One of the enduring memories of my childhood and early adolescence is the animated BBC TV series Noggin the Nog, one of that long list of delightful creations from the team of Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin which also included Ivor the Engine (a bit early for me,) The Clangers and Bagpuss (a bit late.)
Noggin the Nog was such a hit with my schoolmates that one of our secondary school teachers was dubbed with the nickname of the show’s baddie, Nogbad the Bad.
Each episode always had an intro narrated against the muted strains of Hall of the Mountain King, “In the lands of the North, where the Black Rocks stand guard against the cold sea, in the dark night that is very long the Men of the Northlands sit by their great log fires and they tell a tale,” which then went on into that particular storyline.
Another of the singles my eldest brother bought was this novelty record by the Mastersingers, setting the first part of the Highway Code in the form of an Anglican chant.
And why would he buy such a thing?
Well, my family is steeped in the Anglican tradition and my brother would later, as he would put it, “take Holy Orders” – the latest in a line from my grandfather (the original Jack Deighton,) his brother Frank, and son Ian, though none of the children of my generation follow on in what might have been called the family business – so we found the conceit amusing. All the more so since everyone in my immediate family – mother, father, two brothers, myself – were in the church choir and were used to singing Psalms and Canticles as Anglican Chant. I remember spending several years looking forward to following my brothers in singing as leading choirboy the part of the page in Good King Wenceslas at Christmas only to be disappointed when in my year the choirmaster decided to change the format to having the congregation sing it instead. That’s life, though.
The Mastersingers (of whom a history is on this website) actually reached the top thirty with The Highway Code, though their subsequent release, The Weather Forecast, did not fare quite so well.
The B-side of The Ferret Song (see last week) had a tune based on the middle part of one of John Philip Sousa’s marches, The Washington Post, and had a lyric which became typical of the Monty Python style since the song references a slew of philosophers and artists and also includes nods to popular culture as well as Shakespeare – all wrapped around an idea of the utmost silliness.
I really like the cleverness of the rhymes with the word tart, though.
John Cleese with the 1948 show choir: Rhubarb Tart Song
I first remember hearing this classic (I can’t bring myself to categorise it as music however) on I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again but it had been performed earlier in At Last the 1948 Show and it also counts towards those singles from my elder brother’s record collection – see this category numbers 53-56.
John Cleese with the 1948 show choir: The Ferret Song from the 1948 Show
A small hit in the UK (no 36) but a no 8 in Germany. The track has echoes of The Troggs and The Who of I’m a Boy and prefigures the Roy Wood era Electric Light Orchestra. The video features “guitarist” Eddie Phillips playing his instrument with a violin bow – reputedly the first to do so – a major contributor to the record’s sound. Another antecedent of Prog Rock?
Phillips had also used this technique on their previous single, Making Time.
This is me breaking the (self-imposed) rules of my category – again.
And how does it break the rules?
It’s a Beatles song. (There have been none so far.)
Well, I say a Beatles song but they never released it in the 60s – and the main item isn’t performed by the Beatles.
The song was, though, written by George Harrison for the White Album sessions but not used on the release. Instead it’s notable as the only track on which three members of the Beatles recorded together for an artist other than themselves during the band’s lifetime; the artist being Jackie Lomax. The line-up contained Lomax on vocals, George Harrison and Eric Clapton on guitars, Nicky Hopkins on piano, Paul McCartney on bass, and Ringo Starr on drums, although McCartney’s contribution was actually overdubbed later.
I include a “Beatles” version from the White Album sessions.
I was sorry to hear of the death of one of Sheffield’s finest, Joe Cocker. I’ve mentioned before his hit with the radical reworking of the Beatles’ song With a Little Help From My Friends and also his Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour.
From that tour here’s the live version of Delta Lady.
Joe Cocker (Mad Dogs and Englishmen): Delta Lady
John Robert (Joe) Cocker: 20/5/1944 – 22/12/2014. So it goes.
What a piece of one-hit wondery this is. The ultimate in novelty tunes. Not only the peculiar title (only beaten in the what-on-Earth-is-that-all-about? stakes by They’re Coming to Take me Away Ha-haaa!) but the fact that the tune is never sung but only whistled.
The “performer” in the clip isn’t Whistling Jack Smith, whose identity some say is unknown, but according to Wiki was a member of the Mike Sammes singers. Instead the guy prancing around is an actor, who the Wiki article says is one Billy Moeller.