That however you live There’s a part of you always standing by Mapping out the sky Finishing a hat Starting on a hat Finishing a hat Look, I made a hat Where there never was a hat
Taken by Oscar-winning cinematographer Robert Elswit (Waterland, Paris Trout) one Sunday afternoon May 2006. Steve gave me this pic the following month and he’s not getting it back. He just doesn’t understand what a good shot this is.
Here are 5 easy cooking recipes I wrote down just for you, John my love, after remembering you mentioning cooking sausages for your best friend*. The dinners below, besides being tried and true and easy-peasy, are plain, nourishing, tasty, cheap, quick, satisfying, and don’t require fancy kitchen equipment or expensive ingredients:
Five elements make Gateshead a uniquely potent locus on the spiritual plane: 1) the Kolel in Bensham, the world’s most important center of esoteric Talmudic scholarship; 2) the Sage symphony concert hall on the River Tyne, which because of its particular physical manifestation is blessed by Sarasvati; 3) the underground cable hub; 4) the Angel of the North, a huge guardian structure overlooking Low Fell, the working class neighborhood where my beloved grew up (see above); 5) the city’s long history of UFO sightings and alien visitations. Above the Angel: “The Blaydon Races” (Geordie Ridley, 1862) sung by Jimmy Nail, Tim Healy and Kevin Whately for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation. “Ah me lads, ye shudda seen us gannin’ / We pass’d the foaks upon the road just as they wor stannin’ / Thor wes lots o’ lads an’ lasses there, all wi’ smiling faces / Gannin alang the Scotswood Road, to see the Blaydon Races…”
NEWCASTLE LAMB STEW
½ lb boneless lamb, cut small
1 large potato 8-12 oz, peeled and cut into small pieces
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced (though carrots are not traditional)
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1 tsp dried thyme
4 cups liquid, preferably beef, lamb or pork broth; otherwise, water or combination water+broth totaling 4 cups
2 tbs cooking oil, margarine, butter or other desired fat
Saute lamb pieces and onion in fat until lamb starts to brown and onions begin to soften. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook for 30-45 minutes or until lamb and vegetables are tender. If desired, adjust seasonings. If desired, thicken consistency with a paste made from water+flour or water+cornstarch or other thickener. Add paste to pot and cook over high heat, stirring constantly until mixture is smooth and gravy is of desired thickness.
Serves 2, or 1 with leftovers.
GATESHEAD SAUSAGE STEW
½ lb good quality smoked sausage such as Polish or garlic, left whole or cut into 2 pieces or sliced
½ lb potatoes, peeled and cut up
½ lb cabbage, cored and sliced to cole slaw consistency
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
4 cups beef broth, fresh or tinned (no boullion cubes or powder, please!)
Salt and pepper to taste, depending on type of sausage used
Combine all ingredients to a large pot, bring to boil and cover and cook on medium heat for ½ hour or until all vegetables are tender.
Serves 2, or 1 with leftovers.
GEORDIE CHICKEN CURRY
2 cups cooked diced chicken or tinned boneless chicken (note: leftover roast or boiled chicken may be used)
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cups chicken broth, tinned or fresh (note: if you have boiled chicken for this recipe, use the broth in which it was boiled)
1 cup tinned peas
2 tsp curry powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine chicken broth and onion in saucepan and boil until onion is just tender. Then add chicken meat and peas. Add salt, pepper and the 2 tsp curry powder or more if spicier dish is desired. When mixture is heated through, add flour or cornstarch paste (note: see Newcastle Lamb Stew above) to mixture, stirring constantly until desired thickness. Serve on bed of plain boiled white rice with side of mushy peas and mango chutney if desired.
Serves 2, or 1 with leftovers.
TYNESIDE MINCE AND MASH
For the mince:
4 oz ground beef, pork or lamb or 2 cups minced beef, pork or lamb (note: roast or boiled leftover meats may be used; if using fresh ground meat, saute with onions, adding a little oil if meat is quite lean, then add remaining ingredients)
1 cup minced onion
2 cups meat broth
1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Bring all ingredients to a boil and when onion is soft and raw meat is cooked add thickening paste (see above).
For the mash:
1 lb potatoes, peeled and cut up
Boil potatoes in separate pot in water until very soft. Drain potatoes thoroughly, add 2 tbs butter or margarine and mash thoroughly with masher or large fork. When mixture is thoroughly mashed whip it with a large spoon, adding more or margarine if desired until mash is very thick and smooth. Transfer mash to serving plate and top with mince. Serve with boiled Brussels sprouts if desired.
Serves 2, or 1 with leftovers.
WEE BONNY JOHN’S SIMPLE FISH AND CHIPS
For the fish:
½ lb firm whitefish filet such as cod, snapper or perch
Cut filet into 4 2-oz pieces.
For the batter:
1 cup flour, seasoned with salt, pepper and dried dill weed
¼ tsp baking soda which has been dissolved
in 1 tbs vinegar
Stirring constantly, add sufficient water to make a thick batter.
For the chips:
½ lb potatoes, peeled and sliced into chips of desired size
In a pot or deep skillet heat vegetable oil to high heat. Add chips and fry until golden brown. Remove chips from oil and drain on newspapers.
Dip fish in batter to coat and immediately fry in remaining hot oil for 2-3 minutes or until underside is brown; then turn fish with slotted spatula and fry for 1-2 minutes more. When fish coating is brown and firm remove fish from oil and drain on newspapers with chips. Serve with boiled carrots in parsley butter.
For the carrots:
8 oz carrots, peeled and sliced
Boil in water until tender. Drain carrots and remove from pot. In drained pot add
4 tbs butter or margarine
1 tsp minced parsley
1 tbs minced chives
1tsp dried dill weed
Melt butter and stir until herbs and butter are evenly mixed, then add reserved cooked carrots and toss in parsley butter for about 5 minutes until carrot slices are evenly coated.
To serve, place fish, chips and carrots on serving plates and sprinkle fish and chips with salt and malt vinegar.
Serves 2. It doesn’t keep.
*If you mean bangers, the best way to cook them is to prick them so they won’t explode, then fry them gently in lard or bacon fat.
UPDATE 12/25/20 Just uploaded: Alan Robson’s Grisly Trail of Newcastle/Gateshead. Haven’t decided to keep it yet so if you want this grab it now. Robson’s walking tour spiel (a Night Owls feature) is incredibly crude, cruel and bloodthirsty, but it appeals to the 12-year old in me. If nothing else, this guy Robson’s accent is pure Geordie and he speaks slowly and distinctly, so I understand everything he’s saying except most local references. Oh! And he does mention The Dead Alien of Bensham!
John and O don’t always perform semi-staged fully-voiced musicals badly at their BBC Proms appearances at the Royal Albert Hall—their 2012 My Fair Lady was pretty much all right, no shenanigans there (pronounced The Guardian, “John Wilson’s adapted score—which borrows from Andre Previn’s movie arrangement—adds a sparkle to even the most drearily expository songs: the flutes somehow sound cheekier, the brass ruder, the strings zingier”). And in fact their 2014 Kiss Me Kate was as it was meant to be: big, sexy and playful. Winsome John even gets a speaking part!
Now, we all know about “Too Darn Hot” with its descriptions of nice normal congress (“I’d like to sup with my baby tonight / Play the pup with my baby tonight”) and “Tom, Dick or Harry” with its lyrics “I’m a maid mad to marry and would take double quick / Any Tom, Dick or Harry, any Tom, Harry or Dick” and the lilting refrain “A-dick-a-dick dick dick, a-dick-a-dick dick dick”…
But did you ever stop to think about the song “Always True to You in My Fashion”? Which was one of my party pieces years and years ago (alternating with “I Cain’t Say No” from Oklahoma). I’ve given it some thought and what I worked out is this: Lois isn’t just your ordinary sex supplier—no, she specializes in those extra-special somethings that make a man (well, certain men) happy and willing to pay top dollar for them. Not to mention that in every verse she pretty much announces her rates for rough stuff, plus a type of sex play I could never get into:
There’s a madman known as Mac
Who is planning to attack
If his mad attack means a Cadillac, okay!…
I would never curl my lip
To a dazzling diamond clip
If a clip meant “Let ‘er rip!”
I’d not say nay…
There’s an oilman known as Tex
Who is keen to give me checks
And his checks I fear
Means that sex is here to stay…
…ending always with the last line, “But I’m always true to you darling in my fashion / Yes I’m always true to you darling in my way.” Which to me is the number-one indication she keeps it hot with her boyfriend because with him it’s, like I said, nice normal congress. You know, vanilla. But with her clients? As you may recall I was in The Business, where scenarios abound. (Remember Basingstoke?) All this to say it amuses me to no end to watch Lois size up within two seconds The Conductor, cunningly portrayed by my beloved John Wilson. Because I know exactly what’s going on in her head, in descending order:
If you’re in doubt about angels being real / I can arrange to change any doubts you feel / Wait’ll you see my Gidget / You’ll want her for your valentine…
America’s Sweetheart, two-time Oscar-winner Sally Field plays 15-year-old surfing-crazy, boy-crazy Francie “Gidget (girl+midget)” Lawrence in her first sitcom, which was based on the enormously successful eponymous 1957 novel by Oscar-nominated screenwriter/novelist Frederick Kohner, who in turn based the heroine on his own surfing daughter. Above Gidget, her theme song.
If you hear the Brill Building sound in Jack Keller’s easy, swingy tunes you’d be right—Keller worked in the Brill in NY the 50s, along with Neil Sedaka and Carole King, two of the many, many songwriters from that legendary song factory. And thanks to Howard Greenfield for the nifty phrasing in “Gidget”.
When you’re awake
The things you think
Come from the dreams you dream
Thought has wings
And lots of things
Are seldom what they seem
Another love song to you, John Wilson my darling, my bonny, my Tyneside lad. In Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (Warner Bros 1974), Scorsese’s fourth feature, my favorite actress in the world Ellen Burstyn plays Alice Hyatt, a New Mexico housewife suddenly widowed and left without means of support, who decides to try to return to her childhood home of Monterey, California and make a go of it again as a professional singer.
Weak and breathy as her voice is, she keeps the tune and the beat throughout the entire song—Scorsese has her sing the entire song, with intro—and something about the way Edna Rae (Burstyn’s original name) sings (imitating Peggy Lee above) appeals to me so much I come back to this scene again and again. Maybe it’s that her through-line is surprisingly strong. By the way, you do notice the sheet music for Oklahoma! on the piano…
We certainly all need some tenderness and a couple laughs right now. Below, the wonderful, luminous Molly Picon—who worked with legendary actor-producer-director-impressario-rival-to-Jacob-Adler-Stella’s-dad-model-for-Max-Bialystock-grandfather-of-Michael-Tilson-Thomas Boris Thomashevsky—sings “Oyfen Pripetchik” (MM Warshawsky 1848–1907), an enduring, evocative song from the past that everyone at a certain time, in a certain place, seems to have known the melody and all the words to. From season 2, episode 6 of the TV comedy masterpiece, Car 54, Where Are You? (Entire episode on my YT channel here. And really, dig the punch line ending.)
Below, a lovely rendition from Israeli singer Chava Alberstein.
Could you say no to this woman?
Oyfn pripetchik brent a fayerl, Un in shtub is heys. Un der rebe lernt kleyne kinderlekh Dem alef-beyz.
Zet zhe kinderlekh, Gedenkt zhe, tayere, vos ir lernt do. Zogt zhe nokh a mol un take nokh a mol: “Komets-alef: o!”
Lernt kinderlekh, lernt mit freyd, Lernt dem alef-beyz. Gliklekh is der Yid, wos kent die toyre Un dos alef-beyz.
Peter Sellers and Sophia Loren in The Millionairess (20th Century Fox, 1960). By the way, as an Asian-American, I have no problem with Peter Sellers playing a Muslim Indian doctor—or Anthony Quinn playing a Filipino war hero, for that matter. (If you’re looking for the BBC-TV show Goodness Gracious Me, here’s the pub sketch to start you off…)
If you could, my bonny John Wilson, imagine me wearing a Maria Clara (like great-grandmother Aberin below) and you wearing a barong, I’d be singing you this song:
Verse: Sa buhay ko’y labis Ang hirap at pasakit, ng pusong umiibig Mandi’y wala ng langit At ng lumigaya, hinango mo sa dusa Tanging ikaw sinta, ang aking pag-asa.
Refrain: Dahil sa iyo, nais kong mabuhay Dahil sa iyo, hanggang mamatay Dapat mong tantuin, wala ng ibang giliw Puso ko’y tanungin, ikaw at ikaw rin
Dahil sa iyo, ako’y lumigaya Pagmamahal, ay alayan ka Kung tunay man ako, ay alipinin mo Ang lahat sa buhay ko, dahil sa iyo
“Dahil Sa Iyo” Mike Velarde Jr music (1938), Tom Spinoza, lyrics Cora and Santos Beloy, vocalists Tri-World Records (1964)
My mother’s lola, my great-grandmother, the spitting image of my mother the way Georgiana Drew is the spitting image of Drew Barrymore. I have no documentation for my assertion—my gran’s house and possessions were completely destroyed during the Japanese Occupation. But whenever we came across this picture in the media—in an article in Time, for example—my mom would always point her out and tell me the story of how my great-grandfather came over from Ireland and, upon discovering he was meeting fellow Catholics in a sea of Asians, stayed, changed his name from O’Brien to Aberin, and married the local beauty. How the Dutch photographer found her is anybody’s guess.
Above the cast of Broadway Originals, first broadcast 23 August 1990) : “All the Things You Are” sung by all (Rebecca Luker, Jason Graae, Davis Gaines, Paige O’Hara, Judy Kaye, Kim Criswell, Brent Barrett, Chris Groenendaal, Shelley Freydont, and Gary Pierce). Boston Pops Orchestra and Chorus conducted by John McGlinn. And here’s the complete audio recording of this concert.
You are the promised kiss of springtime That makes the lonely winter seem long You are the breathless hush of evening That trembles on the brink of a lovely song You are the angel glow that lights a star
The dearest things I know are what you are
BBC’s resident singer/interviewer Clare Teal welcomes Proms stalwart and all-around “shouty scary” (her description) conductor John Wilson to the studio to talk about his new CD album Cole Porter in Hollywood and his orchestra’s 2014 tour, as well as spin a few swing platters, none of which we hear in entirety. Toward the end of the interview John Wilson Orchestra drummer Matt Skelton rips through “Begin the Beguine”.
Clare Teal and Conductor John Wilson, 28 September 2014. Above John and Clare: Pete Townshend sings “Begin the Beguine“.
“Begin the Beguine” is a song written by Cole Porter (a song is music with WORDS John, you know?) who composed it at the piano in the bar of the Ritz Hotel in Paris. The beguine comes from the Caribbean; it’s a combination of French ballroom dance and Latin folk dance and was popular in Paris at the time Porter was writing.
The song is notable for its 108-measure length, departing drastically from the conventional thirty-two-bar form. Where a typical standard popular song of its time was written in a fairly strict 32-measure form consisting of two or three eight-measure subjects generally arranged in the form A-A-B-A or A-B-A-C, “Begin the Beguine” employs the form A-A-B-A-C1-C2 with each phrase being sixteen measures in length rather than the usual eight. The final C2 section is stretched beyond its 16 measures an additional twelve bars for a total of 28 measures, with the twelve additional measures providing a sense of finality to the long form. The slight differences in each of the A sections, along with the song’s long phrases and final elongated C2 section at the end, give it unique character and complexity. The fact that the song’s individual parts hold up melodically and harmonically over such a long form also attests to Porter’s talent and ability as a songwriter.
Porter reportedly once said of the song, “I can never remember it—if I want to play I need to see the music in front of me!” Alec Wilder described it in his book American Popular Song: The Great Innovators 1900-1950 as “a maverick, an unprecedented experiment and one which, to this day, after hearing it hundreds of times, I cannot sing or whistle or play from start to finish without the printed music”.
Pete Townshend “Begin the Beguine” Cole Porter, words+music Another Scoop (1987) Pete Townshend Catalog
When they begin the beguine It brings back the sound of music so tender It brings back a night of tropical splendor It brings back a memory ever green
I’m with you once more under the stars And down by the shore an orchestra’s playing And even the palms seem to be swaying When they begin the beguine
To live it again is past all endeavor Except when that tune clutches my heart And there we are, swearing to love forever And promising never, never to part
What moments divine, what rapture serene Til clouds came along to disperse the joys we had tasted And now when I hear people curse the chance that was wasted I know but too well what they mean
So don’t let them begin the beguine Let the love that was once a fire remain an ember Let it sleep like the dead desire I only remember When they begin the beguine
Oh yes, let them begin the beguine, make them play ‘Til the stars that were there before return above you ‘Til you whisper to me once more Darling, I love you
And we suddenly know what heaven we’re in When they begin the beguine When they begin the beguine
Sondheim: The use of songs in it I hope will be different than the so-called “integrated musical” where the songs and the story constantly flow in and out of each other. It’d been going on for so many years now, I think a rather tired formula, that…
Host: Well, it was a good thing when it happened. I remember all those years in operetta, bursting into song for no reason… But that’s not what you’re going to do with this.
Sondheim: Oh, we might. It’s fun as long as it works.
Oscar Moore, guitar and Joe Comfort, double bass. The creamy Nat Cole at the piano.
If I cried a little bit When first I learned the truth Don’t blame it on my heart Blame it on my youth
You wouldn’t look at him to think that Levant, the eternal loafer/boy genius, was a fine tunesmith as well, would you? But here’s his plaintive standard sung by one of the most identifiable singers in American music. From After Midnight, Capitol Records.
San Francisco, open your Golden Gate
You’ll let no stranger wait outside your door
San Francisco, here is your wanderin’ one
Saying I’ll wander no more
The Castro Theatre was our neighborhood picture palace back in San Francisco. Went to dozens of movies there, sometimes with Mister Grumble (this is when he still could see), sometimes with the The Kid, sometimes with both: King Kong,Casablanca, The Garden of Allah, The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek, that movie Steve’s son was in called Brokeback Mountain, etc etc etc. But the organ was always the best part.
Here’s David Hagerty between evening shows giving the best of The Mighty Wurlitzer and ending (starting at 8:17), as he always does at every performance, with an inspiring rendition of the official anthem of my spiritual birthplace, “San Francisco” (Bronislaw Kaper and Walter Jurmann, lyrics by Gus Kahn, 1936).
“When someone in the story is famous, every moment of his existence has, for people who care, an aura of significance, and there will always be people with a quasi-authority who think they know things they could not possibly know, simply because they have a lot of information and curiosity and a sense of entitlement to “the truth” about George Gershwin, as if sufficient obsession and possession of a lot of verifiable facts can earn both entitlement to and knowledge of the unknowable.”
from The Memory of All That (Broadway Books, 2012)
by Katharine Weber, Kay Swift’s granddaughter