Stephen Fry talks Latin

This is hilarious. I saw it originally at the Millennium Dome, when it was still called that in 2000. I couldn’t stop laughing. I suppose the ridiculous little underpants help the comedic effect!


Jimmy Ruffin’s “What becomes of the broken hearted” with rare spoken introduction

You pick up all sorts of bits of trivia from the “Professor of Pop”, Paul Gambaccini on Radio 2’s “Pick of the Pops”.

Before playing Jimmy Ruffin’s “What becomes of the broken hearted” the other day, he imparted this trivia gem.

As explained by the great Gambo, the reason Ruffin’s classic has such a long instrumental introduction is that, originally, over the instruments and backing vocals, there was a spoken introduction by Jimmy Ruffin, before he started singing.

But then somebody said that the record sounded better without the spoken introduction, so they released the record without it.

Paul Gambaccini mentioned that the original version, with the spoken intro, is on YouTube.

Here it is:

Time for the party to apologise to Norman Scott

Embed from Getty Images

Like most others, I have enjoyed “A Very English Scandal” on BBC1. It’s been a really superbly-made series.

What packed more of a punch, for me, was “The Jeremy Thorpe scandal”, Tom Mangold’s updated documentary, shown on BBC4 on Sunday night.

Having watched that, as a matter of conscience, I find it disturbing that the party has never properly faced up to the Jeremy Thorpe affair.

OK, Jeremy Thorpe was a leader of the Liberal Party, not the Liberal Democrats, and never held any office in the new party. However, the Liberal Democrats did treat Jeremy Thorpe with quite some praise/privilege.

As a conference steward, I remember, briefly, having been asked to do so, guiding Mr and Mrs Thorpe around the conference centre in Harrogate, at the annual gathering. I think that was in 1999 when he attended conference to sign his book and there was talk of him doing well in the forthcoming poll to choose the party’s peers. (As an aside please see my report of a Liberal History Group meeting about the man).

From 1997, there is a report in the Independent on the Eastbourne conference entitled “Lib Dem conference: Thorpe returns from the wilderness” which included this effusive quote from a “spokesman for Mr Ashdown” (Paddy Ashdown was then leader of the party):

Jeremy Thorpe’s leadership at that time was tremendously inspirational and so the party is very pleased to see him here.

When Jeremy Thorpe died there were fulsome tributes from party figures.

Tom Mangold’s documentary brought things into clear focus for me. For years I suppose I have tried not to think of the whole affair in judgmental terms. It is now quite clear what happened (I am sorry I didn’t realise this earlier). The party should somehow acknowledge this and owes an apology to Norman Scott for not acknowledging the truth of the situation much earlier.

Thoughts on the songs in tonight’s Eurovision semi-final

Apologies for missing a couple – they all merged into one after a while.

Denmark would be my top pick.

Norway – very energetic with excellent superimposed musical instruments. I liked it very much.

Netherlands – a classic Nashville country music rock song. It shouldn’t even be in the contest.

Denmark – very powerful and popular. The imagery of the four big blokes with beards is very strong. Great song.

France. OK. Didn’t really grab me but that may be because it is in French.

Italy – horrible captions on screen – like a news broadcast. Visually appalling. Threatening vocals.

Germany – Poor man’s Ed Sheeran. He has a bouncy castle behind him, onto which are projected some fantastically good graphics and old black and white photos. Very strong.

Moldova. White boxes and singer doubles. 1970s trick. Very old hat.

Georgia. Nice harmonies. Rather dreary.

Malta – Animals. Strong. Back projection is a little distracting.

Serbia – certainly sounds very Serbian but not riveting.

San Morino – lively and catchy. Deserves to get through to the final.

Hungary – assume the brace position before listening. Singer just shouts, but doesn’t shout very well. Ludicrous. Makes you realise how Led Zeppelin, Muse, Biffy Clyro etc make so much money. There has to be some musicality in the singing.

Russia. Nice song. Nothing special.

Romania -not sure what the tailor’s dummies are doing in the background.

Slovenia – quite good but the false music failure is just crazy and rather deceitful.

Ukraine – very strong.

Sweden – too dark. You need a torch to see the singer. They’ve used lots of fluorescent light strips so the whole thing has to be performed in darkness which looks awful. Song is an average Michael Jackson track circa 1980

Poland. Strong and bouncy. Nice hats.

Fleetwood Mac – a band of two halves?

Embed from Getty Images
I have recently been building a large personal playlist on a well-known music streaming service.

I have more tunes on there from Fleetwood Mac than any other band.

I have sixteen tunes from the Rumours and post-Rumours (post-1974) era.

I have eight tunes from the Green/McVie/Spencer/Fleetwood/Welch/Weston era from 1967 to 1974.

Fair enough. But I see Fleetwood Mac as two bands really. You only have to listen to their version of the standard “Everyday I have the Blues” from 1969 and compare it to “You make lovin fun” (both below on YouTube) to realise that.

Fleetwood Mac1 was very earthy and bluesy. Fleetwood Mac2 has folk and rocks roots but is very pop-orientated. Both of the Fleetwood Macs are excellent in their own way, but it really is a stretch to reconcile the two sharply juxtaposed styles.

Embed from Getty Images

The outlandish glory of Professor Longhair

Embed from Getty Images

It’s funny how convoluted routes can lead one to the most glorious music.

Walking around Merdeka Square in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia recently (as you do) I overheard the phrase “working for the Yankee Dollar” being sung over the PA system of a local attraction. I noted it to add to my streaming playlist when I got home. It turns out the song was “Rum and Coca Cola” being sung by the Andrews Sisters. It is a wonderful rendition and will forever, now, remind me of our glorious trip to Malaysia.

When you search a song on a certain streaming service, it brings up several versions of that song. Anyway, once the Andrews Sisters’ version of “Rum and Coca Cola” played, my ears were assaulted by the most outlandish cacophony. It was the version of “Rum and Coca Cola” by Professor Longhair.

Until that moment, I had not heard of Professor Longhair. It turns out he was a New Orleans Blues pianist and singer, who lived from 1918 to 1980.

Anyway, on closer listen, the great blues man’s version of “Rum and Coca Cola” is absolutely brilliant! Yes, it sounds a bit out of tune at first, but taken as a whole it is absolutely gorgeous. It was recorded live February 3 or 4, 1978 at Tipitina Club, New Orleans. Here it is on YouTube:

The Royal Gloucestershire Hussars remember the Battle of Katia

I stand out on the left at the annual Battle of Katia memorial service at the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars memorial just outside Gloucester Cathedral yesterday, Sunday 22nd April. My grandfather, Charles Henry “Harry” Walter, was a volunteer in “D” Squadron with his horse, Susie from August 1914 to April 1918.

Two days after this report (below) in the Western Daily Press, my grandfather went to the recruiting station in Bristol and signed up.

He’s obviously not recorded on any war memorials, because he was lucky enough to survive the war and live to a ripe old age.

As is often said, you don’t get your name recorded in wartime unless you are dead, bad or get commended for an astonishingly brave act.

When Harry volunteered, his first port of call was Newbury Racecourse, where his regiment were training with their horses on Greenham Common.

After months of training on horseback, the regiment shipped off to Egypt. They left their horses there and fought as infrantrymen in Gallipoli. It seems a bit daft after all that training with horses, but perhaps that was one of the many “cock-ups” of the Dardanelles Campaign – I don’t know. I learnt yesterday that the Hussars insisted on continuing to wear their spurs on their boots during the Gallipoli campaign, even though they were on foot, to remind everyone that they were really cavalrymen!