…straighten my new mind’s eye

Sometimes it takes a long time to connect the dots, in my case a very long time.  We were out for a pleasant ramble through the Shropshire countryside when Gabrielle (a fond acquaintance at the time) told me about her brilliant brother, a talented musician who had died from an overdose of antidepressants, possibly a suicide, ten years earlier. “He still has a devoted following,” she affirmed.

I have an annoying habit of keeping track of these things and can tell you that this took place on Saturday the 11th of August 1984 in the West Midlands of England and we had a delightful picnic on Wenlock Edge, followed by an enjoyable swim in a mill pond and, later on, a few pints of Best Bitter at the George & Dragon in the (Alison Avery-esque) village of Much Wenlock.

And although the story of Gabrielle’s brother was interesting, well, you know how it goes when road leads onto road. I eventually lost touch and didn’t think much more about the conversation for the next, oh, quarter-of-a-century or so….

Then, far from England and many years on…Tuesday the 4th of December 2007 while at my desk here in Concord, Massachusetts to be exact (annoying habit)…I happened to be listening to an NPR profile about the long-deceased singer/songwriter, Nick Drake, who had been acquiring a new and appreciative audience and…

“…hold on, Drake, that was Gabrielle’s surname, you don’t suppose…” and right on cue they played an excerpt from the BBC documentary “Skin Too Few: The Days of Nick Drake” and there was Gabrielle’s voice discussing her brother who had long maintained a devoted following…

It’s a following that I now well understand.  Reclusive and timid before a live audience, he only recorded three albums (“Five Leaves Left”, “Bryter Later” and “Pink Moon”) and failed to reach a wide listening audience in his lifetime, but after his untimely death in 1974 his records slowly gained word-of-mouth appreciation, especially amongst fellow musicians, to the point where Nick Drake is now recognized as one of “the most influential English singer/songwriters of the last 50 years.”

Although not all of his songs have weathered the ages, many have, some with beautiful (sometimes lush) dissonant melodies and “vivid, epigrammatic” lyrics, heavily inspired by the Romantic poets.   Featured on his 1970 album, “Bryter Later” and accompanied by John Cale (of Velvet Underground fame) on the celesta, here’s just such an example…

LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Thursday 21 March

Northern Sky

 I never felt magic crazy as this

I never saw moons knew the meaning of the sea

I never held emotion in the palm of my hand

Or felt sweet breezes in the top of a tree

But now you’re here

Bright in my northern sky.

 It’s been a long time that I’m waiting

Been a long time that I’m blown

Been a long time that I’ve wandered

Through the people I have known

Oh, if you would and you could

Straighten my new mind’s eye.

 Would you love me for my money?

Would you love me for my head?

Would you love me through the winter?

Would you love me ’til I’m dead?

Oh, if you would and you could

Come blow your horn on high.

 I never felt magic crazy as this

I never saw moons knew the meaning of the sea

I never held emotion in the palm of my hand

Or felt sweet breezes in the top of a tree

But now you’re here

Bright in my northern sky.

…I guess it broke her heart

At the start I must admit to a lesser ending…

A decorated Air Force pilot of some renown, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Deutschendorf, Sr. was an impressive man with a military bearing, who’d set five speed records in his supersonic Convair B-58 “Hustler.” But the life of a military family can be a nomadic one and for Henry Deutschendorf, Jr., this was a painful fact.

Shy, rather introverted and ever the “new kid,” Henry Jr. had a difficult time making friends.  Recognizing this, his grandmother presented the (then) eleven year old with a well-worn guitar, to help him to focus his attention on something he might enjoy, and just maybe to help him to fit in.

Fortunately, musicianship ran in the family, Henry’s uncle was a member of the New Christy Minstrels. By his late teens he was playing folk songs in local clubs.  And it was one of his uncle’s fellow musicians who suggested that he come up with a stage name that could actually fit a marquee.  So he turned to his middle name, John, and combined it with his favorite state’s mile-high capital.

And in the years ahead John Denver’s recordings would sell in excess of 30 million copies, earning him four platinum and 12 gold albums, along with numerous Country Music, American Music and Grammy awards,  an Emmy award and enshrinement n the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame.

Throughout his busy career, John Denver owned and played dozens of highly prized, world-class guitars, most of them acoustic, including: Guilds, Yamahas, Mossmans, Ovtion/Adams, Grevens, Somogyis, Taylors, Godins and numerous others. But early (and later) on, he performed with Gibsons, always maintaining that his most prized possession was the 1910 Gibson F-Hole Jazz guitar that his grandmother had given to him.

When it “went missing” in the early ‘70s, apparently during a television appearance, he was reportedly devastated.   And when it was returned to him a number of years later, he sat down and wrote today’s selection.

First included on his eighth album, (the multi-platinum) “Back Home Again” in 1974, it wasn’t a huge hit like other songs on the record. But it became one of his standards and versions of “This Old Guitar” were subsequently included on a number of his later albums.  And now we arrive at that ending.

Word had it that after Denver died in a plane crash (at the age of 53 in 1997) the old guitar was cremated with him, its ashes spread with his in a favorite spot up in the Rockies; truly a touching story that I have often recounted.

But rather than leave well enough alone I had to go and double-check my facts with a quick Google search (dangerous habit) and was brought directly to The John Denver Guitar Research Site, which features a recent picture of his well-maintained and much-cherished guitar as seen on display at the Musical Instrument Museum in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Now I felt compelled to dash off an e-mail inquiry.  They’re wonderful folks at the JDGR Site – well worth a look – and I soon received a response, noting that not only is the storied instrument still with us, but that Denver was actually mistaken in identifying it as a 1910 Gibson F-Hole Jazz Guitar…

Mistaken or not, and despite this muddled ending, the rest of the tale rings true. Regardless of its provenance, this was the old guitar that taught young Henry Deutschendorf, Jr. to sing a love song.

LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Wednesday 21 March 

This Old Guitar

 This old guitar taught me to sing a love song

It showed me how to laugh and how to cry

It introduced me to some friends of mine

And brightened up some days

And helped me make it through some lonely nights

Oh what a friend to have on a cold and lonely night

 This old guitar gave me my lovely lady

It opened up her eyes and ears to me

It brought us close together

And I guess it broke her heart

It opened up the space for us to be

What a lovely place and a lovely space to be

 This old guitar gave me my life my living

All the things you know I love to do

To serenade the stars that shine

From a sunny mountainside

And most of all to sing my songs for you

I love to sing my songs for you

Yes I do, you know

I love to sing my songs for you

…you have a right to be here

The urban legend isn’t true, and that’s a shame. It was not anonymously written in 1692 and discovered in a Baltimore churchyard centuries later.  Although you can see how the mistake could be made.

Latin for “desired things,” “Desiderata” (plural of “desideratum” for you pedants) is actually a prose poem by Max Ehrmann, an attorney from Terre Haute, Indiana. Written in 1927, when Ehrmann was 54, “Desiderata” only achieved renown years after his passing, when it was discovered on Adlai Stevenson’s deathbed in 1965.

Apparently Stevenson had planned to use the poem in his Christmas cards and the text was part of a compilation of devotional materials that the rector of Saint Paul’s Church in Baltimore had assembled for his congregation.  The cover included the church’s foundation date: Old Saint Paul’s Church, Baltimore A.D. 1692, causing confusion about the poem’s origins, which is where the urban legend arose.

“Star Trek” fans may recall the Leonard Nimoy recording, which was entitled “Spock Thoughts” and was included on his 1967 album, “Leonard Nimoy Presents Mr. Spock’s Music From Outer Space” (No?  Don’t remember that one?)  In his rendition the second to last sentence was changed from “Be Cheerful” to “Be Careful” as was done in today’s selection.

In 1971, radio announcer and television talk show host, Les Crane (famous to some for being married to Tina Louise of “Gilligan’s Island” fame) made a 45rpm recording of the poem that reached Number 8 on the Billboard Chart in 1972 (hitting Number 4 on the Canadian Charts and Number 6 on the UK Charts) and Crane received a Grammy Award.

While it was assumed that “Desiderata” was very old and therefore in the public domain, the copyright actually belonged to the Ehrmann estate and the publicity around the record led to clarification and a happy conclusion for Max Ehrmann’s family who eventually received appropriate royalties.

Although this rendition, which became somewhat of a counterculture anthem, is slightly dated with its groovy accoutrements, it was hugely inspirational during a rather gloomy time for the country.  As for the text itself, timeless is a fine description, and one could well imagine stumbling across it in some old churchyard, etched across a weather beaten tablet dated A.D. 1692…

 LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Tuesday 20 March

Desiderata

 (You are a child of the universe

No less than the trees and the stars

You have a right…)

  Go placidly amid the noise and haste

And remember what peace there may be in silence

As far as possible without surrender

Be on good terms with all persons

Speak your truth quietly and clearly

And listen to others

Even the dull and the ignorant

They too have their story

Avoid loud and aggressive persons

They are vexations to the spirit

 If you compare yourself with others

You may become vain or bitter

For always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself

 (You are a child of the universe

No less than the trees and the stars

You have a right to be here

And whether or not it is clear to you

No doubt the universe is unfolding as it should)

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans

Keep interested in your own career, however humble

It is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time

Exercise caution in your business affairs

For the world is full of trickery

But let this not blind you to what virtue there is

Many persons strive for high ideals

And everywhere life is full of heroism

Be yourself

Especially, do not feign affection

Neither be cynical about love

For in the face of all aridity and disenchantment

It is as perennial as the grass

Take kindly the counsel of the years

Gracefully surrendering the things of youth

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune

But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings

Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness

 Beyond a wholesome discipline

Be gentle with yourself

You are a child of the universe

No less than the trees and the stars

You have a right to be here

And whether or not it is clear to you

No doubt the universe is unfolding as it should

 Therefore be at peace with God

Whatever you conceive Him to be

And whatever your labors and aspirations

In the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams

It is still a beautiful world

Be careful (cheerful)

Strive to be happy

…I think you’ve seen me before

This time the melody’s metaphorical.  When most of us think of a metaphor we suppose that it pertains to a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to something that’s symbolic and not literally applicable. But music can serve the same purpose…a concept that Suzanne Nadine Vega thoroughly understands.

Born in Santa Monica, California in 1959, her parents were soon divorced and after her mother married a writer and teacher from Puerto Rico the family moved to Spanish Harlem in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. An artistic child who wrote her own songs, Vega later attended the celebrated High School of Performing Arts (anyone remember “Fame”?) where she studied modern dance, and began performing  as a singer and musician in small Greenwich Village clubs while at Barnard College.

After some of her songs were included on a Fast Folk anthology record, she received a major recording contract.  “Suzanne Vega” her eponymous debut album was released in 1985 and although critically well received in the U.S., it went platinum in the UK, setting the stage for “Solitude Standing” the 1987 album that includes today’s selection.

As an interesting aside, another track from the album, “Tom’s Diner” which takes place at the real Tom’s Restaurant (with an exterior that many of us recognize as the restaurant where the gang hung out on “Seinfeld”) was used as the reference track in an early trial of the MP3 compression system.  Because it’s an a capella vocal with little reverberation and “wide spectral content” the song evidently lent itself to “hearing imperfections in the compression format” during playbacks. As a result, Vega is jokingly referred to as the “Mother of the MP3” and we can thank her vocal talent for the way these “Songs of the Day” have been conveyed for over a year now.

Of course it’s “Luka”, one of the earliest pop hits to deal with child abuse and domestic violence that remains Vega’s highest charting hit (reaching Number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100).  A Spanish language version of the song was also included on the single and (metaphorically speaking) in both versions the cheerful, upbeat music serves as a profound (and heartrending) metaphor for a victim who denies that something terrible is happening.

LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Monday 19 March  

Luka

My name is Luka

I live on the second floor

I live upstairs from you

Yes I think you’ve seen me before

 If you hear something late at night

Some kind of trouble, some kind of fight

Just don’t ask me what it was

Just don’t ask me what it was

Just don’t ask me what it was

I think it’s because I’m clumsy

I try not to talk too loud

Maybe it’s because I’m crazy

I try not to act too proud

 They only hit until you cry

After that you don’t ask why

You just don’t argue anymore

You just don’t argue anymore

You just don’t argue anymore

 Yes I think I’m okay

I walked into the door again

Well, if you ask that’s what I’ll say

And it’s not your business anyway

I guess I’d like to be alone

With nothing broken, nothing thrown

 Just don’t ask me how I am

Just don’t ask me how I am

Just don’t ask me how I am

My name is Luka

I live on the second floor

I live upstairs from you

Yes I think you’ve seen me before

 If you hear something late at night

Some kind of trouble, some kind of fight

Just don’t ask me what it was

Just don’t ask me what it was

Just don’t ask me what it was

 And they only hit until you cry

After that, you don’t ask why

You just don’t argue anymore

You just don’t argue anymore

You just don’t argue anymore

…four, for the poor who stood at the door

The sixth of eight children in a poor black family, Eunice Kathleen Waymon was born in Depression ravaged Tryon, North Carolina. At the age of three she began to play the piano at her family’s church.  By the age of twelve she was giving classical recitals, although at the first one her parents, who had taken front row seats, were forced to move to the back of the hall to make way for white people. She refused to play until they were returned to the front and once said that this incident was a catalyst for her later involvement in the civil rights movement.

Upon graduating from school she moved to New York City to study at the Julliard School of Music and began to play a mixture of jazz, blues and classical music in small clubs to finance her musical education.  She also decided to adopt a stage name, combining “Nina” (a nickname a boyfriend had given her) with “Simone” after the French actress, Simone Signoret.  During these performances she was required to sing and it was for her singing that she was first approached to make a recording.

It was Gershwin’s “I Loves You Porgy” from Porgy and Bess, which she learned by ear from a Billie Holiday album. The year was 1958 and although it would be her only Top 40 hit, for the remainder of her life she would ever be known as “The High Priestess of Soul.”

Recorded in 1959, this Sunday selection is a traditional “Negro Spiritual” that was released on the “High Priestess’” third studio album, “The Amazing Nina Simone.”  As I’m far from a Biblical scholar (or a Biblical or scholarly anything) I’ve managed to dig up a little cheat sheet of the song’s Old and New Testament references, including nine, ten, eleven and twelve, which are not included in Simone’s rousing version.

  1. We all know who the little, bitty baby is.
  2. Two for Paul and Silas
 (Paul being St. Paul and Silas being a close missionary companion)
  3. Three for the Hebrew children (Daniel’s companions in the fiery furnace: Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego)
  4. Four for the poor who stood at the door (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John)
  5. Five for the Gospel preachers (Paul and the four others who joined him on his missionary journeys: Silas, Barnabas, Timothy, and John Mark)
  6. Six for the six that couldn’t get fixed (i.e. picked)
  7. Seven for the seven who came from Heaven (Seven-fold Spirit of God)
  8. Eight for the eight who stood at the gate (The eight people who entered Noah’s Ark)
  9. Nine for the ninety-nine in line (Those waiting while the Good Shepherd sought “His” one lost sheep)
  10. Ten for the Ten Commandments
  11. Eleven for the eleven who went to Heaven (The twelve disciples minus Judas Iscariot)
  12. Twelve for the twelve Apostles

LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Sunday 18 March 

Children go where I send you

 Children go where I send you,

How shall I send you?

I’m gonna’ send you one by one,

One for the little bitty baby,

He was born, born, born in Bethlehem.

Children go where I send you,

How shall I send you?

I’m gonna’ send you two by two,

Two for Paul and Silas

One for the little bitty baby,

He was born, born, born in Bethlehem.

Children go where I send you,

How shall I send you?

I’m gonna’ send you four by four,

Four for the poor that stood at the door,

Three for the Hebrew children,

Two for Paul and Silas,

One for the little bitty baby,

He was born, born, born in Bethlehem.

Children go where I send you,

How shall I send you?

I’m gonna’ send you six by six,

Six for the six that couldn’t get fixed,

Five for the gospel preacher,

Four for the poor that stood at the door,

Three for the Hebrew children,

Two for Paul and Silas,

One for the little bitty baby,

He was born, born, born in Bethlehem.

Children go where I send you,

How shall I send you?

I’m gonna’ send you eight by eight,

Eight for the eight that stood at the gate,

Seven for the seven came down from heaven,

Six for the six that couldn’t get fixed,

Five for the gospel preacher,

Four for the poor that stood at the door,

Three for the Hebrew children,

Two for Paul and Silas,

One for the little bitty baby, One for the little bitty baby,

One for the little bitty baby,

He was born, born,

He was born…in Bethlehem.

…and I roamed the world free

Supernumerary rainbows, monochrome rainbows, multiple rainbows, reflected rainbows, tertiary and quaternary rainbows, circumhorizontal arcs… for a guy who’s colorblind there certainly seems to be a lot more than meets the eye when it comes to the colors of the rainbow, and that’s just from the scientific perspective.  Rainbows glisten brightly throughout many of the world’s religions (e.g. where would Noah have been without one?) and whether Greek, Norse, Sumerian, Amazonian or countless others, they also play a supporting role in most mythological traditions. And then there’s the rainbow of folklore.

As we ease into St. Patrick’s Day (hey, I see McDonald’s is back with its Shamrock Shake) and those of a certain heritage take to the “wearing of the green” (which came about after St. Patrick purportedly used the three leaves of the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to the Irish pagans) invariably we are drawn to that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow guarded by a Leprechaun.  How could someone NOT write a musical?

“Finian’s Rainbow” by Yip Harburg and Fred Saidy, with music by Burton Lane, was a 1947 Broadway production that ran for 725 performances (there was a revival in 2009).  In 1968 it was made into a musical film when studio head Jack Warner took a chance on a novice “hippie” director named Francis Ford Coppola.  The film starred Petula Clark, in her first Hollywood musical, and Fred Astaire in his last.

Today’s selection, with lyrics by the same man (Harburg) who brought us “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is now a nightclub standard. And who better to transport us over those emerald hills and streams than a woman born in São Paulo, Brazil and raised in Tokyo, Japan, the fine bossa nova singer, Lisa Ono.

LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Saturday 17 March 

Look to the Rainbow

 On the day I was born

Said my father said he

I’ve an elegant legacy waiting for ye

‘Tis a rhyme for your lips

And a song for your heart

To sing it whenever the world falls apart

 Look, look, look to the rainbow

Follow it over the hills and stream

Look, look, look to the rainbow

Follow the fellow who follows the dream

 T’was a sumptuous gift

To bequeath to a child,

Oh the lure of that song

Kept her feet running wild.

For you never grow old

And you never stand still,

With whippoorwills singing

Beyond the next hill.

 Look, look, look to the rainbow

Follow it over the hills and stream

Look, look, look to the rainbow

Follow the fellow who follows a dream

 So I bundled my heart

And I roamed the world free

To the east with the lark

To the west with the sea

And I’ve searched all the world

And I’ve scanned all the skies

But I found it at last

In me own true love’s eyes

Look, look, look to the rainbow

Follow it over the hills and stream

Look, look, look to the rainbow

Follow the fellow who follows the dream

 Follow the fellow

Follow the fellow

Follow the fellow

Who follows the dream

…now his hand is on your shoulder

It was 02:29 a.m. Houston time and Day Three of the 135th and final flight of a glorious, tragic 30-year program. Time to awaken the (light) four-person crew of Space Shuttle Atlantis for one of Mission STS-135’s most critical maneuvers. A favorite of Commander Chris Ferguson, and chosen by his family, today’s selection served as the wake-up call.

With a name that conjures up laser-light images but was actually derived from the use of  “electric” rock instruments combined with “light orchestra” (one that uses only a few cellos and violins), Electric Light Orchestra (or ELO) was formed in 1970 when Birmingham musicians Jeff Lynne and Roy Wood had the idea to “take rock music in the direction that the Beatles had left off.”

Originally billed internationally as “The English guys with big fiddles,” their eponymous debut album, “The Electric Light Orchestra” was released in the UK in 1971 and later in the U.S. as “No Answer” (after a record company secretary tried to ring the UK producers for the name of the album and, unable reach to reach them, left a note with the words “No Answer”).

Today’s selection, which ambitiously serves as the final track of the “Concerto for a Rainy Day Suite” was featured on ELO’s seventh studio album, “Out of the Blue” in 1977.  It peaked at Number 35 on the US Billboard Charts and reached Number Six on the UK Singles Chart.

The song is notable for the “vocoded” voice that sings “Mr. Blue Sky” during certain stanzas and it was long assumed that the (synthesized) vocoded voice at the end of the song is saying the same thing, but it’s actually saying “Please turn me over” as the song was at the end of Side Three and the listener was being instructed to flip the LP over.

Atlantis seemed to understand. The mission brief for that July morning in 2011 included the last-ever docking between a space shuttle and a space station. According to the NASA record … “with Atlantis arriving on time on the R-Bar underneath the Station, Commander Ferguson took the controls and guided her through the 360 degree back flip, the final time an orbiter will conduct the RPM under the Station they helped to build….”

 LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Friday 16 March

Mr. Blue Sky

 Sun is shinin’ in the sky

There ain’t a cloud in sight

It’s stopped rainin’ everybody’s in a play

And don’t you know

It’s a beautiful new day hey, hey

Runnin’ down the avenue

See how the sun shines brightly in the city

On the streets where once was pity

Mister Blue Sky is living here today hey, hey, hey

Mister Blue Sky please tell us why

You had to hide away for so long

Where did we go wrong?

Mister Blue Sky please tell us why

You had to hide away for so long

Where did we go wrong?

Hey you with the pretty face

Welcome to the human race

A celebration, Mister Blue Sky’s up there waitin’

And today is the day we’ve waited for

Mister Blue Sky please tell us why

You had to hide away for so long

Where did we go wrong?

 Hey there, Mister Blue

We’re so pleased to be with you

Look around see what you do

Everybody smiles at you

 Hey there, Mister Blue

We’re so pleased to be with you

Look around see what you do

Everybody smiles at you

Mister Blue Sky, Mister Blue Sky

Mister Blue Sky

 Mister Blue, you did it right

But soon comes Mister Night, creepin’ over

Now his hand is on your shoulder

Never mind, I’ll remember you this

I’ll remember you this way

 Mister Blue Sky please tell us why

You had to hide away for so long

Where did we go wrong?

 Hey there Mister Blue

We’re so pleased to be with you

Look around see what you do

Everybody smiles at you

 Please turn me over

…put your dreams away

It’s certainly one of the odder vehicles for a Top 20 hit…really, everything about it, including the group, the album and its very existence.

In the late ‘60s Southern conductor / composer / musician / author / artist, Tupper Saussy and Nashville singer, Don Gant formed The Neon Philharmonic, a psychedelic pop group that released its debut album in 1969.  Described as a “Phonographic Opera” the album’s name was “The Moth Confesses” and there has been much debate over whether it or The Who’s “Tommy” (released the same year) was actually the very first “Rock Opera.”

Curiously, it was inspired by Samuel Barber’s three-act “Antony and Cleopatra” which The New York Times scathingly called a terrible opera.  Saussy read the review and went to see the production because he wanted to see what a terrible opera looked like.  He then conceived “The Moth Confesses,” centered around a single protagonist, and publicly offered it as a challenge for someone (anyone) to stage.  Although no one ever took Saussy up on his challenge, today’s selection (the album’s fourth track) reached Number 17 on the Billboard charts.

LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – 15 March 2012 

Mornin’ Girl

Mornin’ girl, how’d ya’ sleep last night?

You’re several ages older now

Your eyes have started showin’ how

The little girl’s growin’ now

Mornin’ girl, was that you last night?

Crying on the radio

Beggin’ for a way to go

To go back where love wasn’t jumbled so

 Oh no, things are different now than they were before

You know love is more than kisses

A whole lot more

 Mornin’ girl, put your dreams away

And read your box of Cheerios

And powder-puff that pretty nose

And go out and find your man where the wild wind blows

Mornin’ girl

 

 

…I have no thought of leaving

As cemeteries go it’s a happening spot.  Intermingled amid the resting places of relative unknowns are those of well-known actors and comedians, an Egyptologist of world renown, celebrated scientists and decorated soldiers, politicians and entrepreneurs, there’s a Russian revolutionary and a celebrity chef, as well as one of the world’s great footballers, a Nobel winning doctor and a survivor of the Titanic.  And there’s the woman who famously posed the question (in song) that applies to everyone there…and everyone here, “Who knows where the time goes?”

The inscription on her headstone reads, “The Lady” Alexandra Elene MacLean Lucas (Sandy) Denny, 6.1.47 – 21.4.78 and the cemetery is in South London’s Putney Vale, just off Wimbledon Common and but half a league from where Britain’s “pre-eminent folk rock singer” first saw the light of day in Nelson Hospital on the Kingston Road.

Her Scottish grandmother was a (traditional) singer and Denny, who studied classical piano, showed an early interest in singing too, although her parents were dubious that a living could be made from such a vocation. So after leaving school she began to train as a nurse.  But soon she was drawn to the folk club circuit and was eventually invited to join the (folk rock) Strawbs in 1967, followed by Fairport Convention in 1968. In the early ‘70s Sandy Denny turned to a solo career and was by then recognized as Britain’s premier female singer.

It was all cut short in 1978 when, while on holiday in Cornwall with her parents and infant daughter, Denny tumbled down a staircase and hit her head on the concrete floor. Following the incident she suffered from intense headaches (a doctor prescribed her painkillers) although she continued to perform days after the fall, before collapsing into a coma and dying from a traumatic brain hemorrhage.

Written and first recorded by Denny as a demo in 1967, “Who Knows Where the Time Goes” was recorded by Judy Collins and released as a B-side to her cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides, Now” then later included as the title track of her popular 1968 album. Denny’s legendary version was released the following year on Fairport Convention’s album “Unhalfbricking.”

In addition to featuring this, the “Favourite Folk Track Of All Time” (according to the listeners of BBC Radio 2), “Unhalfbricking” is also remembered for a sleeve design that features neither an album title nor a band name, but only a photo of Neil and Edna Denny (Sandy’s once dubious parents) standing outside their family home on Arthur Road, Wimbledon…about halfway between Nelson Road Hospital on the Kingston Road and Putney Vale Cemetery….

 LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Wednesday 14 March

Who Knows Where the Time Goes

Across the evening sky, all the birds are leaving

But how can they know it’s time for them to go?

Before the winter fire, I will still be dreaming

I have no thought of time

For who knows where the time goes?

Who knows where the time goes?

Sad, deserted shore, your fickle friends are leaving

Ah, but then you know it’s time for them to go

But I will still be here, I have no thought of leaving

I do not count the time

For who knows where the time goes?

Who knows where the time goes?

And I am not alone while my love is near me

I know it will be so until it’s time to go

So come the storms of winter and then the birds in spring again

I have no fear of time

For who knows how my love grows?

And who knows where the time goes?

I have no fear of time

For who knows how my love grows?

And who knows where the time goes?

…we’re saying now, yes now is the hour

They marched nearly 300 miles in protest against the ravages of poverty and unemployment, generating enormous public support.  And the diminutive “Red Ellen” was with them every step of the way.  Today’s selection was inspired by a query about  the use of the term, “Geordie” in yesterday’s posting.

That’s a nickname for someone from the Tyneside/Newcastle area of Northeast England and there were quite a few of them on the North Sea rigs.  Perhaps the most famous Geordie, at least in popular song, is the keyboard luminary Alan Price, born in 1942, who went on to form the Animals (perhaps you recall their rendition of “The House of the Rising Sun”) and later the Alan Price Set.

A self-taught musician with a proud working class upbringing, Price was educated at Jarrow Grammar School in the former shipbuilding hub that served as starting point for the great Jarrow Crusade of 1936, when 200 men and their MP, Ellen Wilkinson, one of the first British women to be elected to Parliament (under five feet tall, she was dubbed “Red Ellen” both for her hair color and her Labour leaning politics) marched all the way to London to lobby the Palace of Westminster and call attention to the collapse of Tyneside’s (and much of the North’s) once great industry.

Today’s song was featured on Price’s 1974 autobiographical album, “Between Today and Yesterday” and well and truly, along with those of the bairns (children) he works very hard to “make your heart feel glad.”

  LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Tuesday 13 March

The Jarrow Song

My name is Geordie McIntyre

And the bairns don’t even have a fire

So the wife says “Geordie, go to London Town!”

And if they don’t give us half a chance

Don’t even give us a second glance

Then Geordie, with my blessings, burn them down

 Come on follow the Geordie boys

They’ll fill your heart with joy

They’re marching for their freedom now

Come on follow the Jarrow lads

They’ll make your heart feel glad

They’re singing now, yes now is the hour

 My name is little Billy White

And I know what’s wrong and I know what’s right

And the wife says “Geordie, go to London Town!”

And if they don’t give us a couple of bob

Won’t even give you a decent job

Then Geordie, with my blessings, burn them down

 Come on follow the Geordie boys

They’ll fill your heart with joy

They’re marching for their freedom now

Come on follow the Jarrow lads

The joy’ll make your heart feel glad

They’re singing now, yes now is the hour

 Well I can hear them and I can feel them

And it’s as just as if they were here today

I can see them, I can feel them

And I’m thinking nothing’s changed much today

 Not all came here to stay their way and die

But they would come and hit you in the eye

Now’s the time to realize that time goes on

Nothin’ changes, changes, changes

Now I can feel them, I can see them

And it’s as just as if they were here today

I can feel them and I need them

And I’m thinking nothing’s changed much today

 Not all the people stay their way and die

But they would come and hit you in the eye

Now’s the time to realize that time goes on

And nothin’ changes, changes, changes

My name is little Alan Price

I tried to be nice all of my life

But I’m afraid that up to date it doesn’t work

Because when you lay some money down

The people try to put you down

Now where do I stand, either side or not

 Come on follow this Geordie boy

He’ll try and fill your heart with joy

We’re marching for our freedom now

Come on follow this Jarrow lad

He’ll try and make your heart feel glad

We’re saying now, yes now is the hour