Wednesday, 13 May 2009

'My Old Man's a Dustman.'

I would like to have had a rant about MPs expenses, but I am so angry about it and having debated it at work with equally as angry colleagues who scrimp and save every penny of our public organisations money whilst trying to find savings and cuts in every dark corner, I've had enough of it. Safe to say, most of the MPs have no credibility left in my view, the Parliamentary process is in disrepute and hopefully independent or smaller party MPs may have a chance to put the country right at the next election in May 2010.

"The House of Commons is the longest running farce in the West End."
Cyril Smith, Politician.

I had a deja vu moment today as I listened to BBC Radio 2 Steve Wright in the afternoon on the way home from work when he played Lonnie Donegan's Rock Island Line in his 'three after three' spot. Lonnie was my favourite artist of my youth for reasons I will explain later, so I'm having another memory testing blog today as I try to recall my own childhood in sunnier days in Cottingham East Yorkshire. I can't really remember exactly how old I was, perhaps six or seven, when my parents bought me a Dansette record player in a green colour. It played 45's, 33 and a third LPs and if you changed the needle, 78s. (The figures are all speeds of the record - revolutions per minute.) It only had two buttons on the front next to the speaker, volume and base/treble and you could load up to nine 45s in a stack and it would automatically select the next record after the previous one had finished.

The portable Dansette was kept in the large back room, quite isolated in the large Victorian house so as not to annoy my parents and grandparents who lived with us with loud 'pop' music. My playing list (iPod thinks play lists are new!) however did not necessarily reflect the popular songs of the day; I was in fact more interested in the comedy song, very popular in the 1960s and 1970s. I think a 45 cost me about 9s 6d, the equivalent of about 47 pence today. Lonnie Donegan was one of the first records I had with his hit 'My Old Man's a Dustman.' Charlie Drake made 'My Boomerang Won't Come Back' and Bernard Cribbins brought out 'Right Said Fred,' with requisite sound effects as Fred and Charlie demolished the house to move a piano and failed of course: "The trouble with Fred is, he's too hasty, you never get nowhere if you're too hasty." We didn't bother with correcting double negatives in those days!

I know it sounds daft now, but I recall often finding something, anything that resembled a microphone and I pretended to sing the song to an invisible audience with word perfect miming accompaniment to the record and receiving the imaginary applause at the end. Most of Donegan's records seemed to be recorded in front of a live audience and the applause rang out from the appreciative crowd. 'Does your Chewing Gum Lose its Flavour on the Bedpost Overnight?' was another where his unique brand of skiffle music drove the song along with a comic edge. There were recordings from comedy shows and one I had on a double sided 45 was a Steptoe and Son recording from a Royal Variety show where the tatters from Oil Drum Lane, Shepherd's Bush had visited a big house which turned out to be Buckingham Palace. Classic belly laugh material.

A few years later, as a teenager I was bought a second hand reel to reel tape recorder and I recorded many of my all time classic comedy favourites the 'Navy Lark' with the talented Bill Pertwee and brilliant Leslie Phillips (and many other talented actors that you would recognise by sight, but probably not remember their name) and another leader in its day, the hilarious 'I'm Sorry I'll read that Again.' I heard some of that show recently repeated on BBC iPlayer and it's as fresh today as it was in the 1960's and early 1970s. 'I'm Sorry...' had the likes of John Cleese, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie and ran from 1964 to 1973. I also recorded my own plays with school friends with sound effects in the front room on a weekend after days working on dreadful scripts. Sadly (or perhaps not), none of those survive.

And yet, I love music but know nothing about it at all. I would never enter a quiz because my knowledge of music (singers, dates, titles) is nil along with my knowledge of TV soaps - no idea. Despite this lack of knowledge, I've just listened away for entertainment value for hours and hours, probably hundreds or thousands over my lifetime and yet for that lack of knowledge I've had no less enjoyment.

Here are two cutting comments attributed to Sir Thomas Beecham, impresario and famous conductor of top orchestras to two hapless musicians in his charge:

1 "Madam, you have between your legs an instrument capable of giving pleasure to thousands - and all you can do is scratch it." He was of course referring to her cello.

2 "We cannot expect you to be with us all the time, but perhaps you would be good enough to keep in touch now and then?"

Chat soon



  1. I used to have an old record player and stack up the 45's as well, kids have it so much easier these days!

  2. Yes computers and iPods, MP3s etc - so easy. Great to have you back again, hope you are starting to settle in - the cold will soon go now early summer is arriving... x

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