Saturday 17 February 2024

We've vamos-ed

By the time you see this, dear reader, our flight should be in the descent to Malaga Airport! I have never needed a holiday more...

Here's our "theme tune":

It's traditional.

Next stop: Palm 5 Beach Bar!

"Normal" service should resume in a week (or so)...

PS - a parting gift...

Friday 16 February 2024

Shoulder-pads and fans - ¡Olé!

We're almost there, dear reader...

Just eight hours to go, and the holiday begins!

OK, we have to get up tomorrow at the crack'o'doom to get to Gatwick Airport, but the forecast for Andalusia is sunny and warm all next week!

To bring on that fiesta mood, how about a boppy little something from the gayest boyband ever?!!

¡Gracias Disco Es viernes!


Thursday 15 February 2024

As long as I remember who's wearing the trousers

Just because...

...I hadn't heard this immaculate piece of 1980s cool in ages, when I heard it on the radio the other day [it featured in the streaming TV-show-based-on-a-video-game "The Last Of Us", apparently]...

...and I have been singing it in my head all week...

...and it's just brilliant...

...and, in my interpretation of the lyrics, it's very homoerotic...

...let's head back to the heady days of 1987!

I'm taking a ride with my best friend
I hope he never lets me down again
He knows where he's taking me
Taking me where I want to be
I'm taking a ride with my best friend

We're flying high
We're watching the world pass us by
Never want to come down
Never want to put my feet back down on the ground

I'm taking a ride with my best friend
I hope he never lets me down again
Promises me I'm as safe as houses
As long as I remember who's wearing the trousers
I hope he never lets me down again

We're flying high
We're watching the world pass us by
Never want to come down
Never want to put my feet back down on the ground
We're flying high
We're watching the world pass us by
Never want to come down
Never want to put my feet back down on the ground

Never let me down
Never let me down
Never let me down
Never let me down

See the stars, they're shining bright
(Never let me down)
Everything's alright tonight
(Never let me down)
See the stars, they're shining bright
(Never let me down)
Everything's alright tonight
(Never let me down)

How the fuck can that be 37 years old this year?! That makes it the same age as Zac Efron, Hilary Duff, Andy Murray, Lionel Messi, Nicola Benedetti, Karen Gillan, Joss Stone and Novak Đoković...


[Read more about the making of this song]

Wednesday 14 February 2024

Of Wrighty, Poles and pancakes

Happy Valentine's Day - whatever that means.

It's another "snippets post" today, dear reader...

  • Sad news: Britain is in shock at the news of the unexpected death of Steve Wright, one of the most popular and long-serving DJs on BBC Radio.

    His afternoon show on Radio 1 started way back in 1981, and his last broadcast of Sunday Love Songs on Radio 2 was just last weekend! RIP, indeed.

  • Gay rights news: Polish President Donald Tusk's mission to dismantle the remnants of his predecessor's repressive crypto-fascist regime continues, as the prime-time presenter on that country's national television station made a public and heartfelt apology to LGBT+ people for the decades of anti-gay rhetoric that had been broadcast on that network.
  • Shopping news: The iconic ethical cosmetics chain The Body Shop has gone into administration after six decades in business. Sigh. More gaps in the high street, to be filled by hairdressers, fast food or charity shops...
  • Good news: One of the best comedy series in the last few decades Gavin and Stacey is coming back for another Xmas special! That’s well lush.
  • And finally: Even the vicars got involved, when Salisbury's Pancake Race yesterday was moved to the cathedral's cloisters due to the rain...

Our next bulletin will be at...

Tuesday 13 February 2024

There are worse things I could do

It's a day of "milestone birthdays" today, dear reader - the eternally elfin Robbie Williams is (gulp!) 50 years old, Jerry Springer would have been 80, and the lovely George Segal would have been 90...

...but most significant of all, scarily, today is the simply faboo "friend of the gays" Miss Stockard Channing's 80th birthday!!

As I said way back in 2008:

One of my favourite actresses, she is probably best known for her tour de force part of Rizzo in Grease, but I particularly love her for her roles in To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar and for the made-for-TV drama Tidy Endings, in which she starred with the fantastic Harvey Fiersten [a film that to this day, shockingly, has never been released on DVD!].

After four decades in the business, Stockard went on to become a household name as the First Lady in The West Wing until the series ended in 2006. But we queens will always hold her close to our hearts when we sing along with this classic number:

Many happy returns, Stockard Channing (born Susan Antonia Williams Stockard, 13th February 1944)!

Monday 12 February 2024

Here comes the bride*

The shock of Monday is upon us...

How much do I hate the feeling that time always flits by in a flash at at the weekends, yet the working week seems to drag..?!

However, this week is indeed the last grim obstacle before we clack our castanets and bugger off to the Costa del Sol next Saturday, so let's grin and bear it, shall we?

To lift our spirits on this Tacky Music Monday, here's an exercise in campery of the first order - courtesy of the late, dearly departed Concha Velasco, her abanico-flapping chorines and lithe safety gays!

I was planning to take a similar outift with me to Spain, but the cabin bag allowance on EasyJet forbids it, unfortunately...

Have a good week, dear reader.

[*Novia = "Bride" in Spanish]

Sunday 11 February 2024

Guapo del dia

[click any pic to embiggen]

Meet Mario Alcalde, Spain's first matador to "come out" (as "pansexual", whatever that is). Woof!

Whatever one might think of the bloodsport, it's a remarkable snippet of progress in the otherwise "strictly macho" world of the Torero.

In keeping with the theme [well, sort of...] - any excuse [as if I need one] to feature this marvellous routine from one of our all-time favourite films here at Dolores Delargo Towers:

Roll on our Spanish holiday next weekend!

Saturday 10 February 2024

Kung Hei Fat Choi!

Happy Chinese New Year - the Year of the Dragon, indeed! [And everyone knows at least one of them, dear reader!]

Sad to say, apart from a load of "heavy metal" rock numbers and Puff The Magic Dragon, there is little I can find on the subject of Dragons in the musical repertoire that is worth playing...

So let's have this instead - a load of camp-as-tits Chinese queens flapping their fans about!

That'll do nicely.

I quite fancy some Char Siu and fried noodles for lunch now.

Friday 9 February 2024

I let it get away; been payin' every day

The weekend can't come soon enough!

Oh dear. Mr Henry Fambrough has spun off departed for the glitterball-illuminated "Discotheque-a-Go-Go" in Fabulon. Who? I hear you ask...

The last surviving member of the original Detroit Spinners, his distinctive baritone was to be heard on every record and at every live appearance by the band, from 1954 to April 2023, when he finally retired. Phew!

By way of a tribute, and to get the weekend off with an appropriate bang, here's a double-bill of the group's biggest hits here in the UK - so Thank Disco It's Friday!

[Their dance routines were always sooo literal.]

Have a great weekend, dear reader!

Thursday 8 February 2024

De koning van het levenslied

We have a centenary to celebrate, and I almost missed it! One hundred years ago yesterday, the Dutch musical legend that is Johnny Jordaan was born.

So revered is Mijnheer Jordaan in Amsterdam that he has a whole Plein named after him, complete with a statue (later joined by those of fellow musical legends Tante Leen, Manke Nelis and Johnny Meyer):

Not really so surprising, as most (if not all) the great man's wonderful sing-a-long "levenslied" numbers are indeed dedicated to our favourite city, like these...

...and this one, which I play every year as we depart for our annual long weekend in Mokum:

Johnny Jordaan (born Johannes Hendricus van Musscher, 7th February 1924 – 8th January 1989)

Wednesday 7 February 2024

How much?!

Antiques Roadshow viewers appear to be thrilled by the same things happening every week. To get the most out of the show, these entirely predictable events should shock you to the core.

They weren’t expecting it to be worth that much!
Well done, you have correctly identified the main idea on which the programme is predicated. Now go and watch Call the Midwife and be blown away by the fact that it’s about midwives. Again!

Being old makes some things more valuable!
Amazing, isn’t it? Old things are usually worth less, like your brother-in-law Derek’s 1991 Peugeot 205. It was only worth 120 quid for scrap. Maybe it was something to do with the Peugeot not being a painting by Sir Edwin Landseer.

Imagine getting £15,000 for a table!
Yes, £15,000 is a decent sum of money. However Brian and Pauline from Chester aren’t exactly entering the superyachts-and-models world of a Saudi prince. That’s probably why Brian looks so miserable.

Fiona Bruce looks a lot older now.
Yes, she does look older than when she first started presenting TV programmes 32 years ago in 1992. Do you look at photos of yourself as a child and go: ‘MY GOD! I’VE TURNED INTO A GIANT!’?

It’s modern but it’s an antique!
You’re absolutely right. That rare German glassware only dates back to the 1970s but it’s worth several thousand pounds. Maybe something can be valuable even if archaeologists didn’t find it in Julius Caesar’s house?

Look how big that stately home is!
Yes. Do you know why? Because slavery was very profitable. You buy the slaves very cheap and sell them at a big profit because they won’t cost their new owner a penny in wages. Everyone’s a winner. Also, during the Industrial Revolution if one of your workers had an accident the only compensation they got was five minutes off to look for their severed finger.

Who’d want that in their house?
It’s hard to deny those baroque nudes are somewhat more ‘chunky’ than, say, Margot Robbie. However that’s due to tastes changing over time. Rembrandt probably wouldn’t have wanted your Mr Bean bobblehead in his house either.

I might have something worth £20,000 in my loft!
You don’t. Unless a roll of old carpet and a broken Swingball set are worth 10 grand apiece.

The Daily Mash

Of course.

Tuesday 6 February 2024

Who's That Boy?

That toddler is 65?! Heavens.

On the day he was born, Elvis was at #1 (and Cliff-bloody-Richard was at #3 - and neither of them are getting an airing here) - but what else was in the charts?

At #2:

At #4:

At #7:

...and then, there was this:

...and this!

Many happy returns, Madam Arcati!

Happy birthday, darling.

Monday 5 February 2024

No man who has met her can ever forget her

Grrrr. Another weekend disappears in a flash...

Here at Dolores Delargo Towers, we're still wearing black armbands, mourning the loss of the legendary Chita Rivera.

By way of a (further) fitting wake-up call on this Tacky Music Monday, I've found a marvellous piece of (audience-recorded) footage of the great lady at her very best, cavorting with her safety gays!

Gimme love, Gimme love, Gimme kisses, Gimme love
Gimme love, Gimme kisses, Gimme love, love, love!
Gimme love, Gimme love, Gimme kisses, Gimme love
Gimme love, Gimme kisses, Gimme love, love, love!

If there's a war on, don't bring me the news
Ask me to bull fights and I must refuse
But if you want to get my attention
Let's make love!
Gimme love, Gimme kisses, Gimme love
Gimme love, Gimme kisses, Gimme love!

If there's an earthquake I will not attend
Gimme kisses, Gimme love!

If there's a plague don't invite me my friend
Gimme kisses, Gimme love, love, love!

But if you want to
Keep me looking in your direction
Let's make love!

Gimme love, Gimme kisses, Gimme love
Gimme love, Gimme kisses, Gimme love, love, love!
Gimme love, Gimme love, Gimme kisses, Gimme love
Gimme love, Gimme kisses, Gimme love!

It's like giving to the needy
And I don't mind being greedy.
Come on, Chico, please be speedy
And bring me what I long for...

If there's a fire don't bring me a hose!
Gimme kisses, Gimme love!

Call me a coward, that's true, I suppose!
Gimme love, love, kisses, Gimme love

But all I want is beauty...

Gimme, Gimme, Gimme, Gimme Hugs
Gimme, Gimme, Gimme, Gimme Squeezes
Gimme, Gimme, Gimme, Gimme Lips
Gimme, Gimme, Gimme, Gimme Kisses

So let's not make more trouble
Let's make love!

Gimme love Kiss
Gimme, Gimme love, love, love! Kiss
Gimme, Gimme, Gimme, love, love Kiss
Gimme love, love Kiss, kiss!
Gimme, Gimme, Gimme, Gimme
Gimme, Gimme, Gimme, Gimme
Gimme, Gimme, Gimme, love!
Gimme love, Gimme love, Gimme kisses, Gimme love
Gimme love, Gimme kisses, Gimme love, love, love!
Gimme love, Gimme love, Gimme kisses, Gimme love
Gimme love, Gimme kisses, Gimme love, love, love!

Come with me...
Her name is Aurora
And she is so beautiful,
No man who has met her
Can ever forget her
They're madly in love
Forever in love.

Have a good week, dear reader.

Sunday 4 February 2024

Like a bird in the sky

We're having a slow day after the excesses of our gang's looooong drinking session in our Wetherspoons-of-choice The Penderel's Oak in Holborn yesterday, in honour of Madam Arcati's impending birthday.

I think some "Sunday Music" is in order - I reckon this Northern Soul gem should do very nicely...

All that bopping's a bit too energetic, but the song's fab!

Saturday 3 February 2024

Come down to the boathouse, dear Sir

It is LGBT+ History Month here in the UK!

I'm on the hunt for interesting events to attend this month - but in the meantime, here's the irrepressible Steve Hayes aka "Tired Old Queen at the Movies", with an all-time gay classic (and favourite of mine):

One of the sexiest films ever made...

Friday 2 February 2024


Yeah, baby, yeah!

It's almost the weekend - and there's just two more of those to go before we fly to Spain!

Speaking of which, here's one from the vaults to get us in the mood for a party [and indeed we do have one, as the clans gather tomorrow in Wetherspoons for The Madam's birthday, which is on Tuesday] - so ¡Gracias Disco Es viernes!

[Read more about the scandalous Señorita Estrada, whose "greatest hits" album was titled The Sexadelic Disco Funk Sound of... Susana Estrada]

Have a good one, dear reader!

Thursday 1 February 2024

The dance of love?

2024 marks the 70th anniversary of the explosion on an unsuspecting world of Rock'n'Roll [well, commercially, anyhow], courtesy of Bill Haley and his Comets. This remarkable youth movement outraged the hitherto prim and proper 1950s [helped, no doubt, by the parallel post-war advances in electric instruments, recording technology, television and movies], and begat the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Eddie Cochran - and of course, Elvis.

I was never a fan of his [nor particularly of the whole genre, to be honest] but today - after a bitch of a day - even I am more than happy to feature the "King of Rock and Roll", when he's been mashed-up so brilliantly!

Thanks to Madam Arcati for stumbling across this one...

I feel better already.

Wednesday 31 January 2024

Are you a balaclavasexual?

A guide for straight men:

Do you like hard men a little too much? Never confusing the Spetsnaz, the SAS or US Navy SEALs? Has your interest in elite military units blossomed into something more?

You read books about them in bed
Not just Bravo Two Zero, thought it is your comfort read for lonely nights. And what’s wrong with imagining Andy McNab reading you a chapter at bedtime? And maybe hopping in beside you, to cuddle up and keep warm as if you were evading capture in the Iraqi desert? It’s about survival. Not sex.

You fantasise about intimate unarmed combat training
You can definitely see yourself wrestling on a gym mat with Matt Bissonnette, his muscular arms enfolding you as he explains basic restraint techniques and how he was on the raid that killed Bin Laden. And if there’s a spark of attraction as his lithe body overpowers yours, it’s only because he’s miming breaking an enemy sentry’s neck.

You’ve always had a thing for Lewis Collins
You’ve always been fascinated by Lewis Collins. You thought it was because he had a cool Ford Capri in The Professionals and Who Dares Wins was wonderful crypto-fascist fun, but now you realise there was more to it. Luckily society is less prejudiced these days, so it’s a lot easier to come out as a balaclavasexual.

You know more about special forces than you know about your girlfriend
You struggle to remember your girlfriend’s birthday or the date she left you but can instantly name the technical specifications of the SAS’s preferred assault rifle. An M16 firing a standard NATO 5.56mm cartridge and fitted with an M203 grenade launcher for 40mm rounds. Facts like that stick in the mind, that’s all.

You dream about covert operations
Doesn’t everyone dream about storming a secure compound in Islamabad with a group of buff men? All firing Heckler & Kochs from the hip? There’s nothing Freudian about that, or your recurring dream about going down on Bear Grylls.

You hang on their every word
Chris Kyle’s homespun philosophy in American Sniper, where he says there are three types of people in the world ‘wolves, sheep and sheepdogs’, is just common sense. Obviously you aspire to be a sheepdog like Chris. Or you’d like him to stroke you and tickle your tummy.

You emulate them
Unlike a "Swiftie" you can’t copy the fashions of the men you admire so, as combat fatigues and a gas mask tend to get the police called. And joining the army is out of the question because the pay’s low and the chance of war high. So largely you emulate them by saying ‘on my six’ when asked where the brioche buns are in Sainsbury’s.

The Daily Mash

Of course.

[Here's a good way to check...]

Tuesday 30 January 2024

Of Milo, Meltdown, macaques and Marvel

RIP, Sandra Milo [more Giulietta degli spiriti here]

It's a "snippets post" today, dear reader [in the true spirit of blogging; after all, that's how it all started..]

  • Good news: The divine (and immensely talented) Miss Chaka Khan has been announced as the curator of the annual Meltdown Festival at London's South Bank in 2024! I can't wait to see who she chooses to be on the bill, but if the great lady herself deigns to do a concert all of her own, I'm champing at the bit for a ticket...
  • Weird news: Happy Up Helly Aa Day! The (allegedly) traditional Viking festival is being celebrated this evening in Lerwick, largest town on the Shetland Islands, by around 1,000 heavily-disguised torch-bearers hauling a dragon-headed galley ship through the streets before ceremonially throwing their fiery torches into it to burn it to the water. That's one way of beating "the Tuesday Blues"!
  • Karma news: "Professional cunt" (and hopefully henceforth unemployable "actor") Laurence Fox lost a defamation case against two gay men he called "paedophiles" on Tw*tter.
  • Fashion news: a tie by "Mr Fish" [legendary 60s/70s menswear designer who dressed David Bowie and Mick Jagger] found in a charity shop for 99p, a second-hand coat worn by EastEnders' Dot Cotton and a leopard-print hat by milliner-to-the-stars Otto Lucas bought on eBay have gone on display in a fashion exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands.
  • Nature news: There's a macaque on the loose in the Highlands of Scotland! That puts bloody squirrels in the shade.
  • And finally: Many happy returns to the simply faboo Olivia Colman [50 today], star of just about everything - from Beautiful People to The Night Manager, from Doctor Who to Broadchurch, and much, much more, including not one, but two British Queens, Anne [for which she won the Oscar] and Elizabeth - and she completely stole the show in Marvel Studios' otherwise critically-panned [although I thoroughly enjoyed it] Secret Invasion:

And now, the weather...[only joking]

Monday 29 January 2024

Le ore più non contano

Back to the office again... Sigh.

After a rather pleasant weekend of sunshine, blue skies, mild temperatures, a mosey round the garden centre and some therapeutic pottering in the garden, it's time for that "back-to-reality" moment. A working week still beckons.

Hey ho. Just a few weeks to go, and we're off to Benalmadena again!

Courtesy of the ever-wonderful Clare Teal on her Jazz FM radio show, we have something suitably bright-and-breezy on this Tacky Music Monday to wake us up - from the simply faboo Caterina Valente (who celebrated her 93rd birthday on 14th January!):

Have a good one, dear reader.

Sunday 28 January 2024

Sex under the pier, whose sperm is it anyway?, Olympic voguing, an underwater breakdown and boogying in British sign-language

John-John, "Auntie Paul" and I gathered, with regulars Emma and Toby, Paulo and (not-so-regular any more) "Little Tony" at the historic and revered Heaven gay nightclub for another edifying evening at "London's peerless gay literary salon" Polari on Thursday, the first such event of 2024. Once again, we were in for a treat.

Our host, the faboo Paul Burston was sparkling from top-to-toe, as befits such an occasion, as he proudly opened the show...

One of my favourite authors/readers at Polari, Neil Bartlett opened proceedings with a salacious extract from his 2014 novel The Disappearance Boy [set in the early 1950s], in which [disabled by polio] magician's assistant "Reggie Rainbow" [whose job it is to help make the assistants "disappear", hence the title] discovers a secretive, hidden gay world of wonder, and sex, under the pier at Brighton.

Been there, done that - and absolutely loved the book! Remarkably, it has only recently been published in paperback.

Polari Prize winner in 2020, Kate Davies was up next, with a brand new delight for us - reading from her new novel Nuclear Family, which is out in February. A salutary tale of what happens when a loving daughter Lena decides to buy a DNA test for her dad, only to be completely devastated by the news that she and her twin sister were conceived from donor sperm. Lena goes off the deep end in her obsession with who her "real" father is, while her sibling Alison more-or-less takes it in her stride, trying as she is to conceive a child with her wife using the exact same method.

In the (very funny) extract Kate read for us, the couple's attempt to broach the subject of donation with their friends, a gay couple, while at a dinner date, doesn't actually go quite as planned...

With the laughter still ringing in our ears, it was time for a complete contrast... it was the turn of our friend and Polari stalwart Alexis Gregory to explode onto the stage, the force of nature that he is - he has a new show on at the King's Head theatre in Islington, FutureQueer, described thus: "...part theatre, stand-up comedy, DIY queer lecture, pop-culture commentary, and meditation on disco music as a metaphor for queer survival." It certainly was a bit of a mind-fuck! Set in the year 2071, he conjured up for us a fantastical future where everything is "gay-gay-gay"; a world where voguing and lip-syncing are categories in the Olympics, the national anthem is by Dannii Minogue, there's a statue to George Michael on Hampstead Heath, and the goddess of Disco herself Donna Summer [NB 2071 happens to be exactly as far into the future from today as Miss Summer's I Feel Love is in the past] dominates society.

Who better to enter such a fantabulosa world with than "Sexy Lexi" ?!

We needed a fag and a top-up after all that...

After the break, our final reader was 2023's Polari Prize winner Julia Armfield, with a reading from her mysterious new work Our Wives Under The Sea.

As the review in The Guardian put it:

It is told in two alternating voices: Leah’s, in the form of a journal she kept on a deep-sea dive that stranded her and two others in undersea darkness; and that of her wife, Miri, who presumed her lost, after Leah’s return. The tale travels, with Leah and the submarine, down through the missing six months and the ocean’s vertical zones (sunlight, twilight, midnight, abyssal, hadal), while on land Miri tracks how their relationship is changing in the present.

From the extract she read, it would appear that those changes are even more mysterious than anyone could predict... Chilling stuff!

Our evening was not over yet, however - as a real feast of frolics was in store, with the arrival on stage of the ever-joyful David McAlmont with HiFi Sean!

They played a blinder of a set, and got everybody (including the lovely BSL interpreter Paul Michaels) in a dancing mood! Here's a jolly one:

STOP PRESS: And then, there's this!

Now, that's the way to finish an evening!

We love Polari! Roll on the next one...

Saturday 27 January 2024

Friday 26 January 2024

Full of ecstasy and fire

Relief is in sight - it's pay day, the skies are dazzling blue, we have a new trellis on the fence in the extensive gardens here at Dolores Delargo Towers, and the weekend's almost here...

In another to add to the long list of departures for Fabulon this week (see here and here), we bade a sad farewell to Herr Frank Farian. Who? I hear you ask.

Not only was Mr Farian one of the actual voices behind the "world's most famous mime act" Milli Vanilli, he was also the genius producer behind [literally - he also sang the male vocals, to which Bobby Farrell mimed] one of the biggest-selling bands in the UK ever, Boney M!

Although they sold gazillions of records in the glittering Disco era, they struggled to maintain the same level of success in the 80s and 90s and gradually faded out of view. Then suddenly in 2021, thanks to the machinations of a North London DJ and "eternally-bewitched-by-old-records" Tik-Tok users, this song became a hit all over again, in a slightly different form, with a splendidly daft video...

Thank Disco It's Friday!

Have a great weekend, dear reader!

Thursday 25 January 2024

Your honest, sonsie face

Och Aye!

It's Burns Night tonight - when our Scottish chums perform strange rituals involving bagpipes (naturally), whisky (of course!) and inflated sausages filled with indeterminate offal, served with "neeps and tatties"!

Even south of the border, the ever-enterprising Wetherspoons has got in on the act.

Here's the traditional "Ode to a Haggis":

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ the puddin’-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o’ a grace
As lang’s my arm.

[Full text and translation here]

To round off the celebration - let's bring back our fave "kilt boys", shall we?!

Slàinte Mhath! [pronounced Slanj-a-va]

Wednesday 24 January 2024

A thin, uncleansable film of grime

Any bar, pub, coffee shop, sandwich shop or ordinary shop within 200 metres of a station is far more horrible than its distant counterparts.

No matter what the establishment, its location near a train station automatically downgrades it to at least two levels below its equivalent elsewhere, and in the case of major London stations as many as five.

Retail expert Helen Archer said: “You head to the station early. Your mate agrees to stay for one. You drink a miserable pint by lone travellers with wheeled cases and wish you hadn’t.

“Or you have a quick coffee only to realise in a single sip it was brewed in a cistern by a clever dog and you’ve lost the tastebuds on that side for life. And your table was last cleared in August ’22.

“Or you’re facing a 95-minute journey to Crewe so you buy a sandwich that turns out, by Milton Keynes, to be made of shit. Or you go the most miserable shop you’ve visited in years and pay £5.40 for Monster Munch and a Panda Pop.

“Even the supermarkets are horrible and grimy. Even the pub across the road has the feel of death’s waiting room. The very proximity of transport covers every experience, physically and spiritually, in a thin, uncleansable film of grime.

“It probably isn’t true of tiny little rural stations in places called Scrumpington-over-Willow. But they’ve closed all those down.”

The Daily Mash

Of course.

Tuesday 23 January 2024

Dropping like flies, part 2...

A young Laurie Johnson and Petula Clark, 1955 by Harry Hammond

Laurie's music touched the lives of millions around the world. Throughout his illustrious career, he composed numerous iconic scores, themes and soundtracks that graced our lives across film, TV, theatre and radio. [His family's statement to the BBC yesterday].

Indeed he did. Among the many, many all-too-familiar theme tunes for which we have to thank the man are these:

And finally, a little something I stumbled across courtesy of the Craig Charles Funk and Soul Show on BBC Radio 6 Music, that seems most appropriate to feature here:

[NB "AC Soul Symphony" is the latest nom-de-plume of the artist formerly known as Joey Negro, DJ Dave Lee]

So many childhood memories. Sigh.

RIP, Laurie Johnson (7th February 1927 – 16th January 2024).

Dropping like flies...

RIP, Marlena Shaw (22nd September 1942 – 19th January 2024):

[Read my tribute to the great lady on her 80th, and for the original version of this song.]

RIP, Pluto Shervington (13th August 1950 – 19th January 2024):

[Quite likely the first song that explicitly references marijuana to appear on Top of the Pops, or indeed on British telly as a whole!]

RIP, Mary Weiss of the Shangri-Las (28th December 1948 – 19th January 2024):

[See also here]

The dancefloor in Fabulon is filling up.

Monday 22 January 2024

I'm afraid I've a terrible yen

Robin's probably about to have more fun than I am on a Monday...

Where do those bloody weekends go?!

As we drag our weary carcasses out into the midst of the stupidly-named "Storm Isha" for another week of joy,we need a proper wake-up call...

Enter, stage left, on this Tacky Music Monday - the marvellous Miss Virginia O'Brien!

All this yap-yap-yap
About glorifying dames
Leaves me like a cold potato
I'd much rather be
With a handsome he
Like Van Johnson who's a real tomato

For a date with Fred MacMurray
You can bet your life I'd hurry
And a guy like Mischa Auer
Has me completely in his power

In fact most any man I've seen
Is the only man for me

Bring on those wonderful men
Bring me an elegant guy
A soldier or sailor
A Gable or Taylor
A short or a tall one
I just wanna call one
My own, private wonderful he

Bring what you can to me
Bring me a guy to pin up
Bring me a prince on a horse
A dark or a light one
I just want to sight one
Who'll call me his missus
And give with the kisses
I'm afraid I've a terrible yen
For those wonderful M-E-N

Amor, Amor
There must be someone for me
But what's he waiting for?
No hope, no soap
If he don't appear
I fear I'm at the end of my rope

Oh, bring on a male who ain't frail
Bring on a man from a cave
Someone to relax with
And pay income tax with
And though he's from hunger
I'm not getting younger
And I'd like to get on with my plan
To glorify the American man

I know the men are few
But what's a gal to do?
I'll get a man before I'm through
Hey, you in the third row:
Bring on those wonderful men!

Have a good week, dear reader.

Sunday 21 January 2024

The Floating Kingdom

Madam Arcati and I had a truly stunning theatrical experience last night, as we ventured to the oh-so-touristy environs of Borough (famous for its food market) - for our first visit in several years to an old fave venue the Menier Chocolate Factory, to see the much-lauded new production of Stephen Sondheim's Pacific Overtures.

A show that was last revived over here in 2003, it's certainly not one of The Maestro's most famous, and most people would be hard-pushed to hum along to any of its songs. But, heavens - especially with this setting, this scenery, this lighting and this cast [shame about the restricted view seats we ended up with] - it's a work of art! It was indeed one of Sondheim's own personal favourites.

[NB There are no videos from the Menier Chocolate Factory production, apart from this trailer]

Set in the the late 19th century era when the USA unanimously decided to force the secretive and feudal kingdom of Nippon [Japan] to "open its doors" to the world, the story is told largely from the perspective of its populace. Indeed, the opening number The Advantages of Floating in the Middle of the Sea highlights just how completely shielded from foreign influence they were, engrossed in ancient rituals:

As the centuries have come, they've gone
In the middle of the sea
Days arise to be replaced
Lines are drawn and lines erased
Life and death are but verses in a poem
Out there blood flows
Who knows?

Here we paint screens
Plant the rice
Arrange the flowers
View the moon
Exchange the gifts
Plant the rice
Arrange tomorrow like today
To float
Slide the screens
Exchange the poems
Stir the tea
Exchange the bows
Plant the rice
Arrange tomorrow to be like today
To float.

Of course, this blithe "innocence" proves to be their downfall - but Sondheim being Sondheim, this is not a show that wallows in tragedy. With the help of the excellent "Reciter" (narrator Eu Jin Hwang) to understand the nuances, there's much humour to be had poking fun at the absurdities on all sides in this tumultuous period. The Shogun (excellently played by actress Saori Oda) arrogantly believes that to merely send one man in a boat to face the fleet with a message from the (puppet) Emperor would be sufficient to send the Americans packing.

The hapless sap chosen for this (quite possibly suicidal) mission, Kayama (the superbly convincing Takuro Ohno) and his wife Tamate (Kanako Nakano) are understandably terrified (There Is No Other Way) - as are the locals, who, seeing the fleet approach believe them to be Four Black Dragons. Obviously the pompous and condescending US Admiral ignores Kayama's pleas. With the help of fisherman Manjiro (Joaquin Pedro Valdes) - who had visited the US and brought the original news of the impending threat to the Shogun's court - masquerading as "an important man" they try shouting ("as that's what they understand - who shouts loudest, gets heard"), but the only response from the Americans is a demand to meet the Shogun or else be bombed.

In the ensuing time of trepidation, Kayama and Tamate (having devised a cunning plan involving floating mats and floating house to accommodate the Americans without them setting foot on Nippon's "sacred soil") bond over Poems, and the local brothel-madam sees a business opportunity as she (hilariously) trains up "her girls" for the arrival of the sailors of the fleet (Welcome to Kanagawa). The Admiral lands, the meeting is held in secret, then the treaty house is ceremonially burned.

But what was actually said? Could those secrets be revealed by eavesdroppers? This beautiful number - Sondheim's own "proudest achievement" - is hopeful, but history is often based on unreliable testimony...

[The famous "lockdown gala"]

Regardless of what was said behind those closed doors it becomes obvious this was only the beginning, as the rest of the world's great empires - British, Dutch, Russian and French - all come-a-calling, with their warships, for their "share of the spoils". This is a brilliant number, full of Sondheim's signature tributes to the sounds and styles of other composers (notably Gilbert & Sullivan), and was probably the highlight of last night's show. Here's the original:

So the old Nippon is overrun by foreign tastes and styles - perfectly encapsulated by (the newly-elevated to governor) Kayama and A Bowler Hat. Conversely, Manjiro, who began as an enthusiast for all things American, has become completely integrated into Samurai traditions. Cultural clashes are exposed even more chillingly, however, in this production's treatment of (possibly) this show's most familiar number Pretty Lady - a song I only really knew from Side By Side By Sondheim as a light-hearted ode about a frustrated seduction attempt [see also here for the "gender-reversed" version] - as it all turns nasty indeed, culminating in murder.

As our Reciter (shifting seamlessly between setting the scene and portraying the Emperor) points out, this was the beginning of the end. The Samurai (unexpectedly led by Manjiro) stage a rebellion, both Shogun and Kayama are killed, and in retaliation Emperor Meiji abolishes the centuries-old Shogunate and decrees a return to Imperial rule, proclaiming that his country would henceforth embrace the modernity of the rest of the world (Next!).

The show closed with a whirlwind representation of how that modernisation developed, from industrialisation to the horrors of WWII, to the technological revolution of the late 20th century, and ended - in a sinister twist - with an AI avatar reciting the words: "Nippon. The Floating Kingdom. There was a time when foreigners were not welcome here. But that was long ago... Welcome to Japan."

Utterly, mind-blowingly brilliant. I am so glad we went!

Pacific Overtures is on at The Menier Chocolate Factory until 25th February 2024.