Archive for the ‘music’ Category

Lost ‘Two Ronnies’ sketch

January 25, 2017

Well, by “lost” I mean “not on Youtube” which, I realise, is a different thing altogether, but I’d love to see it again.

It’s one of their wonderful songs: they are street sweepers and that’s about all I can remember, other than it was hilarious.  Every now and then I check to see if someone has posted it, and it never comes up.

Instead, check this out.  It struck me that in this performance, it’s Ronnie Corbett that gets nearly all of the tricky wordplay to do.  Those of us of a certain vintage and origin will recall that Ronnie Barker was renowned for his facility with tongue-tripping scripts; here it’s Ronnie C who does it, and brilliantly, and in tune!

(The writing in this is superb, too.  Everything scanning and rhyming just as it should, with double entendres galore.)

 

You’ve GOT to see this (honest!)

January 24, 2017

A ragtime version of Fur Elise?  Bring it on!

 

It got me thinking: is Fur Elise the best-known “classical” piano piece?  Or is it just a staple of British piano lessons?

Anyway, this is great, and gets better.  Just when you think, “Oh yeah, I get it, very clever…” he turns it up a notch.  It’s fab!

I like to think that if Beethoven heard it (pre-deafness, obvs) he would be at first astounded and then delighted.  Imagine hearing a popular current song redone in 200 years’ time, in a musical form that we cannot yet even conceive.  Beethoven died nearly seventy years before ragtime began its first, revolutionary, tinklings.

 

Whistling: top 5 songs

September 14, 2016

I learnt to whistle over the summer, and accomplishment of which I’m much prouder than it really merits.

I don’t mean whistling a tune.  I’ve been able to do that since I was very little.  (My Gran would say, “Oh, it’s Whistling Rufus again!” which I assumed to be some performer but I’ve just looked it up and it’s the name of a song.)

No, I mean whistling through my fingers: the loud shriek used by everyone, it seems, but me. Over the years I had tried and tried but could only summon a pathetic rasp of air.

Then my son learnt to do it and I gave it another go – to no avail.  “No, dad,” he said, “Put your fingers like this,” and he showed me.  “Shove them further in your mouth.”

The result was instant!  I could do it.  I laughed with delight and did it again and again until everyone told me to shut up, including my son. They didn’t realise I had nearly fifty years of whistling to catch up on.

As for whistling tunes, well I’ve always loved a song with whistling in it.  Seriously, who doesn’t?  There are more than you might think.

Rolling Stone Magazine has produce a list of the fifteen best whistling songs of all time except it’s rubbish and doesn’t include the best whistling song ever (see below) so I’ve decided to make my own top 5.

5.  Lazy Song by Bruno Mars

There’s not all that much whistling in this, really -only three notes.  But, the whistling bit  was added for the single release after the album track was recorded, so there is a version without it.  It sounds completely wrong.

4  Bridge On The River Kwai Theme

There are loads of versions of this, but this is the full whistling one.

 

3. Magic Moments by Perry Como

There are crisper recordings of this song on YouTube, but this is the only live version that I could find.

 

2.  Jealous Guy by John Lennon

You’ve got to wait a bit for the whistling in this one.  It comes about halfway through, which makes me think he was stuck for a middle eight, so just whistled the main melody instead.  Works a treat!

  1.  I Was Kaiser Bill’s Batman by Whistling Jack Smith

The finest whistling record ever, if you ask me, and it comes with some added trivia.  “Whistling Jack Smith” was in fact a performer called John O’Neill, who recorded it for a set fee and received no royalties.  It’s not even him on the video.  That’s an actor called Coby Well who was hired for Top Of The Pops.  John O’Neill also did the whistling bit in the theme for The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Back to CDs…I think

July 8, 2016

The builders are in, and so a load of junk is out.  (How do we accumulate this stuff?  Where does it come from?  Why did I ever think that there was any point in hanging on to a broken hand-mixer?)

pileofcds

Anyway, stuck at the back of a cupboard, Mrs W and I came across our old CDs in a huge box.

The rule is: if you don’t use it, why keep it?  Years ago, I uploaded all the CDs we had to iTunes.  Then we got a Sonos player and Spotify Premium and the CDs were stacked away with a couple of old boxes of vinyl records and that was that.

Prime candidates, then, for being chucked out.

Except…

I think I’m going to reinstate the old records.  Probably not the vinyl, but several tall racks of CDs, oh yeah!  Why?

Because I miss them.  Spotify especially, but also iTunes, is completely rubbish at helping you to decide what you want to listen to.  Having the CD covers on display is a huge visual memory-jog, when you go, “Oh yeah!  Haven’t heard that for a while, let’s put that on!”

Spotify requires you to know what you want to listen to,and is brilliant for that.  Having access, at a very low cost, to virtually every song you’re ever likely to want to hear is the most phenomenal privilege (and one that’s utterly lost on our resident offspring) but I’m convinced I listen to less music now rather than more.  And certainly a narrower band of artists and albums: it’s the ones that I remember I like that get played on Spotify.  On top of the CD box was  an old Scouting For Girls CD which I haven’t heard for ages, simply because I’d forgotten I liked them.  Barenaked Ladies the same.

It’s like I’m stuck with my very own, personalised Now That’s What I Call Music double CD and nothing else gets played.

Pile-of-CDsMrs W is worse.  The only thing she can remember she likes is some weird 90s Swedish rapper called Petter and an (admittedly excellent) soul compilation by Tower Of Power.

CD covers, like the vinyl album covers that came before them, also have added value – not only in terms of the artwork, but additional information about the musicians, composers, lyrics and so on.  I know some of this is available online but it’s a right old fag to find it compared with reading it off a cover.

So back they come, row upon row of CDs, plus those stupid plastic boxes that always break, and box-less CDs littering the floor and getting scratched…What joy!

 

Happy ending for “Happy Birthday”

June 28, 2016

surprise-happy-birthday-gifts-5.jpg

After years of avoiding it, film-makers and performers can now include “Happy Birthday To You” in their work without paying a huge music corporation for the privilege.

God knows why, but I follow stories about music copyright sort of keenly.  It’s not like I have any personal interest, it’s just a curiosity.

Today’s news that a US judge has ruled on “Happy Birthday To You” inevitably caught my eye.

For years, Warner/Chappel Music has been collecting royalties for public, commercial performances of the popular song, which was written by two Kentucky sisters in 1893 and published in a collection of songs for kindergarten children.  Over the years, the rights ended up with the Warner corporation who now must pay back $14 million that it has collected in royalties.

For while the tune remained the same, the lyrics had changed.  The original was a welcome song for children to sing at the start of the school day: “Good morning to you, Good morning to all…”

US district judge, George King, ruled that the tune had long been in the public domain – i.e. no longer subject to copyright rules.  The lyrics were less certain.  The birthday words did not appear in print until 1911; it was not until the 1930s that Patty Hill (one of the two sisters) claimed to have written them at the same time as the “Good Morning” lyrics.

Anyway, King ruled that Warner/Chappel no longer had any claim over the song and must pay back money collected.

Variations of “Happy Birthday To You” are sung around the world in different languages.

  • In Spanish it’s Cumpleaños Feliz
  • Portuguese, Parabéns par Vocé, 
  • German Zum Geburstag Viel Glück
  • Italian: Tanti auguri a te

And so on.

(According to Wikipedia, the Swedes sing a version that goes, Har Den åran Idag…only I have never heard it (and I have been to a few Swedish birthday parties.) Instead they sing Ja, må han live, expressing the hope that the celebrant will live to be 100.)

Back to copyright: my favourite copyright story again involves a schoolteacher, this one in Australia.  In 1932, Marion Sinclair wrote Kookaburra (“Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree…” etc) the tune of which was substantially used in the worldwide hit Down Under by the Aussie band Men At Work. (It’s the flute part: you can’t miss it).

The supposed copyright infringement did not come to light until 2008.  Larrikin Music, who owned the rights, had not noticed the infringement, and began legal proceedings.  The protracted case which ensued cost Men At Work, and especially the song’s composer Colin Hay, a very substantial sum.

He has now rewritten the song with a new flute part.  Sadly, it’s not as good.

 

 

Victoria Wood: my unfunny encounter

April 21, 2016

“She won’t be funny, you know,” said our executive producer.

I had booked Victoria Wood, who died yesterday, as a guest on a chat show I was producing for ITV, starring Jimmy Tarbuck (about which I have written before).  wood

She was a late booking, the first guest on the first show in 1996.  Two days before the live recording, EastEnders star and Carry-On favourite Barbara Windsor had pulled out, and none of the other guests was big enough to be promoted to the top spot.

Elaine, our researcher, had a passing acquaintance with Victoria Wood, with whom she had worked previously.  I begged Elaine, and Elaine used up her entire stock of showbiz credibility to beg Victoria: “Please rescue our show.  It’s a personal request from Jimmy who is a huge fan.”

(Not strictly true.  Tarby was a fan – who isn’t? – but had no idea of the difficulties were were having booking guests to his show with a tiny guest budget).

Graham Stuart, the executive producer (now Graham Norton’s producer, so he knows a bit about talk shows) delivered the pessimistic verdict on our booking.  “She’s only funny doing ‘material’ and she’s not going to do her material for £100 and her bus fare.”

I prayed he’d be wrong.  He wasn’t.

Poor Victoria.  On the night, she was pleasant enough, but had the definite look of someone who was there because she was doing a favour for someone.  Far too well-mannered to give monosyllabic answers, she instead engaged in pleasant chit-chat with Jimmy Tarbuck who did his considerable best to make the whole thing funny.  He fed her lines, and she batted them away, he asked her the sort of questions to which virtually every comedian has stock replies: who were your comedy influences, what makes you laugh, what was your worst ever gig?  No dice.

She was unfailingly polite, nice…and unfunny. Afterwards, Tarby was baffled.  A born laughter-maker, he had – has – a wealth of jokes and one-liners with which he could fill the gaps, but he couldn’t understand why he was having to do all the work.

In the edit, we somehow extracted a vaguely diverting five minutes from an excruciating 15 minute interview.

I read in an obituary this morning that she was considered a little dour off-stage.  This seems a bit harsh.  But comics are seldom funny all the time; the ones that try to be are – in my experience – very tiresome.

 

So because I think she was hilarious and gifted, here are a couple of clips.  The first is Victoria Wood’s song, “Let’s Do It”.  I thought I was the only one who loved this song.  Turns out everyone does.  I would have known, only middle-aged men don’t often get to talk about how much they like the comic songs of Victoria Wood.  Listening to it on the news last night, it reminded me of Noel Coward’s song, “Nina from Argentina”.  Both have fabulously complicated lyrics, and both are – essentially – about the same subject: lack of desire.

I’ve got a book of Victoria Wood’s songs somewhere.  In the foreword, she professes that she hates performing “Let’s Do It” – far too many words to remember!  Can’t say I blame her, but it’s great fun to listen to.

 

 

Lang Lang and Liberace

December 2, 2015

Went to see Lang Lang last night, the renowned Chinese pianist who, it seems, divides opinion.  A rather sniffy review in The Telegraph was typical of Lang Lang detractors: style over substance, too much of a showman, etc.

One comment online amused me: “Lang Lang needs to remind himself that he is a Pianist (sic) and not an entertainer.”

Like, you can’t be both?

Me, I like a bit of style and showmanship and my musical ear is not so sophisticated that I can necessarily tell when it overshadows the substance.  He sounded excellent to me: he played it all without either sheet music or wrong notes and that’s impressive to start with.

When I was a kid, there was still a place on TV for pianists as light entertainers.  Bobby Crush was a a teenager who won “Opportunity Knocks” and was rather like Liberace in his twinkly campness.  And what about Gladys “Mrs” Mills?  She was a jolly piano-thumper, with dinner lady’s arms and a repertoire of end-of-pier singalongs.

Anyway, This (below) is Lang Lang on The One Show about a year ago.  The really fast stuff (Mozart’s Rondo Alla Turca) starts at around 7.50.

Last night, Lang Lang’s  main piece was a Mozart concerto in C minor which sounded lovely, but he was more subdued than I was hoping.  His encore was more to my taste: an impossibly fast version of Chopin’s Grande Valse Brilliante, with adornments aplenty, great leaps in the left hand.  Add a few more rings on his fingers and grins at the audience and he could be a reincarnation of Liberace.  There are those who would say that is a bad thing.  Not I.

Here’s Liberace, from 1969.

And, just for fun, a six year old Lang Lang wannabe called Chung Chung:

 

Give this a few seconds…

October 9, 2015

…and when the penny drops, you’ll LOL.  Proper LOL as well, not what LOL usually means which is “I smiled inside a bit”.

It’s funny all the way through as well.

PS I have been practising “Bohemian Rhapsody” as a piano solo for, ooh, twenty years now.  I can do it with the music in front of me, but where’s the fun in that?  It’s not actually all that difficult, though the guitar solo towards the end is fiddly on the piano (probably even harder on the guitar, but it’s Brian May so it’s probably a piece of cake for him).  It’s remembering all the different chords and tricky bits that’s hard.

It’s six minutes long, don’t be harsh.