Thu, Mar 7th - 7:18AM
Beachcombings from the Halling Valley Riverbank 2
More (Lyrical) Beachcombings
Some Romantic Afternoon
Some Romantic Afternoon
I will hear that haunting tune
The one that I would softly croon
By a lagoon
We'd go sailing to Cadiz
For a while it seemed like bliss
Now it all seems just a myth
Took a boat to southern Spain
Just to see her face again
She had gone forever
Not to return there
I could not control the tears
How they burned my eyes
As I looked back at those lost years
Some Romantic Afternoon
I will hear that haunting tune
The one that I would softly croon
By a lagoon.
Oh My My My (Call the FBI)
Couldn't believe my peepers
When I first saw you
Couldn't believe the beauty
Of your baby blues
I knew I had to ask you if you'd
Like to dance
I knew I had to take heart and to
Take that chance
First you resisted me you said
You couldn't leave
Your friends alone
But after our first dance you said
You thought they would be
OK to find their own way home
Oh my my my
Call the FBI
I think I lost my pride
I think I found my bride
Couldn't believe I'd ever
Find a girl like you
Couldn't believe we'd bond
As if by Superglue
I knew I had such tender feelings
In my heart
I knew that I could fix it so we'd
First you resisted me you said
You weren't ready
To fall in love
But after our first dance you said
You thought you'd give
This crazy swain another chance
Oh my my my
Call the FBI
I think I lost my pride
I think I found my bride.
For More than a Million Dreams
Keep on chipping
Right away at my heart
Because you touched it
Right from the start
If you were to leave me
We were to part
It would really tear me apart
Don't stop now,
Darling you're getting to me
Don't quit now
That you're ahead
Don't stop now
You've made an impression on me
Now there's no getting you out of my head.
Keep on tearing
All my defences down
Because I feel that
They're all going to fall
Keep on keeping up with
All of your charms
Because I feel
I'm going to give you my all
Don't stop now,
You lit such a fire in me
Don't quit now
Because that would be cruel
Don't stop now
Darling, don't tire of me
I'd feel such a fool and so confused
You're the one
I have longed for you
For more than a million dreams
You're the one
I have been strong for you
You don't know how hard it's been
Don't stop now,
Darling you're getting to me
Don't quit now
That you're ahead
Don't stop now.
With your pre-Raphaelite curls
You don't seem quite of this world
Such a strange and a sad-eyed girl
What happened to your smile
How came you to be so full of guile
Your eyes seem to stare for miles
For such a sweet and a tender child
There's someone you've got to meet
The truth can set you free
The way you live is a shame
Life is more than a game
Freedom's found in just one name
I'd like to show you another way
Where the dark can't harm you
Night or day
With your pre-Raphaelite curls
You don't seem quite of this world
Such a strange and a sad-eyed girl.
My travels start
Deep in my mind
My travels take me just where
I please I don't have
To leave my warm room
My travels start
Sinatra's crooning Jobim
And I'm just dreaming of my
Great romance to come
I don't need a little ticket
Tells me I can take the train
I don't even to risk it
There's no blistering sun
Or driving rain
And it's here that I remain
My travels end
With a sweet
And peaceful time
I've found such sense deep within
No more will I feel
The need to go travelling again.
Wed, Mar 6th - 2:36PM
Beachcombings from the Halling Valley Riverbank 1
First (Versified) Beachcombings
Some Sun Drunk Day He Said
Emotions war against sense
And his mind remains
A pot pourri,
And thoughts in his head
When he lies in his bed
Would make Dorian Gray
He wishes to moralize
On a corrupt example
Yet from the wicked cup
He hath supped a sample.
He appears to think in extremes;
He is beau-laid and realist
Whose inspiration stems from his dreams.
"Life is a beautiful strain for me,"
One sun-drunk day he said,
"But I pray I say what my soul needs to
Before the heavens decide me dead."
But his mind is a disorderly drawer
Full of confused categorizations;
He has that Scott Fitzgerald illness
For dates, times, rhymes and quotations.
"I have a clear flowing mind
But I cannot foretell
When the clogging black clouds will arrive,
For they will arrive.
Live with the love, then bear the pain
Recurrent like the monsoon rain."
He is afraid of happiness
For the inevitable despair that must follow it;
Afraid of happiness
For its cruel impermanence.
Like Zola, the seasons in life, for him
"All artists," he says, "are at once alike and unique
One day, it's clear,
The next, hazy, like a beery vision
The fulfilment that they seek."
Misty dreams of sweet-smelling roses
And swaying streams
Bring him chills and pains in his soul and being;
He lives his life through a melancholy tragedy
And has an ever-yearning mind.
Bouzingo: The Gathering of the Poets
The boy was aged about eighteen,
Pale and pensive,
Weary and frail in appearance.
He could have been
Or Chateaubriand's melancholy hero,
Embraced by a generation,
And about whom Sainte-Beuve said:
"René, c'est moi."
Tortured by a new mal du siècle,
He sought refuge
In the Club Bouzingo.
Two young poets,
One dark, the other fair,
Drifted past. The first,
Whose black hair
Hung in ringlets over his shoulders,
Wore a small pointed beard,
Black velvet tails,
A white linen shirt
Loosely fastened at the neck
By a thin pink taffeta tie;
The second wore a tight coat
That opened onto a silk crimson waistcoat
And a lace jabot, white trousers
With blue seams,
And a wide-brimmed black hat, and
In one of his hands
He carried a long thin pink-coloured pipe.
They were soon joined
By some of their dandified companions.
The music had stopped playing, and
The poet-leader in cape and gloves,
Dark and pomaded
With a Théophile Gautier moustache,
Took to the stage,
Where he proceeded to declaim
Selections from his subversive verses
To delirious cheers,
As if sedition was imminent;
Only the boy-poet remained silent,
His pale cheeks
Soaked by the freshest tears.
"Après nous, le déluge,"
He said under his breath,
"Our leader preaches revolution
But provides no solution
As to the fate of coming generations,
Should the infant be cast out
With the bath water that is so filthy
In his sight
That, intent on doing right,
Gives no thought to the future,
Nor to what might supplant
The society he claims to despise."
The boy was aged about eighteen
Pale and pensive
Weary and frail in appearance.
He could have been
Or Chateaubriand's melancholy hero,
Embraced by a generation,
And about whom Sainte-Beuve said:
"René, c'est moi."
Tortured by a new mal du siècle,
He sought refuge
From the Club Bouzingo.
It was my evening, that's
For sure -
"Its your aura"
For sure -
At last I'm good
"Spot the Equity card!"
"When are you going
To be a superstar?"
That seemed to be
On everyone's lips.
At last, at last, at last
I'm good at something.
And so the party...Zoe
called me...I listened
To her problems;
To my "innocent face"
"Sally seems elusive
But is in fact,
You're the opposite -
You give to everyone
But are incapable
Of giving in particular.
Madeleine was comparing me
To June Miller;
Descriptions by Nin:
"She does not dare
To be herself..."
Everything I'd always
Wanted to be, I now am.
On the reflections
Of herself in the eyes
There is no June
To grasp and know."
I kept getting up to dance
Sally said: "I'm afraid;
You're not just
Of the spells of calm,
And the hysterical
Then anxious elation.
The Wanderer of Golders Green
I awake each morning
With fresh hope
I might go for a saunter
Down quiet London backstreets...
Soon my aimlessness
And I realise
I'd been deceiving myself
As to my ability
To relax as others do.
I decided on a Special B
Before the eve.
I bought a lager
At the Bar
And chatted to Gaye.
Bought me another.
I appreciated the fact
That he remembered
The time he,
His gal Chris,
And Cary Downed
An entire Bottle
Of Jack Daniels
In a Paris-bound train.
A tanned cat
Bought me a (large) half,
Then another half.
My fatal eyes
Are my downfall.
I drank yet another half...
My head was spinning
When it hit the pillow;
With a terrible headache
Around one o'clock.
I prayed it would depart.
I slowly got dressed.
I was as chatty as ever
Before the exam...
Periodically I put my face
In my hands or groaned
Or sighed -
was burning me inside.
I finished my paper
In 1 hour and a half.
As I walked out
I caught various eyes
Amanda's, Jade's (quizzical) etc.
I went to bed;
Slept 'till five;
Read O'Neill until 7ish...
And strolled down
To Golders Green,
In order to relive
A few memories.
I sang to myself -
A few memories
Flashed into my mind,
But not as many
as I'd have liked -
It wasn't the same.
It wasn't the same.
Singing songs brought
I snuck into McDonald's
Where I felt at home,
I bought a few things,
Toothpaste and pick,
Wed, Mar 6th - 4:20AM
A Halling Is a Halling Wherever He Is
Incidents from an Infamous Year Zero
As the '70s proceeded apace, both Prog and Glam receded in terms of influence, although they'd experience periodic rebirths. Glam, for example, would be revived in the '80s through American Glam Metal, and the British Goth and New Romantic movements; and still exists to this day. However, given the extent to which the West has become inured to outrage, its power to shock has been reduced to zero.
By '77, it had been supplanted by Punk, a movement which, if it were at all possible, was even more scandalous.
While some years earlier, Soul, a melodic fusion of Gospel and R&B which had made a massive impact on the Pop charts, birthed a mutation known as Disco, one of whose major hallmarks was the liberal and highly distinctive use of strings.
Thence, Pat was involved in several major projects at the height of the Disco era, including the international hit album, Symphony of Love (1978) by Miquel Brown, which was produced by British composer Alan Hawkshaw. And another Hawkshaw production, Again and Again by Love De-Luxe, from the following year.
Pat also worked with Alec R Costandinos' Love and Kisses project, which produced three albums between 1977 and '79 which were massively successful at the time, yielding several US hit singles, and helping to define the Disco sound.
And both Pat and Costandinos had worked with another French Disco pioneer, Jean-Marc Cerrone, on the 1976 hit album, Love in C Minor, concocted at a time when Disco had yet to truly enter the mainstream.
While Pat played on several other Costandinos records, including an acknowledged Disco masterpiece, Romeo and Juliet (1978), which has to be lauded for its subject matter. For while Soul in the seventies was as extensive as Rock; and every inch as sublime at its most artistic, Disco had a greater tendency to fixate on the pleasures of the flesh. And so was the ultimate music of the mid 1970s, at a time the values of the permissive society were seeping into the mainstream. Yet at the same time, there were many exceptions, and Disco could be no less artistically exalted than Soul.
He also appeared on Costandinos' own Sphinx and Winds of Change, from '77 and '79 respectively, Look Out and Ordinary Man (1979) for Bad News Travels Fast, and a Costandinos produced album for Tina Turner entitled Love Explosion, also from '79. As well as, from the year before, Melaphonia's Limelight Disco Symphony, produced by Franck Pourcel and Alain Boublil as a Disco tribute to Sir Charles Chaplin, who'd died the previous Christmas Day.
Boublil went on to write the libretto for the smash-hit musical, Les Misérables, with composer Claude-Michel Schoenberg; while John Cameron provided the original orchestration.
And Pat was involved with the London production of Les Miz for many years as the leader of the orchestra, one of several highlights of a concert career which has seen him work with Pop legends as diverse as Ella Fitzgerald, Perry Como, Tony Bennett, Tiny Tim, Barry Manilow and Boy George of Culture Club; and tour with Tom Jones and Barrie White.
But as a personal fan of the Old Groaner's, it's his participation in Bing Crosby's final tour that is perhaps the dearest to his heart.
In September '77, Bing, his family, and close friend Rosemary Clooney began a concert tour of England that included two weeks at the London Palladium. He recorded an album, Seasons, and a TV Christmas special with David Bowie and Twiggy, which featured a famous duet with Bowie.
And Pat actually managed to wangle an autograph from Der Bingel during what may have been a final recording session at Maida Vale studios. But the great man had initially objected to Pat helping himself to a piece of his sheet music, before relenting with the words, "He seems like a good man," and signing the music into the bargain.
His final concert took place at the Brighton Centre on the 12th of October 1977. For two days afterwards, following a round of 18 holes of golf on a course near Madrid, he died from a massive heart attack. And his passing came at the end of a year that had claimed a string of cultural giants including Joan Crawford, Elvis Presley, Groucho Marx, Maria Callas, Marc Bolan, and Charlie Chaplin.
And amidst all this tragedy, Punk's inexorable ascent to international notoriety showed no signs of abating. Yet while the London variant thrived, New York failed to capitalise on its initial promise as Punk's true spiritual capital.
For lest we forget...Punk's origins lie in the US among the so-called Garage bands of the 1960s. And their attempts to emulate the rougher acts of the British Invasion, themselves heavily indebted to American Rhythm and Blues. But it was the distinct New York variant of the early '70s that exerted the greatest sway on British Punk, and largely through the influence of a young entrepreneur by the name of Malcolm McLaren.
McLaren was born in London as the son of a Scottish father and Jewish mother, and raised by his grandmother, the daughter of a Sephardic-Jewish diamond merchant.
As an art student in the late 1960s, he was drawn to the subversive ideas of the Paris Situationists, believed to have played a part in fomenting the '68 riots, and were themselves offshoots of the post-war Lettrists.
Formed by the charismatic Isidore Isou in the late 1940s, the Lettrists were very much precursors of the Punks, and one of their number, Jean-Michel Mension sported a pair of trousers scrawled with slogans as early as 1953, as seen in a famous photograph by Ed van der Elsken.
In 1971, he and his then girlfriend, Vivienne Westwood, opened Let it Rock, an outlet specialising in '50s style Teddy Boy clothing designed by himself and Vivienne, at 430 Kings Road, Chelsea. It exists today - as Worlds End - as part of Dame Vivienne's global fashion empire.
Four years later, he became the manager of the disintegrating New York Dolls, who'd created a sensation in the UK at the height of Glam with a combination of androgynous image and uncompromisingly raw proto-Punk music.
He designed some red leather outfits for them in tandem with a new pseudo-Communist image, but it was too late to save them, and they folded soon afterwards. But while in New York, he came across a former Sandford Preparatory student from Lexington, Kentucky, by the name of Richard Hell.
He'd taken his name from a famous prose poem by Arthur Rimbaud, and was at various times a member of several key New York Punk Rock outfits. And McLaren was especially impressed by his unique image of torn tee-shirt and spiky unkempt hair, allegedly inspired by the famous tousle-haired photograph of Rimbaud by Etienne Carjat, and so before long he'd decided to take it back home to London and promote an anglicised version.
Some time afterwards, he afforded his Kings Road boutique the provocative new name of Sex, and set himself up as the manager of a group formed by three denizens of the Hammersmith area of West London, allegedly at the urging of their guitarist, Warwick "Wally" Nightingale. And there is some evidence they were called the Strand, after a song on the second Roxy Music album, For Your Pleasure.
And with Johnny Rotten, a young London Irishman born John Lydon in 1956, on board as front man, the band was renamed the Sex Pistols, and so began the most infamous Punk odyssey of them all.
However, no sooner had Punk taken off, than it was supplemented in the UK with those very elements it was reacting against; as a generation of brilliant acts and artists, such as the Police, Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson, fused the attitude of Punk with the sophistication of Art Rock.
While this New Wave threatened to supplant Punk at its crudest, other genres competed with it for the hearts and souls of the British young. Such as Reggae, which was favoured by many Punks, and Electronica, which had been pioneered all throughout the '70s mainly by so-called Kraut Rock acts such as Can, Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream. And which became highly fashionable in the London of the late 1970s, ultimately birthing the New Romantics.
And Disco was at the height of its popularity, not just in the UK but the US, although I can't remember even being aware of the term. One thing is certain, though, is that I was as much a lover of Soul as Punk circa '77; and for much of that year, dressed more like a Soul Boy than a Punk, although I would not be apprised of the existence of such a phenomenon until relatively late in the year. Soul Boys and Girls being largely young working class men and women who in the late 1970s, dressed in a flamboyant style somewhat reminiscent of Punk (at least how I saw it), while favouring, as their name suggests, the melodic and rhythmic beauties of Soul.
In fact, it was only in its final few months I started affecting the more flagrant trappings of Punk; such as spiked and dyed hair and drainpipe jeans.
So for me, '78 was my own personal Punk Year Zero; and it was in that year, at the very height of Disco, that Central Heating by Heatwave, a rare classic of British Soul, was released.
Produced by former teen idol Barry Blue, and with arrangements by John Cameron, with Pat Halling serving as his concertmaster, it was a massive hit on both sides of the Atlantic, ascending to number 10 on the Billboard 200. And yielding two hit singles in the shape of The Groove Line by Englishman Rod Temperton, and Mind Blowing Decisions by American lead vocalist Johnny Wilder Jr.
Temperton went on to write for the best-selling album in musical history, which is Michael Jackson's Thriller, produced by Quincy Jones in 1982.
He also wrote for Quincy on his own hit album The Dude, with singer Patti Austin sounding remarkably like Jackson; as well as for Patti herself. While George Benson's Love X Love was blessed with the same kind of stardust that helped turn Michael Jackson into the most famous Rock star on the planet.
Then towards the end of the '70s, Pat played what was possibly his most memorable ever solo for a television program. And this was for the stunning opening and closing theme to the BBC's Life on Earth natural history series, composed by Edward Williams, and conducted by Marcus Dods.
As a solo it was so breathtakingly beautiful that Pat was compared by one devotee of the violin to Jascha Heifetz, whom many believe to have been the greatest violinist of them all. Quite an honour for the boy from the Tamar Valley.
From New Pop to Rap in the Crazy 1980s
The '80s was a potentially tough decade for session musicians such as Pat Halling as the synthesizer started threatening the world of recorded music as never before. And one of the fruits of this putsch was the so-called New Pop that arose in the wake of Punk.
And New Pop could be said to be a more purely commercial variant of the aforesaid New Wave; itself an offshoot of Punk. Although the term was only ever used in the UK, while the US continued to favour that of New Wave to describe the explosion of British synth-driven bands that invaded the Pop charts on both sides of the Atlantic throughout the '80s.
For several New Pop acts took part in the so-called Second British Invasion, which saw British bands dominating the American Pop charts to a degree unknown since the hey day of the Beatles. And this was largely due to a demand on the part of the newly launched MTV music channel for glamorous videos which enabled British acts such as Culture Club, Duran Duran and Eurythmics to score massive transatlantic hits.
But for many, this resurgence of Pop was a negative development, despite the musicality of many of its proponents, so that it fused the commercialism of Pop with the virtuosity of Rock. And it could certainly be said that such phenomena as Glam, Punk and Goth witnessed a certain taming throughout the '80s; so that by the end of the decade, they had been shorn of their ability to shock.
But for all the ballyhoo created by the rise of Electronica, Pat Halling's career was barely affected. And in 1980, he worked again for his old friend John Cameron...this time on the movie The Mirror Crack'd, based on the Agatha Christie novel, with music by JC, and featuring a roll call of Hollywood legends. Pat even had a small non-speaking cameo in the movie as a World War II bandleader.
And in that same year, he led the orchestra for Man of the World by Greek superstar Demis Roussos, which, while produced by David Mackay, featured another close friend, Barrie Guard, as conductor.
He also found time to lead for the distinguished composer Wilfrid Joseph's theme to the 1980 BBC TV series of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. While a year later, he appeared on Pas Facile by French Rock and Roll legend Johnny Hallyday.
In 1982, he was back with John Cameron for a further star-studded Agatha Christie movie, Evil Under the Sun, helmed, as in the case for Crack'd by Bond director Guy Hamilton, and produced by Lord Brabourne and Richard Goodwin, who became a close friend.
For Richard's wife, Christine Edzard, he served as the soloist for "Biddy" in 1983...working again with Christine, with Richard producing, on Dickens' Little Dorrit in '88, and two years later on The Fool, written by Christine with Oliver Stockman. While all three movies were scored by Michel Sanvoisin.
For Paul McCartney, possibly the most lauded Rock and Roll musician in history, he led the orchestra for the soundtrack to the '84 movie, Give My Regards to Broad Street. And while it sold well, the film itself performed poorly at the Box Office; although it benefits from a good deal of affection from contemporary McCartney fans.
A year later, he was concertmaster for his old colleague David Essex on the album version of the musical Mutiny, based on Mutiny on the Bounty by Nordhoff and Hall. And also in '85, played on three tracks from Jazz musician Barbara Thompson's album Heavenly Bodies.
And then a year after that, he contributed to To Go Beyond II, final track from the hugely successful Enya album by Irish superstar Enya Brennan. As well as If for Hollywood Beyond, featuring singer-songwriter Mark Rogers. And tenor saxophonist Spike Robinson's Gershwin Collection.
In 1988, he and Richard Studt served as orchestra leaders on Elaine Page's The Queen Album, produced by Mike Moran, while in '89, he worked with yet another Rock legend, Pete Townshend, serving as leader on his concept album, The Iron Man - The Musical, based on the novel by Ted Hughes.
Interestingly, Pete's father Jazz saxophonist Cliff Townshend had been a colleague of Pat's during their time together on the famous BBC television chat show, Parkinson, named after host Michael Parkinson.
Then in 1990, he appeared on John Williams' album, The Guitar is the Song, having earlier worked with the great Classical guitarist on John Williams plays Patrick Gowers and Scarlatti (1972), and Portrait of John Williams (1982).
But briefly returning to film and TV, television projects on which Pat worked throughout the '80s include Hold that Dream (1986), based on the novel by Barbara Taylor Bradford, with original score by longtime friend Barrie Guard, Tears in the Rain (1988), from a novel by Pamela Wallace, with music again by Guard, and The Darling Buds of May (1992-1993), based on the novel by H.E. Bates, and with music by Pip Burley and Guard.
His recording career in the '90s included work for acts and artists as varied as British Indie band Cud, and French singer, Dany Brillant (Nouveau Jour from 1999).
And on a larger scale, the '90s witnessed the fading of such once provocative cults of Glam, Punk and Goth to make way for the far starker cult of Grunge, as well as the facelessness of Electronic Dance. But the greatest success story of the decade was Rap, which many would contend is not a Rock music genre at all, but an entirely different form of music, as distinct from Rock as Rock once was from Jazz.
While others would insist all offshoots of Rock's first forefathers that have in some way benefited from the Rock revolution are perforce forms of Rock and Roll. And by forefathers I'm referring primarily to Rhythm and Blues and Country and Western. And I'm inclined to side with this view.
A Halling Is a Halling Wherever He Is
Moving into the Noughties...and Tiny Tim's 1968 concert at the Albert Hall finally secured a CD release in 2000 through Rhino Handmade Records as Tiny Tim Live! At the Royal Albert Hall. And conducted by Carpenters producer Richard Perry, and with Pat among the first violins led by Tony Gilbert, it was revealed as a neglected masterpiece that had remained unreleased for nearly two decades. Yet within two years of its recording, Tim's legendary appearance at the Isle of Wight Festival would secure a standing ovation from the assembled hippies, with the Beatles and the Stones among them.
And between 2000 and 2002, Pat played violin for a band formed by his good friend Barrie Guard, and featuring myself on vocals; and together with bass player John Sutton, we recorded a series of demos at Barrie's home studio in Esher, and even went so far as to record a pilot radio show. We gigged sporadically for about a year and a half to limited response, until a final concert at the 2002 Shelton Arts Festival brought us - as I see it - into contact with the kind of intimate cultured audience we should have been aiming for all along...and we all but brought the house down. But dispersed soon afterwards after barely eighteen months together.
On a brighter note, there's a fascinating tale attached to singer-songwriter John Dawson Read for whom Pat served as leader on his two classic albums from the '70s, namely A Friend of Mine is Going Blind from '75, and Read On from a year later.
Sometime around 2005, fellow singer-songwriter Michael Johnson included an MP3 of Read singing the title track of his first album, A Friend of Mine on his website, and many Read fans began communicating through the site as a result.
His subsequent re-entry into the music world after nearly thirty years of relative inactivity, resulted in a third album, Now where were we? being released that same year, and a fourth, One Life, in 2012.
Until quite recently, Pat served as leader for the longest running comedy series in television history, Roy Clarke's Last of the Summer Wine. And working alongside Pat was harmonica maestro Jim Hughes, whose playing it was that made Ronnie Hazelhurst's gently pastoral theme tune so distinctive.
From about 2005, Pat began work on an album of popular song standards featuring Jim on harmonica, myself on vocals, Judd Procter on guitar, Dave Richmond and John Sutton on bass, and John Dean and Sebastian Guard on drums.
The album was produced by Pat and arranged by John Smith. And largely engineered by sound recordist Tony Philpot, with contributions by Keith Grant of West London's legendary Olympic Studios. To be finally released in 2007 as A Taste of Summer Wine by James Hughes Carl Halling with the London Swingtette.
Pat's most recent projects as of early 2013 have included the 2007 world premiere of A Poet's Calendar by long-time friend Derek Wadsworth, with whom Pat first worked in the '70s, such as on Alan Price's Metropolitan Man from '75. As well as performances of Quartets 1 and 2 by legendary drummer, composer, arranger and band leader, Tony Kinsey. And a string of concerts, the first of these taking place at Central London's Cadogan Hall in the spring of 2010, and featuring works by Haydn, Debussy and Purcell. To say nothing of the world premiere of John Cameron's Tara's Brooch,which features on a CD of theirs released towards the end of that year. All with the revived Quartet Pro Musica.
Then in early 2012, the quartet - whose current members are, apart from Pat, Keith Lewis (violin), Richard Cookson (viola) and Myrtle Bruce-Mitford (cello) - worked with harmonica genius Philip Achille in bringing a beautiful new work by Tony Kinsey, Quintet for String Quartet and Orchestra, to glorious life.
Away from his music, Pat continues to be a fervid dinghy sailor during the season at his local club of Aquarius SC.
Also, for several years he's attended functions organised by PPL, formerly known as Phonographic Performance Limited, a music licensing company which collects and distributes airplay and performance royalties on behalf of record companies and performers throughout the UK.
At one of these, the Fair Play 95, which took place on behalf of the Fair Play for Musicians campaign at the Stanhope Hotel in Brussels in April 2009, he played a medley of Tony Hatch's Downtown and the Beatles' All You Need is Love, before inviting flamenco guitarist Manuel Espinosa on to the stage for a short duet.
There seems to be no end to the man's almost preternatural energy and force of will. And although there's no hard and fast evidence that Pat has Scandinavian blood, research related to the Norwegians who emigrated to the American Midwest from about the mid-19th Century onwards reveals that one of the purported characteristics of the Hallings of the Halling Valley in Norway's Buskerud County is firmness "in thoughts and beliefs"; so that he would "rather break than bend." This in the words of the Norwegian-American writer, Syver Swenson Rodning, who allegedly took first prize in an essay set by a man called Hallingen in 1917 called A Halling is a Halling wherever he is, the Hallings themselves settling primarily in Spring Grove, Minnesota, where traces of their dialect and subculture survived into the 1930s.
Perhaps then, alone among the three children born to Phyllis Mary Halling, Patrick is a true Halling with roots deep in the Hallingdal where the Halling Valley River lies.
And what of the music that has dominated his days and nights for so many decades? The truth is it has never been more accessible thanks to the miracle of sites such as Spotify and You Tube. Sites where one might access a degree of music inconceivable to those of my generation, who as late as the late 1990s could only ever hear as much music as they were able to afford via the medium of the long playing record, Compact Disc or Musicassette.
And of Rock...surely the most revolutionary music form in history, it could be said it has been tamed at long last. And quietly taken its place alongside Classical, Jazz and Folk as just another facet of the massive music industry. But then is that not its final victory?
Tue, Mar 5th - 6:59AM
Rock and Roll and the Western Soul
The Burgeoning Generation of Love
The highpoint of Patrick Halling's early Pop career was undoubtedly his leadership of the string section for the Beatles' All You Need Is Love, transmitted live at the height of the so-called Summer of Love on July 25th 1967.
The programme, entitled Our World, was the first satellite broadcast in history, and it secured an audience of 350 million, which was unprecedented at that time. And among those taking part were such legendary figures of the swinging sixties as Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Eric Clapton, Keith Moon, Marianne Faithful and Donovan.
But this was not Pat's first involvement with the burgeoning Underground or Progressive Rock movement. For the previous year of '66, he'd taken part in the recording of Donovan's Museum, destined to see the light of day on the Mellow Yellow album, which reached the number 14 position on the Billboard Hot 100. Although it failed to secure a UK release due to contractual complications.
Also involved with the Mellow Yellow sessions were close friends Mickie Most, who produced; and John Cameron, who did most of the arrangements. As well as session guitarist Big Jim Sullivan, and future Led Zeppelin members, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones.
A year later, he worked on a project that was as much a concept album as any of the Beatles' records of the same period, Ken Moule's superb Adam's Rib Suite, which fused elements of Jazz, Pop and Classical music to recount the history of womankind from Eve to Cleo Laine.
Needless to say, though, it was infinitely less successful than any comparable record within the Rock genre, Rock being at the vanguard of popular culture in a way that Jazz had once been, but no longer was. However, by the turn of the decade, a reconciliation between the two alienated factions was well under way, with Jazz-Fusion coming from one camp and the more populist Jazz-Rock from the other.
In '75, Pat served as leader for Mike Gibbs' The Only Chrome Waterfall Orchestra, an unsung early example of British Jazz fusion, which was finally released on CD in 1997. Adam's Rib followed it on CD exactly ten years later.
By the time of his involvement with Adam's Rib, Pat had already moved into the worlds of film and television. And his early career included solos for the 1960 movie, Exodus, produced and directed by Otto Preminger, with music by Ernest Gold, as well as for much treasured British sitcom, Steptoe and Son (1969-'74), whose incidental music was composed by his close friend Ron Grainer.
He also served as concertmaster for the great Johnny Green on Carol Reed's version of Lionel Bart's Oliver in 1968, and for John Williams on three movies beginning with the musical version of James Hilton's Goodbye Mr Chips.
And going on to include Jane Eyre (1970), directed by Delbert Mann, and Fiddler on the Roof (1971), by Norman Jewison.
Directed by Herbert Ross in 1969, Chips featured a screenplay by no less a luminary of British literature than Terence Rattigan. And as he was the author of such quintessentially English tragedies as The Browning Version and The Winslow Boy, both centring on the English private school system, he was the perfect choice.
Sadly, though, for all its virtues, including a lovely score by Leslie Bricusse, it was not a critical success, although it was nominated for several major awards, and has gone on to enjoy something of a following on the internet.
Also in '69, he worked on David Lean's Ryan's Daughter, a visually beautiful epic set in rural Ireland during the First World War, which was another film that has grown in stature since its initial release. Written by playwright and screenwriter Robert Bolt, with music by Maurice Jarre, it was poorly received by the critics (while being a modest box office success), although today, its considered by many to be among Lean's finest works.
In addition to Williams, Green and Jarre, he's served as concertmaster for a panoply of major 20th Century musical figures working within the media of film and television, including Dimitri Tiomkin, Nelson Riddle, Georges Delerue, Wilfred Josephs and Christopher Gunning.
But to return the world of Pop, which mutated into Rock, possibly some time towards the end of the late 1960s, while retaining a Pop subsidiary; and became known as such to many of its devotees, presumably as a means of investing it with some respectability as an art form:
As the '60s ceded to the '70s, Pat's close friend Mickie Most was poised to enter the second phase of his glittering Pop career, having been briefly involved with the nascent Rock movement through his management of the Jeff Beck Group. And yet, even at that, he'd sought to turn guitar virtuoso Beck into a major Pop star...while apparently remaining impervious to the star quality of his one-time front man, Rod Stewart.
And it fell to business partner Peter Grant to prosper within Rock music, first as co-manager of the Yardbirds with Most; then as sole manager of Led Zeppelin, who went on to become the ultimate Rock band; and second only to the Rolling Stones in terms of legendary darkness and mystery.
And by the time of the Zeppelin's conquest of America, the face of Western society had been altered almost beyond recognition by the Rock and Roll revolution. Yet, in all good conscience, responsibility for this transformation can't be laid exclusively at the feet of Rock. For, after all, tendencies hostile to the Judeo-Christian fabric of the West can be traced at least as far back as the Enlightenment of the 16th and 17th Centuries.
Much of the groundwork had already been done in other words, and that's especially true of the forties and fifties.
It was in these two immediate post-war decades that the Existentialists and the Beats became international icons of revolt, while lesser groups such as the Lettrists of Paris served as scandal-sowing forerunners of the Situationists, believed to have played a major role in fomenting the Paris riots of May '68.
At the same time, Britain's first major youth cult surfaced in the shape of the Teddy Boys, and a cinema of youthful discontent flourished as never before.
Movies such as Stanley Kramer's The Wild One and Nicholas Ray's Rebel Without a Cause fostered a desire among millions of young Americans to be identified as rebels themselves, reacting against the widespread conformity of Eisenhower era America.
For all that, though, none of these phenomena enjoyed a tithe of the influence of Rock in terms of its effect on the Western soul.
Glam and the Gender Revolution
My Pangbourne years coincided with the rise of Rock, which was Pop transmuted into an art form, while somehow including Pop as its less intellectual counterpart. And the music we listened to as self-styled lads had "lad value"; and we called it Underground for its shadowy exclusivity, while at some point it became known as Progressive.
But as I recall...it included both Hard Rock and Soft Rock, and the sophisticated Art Rock of acts and artists as diverse as the Beatles, Frank Zappa and the Doors. And for me, there was no real difference between the experimental Hard Rock of Deep Purple, and the out and out Prog of Yes or Emerson, Lake and Palmer.
For Rock was split into two categories...Underground and Commercial...a term we tended to spit out like some kind of curse, as this was pure Pop, whose domain was the despised hit parade featured weekly on the long-running British TV programme, Top of the Pops.
The Underground, on the other hand, was composed of acts and artists who made music largely for the growing album market. And there were those among them, such as Led Zeppelin, who never graced the singles chart despite earning fortunes through concerts and album sales. And from about '69, the Zep constituted one of my prime facilitators into the turbid depths of the Underground.
But by the time I quit Pangbourne in 1972, a new Rock revolution was underway in the shape of a heterogeneous mix of Rock and Pop allied to an outrageous androgynous image...and known as Glam.
Glam had begun to infiltrate the British charts as early as '71, while making little impact on the US, despite the fact that many of its pioneers were American. While its true roots were to be found in the Blues and early Rock and Roll, more of which later.
But it had been carried into the mainstream by one Marc Bolan, born Mark Feld in 1947 into a Jewish family of working class origins, who had been featured in 1962 in a magazine called Town, as one of the Faces, or leading Mods of Stamford Hill in East London. Although by then he'd moved with his family to a council house in Summerstown in West London.
He went on to achieve major success as one half of the acoustic duo, Tyrannosaurus Rex; the other being multi-instrumentalist Steve Peregrin Took who, like Bolan, was a leading figure of London's Hippie Underground centred on Ladbroke Grove.
But In 1970, Took was replaced by percussionist Mickey Finn, who shared Bolan's love of old-time Rock and Roll. And as T. Rex, they had their first top 5 hit in the shape of Ride a White Swan.
And by the time of their first number one the following year, T. Rex were a four-piece band, with Bolan the biggest British teen sensation since the Beatles. While the Bolan phenomenon was dubbed T Rextasy by the British press...and all throughout the land, bedroom walls were adorned with Bolan's fascinating elfin face.
However, for the true roots of Glam one must return to the very earliest days of Rock and Roll. And specifically to a certain Rhythm and Blues shouter by the name of Little Richard.
As a boy, Richard had attended the New Hope Baptist Church in his native Macon, Georgia, and sung Gospel songs with his family as The Penniman Singers. And aged just 13, he joined Gospel legend Sister Rosetta Tharp onstage in Macon after she heard him singing before the concert. And he had serious ambitions of becoming a full-time minister of the Gospel, while demonstrating extraordinary gifts as a boy preacher.
By 1951, however, the world had begun to beckon, and he won a talent contest in Atlanta that led to a recording contract with RCA Victor, but the four records he subsequently released all flopped. While around about the same time, he came under the sway of an outrageous Rhythm and Blues musician by the name of Esquerita, who shaped his unique piano style.
Esquerita is also believed to have influenced his increasingly flamboyant image, although self-styled King of the Blues Billy Wright, who piled his pomaded hair high on his head and wore eye liner and face powder, was also an influence in this respect.
Real success came for Richard in 1955 with Tutti Frutti, which has been cited as the true starting point for the Rock and Roll revolution; but within two years, he'd quit the business and returned to his faith. And as a Christian myself, I can only hope that for all his struggles, the good Reverend Penniman is a saved Christian man, and there is a good deal of evidence he is. For few Rock stars have been as vocal in their condemnation of Rock and Roll as he has been.
Yet, in his wake, androgyny went on to become one of its major features; and this was true of several of its earliest pioneers. And that includes the single most influential phenomenon in Rock and Roll history with the possible exception of the Beatles, the boy who once worshipped as part of the Pentecostal Assemblies of God for whom fame turned out to be such a mixed blessing: Elvis Aaron Presley.
And the mantle was taken up in the mid to late sixties by such pioneers of Glam as the Kinks, Barrett era Pink Floyd, early Soft Machine, the Rolling Stones, and Alice Cooper. But the decade as a whole witnessed an extraordinary explosion of androgyny on the part of the Western male, which served to pave for the way for the '70s.
And Glam swept a host of musicians who'd been striving for major success since the early '60s to fresh levels of stardom in the UK and elsewhere. Such as David Bowie, Elton John and Rod Stewart. For all three had first appeared on record as part of the British Blues Boom...Bowie and Stewart in '64, and John in '65; and despite being idolised at the height of Glam, they continued to be admired as serious album artists.
For there were two major strands of Glam in its heyday of 1971-'74, one being allied to the consciously artistic tradition of Progressive Rock, the other, to the purest pure Pop. And among those acts and artists affiliated to the former were David Bowie, Roxy Music, Mott the Hoople and the Sensational Alex Harvey Band; while the latter embraced T. Rex, the Sweet, Gary Glitter, Slade and Wizzard. While there were many more who either flirted with the genre from within the confines of Prog, such as the Strawbs, or existed on its fringes, such as Silverhead.
As to stateside Glam, pioneered primarily by Alice Cooper, it went on to include such cult icons as Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, the New York Dolls, Jobriath and Brett Smiley; as well as singer-songwriter, Todd Rundgren, a serious candidate for the most gifted Rock artist of all time. While several major acts were briefly touched by it; such as Aerosmith and Kiss, but it would not be until the 1980s that Glam entered the mainstream in the shape of Glam Metal.
Also among those part of the first wave of Glam was the band that effectively invented the genre, the Rolling Stones. Although they didn't adopt its more flagrant trappings until around 1972, the year they released the album which is widely considered to be their masterpiece, Exile on Main Street.
Initial sessions took place in the basement of the Villa Nellcôte, a 19th century mansion on the waterfront of Villefranche-sur-Mer in France's Cote d'Azur, which had been leased to Keith Richards in the summer of '71. However, several tracks had already been recorded at Mick Jagger's country estate, as well as at West London's legendary Olympic Studios.
Originally a theatre, then a film studio, Olympic was converted into a recording studio by the architect Robertson Grant, while his son Keith Grant - a very close friend of Pat Halling's - completed the acoustics in tandem with Russel Pettinger. It went on to become the virtual nerve centre of the British Rock movement.
Much has been written of the Exile sessions, which saw various icons of the Counterculture passing through Nellcôte as if to lay blessings on the decadent antics taking place therein, which stand today as the very quintessence of the benighted Rock and Roll lifestyle. While less than a decade had passed since Rock's true inception at the hands of the clean-cut Beatles, Western society had already been altered almost beyond recognition within that short space of time.
Yet, responsibility for this transformation can't in all good conscience be laid exclusively at the feet of Rock, given that tendencies inimical to the West's moral fabric can be traced at least as far back as the Enlightenment of the 16th and 17th Centuries. So, how had society come to be so successfully and swiftly revolutionised by Rock?
Part of the answer lies in its sheer popularity, itself arguably born of its extraordinary eclecticism. And among bands embodying this quality during Rock's first golden age of the mid-1960s were the Rolling Stones. And this thanks significantly to the sheer musical brilliance of founder member Brian Jones, who plausibly helped to sow the seeds of the Progressive movement to come, but buttressed by the considerable song writing gifts of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. However, in the late 1960s, with Progressive Rock in the ascent, the Stones seemed to make a conscious effort to return to their Blues origins, as well as embracing other forms of roots music, such as Country and Western, and this process could be said to have reached an apogee with Exile on Main Street in 1972.
In that selfsame year, Pat Halling was involved with an album that was greeted with little of the ballyhoo of Exile. This being Slides, by the great Irish actor Richard Harris, who'd launched a Pop career on the back of Jimmy Webb's 7 minute Pop tour de force, MacArthur Park.
In 2005, it was released on CD with My Boy, receiving very high ratings from Amazon reviewers both in Britain and the US.
However, as the '70s progressed, Pat became involved with several far more successful projects on the fringes of Glam, more of which later.
Rock and Roll and the Western Soul
When such Glam acts and artists as David Bowie and the Sweet had first appeared on British television in full make up around 1972, there were those undilutedly masculine British males who were doubtless moved to revulsion and rage. Yet by about '74, Glam could be said to have shed much of its revolutionary potency.
But by the time it had done so, it had effectuated a minor sexual upheaval by making male androgyny more acceptable than ever before. And it did so in defiance of the Bible's strict delineation of the sexual roles, and prohibition of any form of cross dressing.
And one can only wonder what effect it had on the psychological development of young men such as myself, who'd already been weaned on the ferocious rebel sounds of Rock, only to swoon at the feet of the gorgeous androgynes of Glam.
But while it had entered the mainstream as Teenybop Pop, an avant-garde form persisted in the shape of an apparent nostalgic love affair with Europe's immediate past - and especially its decadent cabaret culture - on the part of acts and artists as diverse as Bowie and Roxy Music; as well as critically acclaimed newcomers Cockney Rebel. And the persona Bowie adopted in 1976, and which he enigmatically dubbed The Thin White Duke could be said to have been the apotheosis of this romantic Europhilia.
But little of this was in evidence in the happy world of Pop which continued to mine the Glam Rock craze for all it was worth, propelling a multitude of entertainers into the charts in the process. Such as one David Cook, a startlingly handsome young cockney Londoner of Irish Traveller extraction who as David Essex became a major star on the fringes of Glam.
But rather than Rock or Teenybop Pop, he did so largely through acting. And it was his own song Rock On that really put him on the map as a major heart throb in 1974, when it became a major hit on both sides of the Atlantic, due in no small part to its distinctive string arrangement, featuring one Pat Halling as concertmaster.
Its follow-up, Stardust, was the title of the hit movie of the same name, a salutary tale of a young Londoner who achieves his dreams of superstardom, only to end up holed up in some Spanish castle as a drug-addicted recluse.
Like its predecessor, it had been produced by New Yorker Jeff Wayne, with whom Pat worked both on Rock On and his own Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds, widely viewed today as a masterpiece.
That same year of '74 saw the release of Cilla Black's In My Life, produced by David Mackay, and The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper's Feast by Rod Edwards and Roger Hand from an original book by William Plomer; both with orchestra led by Pat.
While he was still a close colleague of Mickie Most, who was enjoying the second phase of his glittering Pop career. For as previously stated, Most had been briefly involved with the burgeoning Rock movement in the shape of the Jeff Beck Group, which had been formed in early '67.
But in time, he bequeathed the band to his friend and business partner, Peter Grant, and under Grant's aegis, they went on to enormous success in the US. And by so doing, they anticipated the mega-glory of another Grant-managed band led by a one-time member of the Yardbirds.
I'm referring of course to Led Zeppelin, a band perhaps second only to the Rolling Stones in terms of legendary darkness and mystery, if you'll excuse the leitmotiv.
While Grant went on to take the US by storm with Led Zep, Mickie set about turning RAK, which they'd formed together in 1969, into one the key Pop record labels of the '70s and home to several classic Glam, Pop and Teenybop acts.
These included Disco-Poppers Hot Chocolate which had been formed as early as 1969, and former Detroit native Suzi Quatro, both of whom Pat worked with on several occasions with Mickie at the helm; as well as Mud, Arrows, Kenny, Smokie and Racey.
Quatro benefited from the brilliance of songwriters Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, who also wrote for the Sweet, Mud, Arrows, Smokie and Racey, and for a time was one of the few female stars of the Glam-Glitter genre. But Pat's work in the mid 1970s was by no means restricted to the purest pure Pop, far from it.
There was a major movie project in the shape of The Day of the Jackal, directed by the great Fred Zinnemann, whom I have always admired enormously.
I was fortunate enough to be introduced to him by Pat. And he was the second of two legends of the cinema I met around about that time, the first having been the great Charles Chaplin, and they were both quite delectably charming to me.
Pat was the concertmaster, serving under the Frenchman Georges Delerue - whom I also met - who both composed and conducted the music.
In terms of recorded music, Pat became caught up in the final stages of the Prog Rock boom when he served as leader for Jethro Tull, for despite himself, he'd been part of the growing Rock movement from the outset.
And notably through his association with the Beatles, who by '67 were at the forefront of the Rock revolution; although their Rock was ever replete with beautiful Pop melodies. But the same could also be said of Tull, one of the most purely artistic bands of the genre, which yet achieved both commercial and critical success on both sides of the Atlantic. And the first of these projects, War Child from 1974, could be said to be the quintessence of Rock as an art form, whose earliest expression was the aforesaid Prog.
For by fusing elements of Classical, Folk and Rock, the Prog phenomenon created a music that at times amounted to high art, as in the case of Tull.
But it was Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention who effectively birthed the genre; although the notion of Rock as art had evolved by degrees in both Britain and America, with both the Beatles and Bob Dylan being especially influential in this respect.
Yet while both Britain and America served as the cradles of Art Rock, Prog was characteristically British, with King Crimson, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Yes, Gentle Giant and Genesis serving as early exemplars. And in keeping with its position within the rebel music of Rock, its lyrics often inclined to a darkness of tone which was characteristic of much of the musical Underground of the late 1960s.
Speaking of which...from about '73, it could be said that Progressive Rock set about a return to the Underground whence it had emerged. And from there, took to informing a vast variety of musical genres...including Glam Rock, Jazz Rock, New Wave, Post-Punk, Alt Rock and Indie. In fact, one might go so far as to say its been ubiquitous ever since, so that as things stand, several of the most successful acts in the world could be said to be Progressive in varying degrees.
But by '73, pure Prog was already starting to look stale in comparison to the Art Rock of figures such as Todd Rundgren and David Bowie, who were operating as progressives within the Glam Rock genre.
And in that selfsame year, Pat worked on two concept albums that were nowhere nears as commercial as anything by these two innovators, namely Cosmic Wheels by Donovan; and Johnny Harris' All To Bring You Morning, for which he led the strings. And which featured no less than three one-time members of Yes, who just happened to be recording next door at the time as Johnny and friends, and were great admirers of his work.
He went on to work on a series of Art Rock projects which while not as successful as international best-sellers by the likes of Tull have received fresh critical acclaim through the internet.
They include Beginnings (1975) by Steve Howe, Octoberon (1976) by Barclay James Harvest, Visionary and Perilous Journey (1976/'7) by Gordon Giltrap, Donovan (1977) by Donovan, and Woman in the Wings (1978) by Steeleye Span lead singer Maddie Prior. While a very early Progressive project of Pat's was Definitely What (1969) by Brian Auger and the Trinity.
But for Pat, involvement in the rebel music of Rock and Roll was ever but a means of earning the amounts of money necessary to support a home and family. While in my case, it was entirely voluntary, and one after the other I immersed myself in its messages of revolt.
Which is not to say that all Rock music is overtly dark or iconoclastic, far from it. For much of it is relatively innocuous, and there is much beauty to be found in all forms of Rock, both musically and lyrically, as I've already made clear. Yet from a historical perspective, it could be said that few art forms have been quite so effective in challenging the Judeo-Christian foundations of Western culture as Rock.
And for a time, it was as if a civil war was being fought for the hearts and minds of the young. And that's especially true of the '60s, where in both Britain and America, the conflict was quite extraordinarily fierce...and this persisted into the '70s. With the result that the British Punk insurrection provoked a reaction from ordinary members of the public which would be inconceivable today in a West that has become so utterly inured to outrage.
While by the '80s it could be said to have started to wane, as the values of the Counterculture started percolating the mainstream. And while this was concurrent with a famous conservative backlash, the latter hardly constituted a wholesale return to traditional values. For these were still in terminal recession, and fighting desperately for their very existence. And the backlash was but an expression of this desperation as I see it.
And to those who disagree, I can only say they have failed to realise just how deeply embedded into our society these values once were.
While today, they are merely the province of a minority, and a relatively powerless one at that. So for the time being, it could be said that the culture wars of the past half century or so have been won...and that Rock and Roll stands tall among its victors.
Mon, Mar 4th - 6:38PM
And So the British Blues Explosion
The Riddle of the British English
The first son of Patrick and Ann Halling was born Carl Robert Halling at the tail end of West London's Goldhawk Road, which is the sole and only section not to bisect the traditionally working class district of Shepherd's Bush. And while officially in Hammersmith, is far closer to the more bourgeois area of Chiswick.
My first home was a little Victorian cottage in Notting Hill, but by the time of my brother's birth, the family had already moved to Bedford Park, which while also in Chiswick according to its postcode, is nonetheless part of the Southfield ward of nearby Acton. And presumably was then too.
One thing is certain is that it was part of the obsolete Borough of Acton; and along with the County of London, which paved the way for the contemporary Greater London Council, it was scrapped in 1965.
Carl was the name of my paternal grandfather, and Robert that of my mother's brother Bob, and technically speaking, I came into the world very much a Briton as opposed to an Englishman. Which is to not to say I don't consider myself English, because I most decidedly do; but my origins lie not just in England, but three of the four constituent countries of the United Kingdom.
Thence, I'm Scottish and Scots-Irish and - possibly also - English Canadian through my mother, and English and - again possibly also - Danish Australian through my dad, with a further feasible Cornish admixture coming courtesy of my paternal grandmother.
For her maiden name of Pinnock is a common one in Cornwall, and therefore of conceivable Brythonic Celtic origin...the word Brythonic having served as the origin for more modern terms such as Britain and Briton, as well as British.
To explain...there have always been two distinct strains of Celtic people, which is to say, the Brythonic and the Goidelic, or Gaelic. And while the Welsh, Cornish, Manx and Breton peoples are of the Brythonic strain, the Scottish and the Irish are of the Gaelic.
It could be said therefore that I partake of both Gaelic and Brythonic Celtic ancestry. Confused? You should be.
Whatever the truth, I'm proud of my roots in Ulster and Glasgow, both of which possess long-established proletarian traditions, and the same applies to Wales and the North and Midlands of England. The South, on the other hand, is widely seen as an affluent, middle class region, and that's especially true of the so-called home counties, which are those adjacent to London.
Needless to say, though, poverty does exist in these regions, and even the great metropolis of London contains no less than fourteen of the nation's most deprived twenty boroughs. Yet it remains one of the most powerful urban centres in the world.
And according to certain authorities, it's easily the most powerful, being the financial heart of a still existent British empire.
Others would refute this theory out of hand, but it attracts strong support nonetheless. For my part, I view it with a characteristic mix of open-mindedness and scepticism.
What's more, while Glasgow is home to a massive urban working class, with clearly defined Catholic and Protestant communities, Scotland's capital city of Edinburgh has a reputation for great gentility. Yet, in common with other affluent cities throughout a nation of striking extremes of wealth and poverty, she also contains areas of enormous deprivation.
One of these, Leith, is the setting for the controversial novel Trainspotting by Irving Welsh, which was made into a successful movie in 1996.
I'm also proud of more overtly Anglo-Saxon ancestry coming through my father, who although born in Tasmania and raised by a Danish father in Sydney, New South Wales, is English through his mother Mary. For having established my quintessential British credentials, England is the nation I identify with in spirit.
Indeed if anyone incarnates the riddle of what it is to be both British and English, it's me. For lest we forget, Britain is less a nation than a sovereign state of four nations, four countries, four peoples...England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Yet, for all this talk of earthly nations, in the end there will only be one state remaining, another country, to quote from the famous British hymn, I Vow to Thee My Country, another country in which all distinctions of ethnicity and class will be a thing of the past, and all conflict consigned to the Lake of Fire to burn forever and ever.
And so the British Blues Explosion
My first school was a kind of nursery school held on a daily basis at the home of one Miss Pierce in Bedford Park.
But as the sixties were about to dawn, I joined the exclusive French Lycée in South Kensington, where I was to become bilingual within a matter of months. While it was early in the totemic decade of pop and youth culture that Pat Halling moved into the tough London session music world...where he was to record for film, television and the new popular music that had been recently sired by the Rock and Roll revolution.
And for much of the time he spent within this lucrative sphere, his main role was that of principal violin, or leader or concertmaster, traditionally in charge not just of the string section but the entire orchestra, and so answerable to the conductor alone. But he also served as the fixer contracted to recruit the players for a particular session.
In the meantime, Miss Ann Watt's musical life was put on hold while she concentrated on being the mother of two small boys, while supporting her husband in his various passions.
For example, she faithfully crewed for him for many years at the Tamesis Sailing Club in Teddington, West London, where he was a member for much of the sixties, winning several racing trophies initially in Firefly number 1588, while his career as a session player thrived.
According to what Pat has told me, he worked on early sessions for British musical sensations Lulu, Cilla Black and Tom Jones, as well as with superstar producers Tony Hatch and Mickie Most.
Hatch wrote most of Petula Clark's hit singles of the sixties, some alone, some with his wife Jackie Trent, and she went on to become a major star in the US as part of the so-called British Invasion of the American charts. And the same was true of several acts produced by Most; such as Herman's Hermits, whose angelic front man Peter Noone ensured his band were briefly almost as popular as the Beatles stateside.
Pat became close friends with both Most and composer-arranger John Cameron, the two men who helped turn Scottish singer-songwriter Donovan into an international superstar. And among those session musicians who played for Most in the early to mid '60s were Big Jim Sullivan, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones, who also arranged for him.
And guitar virtuoso Page went on to join seminal British Rock band The Yardbirds, which had been initially managed by the impresario Simon Napier Bell, before being taken over by Most's business partner, Peter Grant.
When the Yardbirds collapsed in 1968, the two remaining members, namely Page and bassist Chris Dreja, set about forming a new band, the New Yardbirds, also to be managed by Grant.
While the super-talented Terry Reid, who was among those constituting what could be termed Page's first team of potential lead vocalists, turned him down, he yet recommended a 19 year old from the Midlands of England by the name of Robert Plant for the job.
Page duly travelled to Birmingham with Dreja and Grant to look the youngster over, and was impressed by what he saw. He then invited Plant to spend a few days with him at his home, the Thames Boathouse, in the beautiful little Berkshire village of Pangbourne for initial discussions related to the band.
And all this took place in the summer of '68, just months before I joined the Nautical College situated a few miles from the village itself.
So the New Yardbirds were born, but before long they'd mutated into Led Zeppelin, one of the most successful Rock bands of all time, and perhaps second only to the Rolling Stones in terms of legendary darkness and mystery.
It seems incredible that a force of such seismic power and influence as Led Zep should emerge from the relative innocence of the London Blues and session music scenes of the sixties, but then a similar thing could be said of British Rock as a whole.
So what was it that transformed an interest among young men of largely middle class origin in the bleak brooding music of the Blues into a musical movement that took the world by storm all throughout the '60s and beyond? That's not an easy question to answer, but I'm going to give it some sort of a go.
The Blues themselves may provide something of a solution to the puzzle, for in the shape of the British Blues boom they constituted one of the dominant tendencies within the Pop explosion of the 1960s.
Yet, far from proceeding from the Pop revolution inspired by the Beatles, the British Blues came long before it. In fact, they emerged from the Traditional Jazz revival of the late 1940s, although most Trad devotees decried the Blues as simplistic in comparison to Jazz.
The most beloved and fearful form of the Blues was the Delta Blues, whose spiritual homeland was the Mississippi Delta, a region lying between the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers, and stretching all the way from Memphis in the north to Vicksburg in the south.
With lyrics reflecting the sensuality, isolation and anguish of lost souls victimised by life and alienated from God, she found fertile soil in the still repressed United Kingdom of the late 1950s and early sixties. And especially in the affluent south among such passionate young men as Brian Jones from the spa town of Cheltenham in Gloucester; Eric Clapton from Ripley in suburban Surrey; and Jimmy Page from nearby Epsom, also in Surrey.
However, it's none of these legends, so much as a certain guitarist of Greek and Austrian ancestry by the name of Alexis Korner who's been called the Founding Father of the British Blues. And justifiably so, for more than anyone, he was the incubator of the British Blues Boom which was one of the great cornerstones of the entire Rock movement.
Korner began his musical career in 1949 as a member of Chris Barber's Jazz Band, but his love of the kindred but then lesser known music of the Blues led him to form Blues Incorporated in 1961. And he did so with several future Rock superstars, including Jack Bruce, most famous for his tenure with Blues-Rock legends Cream, and Charlie Watts, future sticks man for the Stones, both from a Jazz background. As was Brian Jones; for this was not unusual for the first generation of British Rock artists.
And in addition to those already mentioned, the list of future Rock and Roll stars who were drawn to Korner's regular Rhythm and Blues night at the Ealing Jazz Club in the early '60s included Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Ginger Baker, Jimmy Page, Rod Stewart, and Paul Pond.
Pond, a tall, elegant Oxford undergraduate with the chiselled good looks of a Greek god, had been Brian Jones' first choice as lead vocalist for a projected Blues band, but apparently convinced the Blues had no future, he turned the young Cheltenham Welshman down.
He later resurfaced as Paul Jones, front man for former Jazz outfit Manfred Mann, one of the first generation of British Blues bands to achieve mainstream Pop success. And alongside Jones and Mann were Mikes Vickers and Hugg, and bass man Dave Richmond...soon to be replaced by Tom McGuiness, who'd begun his career in the Roosters with Eric Clapton.
While Clapton himself found fame with the Yardbirds which, like the Rolling Stones, the Kinks, the Who and the Spencer Davis Group surfed the first wave of British Blues and R&B all the way into the Pop charts.
But British Rock was fuelled not just by the Blues, but an effervescent fusion of Rock and Roll, Skiffle, R&B, Doo-Wop, Motown and Tin Pan Alley known as Beat. And Beat emerged principally from the tough industrial North and Midlands of England to form part of the great Pop revolution of '63 to '64, although it's doubtful the great record buying public had any notion of the difference between Beat and the Blues.
Yet there were those Pop musicians who clung doggedly to the Blues ethos, despite spectacular chart success. Such as Brian Jones of the Stones; and Eric Clapton, who forsook Pop stardom to seek refuge in Blues purist band Bluesbreakers...whose leader John Mayall played host to a veritable plethora of future Rock superstars at various stages of his career.
Another vital component of Pop that threatened to subvert Rock's evolution as an exclusive offshoot of the Blues was melody; which was the very element the Beatles made central to their music. And as the Rock revolution proceeded apace, it came to play as important a part in its music as rhythm.
And this was significantly attributable to the Beatles, who, in thrall to the nascent sounds of Motown, a form of R&B that had been heavily infused with a Pop sensibility, sought to emulate its exquisite romantic tunefulness.
They also imbued their early music with the sentimental sweetness of both Vocal and Latin Jazz and Canzone Napoletana; while all three songwriters were admirers of Classical Music.
Thence the Rock explosion emerged from several incredibly divergent areas to produce a veritable musical Babel. But lest we forget, it did not begin with the Beatles, for even the term Beat was first used in relation to Pop music as early as 1961.
For instance, in The Big Beat Scene by poet and writer Royston Ellis, Beat is used to describe the music of the first British Pop stars to emerge in the wake of Elvis. While the term Rock is used as shorthand for Rock and Roll in the selfsame tome.
In fact, by the time of the Beatles' first hit record in 1962, Rock had existed in Britain for at least five years, birthing a host of early superstars. Among these, song and dance men Tommy Steele and Joe Brown had brought a music hall element to the music; while Cliff Richard and the Shadows had preceded the Beatles as the quintessential British guitar band.
In other words, an entire spectrum of British Rock and Pop music had been established even before the Beatles had recorded their first hit record. But this is a truth that history has failed to sufficiently emphasize.
This Thrilling New Art Form
The Beatles are seen by some as the inventors of modern guitar Pop. While this is of course untrue, they are without doubt the best known and most successful Pop group in history. For it was they who consolidated and perfected British Pop, thereby laying the foundation for the entire Rock revolution.
Yet, while they began very much as a Pop group, in time, having resisted being typecast as mere Pop, they could be said to have birthed a special type of Art Rock founded on a vast variety of genres, including Classical music, Music Hall, Tin Pan Alley, Rock and Roll, Country and Western, Folk, Jazz, Motown, Soul and the Blues. But no less removed from pure Pop than the Blues-based Rock of their chief rivals the Stones.
While this might lead one to conclude that it was largely through their influence that Rock became the ultimate musical smorgasbord, this was only partly true, as I've already made clear.
Yet, during their brief few years of existence, they informed the development of Rock to a greater degree than any other group or solo singer. And that includes the Rolling Stones, for while the Stones' primal proto-Punk went on to constitute the basis of all forms of Hard Rock, even these have arguably benefited from the unrelenting melodic inventiveness of the Beatles.
In addition to those already mentioned, another of its chief sources was the Brill Building Sound, which thrived in that brief period between Elvis's induction into the US Army and the onset of Beatlemania. And during this era, the music's initial threat was neutralised by its co-option by teenage idols who, while heavily influenced by Elvis visually, had nowhere near the same devastating effect on the moral establishment.
Brill Building was named after the very building in New York City where many of its songwriters were housed and which since the '30s had been a centre for Pop music, a term allegedly coined as early as 1926.
Its music could be described as traditional Pop informed by the Rock and Roll revolution; and as such it exerted a massive if largely unsung influence on the evolution of Sixties Rock, with the Beatles covering several Brill Building songs in the early phase of their career.
Yet, while the Beatles remain indelibly associated with modern Pop, by the totemic year of '66, they were arguably as much a Rock as a Pop group; and their lyrics had started to acquire a marked intellectual dimension. And this was in no small part attributable to Bob Dylan.
For Dylan was a consciously intellectual figure who, in the fallow years immediately preceding the British Invasion, had mined the ancient American art of Folk Music for inspiration.
By so doing, he'd gained an international reputation as a poet-minstrel in the Protest tradition, and largely thanks to him, Pop had acquired a certain gravitas by the mid 1960s. And one which was strikingly at odds with the innocent and sentimental music of the early Beatles. Yet, the Beatles outgrew the Beat era with ease, while Beat itself was rendered obsolete by the depredations of Rock.
This thrilling new art form developed not just as a result of Dylan's influence as the first great poet of Rock, but an increasing musical complexity, possibly allied to a greater spiritual darkness. And while the Beatles led the field in terms of the former, the latter could be said to have arisen from a tougher element introduced into the music.
This came courtesy of such Blues-based outfits as the Stones, the Kinks, the Yardbirds, the Pretty Things and the Who, and the term Rock was somehow perfect in describing their powerful primal sound. However, when this moved in to supplant Pop as the critic's term of choice, it's impossible to say.
One thing is certain is that as soon as it did, Rock became far more than a mere music form. In fact I'd go so far as to say it was a way of life from the outset; a philosophy; even a religion, and as such, one of its prime tenets was rebellion against the traditional Judeo-Christian values of the West. So it's not surprising its spiritual homelands were Britain and the USA, given these are the nations most associated historically with the rise of Evangelical Christianity.
For despite having been inextricably linked to Pop since its inception, Rock is clearly more than just another form of popular music. And while it possesses very little ability left to shock, its rebel spirit, and the sexual and social upheavals it once spearheaded have altered the fabric of Western society, possibly beyond all hope of recovery.
Mon, Mar 4th - 5:45AM
Miss Ann Watt Had Stars in Her Eyes
The Scots-Irish Sept of Watt
My father Patrick Clancy Halling joined the London Philharmonic Orchestra while still a teenager during the Blitz on London. And during this time, he served in the Sea Cadets as a signaller, seeing action as such on the hospital ships of the previously mentioned Thames River Emergency Service.
Following his time with the LPO, he played with the London Symphony Orchestra with his cellist brother Peter, before going on to specialize in Chamber music.
His chamber career included eight years with the Hirsch quartet, led by Dublin-born violinist Leonard Hirsch, and the formation of his own Quartet Pro Musica in 1955, with Roger Raphael, Peter Sermon and his brother Peter, while Ernest Scott and Gwynne Edwards joined at a later date. And three years later, this resulted in an extraordinary event taking place in the Recital Room of the Royal Festival Hall.
On the 2cnd of November 1958, the Quartet convened to take part in a reading of TS Eliot's Four Quartets by four giants of the arts, including the then poet laureate Cecil Day Lewis, together with his wife, the actress Jill Balcon, fellow actress Maxine Audley, and Shakespearean scholar George Rylands. By which time, Lewis' and Balcon's son, future Hollywood superstar Daniel Day Lewis, would have been a little over a year and half old. And this was interspersed with a rendition of Bela Bartok's Sixth Quartet.
He also played with the Virtuoso Ensemble, whose distinctions are believed to have included first UK performances of works by major British 20th Century composers, such as Elizabeth Lutyens, Humphrey Searle, Peter Racine Fricker and Mátyás Seiber.
And among his recordings from the late 1950s currently featured on the internet are The History of Music in Sound, Vol. VI: The Growth of Instrumental Music (1630-1750), on which, with Richard Hadeney on flute, Basil Lam on harpsichord, and Terence Weil on cello, he interprets Vitali's Trio Sonata in E Minor, Op. 2, No. 3, Legrenzi's La Cornara and Jenkins' Fancy in G Minor.
In June 1949, he wed my mother, the Canadian singer Miss Ann Watt, who through marriage became Mrs Ann Halling, thereby substituting a Scottish surname for a Danish one.
In Ireland, the Watt surname is allegedly exclusive to Ulster, home province of my grandfather James Watt, having been carried there by the Scottish and English planters of the late 1600s. It's common in the Scottish Lowlands, especially in the counties of Aberdeenshire and Banffshire.
As might be expected it's affiliated with that of Watson, and both are what is known as septs of the Forbes and Buchanan clans. A sept being a family that traditionally followed a particular chief or clan leader in the Highlands or Lowlands of Scotland, either through being related by marriage or resident on his land, and so helped to make up a larger clan or family.
Kindred septs include those of MacQuat, MacQuattie, MacQuhat, MacQwat, MacRowatt, MacWalter, MacWater, MacWatson, MacWatt, MacWatters, MacWattie, Vatsoun, Vod, Vode, Void, Voud, Voude, Vould, Walter, Walterson, Wasson, Waters, Waterson, Watsone, Watsoun, Wattie, Wattson, Wod, Wode, Wodde, Woid, Woide, Wood, Woyd and Wyatt.
She'd been born Angela Jean Elisabeth Watt in the city of Brandon, Manitoba, the youngest by 7 years of the six children of James and Elisabeth Watt from Ulster, Ireland and Glasgow, Scotland respectively. And the only one not to be born in Britain...the others, Annie-Isabella, Robert, James, Elisabeth, who died in infancy having been born in Glasgow, Catherine in Ireland.
While still an infant she moved with her family to the Grandview area of East Vancouver, whose earliest settlers tended to be shopkeepers, or tradesmen, in shipping or construction work, and largely from the British Isles. Such as James Watt himself, a builder by trade from the little town of Castlederg in County Tyrone, Ireland, then part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
Grandview underwent massive change following the First World War when Italian, Chinese, and East European immigrants moved in, and still more after World War II with a second wave of Italian immigrants. Today its part of the Grandview-Woodland area of East Vancouver.
Ann's mother was from the Springburn area of Glasgow. And she's believed to have been born there possibly to an Englishman, from either Manchester or Liverpool; while her mother was allegedly a Scot. And if so, my mother is of mixed Lowland Scottish, Ulster-Scots and English ancestry, not that any real difference exists between these three ethnicities.
As to my maternal grandfather...he was almost certainly a descendant of the Planters sent by the English to Ulster in the 1600s, many of them originally inhabitants of the Anglo-Scottish border country and the Lowland region of Scotland.
According to some sources, Lowlanders are distinct from their Highland counterparts, being of Anglo-Saxon rather than Gaelic ancestry, although how true this is I'm not qualified to say. Certainly, the region straddling the Scottish Lowlands and Anglo-Scottish Borderlands, is one traditionally perceived as Sassenach, which is the Gaelic term for Saxon, or person of Anglo-Saxon origin.
Whatever the truth, the sensible view is their bloodline contains a variety of kindred strains including - as well as Anglo-Saxon - Gaelic, Pictish, Norman and so on, depending on the exact region. Moreover, all Caucasian inhabitants of the British Isles - including the independent sovereign nation of Ireland - partake of a fairly homogenous ancestry, which certain experts are claiming to be more Iberian than anything else. In the end, though, are we not all of the same single human race created by God? As a Christian, I can't believe anything else.
The Ulster Scots reportedly began to emigrate to the US in sizeable numbers in the early 1600s, and their descendants are to be found all throughout the country. But most famously perhaps in those regions which are culturally Southern, which is to say those states situated beneath the Mason-Dixon Line. Indeed most of the original European settlers of the Deep and Upland South are widely believed to have been of British and especially English and Scots-Irish origin. Today, many of them describe themselves as merely "American", while others continue to claim either English or Scots-Irish ancestry.
The Theatre Under the Stars
By the time he'd moved his family to Grandview in the autumn of 1924, my grandfather James Watt had, according to my mother's account, forsaken the Presbyterian Calvinism of his Ulster boyhood and youth for the Wesleyan theology of the Salvation Army. Yet, in keeping with the Army of that time, his approach to Scripture was what would be described as fundamentalist today; and he was accordingly opposed to worldly pleasures such as dancing, the theatre, and movie-going.
Moreover, I think it's fair to say that alcohol was anathema; while even the drinking of tea and coffee was frowned upon.
Some years after moving to Grandview, James Watt built his family a house in Kitsilano on the city's West Side, but a reversal of fortune in terms of his business meant that the family was forced to return to Grandview.
Then at the age of 14, Angela joined her friend Marie and Marie's mother on a car trip just beyond the US-Canadian border into the state of Washington, where she saw her very first movie, a romantic civil war picture entitled Only the Brave starring Gary Cooper and Mary Brian. Its effect on her was little short of seismic, as by her own admission it introduced worldly ideas into her psyche for the very first time.
Despite an intensively Christian upbringing, from then on, she became consumed by the glamour of the movies and show business. In other words, she'd allowed the camel's nose into her life, and it only remained for the rest of the camel to follow.
At high school, she'd been a diligent but not exceptional pupil; and her sole and only sporting distinction consisted of being part of her school track team. While her closest friend, the universally popular Margaret Stone, was an exceptional young sportswoman. However, Angela came into her own in the Glee Club, where presumably she first started using her beautiful singing voice beyond the confines of the Army.
When she was 17, her father became very seriously ill and she was forced to take time off school to do her share of looking after him. She spent long periods of time by his bedside, weeping for a man who when she was still only a little girl had a habit of affectionately flicking the back of her hair and she'd scolded him to make him stop. She was off for so long that Margaret Stone had come calling for her with another friend, concerned by her protracted absence. James Watt died after a short illness, and Angela, utterly heartbroken, wept openly at his funeral.
In her final year at high school, she learned short hand and other tools of the secretarial trade, while working part time at F.W. Woolworth's on Commercial Drive.
After leaving, she started work answering telephone enquiries on behalf of a laundry business by the name of Pioneer Laundry, where her sister Cathy ran a branch specialising in the washing and starching of men's collars.
And it was during her time at Pioneer that Angela received her first big break, when one of her co-workers, presumably after discovering Angela had ambitions to sing professionally, suggested she accompany her to a singing engagement at a gentleman's club in the city.
Angela promptly took her up on her offer, and as a result of having done so, was tendered details of a singing teacher by the name of Avis Phillips by a member of the club.
Soon after having made contact with Avis, Angela became her pupil, and ultimately also her friend, and this association brought her into contact with Avis' regular accompanist, Phyllis Dilworth, whose uncle Ira Dilworth just happened to be regional head of the Canadian Broadcasting Company.
It was through this family tie that Angela secured her first professional engagements as a soprano, indeed her entire singing career, with many of its greatest triumphs taking place at Vancouver's famous Theatre Under the Stars, which officially opened on August the 6th 1940. And where Miss Ann Watt played the lead in such classic operettas as Oscar Straus' The Chocolate Soldier, Naughty Marietta by Victor Herbert, with libretto by Rida Johnson Young, and The Student Prince by Sigmund Romberg, with libretto by Dorothy Donnelly.
And for the CBC with full orchestra, she broadcast many popular classics. Such as, to the accompaniment of Percy Harvey and the Golden Strings, two songs by Victor Herbert with the baritone Greg Miller, viz., A Kiss in the Dark, from Orange Blossoms, and the lovely title song from Sweethearts.
As well as Neath the Southern Moon, another breathtakingly romantic melody by Herbert, Strange Music from The Song of Norway, adapted from Grieg by Wright and Forrest, and Can't Help Singing by Kern and Yarburg from the 1944 movie of the same name.
Such was the loveliness of her voice, to say nothing of looks so glamorous she was likened to Betty Grable, she became something of a sweetheart of the Canadian Forces. While her irresistible vivacity and charm caused both audiences and press to fall in love with her not just in Canada but parts of the northern US as well.
Among the Classical songs she broadcast during the North American phase of her career were Schumann's Dedication, Brahms' The Vain Suit, Delibes' Les Filles de Cadix, Debussy's Mandoline, Rachmaninov's Before My Window, and Vaughan Williams' exquisite musical evocation of Rossetti's Silent Noon...with all liede rendered in English due to wartime restrictions on the German language.
After the war, she hoped to expand her career either in the US or the UK, but despite a successful audition for the San Francisco Light Opera Company, she ultimately opted for England, once a ticket to sail had become available to her.
She left for Britain laden with letters of recommendation from Avis Phillips, as well as numerous press cuttings from her brilliant Canadian career, possibly persuaded that once in London, success would be hers for the taking, at Drury Lane and elsewhere. Sadly though, soon after arriving, she failed an audition for the internationally famous Glyndebourne Opera House, home of the annual festival of the same name.
However, she did land a small role in the Ivor Novello musical, King's Rhapsody, which opened at the Palace Theatre on the 15th of September 1949, with its author, one-time matinee idol Novello, in the title role. It ran for 841 performances, surviving Novello who died in 1951.
And she broadcast for the BBC, with De Fleurs from Debussy's Proses Lyriques, Stars in my Eyes, an unutterably poignant love song by Fritz Kreisler, with lyrics by Dorothy Field, and the popular Harry Ralton standard, I Remember the Cornfields, with lyrics by Martin Mayne, among the songs she performed for them.
She also appeared in an early television show called Picture Post, of which there remains no record.
Sadly though, it wasn't long after her arrival in London that she realized her voice was deteriorating - this being especially true of her top notes - possibly as a result of sleeping difficulties; although she was a smoker.
And she had enjoyed a somewhat hedonistic lifestyle at the height of her fame in Vancouver, when she was Miss Ann Watt. And a fairly wealthy young woman at that, with a passionate love of beautiful clothes and shoes.
She went from one singing teacher to the other in the hope that her once near-perfect voice might be restored to her but little came of her efforts; although one of her tutors, who just happened to be the great German soprano Elisabeth Schumann, did offer some hope.
Schumann suggested that once her time in England was over, for she was recording her final liede 78s in London with the British pianist Gerald Moore, she accompany her back to New York City, where she'd been resident since 1918.
However, my mother turned her down, perhaps feeling she'd already spent enough money on lessons. And besides, she'd only been married to my father, the London-based musician Patrick Halling, since June 1949, and uprooting would not have been easy.
Pat and Ann spent the next seven years pursuing what I've been led to believe was a semi-Bohemian existence in London and on the continent, where they vacationed by both car and motorcycle...during the early years of that relatively innocent period between the end of the Second World War and the onset of the Youth Culture of the sixties, after which things would never be quite the same again.
Sun, Mar 3rd - 7:16AM
The Heroic Life of Phyllis Mary Pinnock
In the Beautiful Valley of Tamar
My paternal grandmother grew into a remarkably beautiful young woman with dark hair and blue or green or hazel eyes and an exquisitely sculpted mouth according to a photograph the only one in existence as far as I'm aware of the youthful Phyllis Mary Pinnock.
She'd been born sometime towards the end of the 19th or beginning of the 20th century, possibly in the Dulwich area of South East London. And given her father had been what is known as a gentleman, which means he forswore all labour, it may have been she was a scion of that part of the upper middle class known as the lower gentry.
And according to my father's account, her first true love David was a scion of the Wilson Line of Hull which had developed into the largest privately owned shipping firm in the world in the early part of the century.
But like so many young men of that dutiful generation, immortalised in cruelly beautiful poems such as Wilfrid Owen's Anthem for Doomed Youth, which speaks to us of "sad shires" decimated by an inexplicable conflict, he died young during the First World War. And she subsequently married an officer in the British army, to whom she bore two children, Peter Bevan, and Suzanne, known as Dinny.
When her children were little more than infants, she elected to join her husband as a tea planter in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka. And it was on that breathtakingly beautiful island, in a tough and typically isolated environment that she met the two men, tea planters like herself, who were destined to become her second and third husbands.
They were a British engineer by the name of Christopher "Chris" Evans, and my Danish namesake, Carl Halling.
Carl had evidently once been a successful businessmen within the linoleum industry before some kind of reversal of fortune found him on the famous tea fields of Ceylon, which Sir Arthur Conan Doyle once described as being "as true a monument to courage as is the lion at Waterloo."
Mary's third child, my father, was born Patrick Clancy Halling in Rowella, Tasmania, in the beautiful Tamar Valley, but raised as Carl's son in the great city of Sydney.
And according to Pat, Carl and Mary eked an existence in various fields of endeavour, including fruit farming, gold prospecting and real estate. While Mary was at some point a primary school teacher, and another, a journalist for the Sydney Telegraph. But it was a hard life according to Pat, especially after Carl contracted the multiple sclerosis that would ultimately kill him.
One blessing being that all three children were exceptionally gifted musically, Patrick as violinist, Peter as cellist, and Suzanne as pianist And while little more than an infant, Pat won a scholarship to the Sydney Conservatory of Music where he studied with Gerald Walenn, soloing for the Sydney Symphony Orchestra on a single occasion when he was still only eight or nine or ten. And one can only imagine the effect it had on his childish nervous system. However, he reserved his true passion for the water, this love of the sea and ships and specifically sailing being a legacy from Mary, who spent much of her adult life by the sea.
Carl died around about the time of the abdication of King Edward VIII which took place in 1936, soon after which Mary and her family set off for Denmark, Carl having expressed a wish to be buried in his native land. And then all three children stayed behind for some time while their mother went valiantly on to London to look for somewhere to live on a permanent basis.
And it was in London that Pat studied both at the Royal Academy of Music and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, under the tutelage of Rowsby Woof and Max Rostal respectively.
He joined the London Philharmonic Orchestra while still a teenager during the Blitz on London.
And at the same time, he served in the Sea Cadets as a signaller, seeing action as such on the hospital ships of the Thames River Emergency Service, which, formed in 1938, lasted for three years, using converted Thames pleasure steamers as floating ambulances or first aid stations.
But some years prior to Mary settling back in her native London with her children, she'd evidently received a significant sum of money as an inheritance. And it could conceivably be said that doing so resulted in a reconciliation with her hallowed social class, although this suggests some kind of rupture, which may not actually have happened; at least in a spiritual sense.
But what is true is that she was convinced she was descended from a lost branch of an aristocratic family. For when I was a young man, my father would occasionally speak to me of it as a means of boosting my morale, as if I was born for the life of a scholar and athlete of distinction befitting blue-blooded origins.
And in this one respect, I was somewhat akin to the legendary movie star Montgomery Clift, whose extraordinary beauty and magnetism could be said to constitute the very quintessence of the aristocratic WASP Prince. For despite being born into a fairly humble middle class family, Clift was a scion of the southern aristocracy according to his mother Ethel "Sunny" Clift.
So Monty and his twin sister and elder brother Brooks were raised as if to the manor born, and educated by his mother and private tutors in both Europe and the US, learning to speak French, German and Italian in the process.
But I never fully believed Mary's story until one day in the 1980s, while my family was being paid a visit by her younger sister Joan, together with her husband, my great uncle Eric, I surreptitiously placed a cassette tape recorder close to the dining table during lunch or supper.
And I did so in the belief that one or another of my parents would quiz her as to the veracity of Mary's longstanding boast of distant blue blood.
If my memory serves me aright, among the truths she revealed about our family that day was that Joan and Mary's paternal great grandfather had been a coachman by trade who'd been left an enormous sum of money by a grateful employer. And this act of philanthropy introduced money into the family for the first time.
Another was that her maternal grandmother's maiden name had been Butler, which allegedly links the family to the Butlers of Ormond, a dynasty of Anglo-Norman nobles named after the Earldom they went on to rule in Munster, Ireland.
And the Butler saga begins in earnest with the Norman Invasions of Ireland, which took place in 1169 on the orders of one Dermot MacMurrough, King of Leinster, one of five kingdoms of pre-Norman Ireland.
The Mystery of Ormonde
But who precisely were these Normans who went on to create one of the most powerful monarchies in Europe and whose territorial conquests would ultimately include not just Ireland, but England, Scotland, Wales, Southern Italy and the island of Sicily?
Unsurprisingly, they are largely Nordic, although believed to have been of mixed Viking, Frankish and Gallo-Roman stock, a mixture which apparently produced an instinct towards elitism and dominance.
And the Norman conquest of England was famously sealed with William the Conqueror's success at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 AD, which introduced a new aristocracy into the country. Which means that the Normans replaced the Anglo-Saxons as the ruling class of England, while becoming part of a single French-speaking culture with lands on both sides of the channel.
And this explains her fierce rivalry with mainland France, as well as the 1842 poem, Lady Clara Vere de Vere, in which Tennyson makes the valid point that "Kind hearts are more than coronets, And simple faith than Norman blood," which of course inspired the classic Ealing comedy, Kind Hearts and Coronets, directed by Robert Hamer in 1949.
And what the poem was alluding to was the specifically Norman nature of the English aristocracy. But back to the travails of the Emerald Isle.
By the fateful year of 1169, Ireland, a land once given over to the ancient Celtic faith of Druidry and the worship of the Sidhe or Faery Folk, was profoundly Christian, despite a remnant of paganism.
But an invasion had already been authorised as early as 1155 by the first and only English Pope Adrian IV, decision which occasioned centuries of English dominance and Irish misery. While MacMurrough had been forced into exile in 1166 by a coalition of forces led by the High King of Ireland Rory O'Connor, and had fled...allegedly to Bristol first...and then to France.
There are various accounts of what happened next, but it's certain he asked Henry II, first English King of the Norman House of Plantagenet, for help in regaining his kingdom. And after Henry had pledged his aid, began recruiting allies in Wales, with Richard de Clare, known as Strongbow, foremost among them. So Ireland was earmarked for invasion.
In 1167, he returned to Ireland with a small army of mercenaries, but it wasn't until '69 that a full-scale invasion by the Anglo-Normans and their Welsh and Flemish allies got under way. And while contemporary accounts refer to the invaders as English, they have also been described as Anglo-Norman, Cambro-Norman and Anglo-French. With the Flemish contingent recruited largely from those Flemings who'd arrived in Britain with William the 1st and had settled in Wales...only to be perceived by the hostile Welsh as English. And also believed to have taken part was one Theobald Walter, patriarch of the Butlers of Ormond.
Two years afterwards, Henry II set foot in Ireland, the first English King to do so, and so High Kingship was brought to an end, to be replaced by over 750 years of English rule.
Henry was an ancestor of future generations of Butlers, and a grandson of William the Conqueror, which may provide a kinship with the mysterious Merovingian dynasty of Frankish Kings.
And when his son Prince John arrived in Ireland in 1185, it was in the company of the said Theobald Walter, whose father had been Butler of England; and so he was appointed Butler of Ireland and given a portion of land in eastern Munster that would become known as Ormond. Thence the name, the Butlers of Ormond.
Around 1200, he married Maud le Vavasour, purported inspiration for Maid Marian, wife of the mythical outlaw Robin Hood, himself allegedly based on Maud's second husband, Fulk FitzWarin.
And they had one son together, Theobald le Botiller, 2cnd Baron Butler, who, by marrying Margery de Burgh, a descendant of both Dermot McMurrough and the legendary Brian Boru, brought royal Gaelic blood into the Butler bloodline. While their sole and only son...also known as Theobald, took Joan FitzJohn as his spouse; and from their union came eight sons, the second of which, Edmund Butler, married Joan FitzGerald of the ancient FitzGerald dynasty.
It was for their eldest son James that the earldom of Ormonde was created for the first time. And his appointment came in 1328, only months after his marriage to Lady Eleanor de Bohun, beautiful grand-daughter of Edward the 1st of the House of Plantagenet, known as the Angevins from their origins in Anjou, France.
Dubbed The Hammer of the Scots, Longshanks was that Anglo-Norman king who'd had Scottish noble Sir William Wallace executed in 1305 for having led a resistance during the Wars of Scottish independence.
While among James Butler's descendants was Anne Boleyn, whose father Thomas, a Butler by matrilineal descent, became Earl of Ormonde in 1528. This having occurred when Piers Ruadh Butler resigned his claim by orders of the king; only to have the earldom restored to him ten years later. Act which heralded the title's third creation.
And by this time, England had become a Protestant nation, and Anglicanism established in Ireland as the state religion, despite the vast majority of the population being Catholic.
And much to Ireland's misfortune, the Butlers became involved with some vicious feuding with their long time rivals the FitzGeralds in the late 1500s. And when the so-called Black Earl Sir Thomas Butler vanquished his own mother's family at the Battle of Affane in 1565, it helped provoke the Desmond Rebellions of 1567-73 and 1579-83, the second of which was bolstered by hundreds of papal troops.
But these were defeated by the Elizabethan Armies and their Irish allies, soon after which the first English Plantations were carried out in a devastated Munster. While the first plantations in Ulster, Ireland's most purely Gaelic region, remained yet in the future.
Of the Supposed Superiority of Nobility
In 1609 the first Ulster Plantation came into being in the wake of the Nine Years War of 1594-1603, which was largely fought between the Kingdom of England and its Irish allies and an alliance of Gaelic clans led by Hugh O'Neill and Hugh Roe O'Donnell. While the latter would ultimately include 6000 Spanish soldiers sent by Phillip II.
The routing of the Ulster Earls led to the famous Flight of the Earls to Europe, the end of the Gaelic Clan system, and the colonization of Ulster by English and Scottish Protestants.
While the next conflict to involve the Butlers of Ormond was the Irish Rebellion of 1641, which was an uprising not of the Catholic Irish, but the Old English, composed of Catholic gentry who'd become more Irish than the Irish themselves. And while the fifth Earl, James Butler, was placed in charge of English government forces based in Dublin, the Old English were led by his own cousin Richard Butler; with the Catholic rebels prevailing.
But in time it mutated into a war between the native Irish and the newly arrived Protestant settlers from Britain...which resulted in the massacre of thousands of Protestants, the precise number being a matter of much debate.
While a year later, James Butler was involved in yet another conflict in the shape of the English Civil War. And being a Royalist sympathizer, he despatched an estimated 4000 troops to England to fight for King Charles the 1st against the Calvinist Roundheads under the leadership of Oliver Cromwell...only to be made Lord Lieutenant of Ireland by Royal Appointment in 1643 for his pains.
But by 1649, Ireland had become a stronghold of support for the King; with Ormonde in charge both of the Royalist forces and the Irish Confederation of Old English Catholics and native Gaels; and this had the effect of attracting the hostile attentions of Cromwell and his New Model Army.
And when Ormonde attempted to thwart the English Puritan invaders by holding a line of fortified towns across the country, Cromwell defeated them one after the other, beginning in 1649 with the Siege of Drogheda.
While in the summer of 1650, following a long series of humiliating defeats for the Irish, Ormonde, having been deserted by Protestants and Catholics alike, was urged to leave the country by the Catholic clergy, which he promptly did, seeking refuge in Paris with the exiled Charles II.
Yet, on the Restoration of the Stuart Monarchy in 1660, he was showered with honours by the new King of England, Scotland and Ireland; and was made Duke of Ormonde in the peerage of Ireland in the spring of '61.
But eight year later, he fell from favour as a result, allegedly, of courtly intrigue on the part of Royal favourite James Villiers, the 2cnd Duke of Buckingham. While in 1671, an attempt was made on his life by an Irish adventurer by the name of Thomas Blood; but Ormonde escaped, convinced that Buckingham had put him up to it, although nothing was ever proven.
Then in 1682, he became Duke of Ormonde in the peerage of England, dying four years later in Dorset. While soon after his death, a poem was published that celebrated an essential decency that was never compromised.
One of his sons, the 2cnd Duke of Ormonde, commanded a regiment at the Battle of the Boyne under William of Orange, and took part in the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715. While his own son was the third and final Duke of Ormonde.
However, the Earldom lasted until the end of the 20th Century, becoming dormant in October 1997 with the death of James Butler the 7th Marquess of Ormonde, who had two daughters, but no sons.
And it may be I'm a distant relative of theirs...and if so, also related to many, perhaps even all of the most blue-blooded families not just in Europe but the entire world.
In the end though, the facts of history entirely fail to attest to the natural superiority of nobility, even though the Bible upholds the authority of parents and the instruments of the state. For God has implemented these as a means of controlling Man's innate depravity, while appealing to his hierarchical instincts and deep-seated desire for order and structure.
But all hierarchies erected by Man in order that one section of society might feel superior to another, whether on the basis of class, race, skin colour or some other false distinction, are Antichrist, because all human beings are created equal in the sight of God.
And there is a theory that those blessed by nobility of birth are in fact less likely to turn to Christ than those from backgrounds of brokenness or poverty. While great beauty or wealth or intellectual distinction can fill its possessors with a sense of self-sufficiency which can lead to a refutation of God.
But my beautiful grandmother Phyllis was ever attached to the notion her family boasted blue blood in spite of a life of unending hardship...much of this attributable to sheer ill fortune. For instance, having married Chris Evans soon after the death of her second husband Carl, she lost him in '49 while they were both out sailing together, the victim of a fatal coronary.
I first met her in the early 1960s when I was still just a small child, by which time she was living on a yacht in the south of France, possibly Nice, or Cannes, a striking figure, slim and tanned, with a magnificent head of the purest white hair. But by about the middle of the decade, she'd moved into her own house, Chartley, named after her former house in Sydney. And situated near the little town of Cambrils on Catalonia's Costa Brava.
And for several years until about '68, our family vacationed with her at Chartley every summer, often with Peter's family. Which is to say, Peter himself, my aunt Marge, and my cousins Rod, a future musician of genius himself, and Kris, known affectionately as Krispy. They resided virtually opposite us in Ramilies Road, Bedford Park, while we were in nearby Esmond Road.
Photos of her from around this time reveal a weather beaten woman with wiry white hair, habitually clad in old and even patched trousers; but she could be sweet when her heart was touched.
She was a fantastic spirit, given to what could be called Celtic whimsy, which may have proceeded from Cornish origins, which her maiden name of Pinnock certainly suggested. Although the Anglo-Saxons are hardly less inclined to this quality, for after all, did they not produce such icons of nonsense as Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll?
By the early '70s, ill health forced her back to Britain, where she lived until her passing in 1973, sometimes with us, and sometimes in her own little cottage in Berkshire. While her constant companions were two mongrel dogs whom she'd rescued from the beach towards the end of her Spanish sojourn.
These were Charlot, who was sandy-coloured and looked a little like a whippet, and Phillippe, who had long pointed ears like those of an Alsatian.
She was an altogether different person in frail old age, much mellowed and desperately vulnerable, writing desolate poetry for my benefit, or watching old movies with me on TV. Such as the sentimental Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, Carousel, which she initially dismissed as "slush!"
But the famous climactic tune of You'll Never Walk Alone has a tendency to touch all but the most stoical of hearts, and Mary's was not exempt.
For my part, I'd left the room, possibly to weep softly to myself in some secluded part of my parents' house, only to return to find her in tears. I've never forgotten it.
There were times I was able to share some tender moments with her, but looking back, I wish there'd been more, and oh how she'd have welcomed them. But I was young and strong and thoughtless, with little concern for the trials of the elderly, fact which saddens me today.
For does not the Word of God say in Matthew 25:40, "Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me..."?
Now I'm almost the same age she was when we first met, and I've come to honour the memory of a brilliant tragic woman, and to feel for her in a way I was never capable of during the brief few years of our acquaintance.
A little before her passing, Phillippe vanished under mysterious circumstances into the English countryside. So Charlot came to live with us on his own in '73; and was subsequently renamed Charlie. He proved a gentle, faithful and loving pet, but with a strong character akin to that of his doting mistress, dying himself in 1983 following a short but valiant battle with declining health.
Sat, Mar 2nd - 2:44AM
Seven Chapters from a Sad Sack Loser's Life - Chapter Seven
David Cristiansen struggled on with the Post Graduate Certificate in Education throughout the earliest days of 1993.
And he did so while rehearsing for a couple of tiny parts for a play based on the life of James Joyce's troubled, fascinating daughter, the dancer Lucia Joyce. Under the direction of Ariana, it premiered at the Lyric Studio, Hammersmith on the 4th of February 1993.
He also attended occasional drugs and alcohol counselling sessions at a church in Greenwich, South East London with Ellen, a lovely blonde woman of about 45 with a soft and soothing London accent and the gentlest pale blue eyes. The only time he ever knew her to lose her composure was when he announced over the phone that a matter of hours after deciding of his own volition to stop taking Diazepam, he'd reverted to Chlomethiazole:
"Why'd you do that?" she unceremoniously asked.
However, enough time had passed between his taking the capsule and calling Ellen for him to be out of danger; and she literally laughed with relief at the realisation.
Then, a matter of days after coming to Christ, he received a phone call from a counsellor for Contact for Christ based in Selsdon, South London by the name of Denver Cashe. Perhaps he'd half-heartedly filled in a form of theirs the previous summer while filled with alcoholic anticipation as he slowly approached Waterloo station by British Rail train with the sun setting over the foreboding South London cityscape. And before long, he was at the door of David's parents' house, a trim, dark, handsome man in late middle age with gently piercing coffee coloured eyes and a luxuriant white moustache. And at his suggestion they prayed together.
Some time later David visited him and his wife Rose at his large and elegant house where suburb meets country just beyond the Greater London border. And on that day, David and he made an extensive list of aspects of his pre-Christian life requiring deep repentance, and they prayed over each of these in turn.
In addition, they discussed which church he should be attending, and there was some talk of his joining Denver and Rose at their little family fellowship. But in the end, Denver gave his blessing to Cornerstone Bible Church, now Cornerstone the Church, a large fellowship affiliated to the Word of Faith Movement, and based in the prosperous London suburb of Esher in Surrey, where David would soon be baptised by its pastor.
David had attended his very first service there even before becoming a Christian in late 1992. Drunk at the time, he'd sat next to a beautiful blonde woman of about 55 whom he later discovered to be a successful actress. Apart from an elder from the Jesus Fellowship, who'd laid hands on him at a meeting of theirs in central London, she was his very first Christian mentor. However, he was never to see or speak to her again as he didn't return to the church for several months, and by the time he did as a new believer, she'd moved to another church. Then they kept on missing each other, and she died in 2001. But David never forgot her.
In the early part of '94, David set out on the final phase of his PGCE, although he was ultimately to fail the course as a whole.
To their credit, though, his tutors at did offer him the opportunity of retaking the Teaching Practice component alone, but he chose to turn them down. And if he was depressed, it can't have been for long because in September, he successfully auditioned for the lead role of Roote in Harold Pinter's little known The Hothouse. This for a newly formed fringe theatre group called Grip based at the Rose and Crown pub in Kingston, a large suburban area to the south of London.
Written in 1958, The Hothouse is eminently Pinteresque, with its almost high poetic verbal virtuosity and inventiveness and dark surreal humour laced with a constant sense of impending violence, although it wasn't performed until 1980, when it was directed by Pinter himself for London's Hampstead and Ambassador Theatres.
From the auditions onwards, David gelled with the American director Ben Evans. For most of the auditions he'd attended up to this point had hinged on the time-honoured method of the actor performing a piece from memory before a panel of interviewers. But Ben insisted his candidates read from the play in small groups, which enabled them to attain a basic feel for their characters; and so feel like they were actually acting rather than coldly reciting. For David, this was the only way to audition.
Once David had been told the lead was his, he devoted himself to Ben's vision of Roote, the pompous yet deranged director of an unnamed English psychiatric hospital: the Hothouse of the title. Ben demanded of him an interpretation of Roote which was deeply at odds with his usual highly Method-oriented, subtle, intense, introspective and yet somehow also emotionally vehement approach to acting. But Ben's directorial instincts were spot-on, as his production went on to receive spectacular reviews not just in the local press, but the international listings magazine, Time Out, in which David's performance was described as "flawlessly accurate" and "lit by flashes of black humour." An amazing triumph for ahumblefringeshow.
A theatrical agent - and an apparently reputable one at that - went out of her way to express her interest in David; and then asked him to ensure his details reach her, which he duly did. But he didn't pursue the matter further, which speaks volumes about his attitude to the push that is essential to success within such a competitive profession as acting...more so perhaps even than talent itself.
Although, in his defence one might say that since his recent conversion his priorities had shifted so that he viewed worldly success with less relish than he'd done only a few years before. Also, he badly missed the relaxation alcohol once provided him with following his work on stage; as well as the revels extending deep into the night during which he'd throw his youth and affections about like some kind of maniacal gambler. So, while he still loved acting itself, the process of being an actor had become pure torture.
He'd boxed himself into the position of no longer being able to enjoy social situations as others do, nor to relax.
This may have had something to do with the state of his endorphins, the body's natural feel-good chemicals. For a theory exists to the effect that these can be permanently depleted by long-term abuse of alcohol and other narcotics.
To further complicate matters, he'd started suffering from deep tormenting spiritual problems for which he'd ultimately seek a solution in the shape of what is known as Deliverance Ministry.
Within a short time of The Hothouse reaching the end of its two week run, Grip's artistic director Richard asked David if he'd like to audition for an upcoming production of Jim Cartwright's two-handed play, Two. Naturally he said yes; and so after a successful audition, found himself playing all the male characters opposite gifted character actress Jean from Liverpool, who played all the female.
By the end of the run the houses were so packed that people were sitting on the side of the stage at the actors' feet, something David had never experienced before on the London fringe. Yet, he dreaded the end of each performance, which would see him make his excuses as soon as it was possible to do so without causing undue offence.
Release from a torturous dungeon of sobriety came while he was attending some unrelated function at the Rose and Crown a day or so following his final performance in Two, when a guy he'd only just met offered to buy him a drink and he asked for a glass of wine. Apart from the time at his parents' house a few weeks earlier when he took a swig of what he thought was water but which turned out to be vodka or gin, this was the first alcohol to pass his lips since January '93.
This single glass of wine made him feel amazing, doubly so given the purity of his system. He cycled home that night in a state of total rapture, feeling for the first time in months that he could do anything. Over the next few weeks his drinking incrementally increased, reaching a climax in a pub in Twickenham where he met an old university friend who'd just finished a course at St Mary's University College in nearby Strawberry Hill, and where he drank and smoked himself into a stupor.
Cycling home afterwards, he took a bend near Hampton Wick and came off his bike, striking his head against a bus shelter. He stayed flat on his back for a while, abject and stinking of drink. He could have sworn he saw a shadowy figure running towards him as he lay there in the dark, but before long he was shakily resuming his journey home.
However, weeks of controlled drinking and one massive binge, possibly combined with the ill effects of a violent blow to the head, resulted in his becoming ill and virtually incapacitated for what might have been as long as a fortnight. And there were times during this awful period he'd awake from a semi-sleep in a desperately agitated state...pale...faint...and terrified of imminent death; but each time a single further second of consciousness seemed beyond him, it was as if God breathed life back into him and the fear of dying subsided. All he could do was lie around, waiting, praying for a return to normality...and when this came, he determined never to drink again as long as he lived. But we swiftly forget our sojourns inHell...
A few months after appearing in Jim Cartwright's bitter-sweet two-hander, Two, David performed in one final play at the Rose and Crown theatre, the ensemble comedy, Lovelives.
Written entirely by the cast, it consisted of a series of sketches centring on the disastrous antics of a group of singletons who'd come together at a lonely hearts club in the suburbs. Perhaps then it chimed perfectly with the spirit of British post-war comedy and its characteristic celebration of banality and even failure.
Later in '95, he undertook two small roles in a production - at the Tristan Bates theatre near Leicester Square - of the great Greek tragic-comedy, Iphigenia in Tauris, allegedly written by Euripides, one of the three major tragedians of classical Athens, somewhere between 414 and 412 BC.
These being Pylades, cousin and constant companion of the main character Orestes, and the Messenger, whom he played as a maniacal fool with the kind of "refined" English accent once supposedly affected by policemen and non-commissioned officers. Directed by a close friend who'd also served as translator and musical superviser, the houses were sparse at first, picking up towards the end of the run.
In January '96, he joined a Christian theatre company based at the Elim Pentecostal church in West Croydon, Surrey. They were known as Street Level, and he went on to serve variously for them as MC, script writer, actor, singer and musician with two other members, married company leader Serena, and 19 year old Rebecca from nearby Sanderstead.
Together, they toured a series of shows around schools in various - usually tough - multicultural areas of South East London, and on the whole, were greeted by the kids with an almost uniform affection. And there was an incredible chemistry between Serena, Rebecca and himself...until things started to go wrong.
Towards the end of the summer, Serena asked David to write a large scale project for the group, suggesting a contemporary version of John Bunyan's classic Christian allegory, The Pilgrim's Progress:
"I'll put your name in lights," she might have told him.
This he set about doing, and after some weeks of labouring over what turned out to be a black comedy epic, punctuated by scenes of menace, violence, decadence, and which while genuinely witty, would verge in parts on the frankly tasteless, thereby reflecting David's spiritual immaturity at the time, he started to have second thoughts about carrying on with Street Level.
The play, Paul Grim's Progress, had left him in poor shape spiritually, and he didn't fancy too many more of the long and costly train journeys that were necessary to get him to Croydon and back. And so he began to withdraw.
And by the time of his final exit from Street Level, he'd already moved from his first spiritual home of Cornerstone to the Thames Vineyard Christian Fellowship, part of the Association of Vineyard Churches founded by John Wimber in the 1970s. This as a result of being told by a phone friend that the Vineyard movement contained members whose spiritual gifts were in the realm of the truly exceptional.
His curiosity aroused, he went along one Sunday evening and had a powerful experience which made me want to stay; and so he did.
As with Cornerstone he joined a Home Fellowship Group where he completed part of the Alpha course, which had been pioneered by Nicky Gumbel of West London's famous Holy Trinity Brompton.
He visited HTB at some point in the mid '90s, when it was at the height of the revival movement known as the Toronto Blessing. This being so called because it had been ignited in January 1994 at the Toronto Airport Vineyard Church by St. Louis Vineyard pastor Randy Clark.
Clark had himself received it from South African evangelist Rodney Howard Brown during a service at Rhema Bible Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, then pastored by Kenneth Hagin Jr., father of the Word-Faith movement, one of the major strains of Charismatic Christianity, with a controversial emphasis on what is known as Positive Confession.
The Anointing spread to the UK in the summer of 1994 where it was eventually dubbed The Toronto Blessing by The Daily Telegraph. Its main centres included HTB, Terry Virgo's New Frontiers family of churches and Gerald Coates' Pioneer People.
Pioneer's centre at the time was a cinema in the Surrey suburb of Esher, which David visited a couple of times, when it was so packed he was forced to stand all throughout the service, a situation which was duplicated when he dropped in at the London HQ of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God one afternoon around about the same time.
Like many Charismatic churches, UCKG upholds the Fivefold ministry, and so believes that the five gifts referred to in Ephesians 4:11, namely Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor and Teacher, are still in operation.
But to return to David's acting career...in the spring of '98, he started rehearsing for a production of Shakespeare's infamous Scottish Play, to be staged at Fulham's Lost Theatre in the summer. And despite the fact that his three cameos - as Lennox, the Doctor, and an Old Man - were praised by cast and audience members alike, to date, it remains his last hurrah as an actor. Quite simply, the passion to perform in front of a live audience that raged within him like a forest fire for more than two decades had long been extinguished, or rather turned to dread.
A few months later and the troubled, turbulent 20th Century gave way to the 21st to the sound of fireworks frantically exploding all throughout David's neighbourhood of West Molesey. Phoning his father that night to wish him a happy new year he discovered that his mother was desperately ill with flu:
"Some start to the millennium," he grimly told his dad.
It went on to occur to him that she'd become susceptible to the flu virus partly as a result of stress caused by his recent departure from yet another course, which also happened to be one of the most prestigious of its kind in the world. In time though, her incredible Scots-Irish constitution saw her through to a complete recovery. But his decision to withdraw would come to haunt him.
Subsequent to making it, he started playing guitar for Liberty Christian Centre, a satellite church of London's Kensington Temple, a large Elim Pentecostal church pastored by Colin Dye based in Notting Hill, West London. Then, shortly after agreeing to be Liberty's lone musician, he quit his position as a telephone canvasser for an e-commerce company based in Surbiton, Surrey, thus bringing a fairly lengthy period spent as an office worker to an end.
A real change in his professional fortunes came around Christmastime when he was made lead singer for a Jazz band formed by an old friend of his father's. And which was complemented at various times by his dad, a double bass player, a brace of drummers, and David. They went on to cut several beautifully arranged demos, with David crooning Fly Me to the Moon, Moonlight in Vermont, The Days of Wine and Roses, and other standards of the Traditional Pop canon.
In early '01, Liberty's Pastor Phil decided to dissolve the church, so David made yet another return to Cornerstone. While the following summer, the band folded in the wake of the 2002 Shelton Arts Festival, which was a real shame because it had finally found its optimal audience, if the enthusiasm with which their performance was greeted was anything to go by.
Within days, David started working from home making appointments for a genial travelling salesman. And he was briefly very successful, until things started tailing off in the autumn; and he was let go. By this time he'd effectively left Cornerstone for good, although he was to make many subsequent sporadic returns.
This sudden exit came in consequence of a desire born of intensive internet research to seek out churches existing beyond the Pentecostal/Charismatic fold. These being Cessationist, which is to say they don't accept that the more spectacular Gifts of the Holy Spirit such as Tongues and Prophecy are still in operation.
For up until this time, any church that didn't encourage the speaking in other tongues David had refused to accept as being truly Christian. In fact, before 2003, which was his year of relentless internet research, he'd known next to nothing about the finer points of his faith.
Although he was fairly well versed in the subject of prophecy thanks to having been introduced to the same early in his Christian life by Denver and Rose. And specifically through various magazines and books, such as Prophecy Today; and the works of Barry R Smith.
He had no clue as to the meaning of Calvinism or Arminianism, Predestination or Foreknowledge, Cessationism or Continuationism and so on...but he didn't believe that made an iota of difference to the condition of his soul, as people - as he saw it - are saved by faith alone, with true saving faith producing the fruits of repentance.
In a general sense the year 2000 turned out to be something of a turning point for David, not just spiritually, but in terms of his entire personality, which became more inward looking, even by the standards of the previous seven years.
Significantly perhaps, the previous year had been the first since he was about 17 that he faced the world on a permanent basis with his hair its natural medium brown after having sporadically dyed it for nearly three decades. What prompted this was not a sudden loathing for the vanity of the bottle blond, but the fact that the peroxide-based streaking kits he favoured were causing him to have breathing difficulties.
At first, he missed being blond, but in time he came to prefer his natural colour after years of youthful blond androgyny. The fact is that throughout his twenties and for much of his thirties, he had effectively remained in a state of extended adolescence, blond being after all the natural colour of eternal youth.
It's perhaps fair to say that in his time, David had elicited a fair amount of admiration for a perceived maverick tendency...a cool avoidance of the conventional life, which certainly characterised his pre-Christian years. But the price for such an attitude turned out to be high, cruelly high, in terms of social and financial humiliation, leading him to become a veritable Jeremiah in his mid-50s, in terms of his opposition to the rebel lifestyle he'd once adored...but which he now saw as a destroyer of happiness.
Yet, young people in the 2000s worshipped at the altar of romantic rebellion as they'd always done. But perhaps not to quite the same degree as those of David's poor generation, who came to maturity to a frenetic Rock soundtrack. And who can say what effect it had on them, this music...tailor-made to inspire a generation scornful of deferred gratification, a generation of hipsters.
To the David of the Christian years, Rock - far from being just another music form - was a total art, involving poetry, theatre, fashion, but even more than that...a way of life with a strong spiritual foundation.
He fell under the influence of various Fundamentalist Christian critics of Rock music for a brief period in 2003, which made him feel inclined to destroy all traces of Rock music in his possession, even though he'd long lost any real taste for Hard Rock by then. However, by the summer, his attitude had mellowed to the extent that he was prepared to write about an hour's worth of Rock songs in response to a request from his dad for songs for a possible collaboration with the son of a close friend. But these were as far from Hard Rock as its possible to be, being influenced by such relatively benign and melodic genres as Folk, Pop and Soul.
Some new, some upgrades of old tunes, they were recorded on a Sony CFS-B21L cassette-corder, and were generally well-received despite their humble origins. And so two of David's songs were recorded on a friend's computer using what may have been state of the art technology for 2004, with the resultant demo being sent to a music publishing company for assessment. But when their response was far from encouraging, it was back to the drawing board for David Cristiansen.
As if disillusioned by constant failure, David decided he wanted to write creatively as of January 2006, although the real motive for his doing so was altogether different. In fact, it was a period of sickness that spurred him towards a serious literary career.
This began with a panic attack in central London, which grew into a flu-like illness, but it wasn't until he developed a painful condition affecting a singularly delicate section of his integument that he decided that he'd no further interest in maintaining optimal physical attractiveness, and so felt he had little to lose by writing.
The truth is that soon after becoming a Christian, David had destroyed most of what he'd written up to that point, and then wrote quite happily for a time as a Christian, until it seemed to him as if God was calling a halt to his writing. So, once again, he started destroying any writings he managed to finish...sometimes dumping whole manuscripts into handy dustbins, or dispensing with them one sheet at a time down murky London drains.
Then in about 1998, he more or less gave up altogether...that is, until he felt compelled to break his literary silence as a result of the aforesaid extended bout of sickness. Thence, he started posting articles to the Blogster web site, which went on to form the basis of his memoir, Rescue of a Rock and Roll Child.
In 2007, a CD of popular standards featuring himself and one of the world's leading harmonica players finally saw the light of day in 2007 after much rehearsal. And while it received a rave review in the official magazine of the British Musician's Union the following year, it only went on to sell a handful of copies.
The following year, he completed a first draft of his memoir in its definitive format after more than two years of labour.
Around about the same time, his former mentor Dr Elizabeth Lang died in her adopted village of Woodstock, Oxfordshire. The executor of her will, who was also the publisher of her final book, asked him to read one of the lessons at her funeral and deliver a eulogy in the capacity of a former student. This took place in the parish church of St Martin's in the beautiful village of Bladon, where Winston Churchill is buried, along with fellow members of the Malborough family.
It was a sad experience for him to be reunited with Elizabeth in such a way after nearly a quarter of a century, while being unable to communicate with her as he'd have been able to had he thought to make contact...even a handful of years earlier when she was still a published writer. It made him realise how important it is to stay close to friends and family before a time comes when its no longer possible to reconcile with them, and the world is so much the poorer for their sudden absence and silence.
By the beginning of 2011, there were so many versions of his story that David no longer knew which, if any, was the definitive one, and he occasionally teetered on the verge of dejection, as if his image of himself as a writer had been terminally shot to pieces.
And anyone carefully contemplating his life would be forgiven for thinking of him as a loser. In fact not just a loser but a king-size loser, a loser among losers, a loser supreme. And being told he was the best at what he did may have afforded him some consolation at those times his status in life meant the most to him; and he felt most helpless to change the conditions of his existence.
They might see him as someone who'd failed in pretty well every conceivable area of life. And so ended up living alone in an apartment adjacent to his parents' suburban home on the wrong side of 55, unmarried and childless, and without fortune, profession or vehicle.
Yet, is it not so that among those who ultimately come to faith to Him though Jesus Christ are men and women who would be judged failures in the eyes of the world, and yet having lost in life, have yet found a purpose that eludes life's victors...among whom they may once have been counted?
The answer is of course yes, and the ultimate example of a high achiever who became the ultimate loser once he'd given his life to Christ was the Apostle Paul, the former Saul of Tarsus born into the Tribe of Benjamin who as an impeccably pious high-ranking Pharisee was yet a ferocious persecutor and murderer of Christians.
Yet, as a Christian, he suffered losses that most contemporary Western believers have no experience or even conception of. For while he was mocked and despised for his beliefs, he was also flogged, beaten, stoned, starved and repeatedly imprisoned, before being ultimately put down as if he were a sick and ageing dog.
But that is not to say that all Christians come to faith in Christ through a violent Road to Damascus conversion after having undergone some unspeakable loss, far from it, for many - perhaps even most - come gently to faith without having suffered in any dramatic way whatsoever.
Yet the Damascus converts are deeply valuable to the Body of Christ, for they serve as living proof of the fact that anyone can be saved, regardless of their background. And their testimonies are as precious as they are for their very relative rarity.
It could be said then that David was foolish to lament all he had lost in terms of opportunities for great wealth and success, for fame, status and glory and all the wondrous things that accompany these, for after all, these are things that one cannot take with us when we quit this earth, and life is short, so terribly short that it is described in the Word of God as a "vapour."
And while for the most part his still handsome eyes failed to see this truth as if they'd become clouded o'er by the tears he often shed at night for his wasted past, and for the pain he felt when he thought of all he had lost, at other times, it became gloriously, brilliantly clear to him, and he rejoiced as the most fortunate of men. Yes, he was a loser, and yet yes, he'd gained so much more than he'd lost.
Then in November 2011, a semi-definitive version of Seven Chapters from a Sad Sack Loser's Life saw the light of day. Narrated in the third person, with the character of David Cristiansen doubling as himself, which is to say the author Carl Halling, the names of most of the other characters included were also changed. As were the vast majority of the names of institutions. While dialogue was as David remembered it, as opposed to being reproduced with 100% accuracy. Either that, or based on ancient informal diary notes, and then edited for inclusion in his writings.
And by the time it did, he'd finally gained some real confidence within himself as a writer...
"I'm not done yet," he'd boast to himself, or to anyone else who might listen, and to look at him, you might think he had a point. Yes, he was a loser, and yet yes, he'd gained so much more than he'd lost.
Yet, it could have all been so different...
Fri, Mar 1st - 8:04AM
Seven Chapters from a Sad Sack Loser's Life - Chapter 6(c)
He genuinely came to believe that for all the horrors he underwent, it was during that first night he came to accept Christ as his Saviour, and that had his violent conversion not come about when it did, he might have been lost forever, although whether one agrees with him or not depends on where one stands on the issue of predestination versus free will. But he'd have surely immersed himself further in the new bohemianism of the 1990s, which of course was not new at all, simply a revival of the adversary values of the sixties. Far from vanishing around '73, these values had merely gone back underground, where they set about fertilising new anti-establishment clans such as the Anarcho-Punks and the New Age Travellers who quietly flourished throughout the '80s.
Around '92, some kind of amalgam between these tribes and the growing Rave-Dance movement could be said to have taken place. And David was primed...supremely, passionately ready...to take his place as a zealot of this New Edge, only to be delivered from its seductive grasp by a "Road to Damascus" conversion to Christianity.
However, if he'd been reborn against all the odds, he still had to suffer in the physical, if only briefly. And on the morning of the 18th, he somehow made it into New Eltham for classes at the University, but by evening he felt so ill he started swigging from a litre bottle of gin in the hope this would improve his condition. He also phoned Alcoholics Anonymous at his mother's request, and agreed to give a meeting a shot.
Next day, on the way to Twickenham, he got the feeling that his heart was about to explode, not just once but over and over again. Then, after that morning's classes, he tried taking a stroll around town but couldn't feel his legs, and was struggling to stay conscious, so he ended up ordering a double brandy from the pub next door to the Police Station. He was shaking so much the landlord thought he was fresh from an interrogation session.
Later, he was thrown out of another pub for preaching at the top of his voice, and, walking through Twickenham town centre he started making the sign of the cross to passers-by, telling one poor young guy never to take to drink like some kind of walking advert for temperance. The fellow nodded in assent before silently scurrying away.
Back home, in an effort to calm himself down, he dug out an old capsule of Chlomethiazole, a sedative commonly used in treating and controlling the effects of acute alcohol withdrawal, but dangerous, in fact potentially fatal, when used in conjunction with alcohol. He still had some capsules left over from about 1990 when he'd been prescribed them by his then doctor, which meant they'd long gone beyond their expiry date. For a time he felt better and was able to sleep, but soon after waking, felt worse than ever.
Later, at an AA meeting, he kept leaving the room to douse his head in cold water, anything to shock some life back into me, to the dismay of his sponsor Dan who wanted him to stay put, for the purported healing effects of doing so.
"What do you think I come here for," he asked him, "the free cups of tea?"
Wednesday morning saw him pacing the office of the first available doctor, and it may have been touch and go as to whether he was going to stay on his feet...or overdose on the spot and die on him.
It was he who prescribed him the Valium which caused David to fall into a deep, deep sleep which may have saved his life, and from which he awoke to sense that a frontier had been passed and that he was out of danger at long last.
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