Saturday, July 25, 2015

From O. Reader



Song writing

My mother until well into her eighties used to recite a popular piece from the 30s and 40s, Stanley Holloway’s “Albert and the Lion”. I grew up being able to copy her with the same broad Yorkshire accent, but then decided in my mid-teens that I would rather write my own material. From recitative pieces, it soon developed into notebooks full of what can only be described as verse and worse.

Before I saw the light (somewhat concurrent with getting married) I had written around 200 pieces, and – gasps of admiration or horror depending on your artistic point of view – was even PAID for a couple that were published. It is all a very long time ago. But song writing was generally not on the menu – I could only steal other people’s tunes. Mind you that happens a lot in folk music – around 1962 a young folk singer with adenoids called Robert Zinnerman adapted an old spiritual tune called “No More Auction Block” and morphed into Bob Dylan with his new lyrics, “Blowing in the Wind”.

I had a working partner named P, and he and I used to do rock ‘n’ roll numbers at parties, some of which we wrote ourselves. The parties were otherwise extremely sedate, and we felt we enlivened the proceedings a bit. On occasional moments I still shudder at what we must have looked and sounded like.

But there was one song I remember writing from that far off era. There was a young lady who I met and dated who we shall call L. As it happened, I was quite soon dumped – which turned out to be A GOOD THING because I later met the girl who became Mrs Occasional. (All together now – aaah!)

But the cause of my being a dumpee was a very tall young man in my same line of business. And when I say tall, I mean – VERY TALL. So, showing my maturity and sophistication, I knocked out a rock ‘n’ roll song (as you do), based on a Little Richard riff. It required a Little Richard whoop every so often. P obligingly played guitar and whooped with me at the appropriate moments. The first verse described how I suddenly turned around in the street and there was my arch rival – my very TALL arch rival – whom we shall call J. The second verse, dredged up from memory, went something like:

He looked down upon her and she smiled at him so sweet.
Lovely L    (Whoop)   Lovely L   (Whoop)
How come she just likes a guy who’s over seven feet?
Lovely L    (Whoop)   Lovely L   (Whoop)
If I see that J, and he niggles me,
I’m gonna stand on tiptoe and punch him in the knee
For lovely L    (Whoop)   Lovely L   (Whoop)

The one party where we performed it, it really went down a storm. But news travelled...  I will draw a hasty veil over the consequences.

Wind the clock forward to more recent times, where age may or may not have improved my judgment. As a well known phrase goes – we live and learn. Some of us just live...

Mrs O loves singing Welsh folk songs. It was her initial reason for wanting to learn more Welsh to add to all the stuff she was taught in school and promptly forgot. Welsh folk songs are all about the forge, or the baby, or the flowers, or sheep... A bit like Latin in ancient liturgies, it often sound a lot better when you don’t actually understand the words. I’ve tried my hand at writing English lyrics for Welsh songs to capture their essence, but being po-faced is not much fun.

However, one of the famous Welsh songs is Sospan Fach. (Yup – that’s “little saucepan” to you).
The idea is that Mrs O will start off with tenor guitar and Welsh vocals - Welsh accent, all that back of the throat stuff – “Mae bys Meri-Ann wedi brifo...etc. etc.”

Then – ultimate heresy – I suddenly invade her song with baritone ukulele and one verse in English. To understand the two Welsh expressions in it – “wedi blino” (pronounced “weddy bleeno”) is a standard response when someone asks how you are? Tired, shattered, blathered – that sort of thing. And “ofnadwy” (pronounced “ov-nad-oi”) means awful!

So - take it away Occcasional....

I am feeling “wedi blino”
Or even “ofnadwy”
It must be drinking all that vino
Something alas, I now enjoy.
Learning Welsh, learning Welsh,
A habit that may grow,
With 20 different ways
of saying Yes and No...

(20? Believe it or not, that may be an under-estimate!)

I’m working on her, but Mrs O is not convinced.

I don’t think I’ll give up on the day job just yet.

1 comment:

Harry H said...

My wife has at least 20 different looks that all mean no. I've forgotten what her yes look looks like.