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March 2019



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Radio Daze

People who like Flanders and Swann as much as I do would enjoy For One Night Only, where Paul Gambaccini looked at the recording of At the Drop of Another Hat, produced by George Martin. Not enough of their songs to please me but very welcome comment and analysis from Kit Hesketh-Harvey of Kit and the Widow.

George Martin popped up again on The Record Producers, which this week was about Brian Wilson. This was really excellent because it took the music seriously. Someone recently referred disparagingly to my love of what he called ‘harmony pop’ but just listening to this programme would convince anyone that there’s more to Brian Wilson than that. True musicos think that Good Vibrations and Smile are his greatest achievement but for me the two best tracks he ever made are Wouldn’t It Be Nice/God Only Knows. (That’s a link to a youtube video but LJ, it seems, is too unpopular to get a direct link.) There’s to be a producer’s cut version of this programme on 6 Music next Saturday, which promises in-depth analysis of how God Only Knows was put together.

Finally, a touching little programme on Radio 4 yesterday evening, Once Upon a Time on the Front Line. Hearing a Daddy voice reading, ‘Once there was a little girl called Sophie and she was having tea with her mother in the kitchen’ brought a tear to my eye.


Oh, I've had that 'Once Upon a Time...' on my list of things to listen to all week and I'd forgotten it was on last night. I'm glad it was good - I'll listen online later when I don't have children squabbling loudly.
The blessings of Listen Again!
I would enjoy For One Night Only infinitely more if it weren't presented by Paul Gambaccini. His voice is like nails on a blackboard to my ears.
What a shame, but there's nothing you can do about that. With me it's Jenni Murray; I simply cannot stand the sound of her voice.
"God Only Knows" is also my favourite Beach Boys track, together with the more obscure "Lookin' at Tomorrow".

I think most people in the know agree that Brian Wilson is a musical genius.

Who are Flanders and Swann?

Flanders & Swann

Flanders and Swann were a cabaret act very popular in the late 1950s, early 1960s. Almost everybody knows The Hippopotamus Song. Swann was a brilliant linguist and musician. Flanders, crippled by polio, performed in a wheelchair; he wrote the lyrics. One of my favourite songs is The Slow Train, with its litany of evocative place names; it was written in response to the Beeching Axe, which closed down so many rail branch lines. They laughed at everything and never in a nasty way. Lines like The English, the English the English are best, So up with the English and down with the rest! were definitely tongue in cheek. They have a cult following among younger people like huskyteer, who wrote a good post on the subject recently. There’s a lot of amusing stuff about them on YouTube, including the Armstrong and Miller spoofs and The Lego Gasman Cometh.

Re: Flanders & Swann

Ah, right! I do watch Armstrong and Miller on tv, but I didn't know they were parodying an actual cabaret duo in those sketches. Do you know if F & S were famous abroad?

Re: Flanders & Swann

They were a huge success in America; don't know about the rest of the world.