixties, Brian Matthew.
I’ve just been listening to an iPlayer rerun of last Saturday’s Sounds of the Sixties where they gave a run out to Joe South’s Games People Play which I featured on Friday on my Mind a couple of weeks ago. Brian Matthew’s intro to it said Joe sang all the vocal parts and played all the instruments himself – as well as writing it.
I think this lyric is fantastic, precisely because of the rhymes and scansion.
The rhyme scheme for the first verse is AABB*CC*DEFF* (where the * is for a part rhyme - which is more than common in popular music.) Moreover the D and E lines have an internal rhyme of lunch with bunch. Indeed, if you consider the line break is at “lunch” - which verses 2 and 3 suggest is more correct – the rhyme scheme becomes a near perfect AABB*CCDDEE.
The second and third verses both have an absolute AABBCCDDEE rhyming.
As to the scanning; it’s brilliant. In fact the line, “Undoubtedly I must have read the evening paper then,” is a wonderful iambic heptameter.
“There’s not, I think, a single episode of Dallas that I didn’t see,” is superb; the best line in any Abba song bar none. If you allow the “see-ee” at the end as an iamb it’s also a near perfect iambic nonameter.
The only thing I dislike about the lyric is it’s written in USian. Gotten is now archaic in British English - except for the phrase “ill-gotten gains” – and we don’t say “to go” but “to take away” or, in Scotland, “to carry out.” But then “to go” provides the rhyme.
Plus there’s an element of SF to it all, with the looking back to something that has changed, the implication of a life transformed.
I’ve always had a soft spot for the Blancmange version.
I don’t believe I’d ever heard this song by Aphrodite’s Child until it was on Radio 2’s Sounds Of The Sixties recently. It’s clearly influenced by the mid 1960s British group Nirvana whom I featured some time ago – see my category. (Or perhaps it’s a Greek thing. Nirvana’s composer was Greek as were at least two members of Aphrodite’s Child.) There’s also a touch of Procol Harum’s A Whiter Shade Of Pale in the bass line and the organ.
It’s Five O’Clock:
The Aphrodite’s Child song I most remember, though, is Rain And Tears. There’s a murky sound quality film/video of them playing it on You Tube but I also came across this crisper version. A hint of Pachelbel’s Canon in the intro methinks. It gets everywhere.
As I recall (and Wikipedia confirms) Aphrodite’s Child spawned Demis Roussos and Vangelis but I’ll not hold that against them.
I happened to be listening to Radio 2 when Jonathan Ross’s Saturday programme on that station came on yesterday. (I know, but Sounds Of The Sixties had just finished.)
Before Ross spoke there was broadcast the official announcement of the adjudication on the Ross/Brand Sachsgate affair – which said the BBC had been fined £150,000 over the to-do and gave an email address to see the whole judgement.
Ross’s first words were to the effect, “Why do you never have a pen when you need it? Did anyone get that email address? I can’t read enough of that.”
He then proceeded to play The Lunatics Have Taken Over The Asylum by The Fun Boy Three.
Has Ross learned nothing? The clear implication is that the ruling was given by lunatics. It hardly shows contrition, nor any amendment of ways.
This is like Barry Ferguson and Allan McGregor making their rude gestures. It compounds the original offence.
There are two defences. One is that Ross did not intend to imply any such thing and that the song he played was a mere coincidence. Except he commented to that effect after it had finished; thereby only increasing the suspicion he knew exactly what he was doing. The other defence is that he himself was the target of the lunatics reference and then, the implication is that the BBC is mad to allow him to remain on air. (Which it obviously is, in either case.)