Friday, 26 August 2011

The Monster, the Writer and the Lack of Blue Plaques

Hollywood 1930 and there’s this guy, Boris Karloff,
and he’s playing a monster - Frankenstein’s monster.
Only Boris Karloff isn’t his real name.
His real name is William Pratt and before he was a big star he lived in Enfield.
Well now, Karloff’s paternal grandmother was the sister to Anna Leonowens,
the real-life ‘Anna’ in the story of the King and I,
the most recent of which films starred Jodie Foster,
who also worked with another famous monster,
Hannibal Lecter, played by Anthony Hopkins.
Anthony Hopkins narrated the film How The Grinch Stole Christmas,
which had originally been narrated on TV by our dear friend from Enfield, Boris Karloff.

Now I hope we all remember that Frankenstein was written by Mary Shelley,
while she was holidaying a million miles away from the not-yet-invented Hollywood,
in the Villa Diodata with Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron and John William Polidari,
because this is crucial to Enfield’s pretensions to literary glory.
Much later, of course, Byron would have a daughter called Ada,
who worked with Charles, the “father of the computer” Babbage.
Babbage went to school in Enfield even though, as far as anyone knows,
he never wrote a story about Frankenstein or vampires.
Talking of vampires, someone who did write about them was Byron,
but chances are that he stole the idea from Polidari.

Anyway Byron’s vampire wasn’t the Dracula we came to know and love.
That Dracula was played in the early movies by Bela Lugosi,
who starred with Boris Karloff in The Raven,
an adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s story of the same name -
Poe having been educated in.... Stoke Newington (with apologies to Enfield).
The author of Dracula, of course, was Bram Stoker,
and his brother, Sir William Thornley Stoker,
employed a companion for his wife by the name of Florence Dugdale.
Florence having been born and educated in Enfield, which,
by a strange twist of fate, is where Florence married the writer Thomas Hardy,
who wrote a poem called “Shelley’s Skylark”, after Shelley’s poem “Ode to a Skylark”.

Now the publisher of some of Shelley’s oeuvre was Edward Moxon,
who married the poet Charles Lamb’s adopted daughter, Emma Isola.
From time to time Lamb lived variously in Edmonton and Enfield,
his sister Mary having murdered their mother with a kitchen knife in a fit of pique.
Charles Lamb, in turn, was friends with Charles Cowden Clarke,
whose father taught at a school in Enfield
where young Clarke befriended a sickly boy by the name of John Keats.
Keats died too young for his own good, but before he shuffled off his mortal coil,
he famously entered into an epic poetry competition with Shelley,
to whom he’d been introduced by James Henry Leigh Hunt.
Hunt had been born in Southgate... in the Borough of Enfield 
Well, the story goes that whilst Hunt was banged up at His Majesty’s pleasure,
for having dissed the Prince Regent, he had a visit from Byron,
who of course was with Mary Shelley and that entire monster-creating crew
when she wrote a little story called Frankenstein.
Mary Shelley, as far as I know, never stepped foot in Enfield,
but the monster she created lived on in Boris Karloff, who did,
although there are no blue plaques to that effect.

Friday, 12 June 2009

That Old Blue Note or Lady Day wasn't never this way

Missy Babette likes to sing that old time jazz
she says 'like Billy what's-her-name' with that sultry glance.
But the sound gets strangled back of B's throat
though she thinks she's singing a deep blue note

Now there's George, he croons away to that old time jazz
thinks he's Dean Martin, a real smooth dude.
But G, he's vibrating way down in his throat
and he sure isn't singing a deep blue note

No, that old blue note ain't easily found.
That old blue note's been around and around
Now you me and them, that makes more than three
and we don't stand a chance next those youngsters that jive
with their nu-jazz sound,
tradin' on looks,
cocaine,
walkin' tall,
rappin' small
feelin' down.

Meanwhile Miss Babette and old George they do moan
'bout the way jazz has changed
and it's changed and then some.

"Lady Day wasn't never this way" Babette says
No way, no way, no way, no way
Lady Day wasn't never this way

Melodius Thunk

Melodius Thunk
Thelonius Monk
Spherical Joke
going for broke.
Contagious atmospherics,
cliff-hanger chords on high.
Pannonica's child
playing so wild.
The loneliest monk
doing a bunk.
T.S. and Boo Boo beaming
dreaming of Rocky Mount

Indigo Walk

Just an afternoon or two,
of limited beckoning.
He touches her lips.
He has a golden tongue.
He tells he things she only dreams about.
It's a deception.
She is hypnotised by the people on the street below.
That kind of fascination; warm and scary,
heaven drifting past the window
but stopping a while inside this room.
He has purchased an hour;
time for the city to heat his blood and move on.
She lets her fingers work his buttons
and laughs before she straddles him
while he breathes hot in the shimmering light.
Too loud, he murmurs.
but he door is locked and they sigh.
The shade stretches all the way down Indigo Walk
as the blues man carries the beat.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Dicing with Donna (Donna Lee)

Back home in Indiana
He plays those bebop bass lines
with a rapid tempo hurl
and it’s all Curly’s girl
can do to keep up with the changes.
Pretty Donna Lee
sittin’ in the sidelines
Smilin’ at her Daddy’o,
heating the beat
while Miles swings along
and let’s old Bird take the lead.

Earlier, sooner, later, now
A skitter skatter,
pitter patter
virtuoso harmonies
from the thin men.
And old Fats wasn’t so old.
ice freezing blood red at 26,
Indiana spawning
chromatic melodies
to make your toes curl.

Miles, sweet nineteen,
he’d been kissed,
don’t tell me not,
sliced and diced
that solo sizzle,
gave birth to Bird’s
cool bebop drizzle
like rain drops
fast on a window pane.
No music so fine,
no sound so sublime.
A dime each time it’s played
by fresh young dukes
out to nuke the opposition.

Jaco’s solo speed undone
His fingers hazing, trailing some
The time all tempo-fused and random
The conga questioning rhythm grows
What to do when Donna’s done.
What indeed? The thread’s unspun.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

How Duke Jordan Changed the World - performed to Jordu

When Jordan penned this number it was new
and few had tried to do what he could do.
He'd played with all the best
that was Jordu
You know the rest
Parker's inspiration caught Duke's ear
but he missed the chance to dance in France
Instead, he worked with Getz
and gigged some more
That was Jordu

Bebop plays it hard in all the uptown clubs
The scene in 41 was just fermenting
By 54 the scene had crystallized
The music Duke played, it really jumped
The first to lay it down for all to hear
was Clifford Roach with Brown,
they played it clear,
but as the good in jazz - they all die young.
Brown bought the farm.

I know you want to hear the rest of the story
and I'm going to oblige.
Just you settle now and listen
to the way in which the music goes on and on and...
Inside the rhythm it gives a little bit
and we hear the way in which
the given notes inform the melody,
though improvising was the order of the day.
And I don't have to tell you all
how hard it is to tell the folks
all listening to the beat,
'cos you're listening now,
in tandem with the souls who've gone before.
Best beloved we sit with them now,
and the world can't hear them
though they hold them dear.
Reign in your emotions for a while.
Hear what I say...

(solos)

When Jordan penned this number it was new
and few had tried to do what he could do.
He'd played with all the best
that was Jordu
You know the rest
Parker's inspiration caught Duke's ear
but he missed the chance to dance in France
Instead, he worked with Getz
and gigged some more
That was Jordu

Bebop plays it hard in all the uptown clubs
The scene in 41 was just fermenting
By 54 the scene had crystallized
The music Duke played, it really jumped
The first to lay it down for all to hear
was Clifford Roach with Brown,
they played it clear,
but as the good in jazz - they all die young.
Brown bought the farm.
That was Jordu
That was Jordu

Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Senor Blues Danced on Mama's Grave - performed to Senor Blues by Horace Silver

Senor blues danced on Mama's grave
while they kept us busy.
The peppermint girl and the grandfather's
saying 'a thing like that could harm you',
and the others running round and round,
laying her down in that cool dark earth.
Despair has a nasty smell but it's high and fine
after a decent silence.

And back then I was brand new for sure.
Old ladies with alligator purses
dropped coins in my palm with a polite distance.
Their grey eyes followed my every move,
afternoon rainbows everywhere.
I looked away and avoided thinking about the huge coffin.

We walked past the cemetary
while the bass nursed the tune along.
Every vibration coming straight from the universe.
He was shooting the breeze about the blues.
'Sit long enough and the whole world passes you by'.
He said: 'You don't own the music, it comes through you'.
And twenty years later,
there's just the peppermint girl and the grandfathers.