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RIP Prince

Another total shock. Another untimely death. Prince was even younger than Victoria Wood.

There was a lot going on in my life around the time he started to make his way in the music business so it wasn’t till the single Purple Rain that I really became conscious of his work.

There were rumours he was very prolific; Wikipedia lists no less than 39 studio albums 17 more of various stamp. There are also rumoured to be hundreds of unreleased tracks hidden away in Paisley Park.

Prince was very protective of his intellectual property so there’s no video in this post.

Hum Raspberry Beret to yourselves.

Prince Rogers Nelson: 7/6/1958 – 21/4/2016. So it goes.

Victoria Wood

I was totally shocked to hear of the death of Victoria Wood. She always seemed so vital. And now she hasn’t had the chance to grow old.

She was a superb entertainer with lines that struck. Even yet when I walk through the cosmetic department of a high street chain (why are they always at the shop entrance?) I intone to myself – with appropriate nasality – “Hello, and welcome to the wonderful world of Sach…..er..el.”

I can’t say I remember her appearance on the talent show New Faces. The first time I really noticed her ability was in the TV showing of her play Talent, in which she starred along with Julie Walters her long time collaborator and friend, and its sequel Nearly a Happy Ending.

The sketch shows Wood and Walters and Victoria Wood as Seen on TV established her signature style, a coterie of actors (Walters, Duncan Preston and Celia Imrie) whom she would work with extensively, and her sublime parody of bad soap opera Acorn Antiques.

Not only was she a play and sketch writer, she could also play the piano, write songs and was a very good serious actress.

But perhaps her greatest achievement was the two series of the sitcom dinnerladies, a wonderful ensemble piece where all the characters got a share of the action – and the good lines.

With the possible exception of Bren’s mother in dinnerladies (so wonderfully played by Walters) she managed to treat all of her characters with compassion. No matter how flawed they might be they were living human beings with inner selves and anguishes.

Once seen and heard who could forget The Ballad of Barry and Freda, commonly known as Let’s Do It. “Bend me over backwards on me hostess trolley.” “Beat me on the bottom with a Woman’s Weekly.) Priceless. The week that was first aired it was also featured on the TV round-up show Did You See? hosted by Ludovic Kennedy. At its end Kennedy couldn’t control his laughter.

Victoria Wood: The Ballad of Barry and Freda

Victoria Wood: 19/5/1953 – 20/4/2016. So it goes.

A Horticulture

I’ve been away for a couple of days and from the internet so couldn’t post this before but it’s too apposite to miss.

The Minister and the Prostitute.

Sounds like a short story title, doesn’t it? (Maybe a fairy tale title if the last word in it had been something else.)

Yet aside from the natural amusement over the fact that yet another Tory has been swept up in a furore over his sex life the first thing the revelation that UK Culture Secretary John Whittingdale has had a relationship with a prostitute brought to my mind was Dorothy Parker‘s wonderful pun when asked to give a sentence with the word horticulture in it. “You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think.”

Not that I like the derogatory connotations of the first syllable of the word in question as Parker used it but: did he lead her to culture, do you think?

PS. I also noted the use of the verb to withdraw by those who called for him to resile from his role in regulation of the press. Very Westminster, that.

Not Friday on my Mind 39: Wilhelmina

I was sad to hear of the death of Andy Newman who lent his nickname to the group of whose biggest hit, Something in the Air (see Friday on my Mind 28) this song, an odd mix of oompah music, kazoo and a rock guitar solo, was the B-side.

My copy of the single did not credit Wilhelmina as the B-side as both were labelled Something in the Air. I’ve often wondered if that was a one-off mistake and my copy is a real rarity.

Andy “Thunderclap” Newman: 21/11/1942-20/3/2016. So it goes.

Thunderclap Newman : Wilhelmina

And It’s Goodnight From Him

The tag line was too good not to use as a post title but it’s still sad that now it’s The No Ronnies.

Mr Corbett never lost his Scottish accent. I believe for a while he retained a house in the village of Strathmiglo, which is only six miles from Son of the Rock Acres.

In my days as a teacher I was wont to employ a catch phrase from one of the TV shows he starred in, Sorry!, (even though it wasn’t Ronnie who ever spoke it.) Rather his character was the subject of its admonishment, “Language, Timothy!” [At least one bewildered child responded to me, “I’m not called Timothy.” ]

From his time on the “Class” sketch in The Frost Report through the immortal “Fork ‘Andles” in his heyday as the smaller half of The Two Ronnies he made memorable contributions to lightening the nation’s heart.

Some of his comedy from that era may have tired but the best of it is up there with with anyone’s.

The Frost Report: Class

Ronald Balfour “Ronnie” Corbett: 4/12/1930 – 31/3/2016. So it goes.

Johan Cruyff

Oh dear. Johan Cruyff, once the greatest footballer in the world, undisputedly the greatest in the time between the careers of Pele and Maradonna, has died.

Together with the coach Rinus Michels, he was the most exquisite of the proponents of Total Football. The Ajax and Dutch teams of which he was the prominent member were a delight to watch. He is also one of the few footballlers to have a manoeuvre named after him, the Cruyff turn.

He has a particular place in the memories of Sons fans of a certain generation for at least having considered joining the club at one point. A short-lived Sons fanzine (remember fanzines?) was titled Cruyff Says No in tribute.

One of the greats has gone.

Hendrik Johannes Cruijff: 25/4/1947 – 24/3/2016. So it goes.

Reelin’ In the Years 119: RIP Keith Emerson

Keith Emerson who died earlier this week was one of the arch proponents of Prog Rock. I’ve already featured several of his recordings with that most unlikely of progenitors of the form, P P Arnold’s backing band The Nice. America, where his reworkings of classical pieces in a rock style perhaps began and which has a good claim, in its extravagance, to be the first truly prog track, its B-side, The Diamond Hard Blue Apples Of The Moon and their first single The Thoughts Of Emerlist Davjack.

It was, though, Emerson’s work with Greg Lake and Carl Palmer as Emerson Lake and Palmer (aka ELP) that solidified his reputation as one of the “rock dinosaurs” that punk rock sought to consign to oblivion.

Here’s a live performance of part of ELP’s take on Moussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.

Emerson, Lake and Palmer: Promenade and the Gnome

Keith Noel Emerson: 2/11/1944 – 10/3/2016. So it goes.

George Martin RIP

What do you say about the man who brought us The Beatles? The man largely responsible for the soundscapes of those ground breaking recordings of the mid-sixties starting with Revolver and continuing through Sgt Pepper (please note; not Sgt Pepper’s; not in Britain, anyway) and Magical Mystery Tour. By the time of The White Album a lot of that sonic experimentation had gone (Revolution No 9 excepted) though the album for the Yellow Submarine film stemmed from the same seam.

Martin was a crucial part of the Beatles’ sound, his facility with arrangements and classical accompaniment giving them a dimension – or dimensions – which on their own or with a different producer might never have arisen. I remember seeing him on a TV documentary saying he had come up with and played the piano interlude on a well-known song which I think was Lovely Rita.

The Beatles: Lovely Rita

I also seem to recall that the “final” version of Strawberry Fields Forever was a mix of two takes which had originally been played in different keys. One was slowed down slightly the other speeded up so that they would synch, which gave it that weird effect that it still has all these years later.

The Beatles: Strawberry Fields Forever

Then there was all that stuff with looping and playing tapes backward. Think of the swirling accordion/funfair sound in Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite.

The Beatles: Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite

Immense.

George Henry Martin: 3/1/1926 – 8/3/2016. So it goes.

Umberto Eco

And now it’s Umberto Eco who has died.

Like most of the rest of the book reading world I bought what is perhaps Eco’s most famous work, The Name of the Rose, and I must say I enjoyed it. [The translation into USian had a problematic image for British readers though, when novice monks showed off their bare asses (in the refectory I think.) I thought, what are donkeys doing there?)]

I subsequently bought Foucault’s Pendulum but as yet, nearly thirty years later, Have not got round to reading it.

Too many books, too little time.

Umberto Eco: 5/1/1932 – 19/2/2016. So it goes.

Reelin’ In the Years 117: Evie. RIP Stevie Wright

I’ve come to this late. Stevie Wright, lead singer of Australian band The Easybeats, whose Friday on my Mind I chose as the first song in my 1960s music category of the same name, died in December. I only saw his obituary in The Guardian earlier this week.

Evie was a solo no 1 hit for him in Australia, possibly the first 11 minute song to reach no 1 anywhere in the world.

The song manages to encompass the three main themes of the love song as a form. Its first two parts are reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac’s Oh Well or Derek and the Dominos’ Layla in that it starts in an up tempo rocking style and then segues into quieter mode. Like Evie both those were split over two sides of the corresponding single release. Evie, however, returns to a higher tempo for its third part.

Stevie Wright: Evie

Stephen Carlton “Stevie” Wright: 20/12/1947 – 27/12/2015. So it goes.

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