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Something Changed 34: Sorted for E’s and Wizz/Mis-Shapes

A two-for-one offer today as these songs were released as a double A-side to become Pulp’s second number two hit in a row (after Common People.)

This first song caused a rumpus, with press comment claiming it was pro-drugs, which lead singer Jarvis Cocker said was a misinterpretation. I must say I agree with him. Even on first hearing the song the claim seemed to me to be ludicrous.

Pulp: Sorted for E’s and Wizz

Mis-Shapes wasn’t so controversial. There’s a James Bond film chord sequence in the refrain though.

Pulp: Mis-Shapes

Friday on my Mind 173: You Only Live Twice

After From Russia with Love we were treated to the big bashing of both Shirley Bassey and Tom Jones in Goldfinger and Thunderball respectively in subsequent Bond theme songs. By the time of You Only Live Twice things had been dialled down a bit. I must say I like the guitar counterpoint under the verses (mirroring the strings in the intro but extending the melody by a few notes.) Robbie Williams, of course, paid homage to this theme in his hit Millennium.

By the way. Is it heretical to be of the opinion that Nancy Sinatra was a better singer than her dad?

Nancy Sinatra: You Only Live Twice

Friday on my Mind 172: From Russia With Love

Reading the book (see my review, four or five posts ago) reminded me of this Bond theme song from the time when Bond theme songs weren’t a thing. It does, though, give me an opportunity once more to feature the vocal talents of Matt Monro.

The song itself is a perfect example of the songwriter’s craft. The slight change in the melody from line one to line two, the way the first verse’s lyrics circle back to the first phrase, the sequential rhyming of places and faces, then tongue-tied and young pride and the rise to the final note.

Matt Monro: From Russia With Love

From Russia with Love by Ian Fleming

Vintage, 2012, 358 p plus i p Author’s Note and vii p introduction by Tom Rob Smith. First published 1957.

I did not have great hopes for this. If it hadn’t been on the list of the 100 best Scottish Books I would never have picked it up, still less paid for it. It was, however, available from a local Library – these need as much patronage as they can get – I therefore borrowed it. Even so my expectations were not met. The novel is written in journalese, the prose fails to rise even to the utilitarian, the characters are barely one-dimensional, never mind rounded. And info-dumping is rife.

Then there is the implicit racism. “It was a strong Western handful of operative fingers – not the banana skin handshake of the East that makes you want to wipe your fingers on your coat-tails.” The casual misogyny of the time, too, is shown by the sentences, “All women want to be swept off their feet. In their dreams they long to be slung over a man’s shoulder and taken into a cave and raped,” and, “I got her to my place and took away her clothes and kept her chained naked under the table.” True, Fleming puts these into the mouth of a Turk but it’s still misogyny. Unexamined misogyny, to which Bond does not demur. An organised fight between two gipsy girls over a man (which reads as merely an excuse to describe their clothes sequentially coming off) is misogynystic and racist both. Bond’s right wing attitude – so by extension Fleming’s? There is nothing in the text that would contradict this – is exemplified by him saying, “As for England, the trouble today is that carrots are all the fashion.” That is, as opposed to sticks.

Moreover the structure is a bit odd. Bond isn’t mentioned till page 61 and does not appear himself till page 151. Tom Rob Smith’s Introduction regards this as a strength but the focus of Part One, Donovan Grant, a half-German, half-Irish psychopathic hitman employed by Smersh through expediency rather than approval of any sort, does not reappear till the climax (and then instead of just killing Bond this supposed total psychopath Grant explains to him the nature of the plot against him thus giving Bond some time to formulate a way out.)

That plot concerns the supposed falling in love with Bond via his photograph of Tatiana Romanova, in order to entice him into a trap – the additional bait being her bringing to Bond a Spektor cryptographic machine – whereby he will be disgraced. The egotist Bond cannot quite work out why this is a red flag. Cue, though, many goings-on in Istanbul and a trip back west on the Orient Express; a singularly unlikely escape route.

I suspect these things work much better on a film screen than on a page. Whatever, this book certainly is not worthy of a place on any list of 100 best Scottish books.

Pedant’s corner:- a masseuse is described as having tufts of fair hair in her armpits but has short coarse black hair (genetics doesn’t work like that and there was no mention of dyeing,) “one of the men-servants” (the word is manservant, the plural is surely manservants,) a missing comma before a piece of direct speech, long-chassied (the word is chassis, so long-chassised,) “there was a diminishing crescendo” (crescendos rise to a climax, they do not descend. A descent is a diminuendo.)

The Night Manager

I’ve been watching the BBC’s adaptation of John le Carré’s The Night Manager on Sunday evenings.

It has been very well done indeed – even if it does often feel like an extended audition by leading actor Tom Hiddleston for the role of James Bond.

I had my doubts about the “showing off the wares scene” in last week’s episode (20/3/16). The explosions were much more like hydrocarbons igniting rather than ordnance going off. (The napalm would look like that of course, but not the others.) There was also Roper’s mistress floating about in skimpy clothing despite complaining she felt threatened by being the only woman in an army camp. Cover up then, missus.

I thought that the change in British agent Burr from a man (in the book) to a woman worked well enough except for the scene where she revealed the reason for her determination to bring arms dealer Richard Roper to justice.

What really failed to convince me though was the implication that any British – or US – Government agency, no matter how detached from MI6 and the CIA they’re supposed to be, would give even the merest fraction of a toss about arms dealing. Listening to the news sometimes it seems it’s practically a national duty (“to protect jobs”) to flog the instruments of death to any and every sane or crazed head of state/despot/warlord – legally or otherwise.

Bob Holness

So. The man who at least latterly was more famous for something he didn’t do than for anything he actually did is dead.

But he was one of the first actors to play James Bond – in a radio version of Moonraker in 1956.

His most resonant appearances for someone of my generation were as host of the TV game show Blockbusters where he was subject to the recurring request, “Can I have a P please, Bob?” and was also the presenter of Call My Bluff when it was axed.

He played along with the urban myth that he was the saxophonist on Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street, apparently adding in for good measure that he also played lead guitar on Derek And The Dominos’ Layla.

Robert Wentworth John Holness 12/11/1928 – 6/1/12. So it goes.

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