Summer Jobs 2 … Mablethorpe

Towards the end of my second year at Goldsmiths’ College, where I was following a teacher training course specialising in English and History, I saw the ad amongst others pinned to the student notice board. Students wanted for Summer Work in Mablethorpe: thirteen weeks, all lodging and other expenses paid. Mablethorpe? I didn’t have a clue. The library had a map.

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With no other plans, thirteen weeks by the sea seemed appealing; and, having made enquiries, the pay was decent – with food and lodging thrown in, especially so. With any luck, I’d be able to save some money for the coming year. I signed on.

There were around twenty of us from all over the country, some returning for their second or third spell. We slept, most of us, in a vast dormitory room above a self-service café and restaurant facing out towards the concrete promenade, the beach and the sea, although most days you had to take the sea on trust. Our meals we collected from the café along with the customers, or, if it was after hours, cooked ourselves, with access allowed to all supplies other than the steaks.

 

We were part of a small empire that seemed to control much of the town’s entertainment and other facilities: dodgem cars, slot machines, hot dogs, ice creams. In particularly busy times, we would be deployed as necessary; otherwise, we each had a particular job and mine was working on the hot dog stand. Which meant helping to serve and take the cash in the afternoons and evenings and peeling a large sack of onions each and every morning. It took until Christmas for me to get rid of the smell of onions from my fingers.

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Despite working long hours, we did have a reasonable amount of time off, some of which I spent strolling on the sand dunes or along the beach. I can’t remember ever walking as far as the sea for as much as a paddle, never mind a swim.

 

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Things picked up when I got to know Shirley, who worked in a little cabin in a corner of the car park, dispensing cups of tea to travellers exhausted by the drive over from Nottingham or Doncaster. On my evenings off we went bopping to Trek Faron [Farron?] and the Unknowns – Trek a potato picker by day and singer & guitarist by night, his band a pale imitation of The Shadows – or to the local cinema, which had very desirable double seats in the balcony, though rain on the corrugated iron roof had a tendency to render the dialogue inaudible. And one day we caught the bus to Lincoln to see the Cathedral – I’d been reading Lawrence – The Rainbow & Women in Love – and been taken by his description of first seeing the spire from a great distance. Which we did.

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My friend, Shirley, on our day trip to Lincoln

Somehow, I managed to wangle a weekend off and arranged to meet a friend from Goldsmiths at the East Coast Jazz Festival, which was taking place a short distance up the coast at Cleethorpes. This was prime Trad Jazz time, and we ended up staying in the same B&B as Bob Wallis and His Storyville Jazzmen, who had a couple of Top 50 hits featuring Bob singing old music hall type songs in a gruff Yorkshire-inflected Cockney – “I’m Shy, Mary Ellen, I’m Shy” and “Come Along Please” – this even though their stage outfit made them out to be Mississippi riverboat gamblers.

The festival was not all traditional jazz: Tubby Hayes was on the bill, along with Bruce Turner and Johnny Dankworth, but my especial favourites were the Alex Welsh Band, joined on this occasion by the irrepressible George Melly.

Jazz Fest

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George Melly w. Roy Crimmins (tbn) Alex Welsh (Tpt) Bill Reid (bs) Archie Semple (clt)

There is, believe it or not, more to say about Mablethorpe, but, like the sea, that will have to wait for another day.

 

Annotated iPod Shuffle, April 2018

1  Saucer Eyes : Eric Dolphy

from Where? (1961) Dolphy (flute) w. Mal Waldron (p) Ron Carter (bs) Charlie Persip  (dr). Great,fluent flute from Dolphy and scintillating brushwork from Persip.

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2 Slider : John Stewart

from The Day the River Sang (2006) one of Stewart’s final albums prior to his death two years later. The voice, even with some handy reverb, isn’t what it was, but it does take on a deep, bluesy feel that’s appropriate for this song about a wayward young woman, reminiscent in some ways of the sad and lovely Crazy [”I will drive you, Crazy”] from the 1971 album Lonesome Picker Rides Again. Some nice licks by Stewart himself on electric guitar, too.

The Day The River Sang

3 Milk Shake Stand : The Three Barons

from Still Stomping’ at the Savoy, a fine selection of Jazz & R&B tracks from the 50s & 60s, including Charlie Parker, Stan Getz, Errol Garner, Art Pepper, Eddie ‘Lockjaw’ Davis, H-Bomb Ferguson, Joe Turner, Clarence ‘Gatemouth’ Brown, Little Esther and this track by the Three Barons, a doo-wop group who are still performing, in one guise or another, and will to travel to gigs up to ten miles from their base in Stamford, CT – well, you gotta slow down some time.

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4 Shostakovich String Quartet No. 6 – Allegretto : Emerson Quartet

What can I say … ?

Shostakovich_ String Quartets [Disc 1]

5 Just One More Chance : Alex Welsh Band

Featuring Alex’s trumpet, more broad-toned than usual, on this BBC Sounds of Jazz broadcast from 1981, just a year before he died; Roy Crimmins is on trombone, back in the band after a long break, Al Gay on tenor, Fred Hunt at the piano.

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6 Sandwood Down to Kyle : John Renbourn

from Live it Italy (2006) about which Renbourn had this to say …

 Anyway one place that still holds fond if blurred memories is Roma’s Folkstudio – a basement club that reminded me of the Cousins, only funkier. I’d go over and play there for a week or so, staying in a room down a little alley leading into the square of Santa Maria in Trastevere. The square at night was utterly beautiful and even the bare room had a certain charm. With the pleasure of good company and the wine from Sacrofano it was a productive time for me.

How this recording came to be made I honestly have no idea. To describe the p.a. in the Folkstudio as a curiosity would be charitable in the extreme. It wouldn’t have been out of place in Frankinstein’s laboratory. Somehow the benign boss Giancarlo Cesaroni engineered it on the quiet. And the result is documented evidence.

Live In Italy

7 As Tears Go By : Rolling Stones

The Jagger/Richards song their manager Andrew Loog Oldham passed on to Marianne Faithfull for her 1964 hit; Mick himself recorded it with the Stones a year later [sounding oddly like Marianne].

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8 Right Moves : Josh Ritter

from The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter (2007). Has a great chorus, which my daughter, Molly, and I sang along to heartily at his Kings Place gig a few years back.

The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter

9 These Foolish Things : Thelonious Monk

Recorded in New York, on December 18th, 1952, with Gary Mapp (bs) & Max Roach (dr)

Thelonious Monk Trio

10 $1000 Dollar Wedding : Gram Parsons

from Parson’s second solo album, Grievous Angel (1974), with James Burton on guitar and Emmylou Harris on harmony vocals and close to keeping Gram in tune. I remember buying my copy for £1.00 from a student at the Stevenage school where I was teaching; she’d got it as a freebee at the Gary Glitter show at Stevenage Mecca the night before.

Grievous Angel

iPod Shuffle, October 2015

  • Love Minus Zero/No Limit, Bob Dylan : The Rolling Thunder Revue (1975)
  • Sabu Visits the Twin Cities Alone, John Prine : Great Days
  • Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye, Leonard Cohen : The Songs of Leonard Cohen
  • Doggin’ Around, Alex Welsh Band : Oh, Baby!
  • Useless Desires, Patty Griffin : Impossible Dream
  • Tecumseh Valley, Townes Van Zandt : Live at Union Chapel (1994)
  • Jumpin’ at the Woodside, Count Basie Orchestra : The Jubilee Alternatives (1944)
  • Etta’s Tune, Rosanne Cash : The River & The Thread
  • It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing, Stan Tracey : Solo/Trio
  • All the Brave Horses, John Stewart : Lonesome Picker Rides Again

For some reason I’d never really listened to the Rolling Thunder CD, put off in part by all those images of Dylan in white clown make up, partly by the various bits and pieces I’d read about it, most of which seemed keen to talk about it as a succession of “happenings” rather than concentrate on the music. So, when I pulled it down from the shelf not so long ago, I was pleasantly surprised by the contents, in particular a reggae-influenced It Ain’t Me, Babe and this nice breathy, almost intimate and uncluttered version of Love Minus Zero/No Limit, long one of my favourites of Dylan’s songs.

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I can readily remember hearing John Prine’s sad and affectionate tribute to the Indian/American actor, Sabu Dastagir. It was a Saturday morning in 1978 (0r could it have been 1979? or even 77?) and I was travelling down to a Film Studies Day on Melodrama at the University of Leicester (or it could have been Loughborough, the exact location isn’t important). What is definite is that the car was being driven by Professor Charles Gregory, who was spending a year on a lecturing exchange in the American Studies department at the University of Nottingham, where I was studying for an MA.

Greg and I had bonded early on over a number of shared interests, cinematic, literary and musical – more specifically, film noir, hard-boiled crime fiction and what would now be called Americana – country music, folk and blues. I’m not sure what he had been expecting in the UK, musically – not a rigid diet of Englebert Humperdink, George Formby and Gracie Fields, as he was knowledgeable fan of Richard Thompson, John Renbourn, Pentangle and Fairport Convention – but in order to keep in touch with home, and, as he put it, keep himself sane, he had brought with him a cassette of cherished songs, not all of which I remember, though there was certainly Kris Kristofferson singing Sunday Morning Coming Down, Janis Joplin’s Me and Bobby McGhee, some John Stewart, some Rosalie Sorrels, Jimmy Buffett’s He Went To Paris, Dave Bomberg’s version of Mister Bojangles and the aforementioned John Prine. I learned a great deal from Greg on all sorts of front and in all sorts of ways, not least how to belly up to the bar drinking shots of bourbon with water backs and not fall over – at least not till I got up. He was a good friend who died too early and whenever I hear any of those songs just mentioned he comes to mind.

The In Memory Archives of California State University, Sacramento, where Greg taught, begins thus …

Charles T. Gregory, Professor Emeritus of English at California State University, Sacramento, the originator of the campus’s Film Studies Program, a strong supporter of student rights, a campus leader in the student protest movement of the late 1960’s and 1970’s, and a highly regarded specialist in twentieth-century British and American literature, died October 10. He was 70.

and continues later …

Though Professor Gregory was well known for his frank and sometimes blunt criticism during discussions of English Department and campus-wide issues, he was soft-spoken and renowned for his dry wit and keen intelligence. He was much admired by both students and faculty for his courage and honesty.

When asked for a final comment about Professor Gregory, Nelson (Professor Emeritus Charles E. Nelson, friend and colleague) said, I think what Hamlet said about his late father very effectively describes what Greg meant to his family, colleagues and friends: ‘He was a man. Take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again.”’

You can read the whole piece here, just scroll down …

http://www.csus.edu/org/retirees/in_memory/2006_mem.html

And thinking of people who died too early there’s Sabu himself, of course. His first film appearance, at the age of 13, was  as The Elephant Boy of the title in Robert Flaherty’s 1937 movie, after which, most notably, he was Abu in The Thief of Bagdad and Mowgli in The Jungle Book.  During WW2, he flew on B52 bombers as a tail gunner and ball turret gunner and was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross for his bravery. After the war, however, his career stumbled and his last significant role was in Michael Powell’s Black Narcissus in 1947. In 1952, mirroring the events in Prine’s song, he went on tour with an elephant act as Sabu, the Elephant Boy, appearing in this country as part of Harringay Circus. Largely forgotten, he died from a heart attack in 1963 at the age of only 39.

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All of which doesn’t leave a lot of space to write about the other tracks shuffled up here. I should mention that the Alex Welsh Doggin’ Around is not the better known one from the 1973 album of the same name, with Roy Williams on trombone and Johnny Barnes on reeds, but comes from a 1981 BBC Sounds of Jazz broadcast which has Roy Crimmins back in the band on trombone and – featured heavily here – the excellent and under-rated Al Gay on tenor sax.

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The Townes Van Zandt was recorded live at the Union Chapel in Islington, a concert I happily attended. More happily, certainly, than Townes’ final UK gig at the Borderline, in which he was in too poor a condition to perform in anything but a most perfunctory manner, and, after a lot of brave attempts, finally in no condition to perform at all.

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