…don’t ask me how I know

There are those reading this who may remember a particular music festival in Battersea.  It was 1984 and we had the kind of summery weather that lies at the root of many a poetic inspiration… and we were fancy free and just launching into our physical (though not yet cerebral) prime, with our blankets spread out on a lush green lawn by a carriage drive that runs through one of London’s more interesting parks.

Once separated from the south side of the River Thames by a narrow causeway, the storied Battersea fields mainly consisted of marshland that helped to stock the great city’s markets with carrots, melons, asparagus and with lavender. And this was a celebrated Dueling ground, including the 1829 “settlement of a matter of honour” between the Duke of Wellington and the Earl of Winchilsea.  Winchilsea froze and Wellington, who had “the draw” purposely aimed wide, forcing the imprudent Earl to write him a groveling letter of apology that is remembered to this day.

Lining the riverside itself were industrial wharfs, built to accommodate limekilns, pottery manufacturing, copper and chemical works and in time, that high-tech wonder-of-wonders, the railway.  To the east, where the decommissioned Battersea Power Station nows stands, was a gamey old tavern called the Red House…one of many patronized by Charles Dickens during his incessant research into the human condition.

The old Battersea Power Station as it was, at the northeast corner of the park.

This all changed in the middle of the 19th Century when the Royal Commission to Improve the Metropolis purchased around 200 acres for the development of an idyllically rural park, which was completed in 1858, at about the same time as Chelsea Bridge, to the west.  It was here at Battersea Park, that the first organized football game (“soccer” to some) was played using the rules of the newly formed Football Association in 1864.

In the ensuing years a permanent Children’s Zoo was built, shelters and memorials aplenty were erected, and ponds and various sports facilities were designed-in. There were also numerous venues established for special events that ran from major (most memorably the Festival of Britain) to not-so-major, like that music fest in 1984, held near the southwestern Sun Gate… mere paces from my girlfriend’s indescribably convenient flat, and a refrigerator stocked with great foresight for those between-act beer and cider runs.

Musically, the highlight of this particular event was a spirited set by Alan Price, the iconic keyboard player for the Animals who had gained further acclaim with his solo and film work. Price performed virtually ever song that (at least to me) he’s now remembered for, including today’s selection from the 1953 film, Lili, with a screenplay intriguingly adapted from a short story entitled “The Man Who Hated People.”

Written by Branislau Kaper and Helen Deutsch, the movie version, sung by Leslie Caron and Mel Ferrer reached Number 30 on the pop music charts that year. Although it has since been covered by many artists including: Dinah Shore, Rickie Lee Jones, Gene Vincent, Anne Murray, Slim Whitman, the Everly Brothers and Richard Chamberlain; Alan Price’s appealing 1966 rendition of “Hi-Lilli, Hi-Lo” (which hit Number 11 on the UK Charts) is by far the best…if ever you’re looking for a perfect “song of woe” for that perfect summery day.

LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Thursday 31 May 

Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo

 A song of love is a sad song, Hi-Lili, Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo

A song of love is a song of woe

Don’t ask me how I know

A song of love is a sad song

For I have loved and it’s so

I sit at the window and watch the rain, Hi-Lili, Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo

Tomorrow I’ll probably love again, Hi-Lili, Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo.

 A song of love is a sad song, Hi-Lili, Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo

A song of love is a song of woe

Don’t ask me how I know

A song of love is a sad song

For I have loved and it’s so

I sit at the window and watch the rain, Hi-Lili, Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo

Tomorrow I’ll probably love again, Hi-Lili, Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo.

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