Thursday, 28 January 2010

"Alexandra Leaving"/Leonard Cohen

How many songs can boast a genesis like this!

1.  Roman general Mark Antony, of "Friends, Romans and Countrymen" fame, falls for the glam, manipulative Egyptian queen Cleopatra, breaks with Rome (and his wife) and becomes "the bellows and the fan to cool a gypsy's lust" ("Anthony and Cleopatra", Act 1, Sc.1, Wm. Shakespeare,)

2.  Antony and Cleopatra take on Octavius in the sea battle of Actium, which they lose. It's the beginning of the end, and leads eventually to Antony's suicide and the famous asp in Cleo's bosom.

3. The Greek historian Plutarch (very anti-Rome, and most likely one of Shakespeare's sources), writes it all up in his "Life of Antony" including a detail that Shakespeare misses out, (p279 of the previous link) -  "And now Antony forsook the city (Alexandria) and the society of his friends, and built for himself a dwelling in the sea at Pharos . . . " He chucks his hand in!

4. The Greek poet C.P.Cavafy writing at the end of the 19th. Century, publishes (in Greek) the poem "The God Abandons Antony" The poem picks up on Plutarch's detail but reverses the abandonment, imagining that Antony, during one of his many drunken revelries, feels himself forsaken by the God of Merrymaking - Dionysus - and quits the city as indicated in 3. The link here takes you to a translation  of Cavafy's poem, which is "scholarly" and about as poetic as a recipe for mixing concrete.

5.  The novelist and (woefully neglected) poet, Lawrence Durrell, great fan of Alexandria, admirer of Cavafy and all things Hellenic, makes a free but much more moving translation of the poem, which can be found amongst the workpoints and notes in his astonishing four-volume  "Alexandria Quartet" (Can't find Durrell's translation on www!)

6. Leonard Cohen's lyric reworks these ideas. "Alexandria" is transmuted into a lover, Aleaxandra, who is leaving, perhaps dying.  But all the ideas and sentiments in Cavafy's poem and Durrell's translation are retained.

(The image in the clip is pure autocue. No apologies!  YouTube has many other version of the song, some with images which are inappropriate, even unpleasant, and some are merely silly.)

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Howard Morrison Quartet

Not sure where this audio came from- possibly a 45 I picked up somewhere. The Howard Morrison Quartet were a skiffle group from New Zealand and I imagine this was a concert recorded there in the 50's in front of an enthusiastic audience.
They remind me a bit of the Barron Knights who did that combination of terrible song parody and imitation so well back in the 60's over here. I can't quite work out if they are singing Granada for laughs or not!

New Zealand is not renowned for its comic exports and this is no exception. They redeemed themselves recently though with the fabulously talented duo Flight Of The Conchords.

Friday, 22 January 2010

There's a LUVERLY moment towards the end . . .

. . when she flicks her hair back over her shoulder! Notice she is perched 
up on a cushion. What a wee sweetie! (Or am I just an old softie?  
And no . . she's no relation.)

You can hear on YouTube how practise made perfect for Evgeny Kissin.

(Beethoven's Rondo "Rage Over A Lost Penny" carries the (late) 
Opus No.129. But not "late" Beethoven at all. Published posthumously. 
Written c1795, 3 years before the groundbreaking "Pathetique" Sonata, 

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Jessie Mathews - For Kippers Dickie and Doc F -

Until I had seen these photos I have to confess that I didn't know what a cracker Jessie was. Of course, when you are ten fantasising (not that I did) over someone older than your mother was probably frowned upon by 1950's English society. Now, having seen the lady, I wish she had been born circa 1956 as she certainly could have parked her slippers 'neath my bed.

The following is from Screenonline:

Jessie Matthews was a gamine, graceful dancer, with a sweet, pure-toned singing voice, and waif-like sex appeal, who embodied 1930s style.

One of 11 children of a Soho costermonger, Matthews enjoyed dancing from an early age, and elocution lessons created her distinctive "plummy" accent. In a chorus line at 16, she also had fleeting dancing roles in silent films.

In London, 1930, she was in Ever Green, featuring hit song "Dancing on the Ceiling", costarring with Sonnie Hale (then husband of Evelyn Laye) which led to a scandalous divorce action, Matthews cited as the "other woman".

Her breakthrough film performance was as Susie Dean, dancing with airy grace and fluidity, in The Good Companions (1933), for Victor Saville, her most sympathetic director. The dual-role film version of Evergreen (d. Saville, 1934) opened at Radio City Music Hall, New York, and she was labelled "The Dancing Divinity", although attempts to costar her and Fred Astaire in a film never materialised.

Next came the gender-swapping musical comedy First A Girl (d. Saville, 1935), produced, like all of her major 1930s films, by Gaumont-British, which surrounded her with the best available talent: Americans, choreographer Buddy Bradley, cinematographer Glen MacWilliams and songwriter Harry Woods; art director Alfred Junge; and musical director Louis Levy.

Other, weaker films were directed by Hale, and Climbing High (1938) was directed by Carol Reed, with whom she had a brief affair, and her career at the top was over by the end of the decade.

Often temperamental and unstable, she suffered from problems originating in her difficult upbringing, with many personal tragedies and nervous breakdowns, including generally loveless marriages which ended in divorce. Hale (1931-44) was her second of three husbands.

Her only US film role was a cameo in the all-star fundraiser Forever and a Day (US, d. René Clair, 1943), and her song in tom thumb (d. George Pal, 1958) was dubbed. However, she became a celebrity again in the long-running radio soap Mrs Dale's Diary, and continued to work in regional theatre in the UK and abroad, including a triumphant one-woman show in Los Angeles in 1979, and was perfectly cast as Aunt Bessie in TV's Edward and Mrs. Simpson (Thames, 1978).

For most of the 1930s, Matthews was the most popular female film star in England: the image of her in Sailing Along (d. Hale, 1938), in a white evening gown, with a gentleman's black top hat and walking cane, performing "Souvenir of Love" in Lime Grove's art deco luxury sets, indelibly incarnates 1930s style. She was awarded the OBE in 1970.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Monday, 4 January 2010

Cassette Tape Revival

Heart warming story on North West Tonight on the BBC earlier about a Stockport firm who almost went bust with thier cassette making company and considered sending their machines to a scrap yard but recently sales have started improving due to demand from silver haired technophobes who have no truck with CD's or MP3's. Great clip of some old dear saying she was given an MP3 player but has no idea what to do with it - "I cant even open the box!"
Ive always loved cassettes and mix tapes and have hundreds stashed away in boxes all round the house and in the garden shed. Something very practical and endearing about those slack tapes that need a pencil to wind them back into the case when they get too baggy!

The Lamp Of Blob

Find more videos like this on OPEN Fluxus

father Paddy Green recites a poem from the infamous Curios Thing Anthology.

Roy Hudd

Another great British comic steeped in the music hall and variety tradition. I have several of his books about the days of music hall and variety and very entertaining they are too.
Firat aware of him back in the 60's when he was part of the satirical TV show "That Was The Week That Was" and for the "News Huddlines" on the radio during the 80's and 90's.
Here he is doing a famous monologue about Albert & The Lion first made famous by Stanley Holloway.

"Roy Hudd has been an entertainer for most of his life. He is best known as a comedian but is a variety artist, accomplished actor, playwright and a leading authority on Music Hall. He was born in 1936 and attended Croydon Technical College. But when he finished his National Service he became a Butlin's redcoat.

In the early '60s Roy lived in Tankerton Terrace off Mitcham Road, Thornton Heath. He worked on stage in variety shows before making his television debut in 1965 in 'Not so much a Programme, More a Way of Life'. This was followed by 'The Illustrated Weekly Hudd' and in 1969 he was given his own show 'The Roy Hudd Show. These shows proved just what a versatile entertainer Roy Hudd was.

Roy's love of radio brought the satirical show 'The News Huddlines' to the airwaves in 1975. This show, with its mixture of comedy and current affairs, was such a success that is only came to an end in 2001.
Turning his talent to serious acting he really impressed Dennis Potter the writer of 'Lipstick on Your Collar' when he appeared on our screens as the seedy cinema organist. Potter told Roy that he had wanted him to play the part of Arthur in 'Pennies from Heaven' but the part eventually when to Bob Hoskins.

1994 saw Roy teamed up with Edward Woodward. They played a couple of Manchester dustmen in the series 'Common as Muck' and in 1995 Roy played the part of Lord Emsworth's butler in 'Heavy Weather' by PG Wodehouse. He had his work cut out as Peter O'Toole took the part of Lord Emsworth and continually ad-libbed meaning Roy's cues were never the same from one performance to another. For this part Roy actually took lessons from a real toastmaster. The following year saw Roy in his second Dennis Potter part, this time written especially for him, called Karaoke/Cold Lazarus and this time with Albert Finney. Roy's latest appearance in 2002-03 has been in Coronation Street as Archie the Undertaker - another successful spell.

Roy Hudd was delighted to be made an OBE in the 2004 New Year's Honours List commenting 'that it was nice to be thought of'. He was openly critical of those who had refused the honour."