Ralph Vaughan Williams’s “Greensleeves” Conducted by Sir John Barbirolli and Some Natter Between My Beloved John Wilson and Edward Seckerson; Plus Monty Python and Round the Horne

Sorry for my shaky handwriting but while listening to this I had a fantasy that gave me the giggles: John being interviewed by my favorite ohne palones, Julian and Sandy. (This more-than-usual musical episode of Kenneth Horne’s 1967 radio show also includes Rambling Syd Rumpo, the Fraser Hayes 4 singing off-key not on purpose, and the screamingly funny takeoff skit, “Young Horne with a Man”.)

Now John, I know that you know, and I know that you know that I know, that my long-distance lovemaking to you is being observed by a few; not many, just a few. So this rundown is for them, love:

In this very-recently posted pod chat with London-based culture maven Edward Seckerson, John talks about his idol, conductor Sir John Barbirolli; von Karajan; Leonard Bernstein; French romantic music of the early 20th century; conducting Massenet at Glyndebourne; reviving the Sinfonia of London; winning that BBC thingie for his Korngold Symphony (and confirming what I surmised in my review re his “austere” sound vs “chocolate sauce”); his other Korngold recording, the violin concerto, also with son vieil ami Andrew Haveron; Richard Rodney Bennett‘s compositional journey of self-discovery; and what we’re all waiting for, what’s up with The John Wilson Orchestra (seems like that psychic flash I had back in April has proven true).

Here are the main points I took away from this podcast: “What I do try to do as a conductor is carry my sound around with me… It’s almost—I don’t really feel comfortable talking about because you know music is basically a doing thing and not a talking thing… My deepest musical creed is wrapped up with how an orchestra sounds…” Which pretty much confirms what I’ve suspected these two years about him.

John, light of my life, fire of my loins, I respect your process.

John Wilson RijksmuseumAbove: John’s 44-minute podcast interview. Below, “Greensleeves” as we’ve all heard it on Monty Python.

Fantasia on “Greensleeves”
Ralph Vaughan Williams, composer
Barbirolli Conducts English String Music
RCA, 1963 first issue
The Sinfonia of London
John Barbirolli, conductor

23 JUNE UPDATE: Here’s Barbirolli again from that same album conducting Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Fantasia from a Theme by Thomas Tallis, which my beloved John Wilson will be conducting The Phiharmonia Orchestra in, in an online concert on 17 July.

Free pdf of my book JOHN WILSON: AN ENGLISH CONDUCTOR here.

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Silly Sexy Love Songs: “You Can Leave Your Hat On” Written by Randy Newman and Sung by Tom Jones

Dedicated to my beloved conductor John Wilson, of course.

John Wilson Banksy.gifConstructed from pic stolen from John, 2019

Free pdf of my book JOHN WILSON: AN ENGLISH CONDUCTOR here.

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Two Horror Queens: Composer Elisabeth Lutyens and Actress Veronica Carlson

She’s been eaten by cannibals, bitten by Dracula, and raped by Victor Frankenstein. I adore her.

I am talking of course about English model-turned-actress Veronica Carlson, the most delectable of all of Count Dracula’s victims. Her movie career wasn’t long (I understand she’s pretty much retired to South Carolina now, where she paints) but she made a lasting impression on countless adolescents in the 60s, many of whom, now grown, still look forward to watching Dracula Has Risen from the Grave for a really good stroke session.

Hammer, the film studio where Carlson did her best-known work, worked wonders when it came to dignifying luridness, which is what you’d expect from the Brits, wouldn’t you? The British were never sexier than in the 60s. I miss that.

Veronica Carlson, Peter Cushing.jpgIt’s Veronica Carlson’s deeply sexy love-trance gaze at kindly Peter Cushing that makes this publicity pic spring to life. Photo session was done following shooting of their utterly gratuitous, dramatically unfeasible but vigorous rape scene in Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1965, Terence Fisher, dir), which made the most of the gorgeous Hammer star’s drawing power.

As for Elisabeth Lutyens, she tells her own story in this short interview with the BBC. Her work for Amicus films is best exemplified by her theme for Dr Terror’s House of Horrors, above. But this short piece is much more to my liking and demonstrates her superior musical gift.

 “Lament of Isis on the Death of Osiris”
composed by Elisabeth Lutyens, 1969


Free pdf of my book JOHN WILSON: AN ENGLISH CONDUCTOR here.

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Sean Hayes and Kristin Chenoweth’s Deep-Tongue Kiss at the 2010 Tonys and the Songs of Burt Bacharach

You all remember the flap behind this. But that kiss at the Tonys (starts at :40) was awfully convincing. Hey, my hormones percolated…

kristen-chenoweth-sean-hayes.jpgAbove that hot kiss Sean Hayes sings the title song. No Jerry Ohrbach, but the kid’s got pipes.

But to get on with this posting. One of the nominees at the 64th Tony Awards was the revival of Promises, Promises with a score by Burt Bacharach, including some of his interpolated standards (like “A House is Not a Home” and “I Say a Little Prayer”, neither of which were in the original production), so I’m thinking that this bootleg vidcomp from an actual performance would be a good introduction to the work of this (as my beloved John Wilson, Conductor might deem him) “top-drawer American tunesmith”. The connection to my posting on Milhaud above? Bacharach was a student of Darius Milhaud, and you can hear what he retained from the modernist master in his distinctive, almost Latin, rhythms—think of Eddy Mitchell’s “Always Something There to Remind Me” or Dusty Springfield’s “Twenty-four Hours from Tulsa”.


Free pdf of my book JOHN WILSON: AN ENGLISH CONDUCTOR here.

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Billy Wilder & IAL Diamond’s The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, Scored by Miklós Rózsa (Mirisch, 1970)

I have a lot of toasty warm affection for this underrated movie (which I saw second-run in Minneapolis the summer before I started music school), not least because of Hungarian-born Miklós Rózsa‘s score, which he based on his Violin Concerto, op 24.

the private life of sherlock holmes bw
Robert Stephens as the great detective and Genevieve Page as his latest client. Yes, that’s Sherlock Holmes embracing a beautiful, nude, warm and willing woman while heroically subduing his id.

This is Austrian-born Wilder and Romanian-born Diamond at their best, examining—through impish Hollywood eyes, of course—that weird combination of emotional reticence and superciliousness that makes English men just sooo attractive. Their great detective, however, turns out in the end (not to give anything away) to be a lonely man, unsophisticated, profoundly vulnerable, and something of a loser. Stephens’s highly original performance makes his my favorite Holmes of all.

Here’s the trailer from the latest theatrical re-release of The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. It was on Prime in entirety and may yet return.


Free pdf of my memoir re the Gyllenhaals A POET FROM HOLLYWOOD here.
Free epub of my 2014 Hollywood-based comedy mystery COLD OPEN here.
Free pdf of my book JOHN WILSON: AN ENGLISH CONDUCTOR here.

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Joan Sutherland Sings a Song by Composer William Shield, Local Swalwell Lad Made Good

Dame Joan was the one who got me interested in classical singing, if not doing it myself then listening to and appreciating it. This really tasty ditty comes from the pen of William Shield of Swalwell (which is right next door to my bonny John Wilson‘s childhood neighborhood of Low Fell), Gateshead, who rose to be the king’s Master of the Musicians and was buried in Westminster. From his comic opera Rosina (1782).

Wiliam Shield.jpg

Free pdf of my book JOHN WILSON: AN ENGLISH CONDUCTOR here.

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Pete Townshend’s Dad Cliff and The Squadronaires Perform “Rock’n’Roll Boogie”, 1956

From Who I Am: A Memoir by English progressive rock band The Who’s Pete Townshend (Harper, 2012):

The Squadronaires.jpgThe Squadronaires, “Rock’n’Roll Boogie”, 1956.

“In 1945 popular music had a serious purpose: to defy postwar depression and revitalize the romantic and hopeful aspirations of an exhausted people. My infancy was steeped in awareness of the mystery and romance of my father’s music, which was so important to him and Mum that it seemed the centre of the universe. There was laughter and optimism: the war was over. The music Dad played was called Swing. It was what people wanted to hear. I was there. …”

“As the son of a clarinettist and saxophonist in the Squadronaires, the prototypical British Swing band, I had been nourished by my love for that music, a love I would betray for a new passion: rock‘n’roll, the music that came to destroy it.”


Free pdf of my book JOHN WILSON: AN ENGLISH CONDUCTOR here.

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The Rio Grande by Constant Lambert, Broadcast Live from the Royal Albert Hall, 12 September 1959

A very nifty, lively, jazzy modernist piece written by Constant Lambert (The Who manager Kit Lambert’s dad) in 1927. Australian virtuoso Eileen Joyce, who famously played the heart-wrenching Rachmaninoff in the film Brief Encounter, is at the piano here. County Antrim-born Jean Allister, contralto soloist, joins her with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the BBC Chorus. At the podium is Sir Malcolm Sargent.

lambert piccadilly arcade

Composer-novelist Anthony Burgess, in his autobiography Little Wilson and Big God (Burgess’s original name was John Wilson; his middle family name was Burgess and his confirmation name was Anthony) wrote,“Lambert, who admired Duke Ellington and proclaimed his harmonic roots in Frederick Delius (who in his turn had taken them from Debussy), was a fearless reconciler of what the academies and Tin Pan Alley alike presumed to be eternally opposed. I was present at that first performance, and so was my father. And, in 1972, on a plane from New York to Toronto, I found myself sitting next to Duke Ellington, who spoke almost with tears of the stature of Lambert, admitted that he had learned much from both Delius and Debussy, and expressed scorn for the old musical division, which had been almost as vicious as a colour bar. He had lived to see it dissolve and jazz become a legitimate item in the academic curricula.” [More Burgess on Lambert here.]


Free pdf of my book JOHN WILSON: AN ENGLISH CONDUCTOR here.

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Ocean’s Kingdom, A 2011 Ballet Score by Paul McCartney, Co-Arranged and Conducted by John Wilson

Like his coeval Pete Townshend, Paul McCartney never learned to read/write music, but like Townshend, that certainly didn’t stop him. I prefer the second movement of this but the entire piece is worthwhile.

Ocean's Kingdom 2.jpg

And just so you don’t think I’m always down on my bonny John Wilson, who was himself brilliantly educated at the Royal College of Music, here’s his orchestration, written in 2002 when he was 30, of Howard Goodall’s score for the TV movie The Gathering Storm, a bit Elgarish. And here’s the orchestration he wrote when he was 28, of Richard Rodney Bennett’s music for the TV mini-series fantasy Gormenghast, which won the Ivor Novello Award for Best Film Score in 2000.

Free pdf of my book JOHN WILSON: AN ENGLISH CONDUCTOR here.

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The Equalizer Theme by Stewart Copeland

With the coolest theme on American TV, The Equalizer introduced Copeland’s stunningly unique sound to the mainstream audience. In keeping with the series’ mash-up concept of “tradition merged with New Age high tech,” Copeland’s musical accompaniment would, one: with the exception of hero Robert McCall himself, forego the Wagnerian structure of identifiable leitmotifs, and instead choose to score the city of New York itself as a primary character; and, two: fuse classical structure with the combo of  “percussion carrying melody and synthesized strings” attached to world rhythms. Copeland’s would be a coldly ethereal yet dense “urban ballet” sound inexorably linked to the modern cityscape. This sound would influence composers such as Hans Zimmer and Thomas Newman.

The Equalizer.jpgThey used to shoot episodes in my old neighborhood the East Village, at great risk to star Woodward (two heart attacks and once he fell through a roof).

Copeland was born in 1952. The son of CIA officer Miles Copeland, Jr (who was portrayed in Norman Mailer’s lengthy novel Harlot’s Ghost), he took up the drums at 12, was raised internationally in Cairo, Beirut, the US and England; and throughout the 1970s alternately worked as road manager and backup drummer for various groups until founding in 1977, along with Sting and Henry Padovani (later replaced by Andy Summers), the English progressive rock band The Police. After The Police went on extended hiatus in 1986, the drummer with a composer’s sensibilities dove headlong into scoring—to this day, one of his most notable works is as musical voice of The Equalizer, on which he composed 51 of 88 total episodes of the series.

Free pdf of my memoir re the Gyllenhaals A POET FROM HOLLYWOOD here.
Free epub of my 2014 Hollywod-based comedy mystery COLD OPEN here.
Free pdf of my book JOHN WILSON: AN ENGLISH CONDUCTOR here.

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