Robin Seaton

The happy git sings into his pint

“Fancy gracing the pages of our newspaper with your wit and wisdom once again?”, they asked. My head said no, but “Yes!” piped up my ego. “You’ll need to do it by the end of the week”, they said. “Please ensure that something amusing happens to you in order that you can put a wry, self-deprecating twist upon it, whilst ‘revealing’ some platitudinous drivel about the human condition”. “You do realise”, queried my head, kicking my ego sharply in the shins, “that I’ll be spending the rest of the week trawling through seventeenth century assize court summonses at the Lancashire Record Office?”. “Oh”, they said, “oh look! Look! Brian Cantor’s implementing his plan to power campus from the energy generated by Dan Taylor’s compulsive urge to self-publicise! We must observe this miracle of modern engineering. What proportion of campus’ energy will it produce? Fifty or five hundred percent? In any case, we must leave you forthwith. Good luck”.

It is fortunate, then, that it popped into the Oxfam books and music shop, where I found a copy of Betjeman’s Banana Blush: Sir John Betjeman The Poet Laureate Reads His Verse Accompanied By The Music Of Jim Parker. Leaving aside its somewhat does-what-it-says-on-the-tin subtitle, I could not fail to be charmed by the cheeky-faced late laureate’s knowing smile on the front cover, nor by the ‘£3.99’ sticker placed under his nose. Betjeman was occasionally criticised for the populist nature of his verse, which is perhaps why the collaboration works so well. Jim Parker’s orchestration, enhances and amplifies the mood of the poems, and its experimentality drags them into a musical neverland.

Later writers have also pursued some interesting interdisciplinary collaborations – William S Burroughs read his short story ‘The Priest They Called Him’ over ten minutes of tortured Kurt Cobain guitar to chilling effect, as elements of ‘Silent Night’ drift in and out of Burrough’s tale of (inevitably) tuberculosis and heroin. “There’s something not right about that boy”, noted Burroughs, who, ironically for conspiracy theorists, shot his first wife in the head in a drunken attempt to replicate William Tell’s feat with a glass and a shotgun.

Tragically, Aphex Twin’s ‘Come to Daddy (This Be The Verse Mix)’, in which Hull miserablist Philip Larkin dolefully intones “They fuck you up, your mum and dad/They may not mean to, but they do” in tandem with the original’s “I want your soul” vocal is not currently available, chiefly because I just made it up. Far more tragically, copies of Irvine Welsh and Primal Scream’s enthusiastically titled ‘The Big Man and the Scream Team Meet the Barmy Army Uptown’ remain, sitting at the bottom of record shop remainder bins, drinking Tennant’s and slurring abuse at all the other cds. An unpleasant of affair for all concerned given that listening to it is about as pleasurable an experience as teaching a baboon to whistle, although strong rumours persist that this is exactly what Bobby Gillespie’s so-called ‘mum’ (in reality, keeper) did, as a consolation after failing to produce a slightly crappy clone of Mick Jagger. She has publicly stated that she was “Quite happy, thank you” with the result of her experiment.

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