From Leeds With Love

Ok to back to something approaching normality.

I spent the weekend up visiting my folks to mark my Dad’s birthday on Saturday. As I’ve mentioned on these pages before, although I probably – no, undoubtedly – would never have admitted it at the time, his record collection has proved to be a massive influence on my own musical tastes over the years.

Pretty much every country record I’ve ever posted here, and in particular most of the stuff I’ve posted recently in my Sunday Morning thread, I first heard via my Dad’s record collection. But there’s another chap, non-country, who my Dad loves, who I previously wrote about here: one Lonnie Donegan.

There was a fairly decent documentary on ITV, of all places, the other week which if you didn’t catch I’d urge you to see if it’s still available on their On Demand service. I mean, you can tell it was an ITV production because they felt the need to have it presented by one of the actors from Downton Abbey, but he makes a pretty good fist of it, including interviews with both the remaining Beatles (including one with Ringo Starr which he manages to get through whilst preventing Starr from waffling on about peace and love), Roger Daltrey and, surprisingly, Jack White. Now if that’s not a recommendation…

White explains how many of Donegan’s songs were American folk songs, and, as proof if proof were needed, today’s selection was first recorded back in 1924, and in between then and Donegan recording it in 1957, such luminaries as Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, to name just two, cut versions of it too.

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Lonnie Donegan – Cumberland Gap

In 1992, to mark the 40th anniversary of their first publication, the NME released a three-CD compilation album, “Ruby Trax” where they invited current bands featuring on their pages to record a cover version of a record which had reached Number One in the UK charts during those 40 years.

Ruby Trax is probably best know for having spawned this, by the Manic Street Preachers, a balls-out rock version of “Suicide is Painless (Theme from M*A*S*H*)”, which became the bands first Top 10 hit:

The song was released as a double ‘A’ side in the UK, with Fatima Mansions’ frankly rather weird version of Bryan Adams chart-clogger  “(Everything I Do) I Do it for You” on t’other side:

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Fatima Mansions – (Everything I Do) I Do it for You

If you’re hearing that for the first time, you’ll not be overly surprised to learn that was the only time that Fatima Mansions came even close to bothering the UK Top 10 (although they did release a few belters, which I’ll deal with some other time).

But elsewhere on the Ruby Trax album, was this version of “Cumberland Gap”, provided by stalwarts of this section The Wedding Present:

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The Wedding Present – Cumberland Gap

And, just to make this all nice and circular, it was Wedding Present main man David Gedge’s birthday on Saturday, the same day as my Dad’s. Coincidence? Well, yes, obviously. What are you suggesting….?

More soon.

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Sunday Morning Coming Down

My father is a man of few words. Not exactly what you’d call a Chatty Kathy. If anyone ever used that phrase apart from me.

There was once an occasion when he gave me some sound words of advice. Actually, that’s not strictly true, there’s more than one. The one I’m thinking of is about records.

Another one I can recall is about football. Or, more pertinently, about drinking whilst watching football.

In 1986 he and I settled down to watch England v Poland in the World Cup finals. England needed to win, or they were pretty much out. My dad is not the most avid of football fan, but we settled down to watch the match anyway. To get him through it, he had a few beers lined up, and a bottle of whiskey on stand-by.

“We’re either celebrating or drowning our sorrows”, he told me when I mentioned this might be a little excessive. I was only 16 at the time. He gave me a beer and I shut up.

This is how it panned out:

I, as with so many others of a similar age, desperately wanted to have a bandage or cast on our left hands after that. With the benefit of hindsight, one on the right hand was more likely.

“We’re either celebrating or drowning our sorrows”: the best advice I ever had. Seven words I’ve tried to live my life by ever since.

Anyway, the record related advice was this: “You’ll regret selling them, you know.”

Back story: I was skint, and had decided to off-load a wodge of my vinyl, including one that I haven’t even told you I’ve bought yet. See, time is a big blob of wibbly wobbly timey-wimey…stuff (apologies, you will only understand that link if you saw the greatest episode of Dr Who since it rebooted).

Now I’m not a massive fan of Pink Floyd, and I can prove this by telling you that amongst the vinyl I was flogging off the day that those wise words spilled from my father’s mouth was the album on which today’s song resides. Floyd fans will gasp in horror that I even contemplated selling my copy. But that’s what I did.

I don’t deny that that The Dark Side of the Moon is a work of genius. And today’s song is, as is the rest of the album, amazing, powerful, beautiful.

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Pink Floyd – The Great Gig in the Sky

Two weeks later, I went out and spent the money I had made selling my old vinyl on buying a new copy of The Dark Side of the Moon.

You should always listen to your parents.

There’s some karma in here. About 10 years ago, after they’d both retired, my parents built themselves a rather nice bungalow in Southern Ireland and moved over there. As they were moving out of the spacious three bedroom detached place I grew up in, this lead to a downsizing of their belongings, and needless to say one of the casualties was my father’s vinyl, the majority of which went in a car boot sale or three.

One of the records they sold was one which I know is very close to his heart. And I say karma, because I sought out a copy of the album and gave it to him at Christmas. The volume went very loud when he played this, I think one of his favourite records ever:

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Lonnie Donegan – Seven Golden Daffodils

See, a “Best Of” album. That’s where I get it from.

If you don’t know who Lonnie Donegan is: well, he’s possibly one of the most influential and unsung heroes of pop music. John Peel loved him. The Beatles were inspired by him, as were so many other bands that broke through in the late 1950s/early 1960s. Much of what we know as popular music simply would not have happened were it not for Lonnie. I urge you to go seek out his stuff.

In the meantime, here’s a song that I love from the same album:

Lonnie Donegan – Puttin’ on the Style

1-1, I think.

More soon.