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!

Brexit: No cake, but let’s welcome the prospect of a nice big bit of fudge!

Embed from Getty Images
Along, I’m sure, with many LDV readers, I’ve read hundreds of articles on the subject of Brexit over the last couple of years.

But one piece of writing has finally encapsulated a precise sensible solution to the whole sordid, messy business.

David Shariatmadari is a writer and editor for the Guardian in London. In a post yesterday entitled “On Brexit, the views of the 48% must be respected too. That’s democracy”, he argued that:

Given that the UK is split, it’s only fair if the government delivers ‘Brexit in name only’, as is looking increasingly likely.

After explaining that the Irish impasse will probably lead to the UK “both in a customs union and closely, if not entirely, aligned with the single market”, he concludes: Continue reading

We’ve given an eye-wateringly broad “Snoopers’ Charter” to big corporations

Embed from Getty Images

As Lib Dems we have campaigned long and hard for curbs on the government’s power to snoop on our internet data.

Yet, most of us (not all) have personally given an eye-wateringly broad “Snoopers’ Charter” to big corporations – namely Facebook and Google.

I know, I have checked on my data held by Facebook and Google. You can do it too. Facebook had all my photos, posts, friends etc etc going back to February 2007. The data was 354 megabytes in size. That’s equivalent to 71 copies of the Complete Works of Shakespeare. Continue reading

Radio 210’s Golden Days January 16th 1983

It’s taken me a while to get round to putting this up.

Apart from a broken cassette, it is the only record I have of part-time working at Radio 210 in Reading in the late 70s/early 80s.

I am very grateful to the folks at Radio 210 for letting me have a lot of fun and get the radio “bug” out of my system. The experience left me with a love of radio, an enhanced knowledge and appreciation of music (which I enjoy to this day) and, believe it or not, a very acute sense of timing. When hitting the news on the dot of the hour is the very highest priority, you tend to develop a skill for precise backward-calculation of timings!

This is a very good example of my programmes at 210. I loved doing “Golden Days” which was a great show for four hours on Sunday evenings, 9pm – 1pm.

I particularly loved doing competitions about music facts. There are plenty of those here. These days most of them would be impossible, because people would easily google the answers in a couple of seconds. In those days, if you didn’t know the answer, you had to schedule a visit to your local library to look it up.

I cannot believe that colour photo, which is the one I used to send out to listeners who asked for a photo of me. It displayed considerable brass neck on two fronts: a) for opening up my shirt like that and b) having my photo taken in front of that large house and grounds with the implication that it was my house, when in fact I simply rented a room in it!

Of course, in those days being a radio dee-jay was quite a physical task – I had a mini-van to carry boxes of records to and from the studio – then there was the job of sorting them out and playing them, putting themback in their sleeves etc. Then there was the task of getting out the adverts/jingles on big DAB cartridges.

Nowadays you more or less sit at a screen and click.

What was wonderful about the job then was being able to choose the records, including chopping and changing during the programme.

I did do one programme playing mostly 78 rpm records on shellac!

But at the other end of the scale, we did have the start of the digital revolution through a digital delay system which allowed phone-ins to be conducted seven seconds prior to broadcast. Then if someone swore or said something potentially defamatory, you just flicked a switch to ditch the most recent seconds of speech and go back to “live”.

I had to do this once when some silly fool swore on a phone-in. He apologised afterwards, thinking the offending word had been broadcast, but I took great pleasure in deflating his balloon by telling him that it didn’t go out on air!

What a licensee must be…

Embed from Getty Images
These words were typed on a thin sheet of paper in my grandfather’s wallet when he passed away in the late 1960s. He spent the early part of his life in a hotel, run by his family.

A licensee must be a democrat, an autocrat, acrobat, a doormat. He must be able to entertain Prime Ministers, pick-pockets, pirates, philantrophists and police – and be on both sides of the political fence – a footballer, golfer, bowler, tennis player, darts champion and pigeon fancier.

He has to settle arguments and fights, he must be a boxer, wrestler, weightlifter, sprinter and peacemaker.

He must always look immaculate when drinking with bankers, swankers, commercial travellers, and company representatives, even though he has just stopped a beer-throwing contest in the public bar.

To be successful he must keep the bars full, the house full, the tanks full, the storeroom full and not get himself full.

He must have barmen who are clean, honest, quick workers and thinkers, non-drinkers, mathematicians technicians and who are at all times on the boss’s side, the customer’s side, and stay on the bar’s inside.

To sum up – he must be outside, inside, offside, glorified, sanctified, crucified, stupefied, crosseyed, and if he’s the strong silent type – there’s always suicide.

There are various version of this on the internet. The original author is unknown.

The secret world of Whitehall – and other BBC Michael Cockerell gems

British Houses of Parliament
If you’ve missed them when they were originally broadcast, YouTube has a wealth of BBC political documentaries for you to watch at leisure.

I missed Michael Cockerell’s “The Secret World of Whitehall” when it was originally broadcast. All three programmes from the series are on YouTube in full:

Episode 1 – The Real Sir Humphrey – This looks at the role of the Cabinet Secretary, chronicling the historic evolution of the role through its various job holders. Continue reading