Sunday, 6 February 2011

nothing but the marvellous is beautiful

Songs are amazing things - they can stay with you for years.  Sometimes it's years before you actually "get" them.  As a Stevenage boy, I'm well aware of E. M. Forster given that he lived between Stevenage and a closeby village, Weston.  His dictum of "only connect" is indelibly printed in my DNA.

A few weeks or so ago, EMI Records (who have obviously bought up all independent companies) released Lindisfarne: The Charisma Years 1970-1973. I really couldn't care less what anyone feels about the band because, as far as I'm concerned, they featured one of the all time great unsung heroes - or at least, great British Songwriters. Jimmy Alan Hull. The sudden loss of Hull in 1995 was a huge loss. He was possibly just about to become a Labour MP when he died - his ghost is there in the best ever British fin de siecle drama in the 90s, Our Friends In The North.  Anyway, the re-release of the 4 cd set containing their first five albums and bonus tracks features my all-time favourite Hull song. It was a little-known b-side (remember singles?) and backed Lady Eleanore.  This meant that it wasn't ever released on an album until the advent of cds - when record companies realised they could sell us old fogies our record collections again.

The song was Nothing But The Marvellous Is Beautiful and I have only just connected with where the title came from after all these years. "Trying to get silly but it's not working out too well" indeed. I have been reading David Pirie's A New Heritage Of Horror: The English Gothic Cinema and there in the acknowledgements is the quote:

". . . let us settle the matter for once and for all; the marvellous is always beautiful.  In fact only the marvellous is beautiful." (Andre Breton: The Surrealist Manifesto)


Right, got it.  That explains the nature of many of Hull's slightly more "out there" lyrics and, of course, the cover of his first solo album Pipedream:

Rene Magritte. When did you first discover Surrealism?  For me it was, unbelievably, in the pages of a 1960's weekly newspaper - a precursor of Okay-type magazines, I guess, Reveille.  There must have been an exhibition in London which they were reporting on.  I loved the stuff immediately.

There is a huge relationship between British horror and Surrealism which needs exploring but not at this particular moment.  I would love to have read interviews, or even interview him myself, with Hull but, alas, this wasn't to be - he was taken too early.  I know that he was taken with Surrealism and the absurd, but I perhaps didn't quite realise how much.

Anyway, after all these years I have managed to begin to understand a song I've always loved - it's worth going back to songs you've always liked to work out what it is about them you liked - sometimes songs stay with us.  I've certainly connected with that again.

Again, I don't care what anyone else thinks about it as it may appear to be a trivial song, but it's the fact that after all these years it can still speak to me.

I hear that Gary Moore died today.  Although not a fan of the man particularly, 58 seems to be awfully young for an apparently healthy man to die.  And given I'm 55 this week, it seems a bit near, if you know what I mean.  He was an incredibly ugly man who owned Peter Green's Les Paul - the one used on Man of The World, Albatross etc. I saw ye man live quite a few times - including at The Marquee in the late 1970s - I went to see Stackridge (believe it or not) but they had to cancel.  Moore stood in for them.  Also, his first band Skid Row played Stevenage College the night we pushed a bath on wheels to Biggleswade and back for charity in 1973. But that's another story. And quite possibly, a surreal one, for sure.

I've still got the press cuttings to prove it happened.


Brendini said...

There is a thesis waiting to be written about Surrealism, the Dadaist movement and English popular culture; with the emphasis on music. And I do believe that you're the very man to do it.

It's a dreadful shame about Gary Moore.

Brendini said...
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Dave Leeke said...

Hmmm, not sure about that, Brendan - sounds like a lot of research.

By the way - I've been thinking this through and it wasn't Skid Row who played at the College it was an even more obscure band called Skin Alley - a favourite of Richard Goddard's I seem to remember. Not that I'm doing too well on that front at the moment. However, I did see ye man at various venues including The Marquee back in the 7os.

We definitely pushed a bath to Biggleswade and back, though.

Kent Wiley said...

"We definitely pushed a bath to Biggleswade and back, though."

That's one I want to hear about, Dave.

You're always mentioning people I've never heard of, Gary Moore included. When I looked him up, an interesting bit of coincidence became apparent. WP says that he played the solo on "She's My Baby" for the Traveling Wilburys. It just so happens that I used snippets of that very song for my most recent film, to be found here, of course. Neat. Always wondered who the bloke was played that tear.

Dave Leeke said...

Hi Kent, yes I must admit to being a fan of slightly less well-known music (amongst other things!). Your video looks interesting - as an ex-artist (well I studied art as a student in the 70s) I still take an interest even if I don't do much beyond a few pan and ink scribbles.

The bath story is just another ridiculous moment from my youth. I'm sure I'll write about it one day - I'll see if I can find the press cutting first!

Kent Wiley said...

Thanks for watching, Dave. I've got another video in the works right now, with a painter whose show is currently up at the same gallery. Pretty cool stuff with piles of toys.

A. said...

'NBTMIB' has been one of my favourite songs since I discovered it on th back of 'Lady Eleanor' - we used to get full value from singles in those days. I've included it in many compilation tapes and have it on various iPod playlists. Only tonight did I come across the Breton quote and immediately saw the connection! Glad I'm not alone ...

A. said...
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