Our week-long visit to England lost a day when our flight was delayed from Wednesday night (Jan. 20) to Thursday morning (Jan. 21). Given that we were there to see Grad Girl’s PhD ceremony, attend/provide various goodbye/30th birthday celebrations before bringing her home, and had one full day booked for the Harry Potter Studios tour just outside of London, there wasn’t much time to go searching for music events/purchases. Our home base for the visit was the historic-and-quaint-to-the-point-of-being-almost-unnerving Stratford-Upon-Avon and it had no record store – or so I thought. (It’s called foreshadowing.)
As we toured the town, I kept my eyes peeled for potential sources of musical satisfaction and, when I saw the Oxfam books and music thrift shop, I dove in, of course. There was a small selection of vinyl, some of which was priced for collectors – $25+ for a Beatles LP! (didn’t check/don’t think it was a particular rarity) – and a lot of cheapies that didn’t inspire excitement.
Younger daughter got the best of the lot – Relaxing with Val (Doonican), volume one (!) in a Readers Digest collection, made in France and taken from the Phillips catalog. Here’s our boy, the fifth Beatle on our adventure, as we carried the vinyl around carefully and worked to make sure he was comfortable and safe.
The liner notes on this record are a hoot, and reading them aloud was a favorite pastime around the dinner table. Here are a few of the best bits, referring to various songs on the vinyl (emphasis on what quickly became our vacation catchphrases):
”The Lover’s Ghost” – “A young man welcomes back his sweetheart after a long absence, but then makes the disconcerting discovery that she is dead.”
“My Coloring Book” – “A self portrait of lovelorn despair….Val invites us to wield the melancholy crayons, and depict the empty loneliness of his life now that the girl he depended upon is gone.”
“Lazy” – “Relaxation returns with a drowsy vengeance…”
“Innocent” – “The keynote of realism continues with a song beginning in the fairweather idyll of childhood for a boy and girl and ending in lethal finality for both of them as life progresses, corrupting and betraying. Notice again the total lack of casualness in the Doonican approach, which contains a maximum of perceptive awareness.”
Wow. The liner notes gave no credit to the writer, but s/he is my new literary hero(ine).
On Wikipedia, I learn that “Michael Valentine “Val” Doonican (3 February 1927 – 1 July 2015) was an Irish singer of traditional pop, easy listening, and novelty songs, who was noted for his warm and relaxed style.” He also frequently sang from a rocking chair. (One of his albums is entitled Val Doonican Rocks, But Gently). He also makes a cameo appearance on the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band‘s “The Intro and the Outro,”saying “hello there.”
When I was searching for images of Val, Google gave me the following:
The gift just keeps on giving. Next to the gently rocking glory of Val, the few CDs I bought to satisfy my initial itch for tune-age paled in comparison:
- Sex Pistols Kiss This (Virgin, 1992) £2.99 The seminal (and spittal) punks across 20 “greatest hits” tracks. That’s why I’m in the U.K., you gobs!
- Michael Buble Crazy Love Hollywood Edition (Reprise/143 Records, 2010) Pretty sure I have this at home, but not the deluxe, 2-CD edition, with 8 more songs. I’m sure Johnny Rotten understands my rationale. £2.99
- Matthew Jay Draw (EMI/Food, 2001) Well, this is a sad turn of events. As I’m listening to this nice, acoustic pop/rock album, which I bought strictly for the cute guy on the cover and the cheap price (£1.99), I go online for more info and find this Billboard item from 2003: “Rising British singer/songwriter Matthew Jay died Sept. 24 after falling from a seventh-story window in Nottingham, England, his label EMI confirmed today (Sept. 30). He was 24.” Initially thought to be a suicide, an inquest into his death returned an open verdict (meaning the jury felt the death was suspicious, but was unable to reach any definitive conclusion). Given that Jay was often compared to Nick Drake, Jeff Buckley and Elliott Smith, that’s strange as well as very sad.
Don’t want to leave you on a down note. Come back soon because next up, there will be a musical feeding frenzy at Poundland!