Tag Archives: Queen

Tolerable Xmas Records (3)

I’ll let you into a secret – I hate the song ‘White Christmas’  in its original version.  It drones along, a malformed slice of seasonal tedium, just like all the ones we used to know.

But as it has been brought into the world, we might as well get someone to record a good version of it. Sort of stripped back, soulful, nice brass section,  schmaltz-free, recorded by someone like, oh I dunno… Otis Redding perhaps ?

Wouldn’t that be worth hearing ?

 

Carla Thomas is a midwinter child, born around the Shortest Day (December 21, 1942), the daughter of Rufus Thomas, no stranger to seasonal opportunism himself (‘I’ll Be your Santa Baby‘).

Described by some as the Queen of Memphis Soul, she also dueted with Otis Redding (notably on ‘Tramp’) and in 1963 released what may just about be my favorite Tolerable Xmas Record – ‘Gee Whiz, It’s Christmas‘)

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Almanac – April 26

1886 – Ma Rainey born. One of the earliest known American professional blues singers and one of the first generation of such singers to record. she has been  billed as The Mother of the Blues.

She  was known for her very powerful vocal abilities, energetic disposition, majestic phrasing, and a ‘moaning’ style of singing similar to folk tradition, though her powerful voice and disposition are not captured on her recordings (due to her recording exclusively for Paramount, which was known for worse-than-normal recording techniques and among the industry’s poorest shellac quality), the other characteristics are present, and most evident on her early recordings, Bo-weevil Blues and Moonshine Blues. She also recorded with Louis Armstrong.

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1937 – Spanish Civil War: Guernica (or Gernika in Basque), Spain  bombed by German Luftwaffe, causing widespread destruction and civilian deaths – the Basque government reported 1,654 people killed.

The bombing was the subject of a famous anti-war painting by Pablo Picasso. It was depicted by Heinz Kiwitz, a German artist who made a woodcut of it  and later was killed fighting in the International Brigades.

The bombing shocked and inspired many artists: Guernica is also the name of one of the most violent of René Iché sculptures, one of the first electroacoustic music by Patrick Ascione, of a musical composition by René-Louis Baron and a poem by Paul Eluard (Victory of Guernica). There is also a short film from 1950 by Alain Resnais entitled Guernica.

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1938 – Duane Eddy born.  American guitarist. In the late 1950s and early 1960s he had a string of hit records, produced by Lee Hazlewood, which were noted for their characteristically “twangy” sound, including “Rebel Rouser”, “Peter Gunn”, and “Because They’re Young“. He had sold 12 million records by 1963.

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1940 – Giorgio Moroder born. Italian record producer, songwriter and performer.

When in Munich in the 1970s, he started his own record label called Oasis Records, which several years later became a subdivision of Casablanca Records.

 He collaborated with Donna Summer during the  disco era (including “Love to Love You Baby” and “I Feel Love“) and was the founder of the former Musicland Studios in Munich, which was used as a recording studio by artists including the Electric Light Orchestra, Led Zeppelin, Queen and Elton John.

Moroder also produced a number of electronic disco hits for The Three Degrees, two albums for Sparks, songs for performers including David Bowie, Irene Cara, Madleen Kane, Melissa Manchester, Blondie, Japan, and France Joli.

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1970 – Gypsy Rose Lee died.  American burlesque entertainer famous for her striptease act.

She was also an actress, author, and playwright whose 1957 memoir was made into the stage musical and film Gypsy.

Trying to describe what Gypsy was (a “high-class” stripper), H. L. Mencken coined the term ecdysiast.  Her style of intellectual recitation while stripping was spoofed in the number “Zip!” from Rodgers and Hart‘s Pal Joey, a play in which her sister June appeared.

Gypsy can be seen performing an abbreviated version of her act (intellectual recitation and all) in the 1943 film Stage Door Canteen.

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Sycophancy Knows No Limits

Its been there since 1858, it’s officially called the Clock Tower, but most people probably know it by the name of the bell it houses – Big Ben.

But now, in the latest bit of jubilee sycophancy, it is to be renamed the Elizabeth Tower in honour of Mrs Windsor, the House of Commons has confirmed.

It follows a campaign, backed by most MPs and the three main party leaders, to rename the tower in recognition of the Queen’s 60 years of unelected privilidge. The House of Commons authorities have now agreed the change – like they were ever likely to say no.

Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood originally proposed the idea an early day motion which was backed by 40 MPs. The motion called on the House of Commons Commission to consider the change “in recognition of Her Majesty’s 60 years of unbroken public service on behalf of her country”. Mr Ellwood is no doubt contemplating  a just reward in a future honours list.

And this at a time when many of those same MPs are seriously considering cutting the benefits of those already at the bottom of the pile… something that I hope voters will bear in mind come the next election. 

Coming soon –

> Stonehenge to be renamed Queenhenge.

> Glastonbury Tor to be renamed Sixty Glorious Years Tor.

> London to be renamed Elizabethville.

Why not ?  The sycophancy seems to know no bounds now.

Mr. Frankenstein

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QUEEN’S ENGLISH SOCIETY THROWS IN THE TOWEL

The Queen’s English Society, which has railed against the misuse and deterioration of the English language for 40 years,  has finally given up the ghost.

Chairman Rhea Williams decided it was time to close down, and  announced the demise of the organisation in a terse message to members after the annual meeting, which just 22 people attended.

“Despite the sending out of a request for nominations for chairman, vice-chairman, administrator, web master, and membership secretary no one came forward to fill any role,” she said.

“So I have to inform you that QES will no longer exist. There will be one more Quest [their magazine]  then all activity will cease and the society will be wound up. The effective date will be 30 June 2012.”

Queen’s English Society: common complaints

* Missing and wrongly used apostrophes

* Overuse of exclamation marks !!!!! [sorry…]

* Adjectives used as adverbs

* ‘More’ used with the comparative. Eg more sweeter

* Incorrect forms of verbs, eg snuck (as in ‘snuck in’).

* American spell checks

* Failure to start sentences with a capital letter and end them with a full point.

* Misspelling of common words

* Confusion between same-sounding words – their/there licence/license

* Misuse of semicolons

Their website is still up, but doesn’t carry news of its closure at present:

http://www.queens-english-society.com/

 

Mr. Frankenstein

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FUCK THE JUBILEE – 4

Did you enjoy waving your flags at your betters as they paraded down the Thames on Sunday ? Lucky you – not everyone had such an uplifting experience, it seems…. as reported in The Guardian yesterday:

A group of long-term unemployed jobseekers were bussed into London to work as unpaid stewards during the diamond jubilee celebrations and told to sleep under London Bridge before working on the river pageant.

Up to 30 jobseekers and another 50 people on apprentice wages were taken to London by coach from Bristol, Bath and Plymouth as part of the government’s Work Programme.

Two jobseekers, who did not want to be identified in case they lost their benefits, said they had to camp under London Bridge the night before the pageant. They told the Guardian they had to change into security gear in public, had no access to toilets for 24 hours, and were taken to a swampy campsite outside London after working a 14-hour shift in the pouring rain on the banks of the Thames on Sunday.

One young worker said she was on duty between London Bridge and Tower Bridge during the £12m river spectacle of a 1,000-boat flotilla and members of the Royal family sail by . She said that the security firm Close Protection UK, which won a stewarding contract for the jubilee events, gave her a plastic see-through poncho and a high-visibility jacket for protection against the rain.

Close Protection UK confirmed that it was using up to 30 unpaid staff and 50 apprentices, who were paid £2.80 an hour, for the three-day event in London. A spokesman said the unpaid work was a trial for paid roles at the Olympics, which it had also won a contract to staff. Unpaid staff were expected to work two days out of the three-day holiday.

The firm said it had spent considerable resources on training and equipment that stewards could keep and that the experience was voluntary and did not affect jobseekers keeping their benefits.

The woman said that people were picked up at Bristol at 11pm on Saturday and arrived in London at 3am on Sunday. “We all got off the coach and we were stranded on the side of the road for 20 minutes until they came back and told us all to follow them,” she said. “We followed them under London Bridge and that’s where they told us to camp out for the night … It was raining and freezing.”

A 30-year-old steward told the Guardian that the conditions under the bridge were “cold and wet and we were told to get our head down [to sleep]”. He said that it was impossible to pitch a tent because of the concrete floor.

The woman said they were woken at 5.30am and supplied with boots, combat trousers and polo shirts. She said: “They had told the ladies we were getting ready in a minibus around the corner and I went to the minibus and they had failed to open it so it was locked. I waited around to find someone to unlock it, and all of the other girls were coming down trying to get ready and no one was bothering to come down to unlock [it], so some of us, including me, were getting undressed in public in the freezing cold and rain.” The men are understood to have changed under the bridge.

The female steward said that after the royal pageant, the group travelled by tube to a campsite in Theydon Bois, Essex, where some had to pitch their tents in the dark.

She said: “London was supposed to be a nice experience, but they left us in the rain. They couldn’t give a crap … No one is supposed to be treated like that, [working] for free. I don’t want to be treated where I have to sleep under a bridge and wait for food.” The male steward said: “It was the worst experience I’ve ever had. I’ve had many a job, and many a bad job, but this one was the worst.”

Both stewards said they were originally told they would be paid. But when they got to the coach on Saturday night, they said, they were told that the work would be unpaid and that if they did not accept it they would not be considered for well-paid work at the Olympics.

Molly Prince, managing director of Close Protection UK, said in a statement: “We take the welfare of our staff and apprentices very seriously indeed.

“The staff travelling to the jubilee are completing their training and being assessed on the job for NVQ Level 2 in spectator safety after having completed all the knowledge requirements in the classroom and some previous work experience. It is essential that they are assessed in a live work environment in order to complete their chosen qualifications.

“The nature of festival and event work is such that we often travel sleeping on coaches through the night with an early morning pre-event start – it is the nature of the business … It’s hard work and not for the faint-hearted.

“We had staff travel from several locations and some arrived earlier than others at the meeting point, which I believe was London Bridge, which was why some had to hang around. This is an unfortunate set of circumstances but not lack of care on the part of CPUK.”

The company said it had spent up to £220 on sponsoring security training licences for each participant and that boots and combat trousers cost more than £100.

The charity Tomorrow’s People, which set up the placements at Close Protection under the work programme, said it would review the situation, but stressed that unpaid work was valuable and made people more employable. Tomorrow’s People is one of eight youth charities that were supported in the Guardian and Observer’s Christmas appeal last year.

Abi Levitt, director of development services at the charity, said: “We have been unable to verify the accuracy of the situation with either the people on work experience or the business concerned.

“We will undertake a review of the situation as matter of urgency. Tomorrow’s People believes strongly in the value of work experience in helping people to build the skills, confidence and CV they need to get and keep a job and we have an exemplary record going back nearly 30 years for our work with the long-term unemployed.”

Mr. Frankenstein

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FUCK THE JUBILEE – 3

Bad news, loyal subjects.  Mrs Windsor’s husband – Phil the Greek, as he’s known in the East End bars and whorehouses he frequents – has been taken  ill and won’t  be attending tonights jubilee pop concert.  He’s probably got at least another couple of hours in the queue at his local NHS A&E department before he gets the chance to make a racist comment about the overworked doctor who draws the short straw and has to deal with him.

Actually, I suspect it might just be a ploy to get out of going to the gig – Sir Elton John, Sir Cliff Richard,  Sir Paul McCartney [who will probably not be performing “Give Ireland Back To The Irish”], Dame Shirley Bassey, Madness shedding the last vestige of credibility – sheesh !  A line-up like that would certainly  have me reaching for the medical symptoms dictionary. Hell, I’d fake bubonic plague to get out of an event like that.

An interesting point to ponder, though – what if Phil was to shuffle off this mortal coil in the immediate future ?  It would certainly put a damper on proceedings, the adoring crowds being confined to waving their union jacks at the funeral cortege. And the Olympics looming  ever closer too.

Or would they perhaps stick him on ice, put out a press release saying that he’s “resting after an illness”  [technically true, I suppose] and delay announcing his demise until later in the year ?

A state funeral right now would be bad for business,  and the monarchy is nothing if not a business, and not one that would allow sentiment to get in the way.

Just ask Nerissa and Katherine Bowes-Lyon. They were daughters of John Herbert Bowes-Lyon and his wife Fenella (née Hepburn-Stuart-Forbes-Trefusis). As John was the brother of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon the Queen Mother, the two daughters were first cousins of Queen Elizabeth II.

In 1987, it was revealed that Nerissa and Katherine had been placed in Earlswood Hospital for the mentally disabled in 1941, aged 22 and 15 years respectively,  categorised as  ‘imbecile’ in the surviving medical notes.

The bizarre and rather cold-blooded  fact is that although Nerissa died in 1986, and Katherine, as far as I know, is still alive , both had been listed in Burke’s Peerage as being dead since the 1963 edition. Effectively written out of history. Not good for the royal image, I suppose.

The infomation was  supposed to have been supplied to Burke’s by their mother, said to have incorrectly filled in the forms due to  ‘vagueness’, which is also somewhat bizarre. But considering they were first cousins of Mrs Windsor, you might have expected Burke’s to have double-checked with Buckingham Palace. Perhaps they did. Perhaps the enteries were officially approved. And  they were officially written out of history.

According to a 2011 television documentary about the sisters, “throughout their time at the hospital, there is no known record that the sisters were ever visited by any member of the Bowes-Lyon or royal families, despite their aunt, the Queen Mother, being a Patron of MENCAP” (the charity for people with a learning disability).

Nurses interviewed on the documentary said that, to their knowledge, the family never even sent the sisters a birthday or Christmas gift or card. When Nerissa died in 1986, none of her family attended the funeral. She was buried at Redhill Cemetery. Her grave was only marked with plastic tags and a serial number until her existence was revealed in the media, after when the family added a proper gravestone.

It does seem rather unlikely that Mrs Windsor or her mother wouldn’t know about the fate of their cousins/neices. But I guess there’s no room for sentiment in the royal business.

This attitude towards mentally disabled members of the clan isn’t anything new, though. In 1905, George V and Queen Mary had a son, Prince John, who suffered from epilepsy and who appeared to be autistic.

John was excluded from official family photographs and was not allowed to attend his father’s coronation in 1911. In 1917, he was removed to Wood Farm on the Sandringham estate. Reportedly, he saw little of his parents and died two years later.

Interesting to speculate what might happen if Will & Kate were to produce a mentally- [or physically- for that matter] disabled offspring ? Would it be spirited away soon after birth and replaced by something a little more in line with the royal image ?

I guess the question is – do you think they wouldn’t ?

And has it happened before ?

Mr. Frankenstein

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THE BIRTH OF A REPUBLICAN – 1

It may have become apparent in the course of recent posts that I’m not exactly a card-carrying, flag-waving, forelock-tugging monarchist. But what set me on this course ? What traumatic event in my distant past ?

To answer that, we must take a journey back through time to the early 1970s. My home-town was having a year-long festival to celebrate the fact that it had been the venue of an important battle  500 years before – about the only thing that ever happened there – and someone had persuaded Mrs Windsor to distribute Maundy Money at the local church there that year.

Maundy Money ?  One of those ancient customs that are now pretty obsolete but presumably continued because it makes it look like the monarch is working for their money. Royal Maundy  is a religious service in the Church of England held on Maundy Thursday, the day before Good Friday.

At the service, the British Monarch or a royal official ceremonially distributes small silver coins known as Maundy Money as symbolic alms to elderly recipients. The coins are legal tender but do not circulate because of their silver content and numismatic value…well, actually they do circulate, you can buy them on eBay. I guess real cash in the bank beats symbolic alms every time.

Like many of my peers at that time  I was  a member of a paramilitary youth organization founded by an ex-soldier with imperialistic views. Once a week we would don uniforms and salute the flag. Ok… it was the Cub Scouts, but nevertheless we were told we were going to strut our stuff, such as it was, for Mrs Windsor.

I dont remember being particularly enthusiastic about it to start with, and my expectations dropped further when the great day dawned cold and grey. Standing around freezing my pre-pubescent bits off was not top of my list of things to do,  especially as we had been ordered to wear short trousers. No-one wore short trousers in the Cubs normally, but apparently failure to do so on this occasion would  have been an affront to the monarch in some unfathomable way. This minor fashion detail may well have been the planting of the first small seed of republicism.

So there we were, lined up behind the church, our green uniforms set off nicely by our increasingly blue-tinged skin. Then there’s a flurry of activity and there she was – Mrs. Windsor herself.

My first impression ? Well, I thought she’d be bigger. Even a few of our more gangly Cubs, myself included, seemed to tower over her.

Second impression ? Didn’t she look…I dunno…kind of dowdy ?

Ok, I know what you’re thinking –  since when was a 10-year old, especially one wearing short trousers, considered an authority on sartorial elegance ? But that’s rather the point, I think. If even I was struck by the fact that, despite unlimited wealth, she looked a bit frumpy…I mean, she wasn’t even wearing a crown. I really felt she hadn’t put the effort in.

These two impressions were formed in a split-second, just before we were engulfed and completely hidden from the view of the midget monarch by a pack of cameramen, tv news, security men … I dont think the woman even saw us.

And then the circus passed on and that was that, leaving me with a distinct feeling of anti-climax and what I guess was the first symptoms of a case of Emperor’s New Clothes Syndrome – we’d spent all morning hanging around and risking exposure for that ? Why ?

Once you’ve asked the all-important question “why ?”  and started to think about it, there’s no going back, I guess, even for a frozen 10-year old in short trousers.

Mr. Frankenstein

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