Sunday, 13 May 2012


       Buoyed by the success of the shelves over The Stage, and after I found some more bits of wood, I've spent this afternoon building some more. Typically, I ran out of wood mid-way through, but at least I've made a start. The books in the picture are there to give me some idea of the heights I needed to leave between each shelf. I haven't decided if I'm going to paint or varnish them, or just leave them.

In his play Private Lives Noel Coward has his character Amanda say: -

Extraordinary how potent cheap music is.

Cheap music meant, in the 1930s, (when Private Lives was written), popular music. Amanda seems surprised, as if popular music should not be potent or have depth, but she is right - some popular music is extraordinarily potent. Popular music is not, of course, classical music. It may be the music of the man in the street, but that does not necessarily mean it is not as ‘high-brow’ as classical music. An awful lot of classical music is pretentious (pretentious – moi?), derivative and, let’s face it, meretricious ( … and a Happy New Year to you, too). And an awful lot of popular music is tremendously witty, clever and inventive.

How can you not continue to listen to a song that starts with the line: -

I love a good bum on a woman, it makes my day

Front Cover of my limited edition Jake Thackray Project double CD

... and the rear of the same.

Ah, Jake Thackray. Possibly the finest lyricist that this country has ever produced. I introduced him yesterday but he deserves more than just a single mention. Technically, Jake was perfect – he’d taught English and knew his craft inside out, understanding scansion and metre as well as rhyme. He stands in a magnificent tradition of European chanteurs,– easily equalling Jacques Brel or George Bressens (whom he acknowledged by translating, deftly, LeGorille). Look at the next line: -

To me, it is palpable proof of God’s existence, a posteriori

Palpable? When was the last time you heard the word ‘palpable’ in a song? And that magnificent pun – a posterior (a bum) and a posteriori (a philosophical premise framed on epistemological evidence)! In the second line of a song about arses and nagging women? Well done, Sir. Listen to On Again, On Again at this link.
I also mentioned pound notes yesterday. Half of a pound was ten shillings, and a ten-shilling note was once a thing to have. Nipping back to Welsh for a minute, a ten-shilling note was nicknamed a papur chwigain (six time twenty paper). Listen to the opening of Steve Tilston’s Slip Jigs and Reels (apologies for the quality of the link – it’s nothing to do with me).

He was barely a man
In his grandfather’s coat,
Sewn into the lining
A ten-shilling note.

This is setting up a whole future epic. And how. Just from these four lines we know that there is a grand story to be told here. Any teacher of creative writing worth their salt will tell their students that the opening line of any work must be a hook that catches the attention of the reader. I want to know what happens to this boy; why sew a ten-shilling note into his grandfather’s coat, and where is he off to? When I was a lad, you got ten bob (50p) for your birthday. These days you might, similarly, stick a tenner in a birthday card. But sewn into the lining of a coat? To stop it being pinched? An emergency fund to get him back home? And why his grandfather’s coat? Does his father still wear his own coat, and can’t spare it? Or has the father skipped, and Granddad’s hand-me-down is all that’s left for him? Brilliant.

Slips Jigs and Reels is on here, and also on The Greening Wind CD

I  have been lucky enough to meet Mr Tilston a couple of times. He is probably the biggest star that has never made it big. He is highly respected in the folk music world (and John Lennon, no less, was an admirer), and has been covered by many other artists, but the general public is missing something. Luckily, he has been on television recently, which is great, but he really ought to be more widely known. I saw him play at the open-mike folk nights in a pub in Abbey Village, quite a while ago now. It’s weird to sit and watch one of your heroes playing live in a pub, walk into the gents during the break and find yourself standing next to him, strike up a conversation and then buy his latest CD straight from his guitar case. Oh, and like you want your heroes to be, he’s a really, really nice bloke – and he plays his guitar like he’s been down to the crossroads.

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