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Not Friday on my Mind 53: I See the Rain. RIP Dean Ford

I was sad to hear the news of the death of Dean Ford, lead singer of (The) Marmalade (once known as Dean Ford and the Gaylords,) the first Scottish group to have a no 1 in the UK. To make it, of course, they had to leave Scotland and move to London where their initial efforts under their original name didn’t meet with much joy. Calling themselves The Marmalade also didn’t bring instant success. It was only when they adopted a more pop profile – and with songs written by others – that they achieved a measure of success, peaking with that no. 1, a cover of The Beatles’ Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.

Ford was no mean song writer though. Along with fellow band member Junior Campbell he wrote Reflections of My Life, Rainbow, and My Little One, hits between 1969 and 1971.

Plus this pre-success psychedelia-tinged song, said to be Jimi Hendrix’s favourite of 1967.

The Marmalade: I See the Rain

Thomas McAleese (Dean Ford): 5/9/1946 – 31/12/2018. So it goes.

Let Me Take You Down ….

…. because I’ve been to Strawberry Fields. (Or more correctly it seems Strawberry Field.):-

Strawberry Fields, Liverpool

Behind these gates was apparently a children’s home and though Wikipedia has John Lennon climbing into the place to play with them the guide on the bus tour our friends had booked said he would play truant from his own school hoping to catch a glimpse of girls beyond the trees behind the gates.

The present gates are replicas:-

Strawberry Fields

When Lennon’s parents’ marriage fell apart he was taken in by his Aunt Mimi.

This is her house. They had a reasonably comfortable existence here you’d think:-

John Lennon's Aunt Mimi's House Liverpool

Note the notice on the gate post and the blue plaque on the house:-

Aunt Mimi's house

In Liverpool reminders of the Beatles are never far away. Sgt Pepper flower bed:-

Sergeant Pepper Flower Bed, Liverpool

Memorial plaque:-

Beatles Memorial Plaque

The Beatles: Strawberry Fields Forever

The Cavern Club, Liverpool

Opposite the Cavern Club, Liverpool, is a Wall of Fame:-

The Cavern Wall of Fame

The statue of a Beatle (John Lennon from the looks) lounges by the Wall of Fame, here accompanied by two tourists:-

Beatle Statue and Fans, Liverpool

Each brick has inscribed on it the name of an act which has performed at the Cavern Club. Wall of Fame plaque:-

Cavern Club Wall of Fame Plaque

Some of the commemorative bricks:-

Commemorative Bricks Oppsite Cavern Club, Liverpool

The internal walls of the club are covered by memorabilia. Not only of the Beatles:-

The Cavern

Beatles Memorabilia

Beatles Memorabilia

but also other rock and rollers:-

Chuck Berry Memorabilia

Four Liverpool Lads

In my last “Art Deco in Liverpool” post I mentioned John Lennon.

He was of course one of the four Liverpool lads who were probably the town’s most famous export. (Export in the sense that their music went all over the world.)

I refer to The Beatles. A (larger than life size) statue of the four stands near the Liverpool waterfront:-

Four Liverpool Lads

It is difficult to move in Liverpool without stumbling over something to do with the four. This is the entrance to Matthew Street wherein lies the Cavern Club where they had a residency back in the day. (Note the establishment known as Sgt Pepper’s to the right):-

Matthew Street, Liverpool

The club is not the same as the one The Beatles used to play in. Part of the original no longer exists and the entrance has been moved. Below is the old Entrance to Cavern Club. The Cilla Black statue to the front commemorates her stint as a cloakroom attendant at the establishment:-

Old Entrance to Cavern Club, Liverpool

New entrance:-

The Cavern new entrance

Entering the venue proper requires going down a fairly steep set of stairs:-

The Cavern stairs

The arched interior is a little claustrophobic:-

Interior Arches, Cavern Club, Liverpool

I have more photos of the Cavern Club but this is enough to be going on with.

More Architecture in Blackpool

The Imperial Hotel, an imposing building on Blackpool sea-front now possibly a bit down from its height. The inside walls are covered with photographs of various luminaries who stayed there in its heyday, including the Beatles:-

Imperial Hotel Blackpool

Blackpool Town Hall. Victorian high style:-

Blackpool Town Hall

Stained glass windows in Blackpool’s Town Hall:-

Stained Glass, Blackpool Town Hall

Norbreck Castle Hotel. A modern castellated fantasy. From south:-

Norbreck Castle Hotel

From southwest:-

Suide View, Norbreck Castle Hotel, Blackpool

Northern part of Norbreck Castle Hotel complex:-

Norbreck Castle Hotel, Blackpool

From north:-

Norbreck Castle Hotel, Blackpoo, From Northl

Reelin’ In the Years 144: Sixty Years On/Have Mercy on the Criminal. RIP Paul Buckmaster

Master musical arranger Paul Buckmaster died last month. I only got to know about it when his obituary appeared in the Guardian. I first knowingly encountered Buckmaster’s work on Elton John’s second album Elton John but I had heard it before on David Bowie’s Space Oddity.

Buckmaster’s importance to the overall sound of that eponymous album is most to the fore on Sixty Years On. I hadn’t heard anything like that on a pop record before (not even from The Beatles) except possibly for the orchestral backing to Simon and Garfunkel’s Old Friends on the Bookends album.

Elton John: Sixty Years On

Elton’s next two studio albums Tumbleweed Connection and Madman Across the Water also used Buckmaster’s arrangements to great effect as did his film score for Friends but his presence was missing on Honky Chateau. Elton turned to Buckmaster again with the stunning Have Mercy on the Criminal from Don’t Shoot me I’m Only the Piano Player.

Elton John: Have Mercy on the Criminal

Paul John Buckmaster: 13/6/1946 – 7/11/2017. So it goes.

Psychoraag by Suhayl Saadi

Chroma, 2005, 446 p. One of the 100 best Scottish Books.

 Psychoraag cover

From its opening sentence “’Salaam alaikum, sat sri sakaal, namaste ji, good evenin oan this hoat summer’s night!’” this novel proudly proclaims its uniqueness. The tale of the last broadcast of Radio Chaandni, “’Sax oors, that’s right, sax ooors ae great music, rock an filmi an weird, weye-oot there happenins an ma rolling voice,’” on “ninety-nine-point-nine meters” sic FM. The voice is that of Zaf – “’that’s zed ay eff’” – DJ of The Junnune (madness) Show, scion of a pair of romantic (but adulterous) runaways from Pakistan.

As the above quote shows, Zaf’s monologues to his microphone are rendered in a very broad Glaswegian indeed. They are presented on the page with an unjustified right margin, a feature distinguishing them from the more normal narrative interspersed with them which relates the events of the night in a slightly more refined Scots dialect. Meanwhile sections devoted to his parents’ life together are in Standard English (except when their back story has caught up to times Zaf can remember.) To render the Glaswegian Scots, Saadi spells most participles (indeed most words ending with “ng”) without the final g – even when they occur inside longer words as in increasinly.

The music he plays (ranging from Asian Dub Foundation through Kula Shaker and Corner Shop to The Beatles, The 13th Floor Elevators, the golden hour and even Jimmy Page and Robert Plant) is integral to Zaf’s conception of himself and for those interested in such things a Play List and Discography of his many and varied tastes are appended after the glossary of Urdu and other terms with which the novel is liberally sprinkled.

Zaf’s stream of consciousness sees him ruminate on life, the universe and everything, with an emphasis on Scotland and Pakistan, “the land of the pure”, often mixing things to great effect, “if Dante Alighieri, in his exile, had had Irn-Bru, he wouldn’t have needed Beatrice. He wouldn’t have needed poetry.”

His thoughts also whirl around both the important women in his adult life, present girlfriend Babs, prone to jaunts to the wilds on her blue Kawasaki motor bike, and previous occupier of that position Zilla. Babs is white and – once – called him her brown god. Like Zaf, Zilla is of Asian descent but has fallen into drugs and prostitution, a circumstance for which it turns out Zaf is partly responsible.

Considerations of race inevitably loom large in Zaf’s thoughts. “The aspiration of all good Asians, finally, wis to be as white as possible. To marry white, to generate white and to strive incessantly for depigmentation.” To be half white or part white gave you, “one foot in the door… You became an honorary person.” He ponders acronyms and abbreviation as aspects of western life, “the whole pompous culture of indecipherability and wilful obscurantism had arisen from the collective mind of the grey men.” He articulates the Asian experience of Glasgow, especially the part which has become known as Wee Faisalabad, mentions the activities of local gang The Kinnin Park Boys, desirous of taking over the station franchise, and his experience of living in the slightly more upmarket area of the Shiels. He has, too, recognised that Calvinist sensibility, knowing that Glasgow had “turned its hard Presbyterian face away from its own children, it averted its thin lips,” and hence reasoning, “So why on earth should it bother to acknowledge a changeling like Zaf?” Neither does society’s attitude to women escape him, especially that of those keen on patriarchy and the primacy of the word. If they fall from an ideal, women are never forgiven, “There wis no such entity as the prodigal daughter,” he notes. Even the possibility of such a fall proscribes them.

Where the narrative breaks away from Zaf and instead tells the story of his father Jamil Ayaan and his mother Rashida, their meeting and falling in love, their affair and her desire for them to be together (only possible if they left Pakistan,) their long journey in a Ford Popular from Lahore to London then Glasgow; a city Jamil had never heard of before, and which he therefore thought would be safe from “prying eyes, ears tongues,” only to find on arrival the sole job he could find was in the sewers, the prose becomes lyrical. Saadi is no mere Shock Jock, he handles straightforward English narrative with as much skill as his demotic flourishes.

There are dream-like sequences where Zaf seems simultaneously to be in the studio at Radio Chaandni and at the same time roaming the city’s streets. This may or may not be because he has drunk some absinthe lying about the studio or perhaps a result of Zaf’s general sense of dissociation. The scenes where Zilla has turned up in the studio have a particularly hallucinatory feel.

Psychoraag is a tremendous achievement, managing to distil both the essence of immigrant experience and of Scottishness and to embody them in one character. It is certainly an admirable piece of work, utterly memorable, worthy of a place in that list of 100 Scottish Books.

Pedant’s corner:- “ninety-nine-point-nine meters FM” (FM radio tuning is characterised by frequency, not by wavelength; Zaf must mean 99.9 MHz,) “but, to Zaf’s right, was a partition wall” (unnecessary parenthetical commas,) zndabad (zindabad,) off of (just off, please,) “poking out from of the back pockets of their jeans” (from or of; not both,) “on account he was” (on account of he was.) “Cognito ergo sum” (The context implies this re-rendering – I know therefore I am – of Descartes’s philosophical statement, I think therefore I am, is intended,) “more dif icult to maintain” (difficult,) “aren’t I?” (OK Zaf says this to his mum and “Indian” English perhaps uses this formulation; but the Scottish English is “amn’t I?) “‘It’s finishes tonight.’” (It,) “she will have she have OD’d” (no “she have”,) Glasgae (Saadi – as Zaf – often uses this but no West of Scotland person says this; Glesca or Glesga maybe, never Glasgae,) re-appeared (in the middle of a line? reappeared,) outside of (outside; ditto inside of,) “it’s three thirty in the morning” (Zaf thinks this during a disturbance in the show’s fifth hour, ie after four a.m.) posonous (poisonous,) “as if it there had been” (as if it had been.) Peter Sellars (Sellers,) “the music swelled tae a crescendo” (no, the crescendo is the swelling; “swelled to a climax” maybe,) “hud been lain” (laid,) ivirthin (previously, and subsequently, ivirythin, with one iviryhin,) “just a little, as. underneath the sunshine” (no full stop.) Fundmentalist (Fundamentalist.) “A certain section of the community were” (a section was.) Polyethelene (Polyethylene,) “ninety-nine point-nine wave-length” (it’s frequency not a wavelength; and wavelength isn’t hyphenated,) cadeceus (caduceus?)
In the glossary:- a shopkeepers, (a shopkeeper) “the commercial films or South Asia” (of,) “a person who own a lot of land” (owns,) “of which there are an enormous variety” (there is a variety.)

Reelin’ In the Years 129: Live Till You Die/Fresh As a Daisy

As I mentioned last week DJ Alan “Fluff” Freeman championed Emitt Rhodes (once of the Merry-Go-Round) when his first solo album came out in 1970, but that still didn’t make for much success in the UK.

On that self-titled LP there’s a strong feel of the Beatles feel to most of Rhodes’s songs, with a hint of Gerry Rafferty in the vocals.

Here are Live Till You Die and the more “pop”py Fresh as a Daisy.

Emitt Rhodes: Live Till You Die

Emitt Rhodes: Fresh as a Daisy

Live It Up 30: Dear Prudence

A reference to Siouxsie and the Banshees in Andrew Greig’s In Another Light (review to come) reminded me of the band’s treatment of this Beatles’ song.

Siouxsie and the Banshees: Dear Prudence

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.

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