The Aged P

…just toasting and ruminating….

05 September
Comments Off on Down The Memory Lane Of Music – “Stay” by Maurice Williams & the Zodiacs (1960)

Down The Memory Lane Of Music – “Stay” by Maurice Williams & the Zodiacs (1960)

Maurice Williams says he wrote “Stay” as a fifteen year old in 1953 after he failed to convince his girl friend of the time not to go home so quickly after a date. Seven years later he put it on a demo cut for his doo wop band The Zodiacs and hiked all around New York trying to arouse interest. Eventually it was picked up by Herald Records and re-cut and released in the Autumn of 1960. By the end of November it was top of the Billboard 100.Subsequent covers by The Four Seasons and the Hollies, amongst others as well as a placement in the 1987 film “Dirty Dancing” have ensured, hopefully, a steady stream of income for Williams and a firmly established niche down Memory Lane.

Oddly enough Williams also penned another classic doo wop number “Little Darlin’”. Released in 1957 it did moderately well in the R & B charts but made little impression on the Billboard 100…unlike The Diamonds cover just a month or so later….

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01 December
Comments Off on A Story To Lift Your Hearts – The Military Wives Choir….”They also serve who only stand and wait”… .

A Story To Lift Your Hearts – The Military Wives Choir….”They also serve who only stand and wait”… .

It’s a choir of women – but they are very special women, very special indeed.

They are British military wives – and their husbands have just got back from a tour of duty in Afghanistan.

For several months they were on their own, waiting every second of every minute of every day for “that message” – and all the time having to do the mundane family things with the kids and the house and without much of a social network because the families move bases so often they rarely have time to root themselves into a community.

Enter choirmaster Gareth Malone.

A soldier’s wife wrote to him and suggested he take a group of those women and form them into a choir.

Now Malone is no ordinary choirmaster.

After a postgraduate degree at the Royal Academy of Music, his infectious enthusiasm was spotted by a TV production company seeking a choirmaster to front a new programme about music in schools.
The result was the first series of The Choir, which saw Malone take a group of surly teenagers and prepare them for the performance of their lives at an international choral competition.
Three similar series (and two BAFTAs) followed — as as well as marriage to Becky, an English teacher… and the birth of their daughter, Esther

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So he took up the challenge which is why earlier this year he found himself and his BBC TV crew in a Royal Marine base in Devon. He realised that his passionate belief in the power of music to transform people’s lives would certainly be tested in this environment.

“Because they are, to use a hackneyed phrase, unsung heroes. We sing about the Forces and everything they do, but not the people who are left behind. It seemed to me a missing part of the story. Some of the women I’ve been working with have got husbands or sons in really frontline positions. That’s very, very stressful.”
“These women have complex lives, and responsibilities. That makes them rich and fertile territory for a choir – because you’re drawing something out of them that they like to keep hidden. I think everyone felt that it’s positive to get those difficult feelings out through singing.”

It wasn’t easy. Many of the women were shy and self conscious and few had any ever sung in public. But over the months, although there were many ups and downs the women bonded and were transformed from “nervous novices into full voiced confident choristers”

Malone, (“geeky, glasses, bow ties, tweed jackets”) had never ever had anything to do with the services and was distinctly nervous about how he would be received by a military community that tends to keep to itself. But his passion for music, his unbridled enthusiasm and dogged determination won them over.

In the gloomy Officers’ Mess of a rain-swept Royal Marines base on a miserable October morning, choirmaster Gareth Malone is chatting animatedly about the importance of encouraging people to sing, when he is interrupted by a very large, rather menacing individual in green Army fatigues.
“I just wanted to shake your hand,” the marine says, thrusting out his own massive mitt towards Malone. “My wife thinks you’re the dog’s bollocks”
The contrast between the fresh-faced, bespectacled, slightly fogey-ish choirmaster and this gruff giant of British military manhood borders on the comical. Yet the encounter illustrates the degree to which Malone, while making his latest TV project The Choir: Military Wives, has charmed his way into the trust of the soldiers – and, more crucially, the soldiers’ wives – of RMB Chivenor in remote north Devon


Finally Malone and the Military Wives sang in November at the Festival of Remembrance at London’s Royal Albert Hall before the Queen and a huge audience inside the concert hall and live to millions watching on TV. They sang “Wherever You Are” composed by Paul Mealor. He drew the words from extracts given to him by the families, extracts from letter and poems written by the wives and their husbands while they were parted.

Remember the vast majority of these women had never sung in public before March 2011 – and the words they were singing came straight from their hearts…….

That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts. Who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly: thousands at his bidding speed,
And post o’er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait.

See their very first rehearsal here and their first public performance here.

UPDATE See the official Military Wives Choir video with lyrics here – and pre order the single here….there are three good reasons to buy the single
1 It’s a beautiful song beautifully sung
2 All proceeds go to service charities
3 By making it the UK Christmas #1 you will be giving Simon Cowell’s and his X Factor a poke in the eye

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25 November
Comments Off on Magnificent Voices & Good Looking As Well – Or So My Wife Tells Me…

Magnificent Voices & Good Looking As Well – Or So My Wife Tells Me…

A beautiful song, beautifully sung – it’s good to hear, now and then, real singers within the idiom of pop…..they are good looking as well – or so my wife tells me…lol…

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22 November
Comments Off on Anyone Remember Phil Harris And That Tree?

Anyone Remember Phil Harris And That Tree?

Always loved this 1947 Phil Harris record – when I was a kid it was regularly being played on BBC radio…the henpecked husband being chased by an angry wife wielding a rolling pin was a staple figure of comedy in the 30s, 40s and 50s…hence the plaintive plea to the woodman.

What is less well known was that the song had originally been a massive hit in the early 1900s for Bert Williams, long forgotten now but a hundred years ago one of the most popular vaudeville stars in America. Williams was the first black artist to break out of the “coon” stereotype and appeal to all audiences and “Woodman” was one of his most popular songs, sung in a “talking blues” style that Harris also copied. It proved to be the big hit of the Ziegfeld Follies Of 1911.

Yet the distinction of the song’s pedigree is not limited to Williams – for it was composed by Vincent Bryan and the former singing waiter Irving Berlin in the same year that “Alexanders Ragtime Band” became a smash hit not just in America but throughout the world and propelled the previously unknown Berlin overnight from obscurity to international fame.

But it’s roots go even deeper for Berlin adapted the lyrics from a poem, “The Oak”, written by the American poet George Pope Morris in 1837. The English musician Henry Russell wrote a score for it later that year and, under the more familiar title, the sentimental ballad became a staple of concerts and musical evenings for the rest of the 19th century. In 1911 Berlin introduced the comedic elements to the story and altered Russell’s score. So, what initially appears to be a classic 1940’s piece of Phil Harris musical humour has a very distinguished provenance.

Sadly both Harris and Williams and that whole genre of comedy songs are rarely heard today – mores the pity…

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04 October
Comments Off on Anyone Remember……Slim Whitman?

Anyone Remember……Slim Whitman?

Ah, Mr W, you are still one of my musical heroes……

At 87 Slim Whitman is still around (though he heard rumours of his own death in 2008) but in the early 50s he was very big on the US country scene. In America he had faded in the charts by the end of the decade but he was always popular in Europe and frequently toured there.

With his falsetto voice and yodelling breaks he was always instantly recognisable. A navy man during WW2 his first big break came when he was contacted, pre Presley, by Colonel Tom Parker and got his first record contract.

In 1952 his big break came when he reached #2 in the US Country chart with “Indian Love Call”. He tended to sing songs of love and romance and his crooning style was not always popular with some country purists. Nevertheless compilations of his greatest hits have always sold well and, within the first two seconds many could still recognise those distinctive swirling perfectly pitched notes..

The other trademark of the Whitman sound is the “singing steel guitar” of Hoot Rains..

The soaring notes of the steel guitar can be heard in many of Slim’s early songs. It all started by accident in the classic, “Love Song of the Waterfall.” One night while performing the song, Hoot overshot a note sending it soaring skyward. Slim asked Hoot after the show, “what happened out there”? Hoot said, “I missed it.” Slim liked what he heard and said, with a wry grin, “Well, miss it again!” They soon worked this unusual new sound into his songs. They called this new technique “shooting arrows..

….and the Slim Whitman version of the classic western number “Cool Water” written by Bob Nolan, of Sons of the Pioneers fame.

Surfing the net for Slim one consistent narrative appears to be that his voice brings back fond memories, even amongst people who were not around in his heyday – I wonder if anyone will be saying that in sixty years time over Lady Ga Ga?

BTW – if you want to meet up with the Slim Whitman Appreciation Society then go here….

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17 September
1Comment

Allan Sherman’s Mexican Hat Dance – Humour From A Bygone Age…

Not certain if Warner would dare release something like this nowadays in our PC world for fear of being dealt the race card. Indeed, since Allan Sherman was Jewish it would almost certainly be tagged as a Zionist plot.

But what the hell – Sherman specialised in parodying well known songs and the wordplay in this pastiche of the famous Mexican dance is absolutely spot on. It was on his second album “My Son The Celebrity” which hit #1 in the album charts in March 1963.

Not vulgar, no swear words, just good natured fun…..echoes of an age long gone, I fancy…

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01 July
Comments Off on That’s What I Call Rock and Roll – Proud Mary (Creedence Clearwater Revival) 1969

That’s What I Call Rock and Roll – Proud Mary (Creedence Clearwater Revival) 1969

For a rock & roller from the 1950s the last part of the 60s was a musical desert, a psychedelic neverland of hippie peace and love. Dominated by legions of posing middle class pseudo revolutionary students wearing flares, bulbous shoes, multi coloured shirts and big hair the skies were crowded with rainbows, unicorns and the droning white noise that thankfully smothered the endless nasal strangulation of totally meaningless lyrics.

Then, at the very end of the decade I struggled across yet another dry, windswept dune and came across……an oasis…and what made it even better that, with such a hippie name and look all the poseurs expected the usual flower power drivel.

What they got was pure unadulterated southern rock….heresy for them but a return to the promised land for me…..

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23 June
Comments Off on That’s What I Call Rock and Roll – The House of the Rising Sun (Animals) 1964

That’s What I Call Rock and Roll – The House of the Rising Sun (Animals) 1964

When rock n’roll first hit Britain in the mid 50s it was a purely American phenomenon. We bought the records and argued Presley v Haley in the school corridors but, in general, the media ignored it and the BBC put it on ration.

We could just about tune in to Radio Luxembourg and AFN and hear the latest hits through fades and whistles but that was it.
British record companies tried to market home grown rock n’rollers but they were pale imitations of the US originals and their bands were often made up of older session men who despised the genre.

However in late 1955 Rock Island Line, a skiffle song by the British jazz musician/singer Lonnie Donegan became a massive UK hit without any marketing hype. For a year or two Donegan and other UK skifflers cashed in on the novelty but the true significance of the trend could only be seen at a deeper level.

the main impact of skiffle was as a grassroots amateur movement, particularly popular among working class males, who could cheaply buy, improvise or build their own instruments and who have been seen as reacting against the drab austerity of post-war Britain.

Soon many of these youngsters developed into competent self taught guitarists. They became tired of skiffle’s formulaic structure and saved up to buy electric guitars and extended their repertoire to include covers of American rock n’roll. By the early 60s there was a thriving UK locally based band scene.

At the same time in the wake of the payola scandals in the late 50s the US record companies began pushing teen idols like Frankie Avalon and Fabian who presented a less rebellious, cleaner and more romantic image. The consequence was, when American teenagers tastes began to shift back towards a rawer rougher edged sound British groups like the Beatles and Rolling Stones spearheaded the British invasion, often sounding more authentic than equivalent American bands.

For true grit, however, nothing has ever beaten Eric Burdon and the Animals “House of the Rising Sun” Their version of this old American folk song, recorded in May 1964 hit the top of the US charts in September of that year and it remains a rock classic to this day.

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17 May
Comments Off on Across A Crowded Room – The Music Of Romance

Across A Crowded Room – The Music Of Romance

Remember this?

Some enchanted evening
When you find your true love,
When you feel her call you
Across a crowded room,
Then fly to her side,
And make her your own
Or all through your life you
May dream all alone.

Am I out of sync with this 21st century world when I say the words of that beautiful song still send shivers up and down my spine. In this world of “relationships” rather than marriages, of “partners” instead of husbands/wives, is the sentiment behind it a curious relic of a bygone age?

I wonder.

We live in a society where certain political and commercial cartels appear to have an interest in engulfing our cultural antennae with a constantly recurring tsunami of sexuality until every taboo has been swept aside. So, is there room for that notion of romance – the sheer unbounding sense of exhilaration when a man or a woman wants to be by your side and where sex is merely one manifestation of that sweet surrender of oneself to another?

For many years western popular music proved a reliable and universally acceptable vehicle for expressing the magic of that moment, either via gentle, light hearted joy

…or with the the bittersweet emotion of parting

Sometimes we wanted to broadcast to the whole of mankind that we were together by going anywhere and everywhere arm in arm

On the other hand it could be a more wistful almost ethereal dreamscape where the rest of the world scarcely mattered

Romance could sometimes be a roller coaster of emotion marked by a deep sense of yearning when your other half was elsewhere and all you had was emptiness

A cascade of words could splash the canvas of love with shimmering, vibrant colours of devotion

But a love could also be so deep that being together in itself was sufficient and no words were needed

So do songs like these have no resonance with young (or even old) people today?

I would wager that they do but as a modern music of the underground, the new cultural samizdat, publicly disowned but privately treasured…

…and these words, easily mocked by a corrupt and cynical media, must surely still strike a chord across a million crowded rooms…

Once you have found her,
Never let her go.
Once you have found her,
Never let her go!

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