Strings on Sunday

Back in February 2018, I posted some classical music – Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, in case you’re interested – in what could probably be construed as a rather desperate attempt to appear more culturally sophisticated than I really am.

Well, here I am with the follow-up.

Accompanied by some really quite stunning footage, here’s Sibelius’ incredible Finlandia:

Sibelius – Finlandia

More soon.

Strings on Sunday

I’ve posted a couple of Oasis songs recently, but I’d hate to think that any of you assumed that was some kind of seal of approval in the Blur v Oasis debate.

No. Personally, I never understood why you had to pick a side. What’s wrong with liking both?

But if I absolutely had to pick a team, to nail my colours to the mast, it would undoubtedly be to the Blur entourage. There’s just more depth, more variation, to their records than anything Oasis could ever aspire to.

So, here’s a tune which would very easily sit in my S.S.O.S. series, but it deserves better:


Blur – The Universal

Often, when I haven’t managed to get a ticket for Glastonbury, I will sit at home, watch the coverage and wish I was there; not because of whichever act is headlining, but because of the whole vibe of being there.

But in 2009, watching this hurt. There’s nothing like being part of a massive crowd, living in the moment, watching a band who means so much to you perform. It’s like a punch to the gut every time I remember that I wasn’t there that year.

More soon.

Strings on Sunday

I’ve told this story before, exactly two years ago as it happens, so if you read it back then, feel free to skip this.

When I lived in Cardiff, for several years my local pub was The Tut’n’Shive on City Road. I got to know the bar staff in there to the point where some of them became friends, and we would hang out socially.

Tuesday night in the Tut was quiz night, hosted by a chap called Nigel, who didn’t look anything like the sort of person one normally associates with the name; he rocked the surfer dude rather than the former Chancellor of the Exchequer look.

The final round of the quiz was always a music round, where Nigel would play ten records and you had to correctly name the song and artist. Having gained a bit of a reputation as a music buff, I found myself in demand, and ended up joining the bar staff’s team.

Anyway, one Friday night I was on a works do, in a joint called Bar Med, which was supposed to be a ‘Mediterranean-style cafe bar’, which it wasn’t, unless you count having tables and chairs outside during the daytime as being Mediterranean, which I don’t.

There was a DJ playing on that particular Friday night, playing some truly awful chart records to a largely indifferent crowd. I realised it was Nigel, so I went over for a chat. Nigel wasn’t happy, as he had been instructed to only play ‘cheesy’ records by the bar’s management. I attempted to reassure him by pointing out that it was fairly early, and I was pretty sure that once people had got a few more drinks inside them, they would probably loosen up a bit and venture onto the dancefloor.

“Are you taking requests?” I asked.

“As long as it’s a cheesy one, yes,” replied Nigel.

I suggested today’s tune.

Nigel stared at me.

“Not that cheesy, I draw the line there.”

Well, this is my pub and my rules, and as you all know, I have no ruck with things like standards, so here it is:


Yomanda – Synths & Strings

More soon.

Strings on Sunday

Alan: Do you want to put something on?
Lynn: Oh, yes.
Alan: I’ll just go and check the party bags. [The theme music from “Black Beauty” begins to play. Alan is filling sanitary bags with loose Wotsits] What’s this, Lynn?
Lynn: It’s the theme tune from “Black Beauty”.
Alan: It’s brilliant.


Denis King – Galloping Home (Black Beauty Theme)

Alan: I think that went quite well. Shall we clear up? I fancy an early night.
Lynn: Shall I put “Black Beauty” back on again?
Alan: Yes. We can clear up while we listen to “Black Beauty”.


 More soon.

Strings on Sunday

Regular readers may recall that I went to see and absolutely loved Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri a few weeks ago, which picked up 5 awards (including Best Film, Outstanding British Film, Original Screenplay, Leading Actress and Supporting Actor (to Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell respectively) at the BAFTAs last weekend.

With Oscars night fast approaching, and now armed with my Unlimited pass to my local cinema, I’m trying to get to see as many of the other nominated films as I can.

A couple of weeks ago, I popped along to see Darkest Hour, starring Gary Oldman in a fat suit as Winston Churchill (winner of the BAFTA Leading Actor, deservedly so, he’s phenomenal in it), and this week I went to see what, with 13 nominations, is the main challenger to Three Billboards… at the Oscars: The Shape of Water (which won Best Director for Guillermo del Toro, and Best Original Music for Alexandre Desplat at the BAFTAs).

The plot of The Shape of Water (don’t worry – no spoilers) is your standard Bad Man captures Fish-Man, Mute Girl meets Fish-Man, Mute Girl and Fish-Man fall in love, Mute Girl attempts to rescue Fish-Man from Bad Man, Mute Girl and Fish-Man engage in some really rather inappropriate sexual activity (don’t send me comments, I understand that it’s symbolic); you know, the sort of thing we’ve seen hundreds of times before.

Joking aside, The Shape of Water really is rather beautiful to look at, and Sally Hawkins as Elisa Esposito (Mute Girl) is spellbinding, but ultimately I came away from it feeling a little underwhelmed. For my money, the Fish-Man looked just a bit too much like The Creature from the Black Lagoon which apparently inspired this film, there wasn’t really much in the way of tension or surprises, and, knowing the basic premise of the film before I went, the final dénouement came as no surprise whatsoever: I quite literally saw it coming from pretty much the opening scene.

And so to today’s string song, which comes from the movie’s soundtrack. Originally recorded by Alice Faye, and appearing in 1943’s Hello, Frisco, Hello, for which it won the Oscar for Best Original Song, it’s perhaps best known this side of the pond as being a Vera Lynn song, although it’s also been covered by Frank Sinatra, Barbara Streisand, Trini Lopez, Rosemary Clooney, Doris Day, Shirley Bassey, Hugh Masekale and Michael Bublé, to name but a few.

Faye’s version makes an appearance in The Shape of Water, but Hawkins also lip-syncs to a new recording, featuring American opera singer Renée Fleming with the London Symphony Orchestra, on a scene where she…erm…dances with the Fish-Man, and it’s this version which appears on the Original Soundtrack release:


Alexandre Desplat (feat. Renée Fleming) – You’ll Never Know

As for the Oscars: my money’s still on Three Billboards… to scoop the lion’s share of the awards.

More soon.

Strings on Sunday

Following on from last week’s injection of culture in this series, today we’re going to almost completely the opposite end of the spectrum.

I’ve never really been that great a fan of Oasis; I bought a few of their early singles, still love Definitely Maybe to this day, but think that (What’s The Story) Morning Glory is massively over-rated and all that came after that was just a bit meh. (Controversial, I know, but I actually prefer Be Here Now, the self-indulgent, over-produced, coke-driven album. There I’ve said it.) In fact, I’d go so far as to say that after Definitely Maybe, there are five, maybe six, songs from the rest of their repertoire that I have any time for.

This is one of them, and while I know most will point to Live Forever as being their finest moment, if I really had to choose, I’d probably say that this is my favourite song of theirs, although it is slightly spoiled by the cheering and shouts of “Number One!” at the end.

Whatever reached #3 in the UK Charts in 1995. That’ll learn ’em.


Oasis – Whatever

More soon.

Strings on Sunday

Something a little different to the kind of inane pop kind of thing I usually post around here.

When I was a kid, I listened to a lot of classical music. I say that like I had any choice in the matter but of course I didn’t: my parents’ record collection contained not just Country records, but a fair smattering of the more cerebral stuff too.

This is one piece which I’ve always loved, performed here by the St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Vladamir Ashkenazy. I have no idea if this is regarded as a fine rendition or not, it just happens to be the one that I own. Note the inclusion of “Authentic Cannons and Bells from St Petersburg” in the recording, which is code for “Play it Loud”:


Tchaikovsy – 1812 Overture

More soon.

Strings on Sunday

I’ve been slightly unkind about some of The Beuatiful South’s cover versions on these pages previously, but they are a band who I really like (up to a point), a fact which gains puzzled looks from many of my friends who are less receptive to their charms.

I say “up to a point”, because there was a definite moment in their career where I fell out of love with them, that moment being 1998’s Perfect 10 single (although I did still buy the album if was the lead single from, and quite like a couple of tracks on it).

Anyway, today’s choice is one of my favourites by them, lifted from their debut album, sort of. It is on there, but when released as a single, it was re-recorded with more strings, making it just a little bit more delicately mournful:

the-beautiful-south-ill-sail-this-ship-alone-go-discs-londonThe Beautiful South – I’ll Sail This Ship Alone

More soon.

Strings on Sunday

A couple of weeks ago, after a visit to stay with my parents over Christmas, I posted something by The Carter Family, a record from my Dad’s record collection that got a spin when I was there, and which I hadn’t heard for many years.

Last weekend, I visited them again, news which prompted long-time follower George to write: “Given that you’re visiting your parents, does this mean we can look forward to some decent tracks, plundered from your father’s collection?”

Yes, George, you can. Here’s something he owns, especially for you.


Roger Whittaker – The Last Farewell

More soon.