the clangers & bagpuss

Oliver Postgate Peter Firmin.jpg  Clangers.jpg

What a lovely show at the Children’s Museum – original scripts, characters and set pieces. Two of my favorite childhood shows! Can’t believe I never put it together that they were by the same team, Smallfilms …but then I was a kid.

Smallfilms was set up by Oliver Postgate (writer) and Peter Firmin (modelmaker/ illustrator). Firmin designed the characters and his wife knitted and “dressed” the Clangers in outfits inspired by twiggy! The music which was integral to the stories was often created by Vernon Elliott.

Apparently, there is a new series… hopefully not as bad as the new Thunderbirds, and narrated by Michael Palin. Whilst I haven’t yet seen them, thankfully, the series are still animated in stop-motion animation instead of CGI which replaced the original stop-motion animation in other

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london music – edward rogers

Ed Rogers.jpgEdward Rogers at The Borderline, April 24th

Fortuitously, I just so happened to be in London the same weekend my dear New York friends were in town, and even better, Ed, Don and James were playing at The Borderline with Colin Blunstone!

I can’t remember how many years I have known Ed and Melani–but I do remember my embarrassing introduction to Melani…. a smoker at the time, we were at a Woolsey downtown christmas party, and i had just taken a (terribly shy and nervous) deep inhalation, only to have someone say “this is Amanda….” I opened my mouth and exhaled a large cloud of Silk Cut (or Marlboro light) smoke right into her face… I was mortified, but Melani  – queen of graciousness – did a slight head dodge, smiled and carried on chatting.

I didn’t cross Ed and Melani again for a couple of months. As part of an ASCAP Songwriters workshop, Marci Drexler had been teamed up with Joe Condirraci (fabulous voice, beautiful man) who was in a band – The Green Rooftops – with Ed. Attending a Loser’s Lounge at the Fez with Joe, we ran in to Ed, and Joe introduced us as “She’s English, He’s english… thought you might get on…” And we did. Ed and Melani have been the closest of friends ever since. We had weekly Sunday dinners for years, I’ve celebrated Greek Easters, thanks givings, christmas’s and welcomed in numerous new years together. I love them as family.

I think it was 2001 when Ed asked me if I wanted to write some songs with him. I had just had knee surgery and was hobbling around on crutches, taking things slowly… my well of solo song writing reserves had slowed down (i used to infuriate my wirebird band members with “I’ve got a new song” every week) so I was open to trying out this co-writing thing….

And so was born the Bedsit Poets. It was a really sympathetic combination and we had a lot of fun…Ed has an endless reserve of words, and I have a bounty of melodies and harmonies. Together, I edited and added words, he input rhythm, sound and structure. Sometimes we came at it from the opposite angel. I had the words, he had the music, sometimes, we had nothing but created something. We recorded a great album (the summer that changed) with the Kennedy’s, Ed found a label Bongo Beat to give the album a home, we added a third partner to the mix, guitarist Mac Randall, and then recorded a second album – Notel Rendezvous – with Don Piper (ever since, my go to producer/ engineer/mixer..he’s awesome!). At a certain point though, with a third albums worth of songs on paper and tape recorders, we decided to take a hiatus.

Ed has gone on to record four solo albums, three of which I have had the pleasure of doing the cover art for (Sparkle Lane, Kaye and Glass Marbles), and his output continues to be abundant. Of course I prefer some songs to others (as with any artist), but there are some real gems in Ed’s catalogue that stand out for me – street fashion; borrowed & blue, blackpool nights; looking for stone angels. Ed is like a sponge, he observes the world around him intently… people, places, things… and he has them all covered in his songs. Even with recurring themes, he finds a different consideration…it’s as if he is still mulling over certain themes and will continue to explore them from every angle until he is satisfied that he understands. His albums are like the an Encyclopedia to Ed…what he thinks about, what he sees, what he sees in others, what he loves, what hurts him, his past, his present his future.

FJames Mastro.JPGlanked by Don and Ed, the Don Piper.jpgsoundscape is full and rich, dynamic, and varied. Musically, nothing else necessary (but you know it will sound great augmented with the band too), so it was great when Marty Piper-Wilson who just so happened to be passing through town as well, joined them on stage.

The crowd loved Denmark Street Forgotten… (the song reflects on the end of one of London’s musical meccas as the new swanky inter-rail link is built. From the 50s to the present day, UK’s Tin Pan Alley hosted the NME, Melody Maker, Elton John, David Bowie and the Stones amongst other. The 12 Bar Club and Enterprise rehearsal studios are closed, but funnily enough, just recently, the Sex Pistols have come to save the day! As Britain gets ready to celebrate the 40th anniversary year of Punk (in and of itself slightly perverse), No 6 (where the Sex Pistols recorded the first demos of God Save The Queen and Anarchy in the UK 1975-77) and No 7 Denmark Street, have be awarded Grade 2* listed status by a Conservative government Heritage Minister… so it can’t be pulled down!!!)….But I digress.

 

With the powerhouse engine of support, encouragement, sounding board, idea generator, editor, photographer, organizer and best dressed lady I know, Melani Rogers is the 5th Beatle of this band 🙂  The show was great, succinct, tight.

Ed is a born show man, he loves it on stage, talking to the crowd, getting them engaged, and it is always done with that special ed rogers smile, passion and a joy of life.

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london music – the zombies

Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent at Rough Trade East, London on Tuesday FebruaDSC_0674.jpgry 2nd

It’s not everyday you get to see Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent performing an intimate “acoustic” (ok.. it’s an electric piano) duo set as if they were in your living room… and, yes, they were great. Chris White (former Zombie songwriter and bass player) was also in the crowd along with old die hard, and new young, fans…

DSC_0689.jpgTheir songs have withstood the test of time. Colin’s voice was in fine form as it leapt and sprang over familiar melodies. And such great melodies! Comfortable yet tricky, the songs provide a range to be reckoned with, and Colin moved around them as if they are putty in his hand. It somehow doesn’t seem that surprising that both Rod and Colin were choir boys growing up! They are such lovely people… funny, charming and fascinated by the world around them and so willing to share. Rod’s piano playing was (and is whenever I have seen him) full of exuberance and joy. He always looks like he’s having a blast.

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These are two lucky men! They have some fabulous songs to keep performing, She’s Not There, Tell Her No, Time of The Season, Care of Cell 44, A rose for Emily – 
and they seem to genuinely enjoy each other’s company, laughing and bantering…

The Q&A session was charming with a couple of stories, including the unplanned inclusion of mellotron all over Odessey and Oracle to take advantage of the instrument that John Lennon had left behind at Abbey Road. As Colin says “Now I know I’ll never get over you!” The Zombies live on!DSC_0915.jpg

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london theatre – the book of mormon

BookOfMormon.JPGWhat to do when foot loose and fancy free in London…. go see The Book of Mormon!

Last minute ticket purchase put me in the center, six rows from the stage (thank goodness as I had left my glasses at the hotel). What a great show!

Very fast, funny, clever lyrics – I’d expect nothing less from Trey Parker and Matt Stone (South Park writers)…songwriter Robert Lopez provided some classic musical bedding for the songs; impressive staging/set design by Scott Pask, combined with the costume magic of Ann Roth, and just wonderful direction and seamless choreography by Casey Nicholaw. I particularly loved the nightmare sequence, but each song had so many subtle and surprising elements, I feel I need to go back again just to try and figure out how the all the costume transformations happened.

I remembering passing through Salt Lake City in 1997 with my best friend, meeting up with her sister for a fun-filled week of camping, hiking, driving around Utah, Arizona, Colorado…but that’s another muse. We visited the Mormon Church, and had a tour around the Mormon museum…I must say, I found it fascinating but from an incredulous point of view.  The play touches many themes…faith and doubt, and the story telling aspect of the bible. Right and wrong, good and evil, love and hate, alone together, the seven deadly sins, all these teachings are shared with our children through stories and parables….why do we insist on saying that the bible stories are the truth?

Stereotypes, parodies, mocking, spoofing, referencing, borrowing….from the world around us as well as the wonderful Broadway shows and musicals of the past, combine to make a slightly irreverent, most entertaining, and ultimately optimistic show.

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london exhibitions – the fallen woman

Reflections on The Fallen Woman exhibition at The Foundling Museum, London

The Fallen Woman was one, originally of good standing, who had “fallen” from grace; “fallen” out of respectable society; “fallen” victim to the sins of the flesh, “fallen” for the wrong man; someone who would then also quite often “fall” out of favor with her family, friends, respectable society, and who quite literally, often ended up “falling” from The Bridge of Sighs into a river of whispers.

It’s not as if extra-marital affairs were something new – Anthony and Cleopatra, Guinevere and Lancelot, Tristan & Isolde, Elizabeth and Sir Walter, Napoleon and Josephine come to mind. So our ladies fall seems to have less to do with “sexual knowledge outside of marriage”, and more do to with the fact that she was caught out by potential consequences – you can’t really hide a swollen belly, and subsequent years of child care and financial drainage. In comparison, the male – whether a lover, courtier, adulterer, seducer, or even rapist– who was often admired for his promiscuity, could also move on with no visible physical literal impact or responsibility (unless of course he got caught with the clap or syphilis)

So what to do in these circumstances? Some country air is always a good cure for most ailments, so off to the country for a few months, after which the offspring could be guised as a sibling, shipped off to a distant relative, or an orphanage…

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 6.03.16 PM.pngWhen opened in 1741, the Foundling Hospital accepted all babies brought to them, with no “preference to any person”; by 1768, mothers had to submit an application. Then by the mid 19th Century, whether a response to the unmanageable volume of incoming babies, or Britain’s focus on the virtuous christian life, with a good marriage, good housekeeping, child bearing and rearing as the personification of a good woman , the hospital introduced a strict criteria for child acceptance that was based on the mother’s… good character and potential to go on and live a virtuous life …  and so the fallen woman was born.

After submitting their application, along with character references, if approved, they were given a date and time to deliver their child through a hatch door in the wall of the Foundling Hospital. Hopefully, now free of the evidence and burden of their indiscretions, these women would be able to return to their former status and station in life.

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The turning point, downfall and despair became ripe territory for composers, novelists and painters: Bizet’s Carmen, Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, Verdi’s Violetta. Women were often depicted outside, outcast, in wintery scenes, desperate, shunned, alone …. the inevitable outcome….plunging to her death…  The exhibition at the Foundling Museum included hundreds of letters from women and their referees…as many women couldn’t actually write, many of the applications were in the same hand writing. Acceptance and reject letters, a sound installation, and some poignant paintings, it was a very moving couple of hours.

Thank goodness society has moved forward and our children can now experience supportive family and friends, whatever their parental circumstance. However, the obsession of the fallen woman, and man, lives on, but with different criteria: drugs, money, alcohol, suicide…people have a morbid fascination with the downward spiral and difficulties of others…Hollywood Babylon collected those stories, tabloids revel in these stories. Amy Winehouse’s public struggles and press feeding frenzy comes to mind, the deconstruction of Robin Williams mental state and suicide, amongst many others.

At least their struggles were not brought about by having to put their child through a hatch door

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