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Closing Time: Leonard Cohen, Robert Vaughn, Jimmy Young

I had intended to publish remembrance posts today in the one day this year between Armistice Day and Remembrance Day but 2016 just keeps piling it on.

Now it’s Leonard Cohen who has left us.

Not to mention actor Robert Vaughn – aka Napoleon Solo in the Man From U.N.C.L.E. but whose best performance was as a conscientious German officer, Major Paul Kreuger, undone by circumstances in the film The Bridge at Remagen – and, earlier in the week, a voice from my youth (though he was too soft-edged to be a anything like a favourite,) Jimmy Young, once a stalwart of BBC Radio 2.

I suppose everybody will be using Hallelujah to sign Leonard Cohen off. Here instead is one of his songs from 1992, Closing Time.

Leonard Norman Cohen: 21/9/1934 – 7/11/2016. So it goes.
Robert Vaughn: 22/11/1932 – 11/11/2016. So it goes.
Leslie Ronald “Jimmy” Young: 21/9/1921 – 7/11/2016. So it goes.

‘Tis Fifty Years Since

If you peruse Radio 2’s schedule for today you will find an unusual item at 14.50.

World Cup ’66 Live.

(If you listen to Radio 2 you may also have heard the trailers for this being aired hourly since about the end of April – or does it just seem like that?)

Guys. I know it’s been fifty years and your only major trophy win is not likely to be repeated any time soon. But it’s not as if it hasn’t been mentioned at all in the interim.

Don’t you think it’s maybe time you got over it?

After today might we possibly have a moratorium on the whole business? Please?


Thought not.

Terry Wogan

I can just about remember when Terry Wogan wasn’t a fixture of British public life but that memory was fading. In recent years he had himself receded a little from the public eye, retiring from his braekfast show and from commentating on the Eurovision Song Contest but he still popped up with an intermittent weekly radio show on Radio 2 and the annual Children in Need telethons (all in a good cause certainly but usually so laced with embarassing performances that I found it difficult to watch so I hadn’t done so for years.)

Despite his failure to appear on last year’s Children in Need in November due to illness – a warning sign as it turned out – it was still a shock to wake up to the news today that he had died.

I also noticed there were retrospective clip shows from his thrice-weekly 80s chat show on in the afternoon in the run-up to Christmas 2015. Maybe there was a hint there too.

I wasn’t one of his listeners in the 60s – or indeed in the 70s – but in later life I found his breakfast radio show congenial listening in the short interval between being woken by the alarm clock and actually getting out of bed. Perhaps it took reaching a certain age to appreciate his charms.

He always seemd perfectly genial – a great trick to pull off in the early morning – but by all accounts this was simply him; there was apparently no difference between his public and private persona.

The world feels diminished by his death. I fervently hope it doesn’t turn out he had feet of clay (as others of his vintage had) but if all that has been said of him is true there may be no need to fear.

Michael Terence “Terry” Wogan; 3/8/1938 – 31/1/2016. So it goes.

William McIlvanney Again

I noticed that Radio 2’s news on Saturday evening referred to William McIlvanney as a crime writer. That is a gross over-simplification. Laidlaw, The Papers of Tony Veitch and Strange Loyalties may have featured a detective but they were primarily novels. And there were seven more novels to add the account, as well as his poetry and journalism.

This link is to his obituary in the Guardian.

The Great War Anniversary

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.

Reelin’ In the Years 78: El Doomo

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.

This is about as far from Bringing on Back the Good Times as you can get.

Ellis: El Doomo

Friday On My Mind 85: No Milk Today

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.

Herman’s Hermits: Tallyman

Games People Play Revisited

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.

Talented guy.

The Day Before You Came

Last week I heard a DJ on Radio 2 saying when Agnetha came to sing this song for Abba she must have said to Björn and Benny, “€œThe lyric on this is insane! It doesn’€™t scan or rhyme.”€

Silly, silly man.

It does both.

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 “€œlunch” -€“ 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, “€œUndoubtedly 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 “€œto 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.

Blancmange: The Day Before You Came

There is also an eight minute version on You Tube.

Aphrodite’s Child: It’s Five O’Clock

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.

On second thought….

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