I’m still finding it mighty strange that my bonny has a birthday landing on exactly the same day as my father’s—the 25th of May, which would make him a Gemini—but somehow it starts to make sense: There’s John of the BBC Orchestra and Eric Coates and Vaughan Williams and the tra-la-boomy-boom that makes up English music; and then there’s John of the big-shouldered swaggering sweating bombastic vibrant American tune book. One (when he plays it well) makes me want to cook him a nice lamb stew with pearl onions swimming in the rich gravy; the other (again, when he plays it well, which is almost always) makes me want to—well, I was in the business, you know, use your imagination.
Only don’t be too sure which is which. Like I said, John almost always plays the music of his country and his heritage well, with a deep feeling that’s irresistible; whereas when he works out the great American tunes it turns out more often to be hit-and-miss, with many many many more misses than hits.
But oh! When he does hit! When bonny John and his orchestra play “The Trolley Song” or “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over” or “Get Happy” or the MGM Jubilee Overture—or the absolute best of the lot, “Slaughter On Tenth Avenue“—it’s freakin heaven, and I’m not the only one to say this. Subtlety is not this lad’s forte when it comes to the American popular repertoire. But when John goes big, loud and busy when the number actually calls for it, screams out for it, it’s so damn satisfying when he does it and does it brilliantly that I want to—how can I put this?—do something for my darling in gratitude…make him a nice meal…fatten him up a little… (Ess, kind, ess!)
For right now, though, I’ll settle for a natter on a quiet afternoon, which is why I thought of the Metropole before karaoke time. You know, John, when you get up there again. Me, I’ve never seen the Angel of the North.
- “The Story So Far, with Conductor John Wilson”
- “The Story So Far; Or, Conductor John Wilson—His Limits”