My spirit sang all day O my joy. Nothing my tongue could say, Only my joy! My heart an echo caught O my joy, And spake, Tell me thy thought, Hide not thy joy. My eyes gan peer around, O my joy, What beauty hast thou found? Shew us thy joy. My jealous ears grew whist; O my joy Music from heaven is’t Sent for our joy? She also came and heard; O my joy, What, said she, is this word? What is thy joy? And I replied, O see, O my joy, ‘Tis thee, I cried, ’tis thee: Thou art my joy.
If you’re in doubt about angels being realI can arrange to change any doubts you feelWait’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 much thanks to Howard Greenfield for the nifty phrasing in “Gidget”.
It’s been longer than I expected to listen to and review an unjustly neglected (by me) album of fanfares recorded in 2018 by my beloved John Wilson with the Onyx Brass, and since I’d like to do right by this collection—as it actually contains some nifty pieces—am taking my time. So in the meanwhile, here’s a song that came to mind when John nattered on to Edward Seckerson about his boyhood years back in the 80s in Low Fell in Gateshead, not “stoody-ing” music but “pleh-ying” with his bike. (“Play” and “study”are the two main words I use to get into John’s Geordie accent.)
Notes: The intro of “A bicyclette” was (still is?) the theme for Bouygues Telecom. And we all know who Francis Lai is, he’s that Love Story guy.
Quand on partait de bon matin Quand on partait sur les chemins A bicyclette Nous étions quelques bons copains Y avait Fernand, y avait Firmin Y avait Francis et Sébastien Et puis Paulette
On était tous amoureux d’elle On se sentait pousser des ailes A bicyclette Sur les petits chemins de terre On a souvent vécu l’enfer Pour ne pas mettre pied à terre Devant Paulette
Faut dire qu’elle y mettait du cœur C’était la fille du facteur A bicyclette Et depuis qu’elle avait huit ans Elle avait fait en le suivant Tous les chemins environnants A bicyclette
Quand on approchait la rivière On déposait dans les fougères Nos bicyclettes Puis on se roulait dans les champs Faisant naître un bouquet changeant De sauterelles, de papillons Et de rainettes
Quand le soleil à l’horizon Profilait sur tous les buissons Nos silhouettes On revenait fourbus contents Le cœur un peu vague pourtant De n’être pas seul un instant Avec Paulette
Prendre furtivement sa main Oublier un peu les copains La bicyclette On se disait: c’est pour demain J’oserai, j’oserai demain Quand on ira sur les chemins A bicyclette
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.
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.
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…
Everything I want to sing to you, John Wilson, Conductor, flame of my heart, my bonny, my love. The most beautiful song ever written (at 49:28), sung in the classiest concert of The Great American Songbook ever televised, Broadway Originals (PBS, 1993), played by the Boston Pops and conducted by the sweetest musical theater restorer-preservationist who ever lived, John McGlinn, who discovered Kern’s “lost” score and died far too young at 55. Hosted by the most glamorous hostess on the Eastern Seaboard, Kitty Carlisle Hart. Orchestration of this Jerome Kern classic by Robert Russell Bennett. Milton Babbitt, that champion of musical theater and Stephen Sondheim’s teacher, wrote an illuminating analysis of this song; Sondheim talks about it here.
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 Claire 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’s orchestra mate and drummer, Matt Skelton, rips through “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