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  • Music Hall

    I've just finised reading John Major's book on music hall "My Old Man". Major's Dad was a music hall artist, hence the fascination (God only knows how that went down in the inner echelons of the Tory Party, the true home of the British aristocracy and it's accompanying snobbery - but he got the top job, so maybe the UK is something of a meritocracy after all?). It's an enjoyable read about a world that now seems completely alien - the UK had a largely homogenous culture, was still in the flushes of Empire, fully Christian. A flash of stockings from dancers doing the Can Can was enough to get a venue shut down. He gives profiles and anecdotes about all the major artists, and an account of how the phenomena grew, and died. One thing I found remarkable was how completely and utterly this culture has now vanished - it was put paid to the advent of radio, cinema and later TV (and to a degree WW1). It's amazing to try and project yourself back into a time before recorded music, and the constant media blur we now live in. It's fascinating to think that a pub I walk past every day - the Eagle on City Road - was once a thriving venue, and has been commerated in song ("Up and down the City Road/In and out the Eagle/that's the way the money goes/Pop goes the weasel").

    To someone of my age, a lot of the songs are remembered, and I can understand vestiges of music hall in the light entertaiment I grew up with - people like Ken Dodd or Morecame and Wise seem utterly music hall. One thing that struck me was the way there was a real mix of sentiment (tragic songs about dying children), seaside postcard "sauciness" and patriotism (jingoism actually has it's origin in a popular song called "By jingo") - in this sense, you can see Music Hall as a real precursor to the tabloid press. The emotional tenor of the tabloids would be completely familar to a fan of the halls I think.

    I have to add, I've been checking out some old recordings on Youtube and I find the music in general absolutely unbearable. I have an aversion to the tabloids as well, so this is no suprise. There's something about the sentiment, the comic accents, a horrible light-hearted cuteness... I find it really hard to sit through this for instance - Jessie Wallace playing Queen of the Music Halls, Marie Lloyd doing "My Old Man". ARRRGGGGHHHH

    Anyway, why I started this thread was because I'm interested in it's influence on music that I might listen to. Since I started listneing to UK psych, I've enjoyed it's peculiar Britishness - English eccentricity. I think some of this has it's origins in music halls - unsurprising as they would have only been a generation away in the 60s and 70s. Here's a couple of tunes that personify that for me:





    Any more? Further thoughts welcome of course....
    "As technology has advanced, vinyl records are outdated as they are music from the 19th Century so only hipsters and elderly people buy vinyl records".

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  • #2
    Impossible not to post this in this thread.
    Presently only celebrated by myself, GK Son of Stan and Danny Baker.
    I put this at the end of my first ever Swap CD I think (?)
    Pathos layered on with a builder's trowel in the writing, from the voice that inspired David Bowie's delivery. I still love it. Even the corny double-tracked laugh at the end.

    <<Soul Strut 100>>Collectable CDs 1 Forumusic: April 2014 Collectable CDs 2<<'95 WOF>>

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    • #3
      Of greater relevance to the book you've just read:

      <<Soul Strut 100>>Collectable CDs 1 Forumusic: April 2014 Collectable CDs 2<<'95 WOF>>

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      • #4
        Also, I seem to recall John Lahr's 'Automatic Vaudeville' contains a great essay on the Beatles, highlighting (if it ever needed to be) how many musical, lyrical and visual ideas they borrowed from the Music Hall tradition.
        <<Soul Strut 100>>Collectable CDs 1 Forumusic: April 2014 Collectable CDs 2<<'95 WOF>>

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        • #5
          At least half of the Small Faces and The Kinks' mid-60s output.

          More recently, of course . . .



          There's tons more.
          To infinity - and beyond!

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          • #6
            Paul mccartneys basic melodic sensibility is pure music hall

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Ian Townsend View Post
              Also, I seem to recall John Lahr's 'Automatic Vaudeville' contains a great essay on the Beatles, highlighting (if it ever needed to be) how many musical, lyrical and visual ideas they borrowed from the Music Hall tradition.
              And surely the missing link there is Spike Milligan, who was a big fan of music hall.



              George Martin produced.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Tsundoku View Post
                One thing I found remarkable was how completely and utterly this culture has now vanished - it was put paid to the advent of radio, cinema and later TV (and to a degree WW1)..
                I think dancehalls were the biggest nail in the coffin, but variety carried on well into the 60s.

                The culture hasn´t vanished at all. I'd say it´s one of the defining elements of a certain self-assertively English strand of entertainment - Kinks, Beatles, Ian Dury, Madness, Blur, Lily Allen, comic pianists, tons of stand-ups.

                And it definitely survived far longer on the pier and in holiday resorts. There are two music halls run by drag queens here, and they´re great fun. You laugh, sing along, shout catch phrases and gasp at dancers in feathers

                Colin MacInnes' Sweet Saturday Night is worth reading on the subject, although not as good as I´d have expected from him. He´s a bit misty-eyed, admits he´s late to the party and mithers about American influence obliterating British culture
                Vardy.....¡¡¡PELIGRO!!!

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by babycart View Post
                  The culture hasn´t vanished at all. I'd say it´s one of the defining elements of a certain self-assertively English strand of entertainment - Kinks, Beatles, Ian Dury, Madness, Blur, Lily Allen, comic pianists, tons of stand-ups.

                  ...

                  Colin MacInnes' Sweet Saturday Night is worth reading on the subject, although not as good as I´d have expected from him. He´s a bit misty-eyed, admits he´s late to the party and mithers about American influence obliterating British culture
                  +V for Vendetta!

                  Shame about Colin MacInnes, was looking forward to reading that!
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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by eine View Post
                    +V for Vendetta!

                    Shame about Colin MacInnes, was looking forward to reading that!
                    Oh, it´s definitely worth a read. He tackles the tabloid aspect Tsundoku mentions well, and the bits on Dan Leno are worth reading for anyone who´s interested in the roots of British comedy. It´s just not as sharp or subversive as his 50s novels - more of a fanboy tribute.

                    Saki skewered the inanity of music hall ditties well in The Secret Sin of Septimus Brope.
                    Vardy.....¡¡¡PELIGRO!!!

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                    • #11
                      Mike Absalom, Hector And Other Peccadillos. Firmly in the music hall tradition I think. A folkie turned freakie who embraced that sound.
                      The Idle Race had a bit of that going on too.
                      I've got this on a 78 which I still drag out because its brilliant. First heard it in The London Nobody Knows.
                      Everyone tear down your own little wall
                      That keeps you from being a part of it all
                      Because you've got to be one with the one and all
                      You've just got to be close to it all

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                      • #12
                        Vic Godard has a touch of the music hall about him from time to time.

                        "You don't want to kill the cash donkey"

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                        • #13
                          Ian Whitcomb kicked off in the US with "You Turn Me On" and "Nervous" but for most of his career was digging into music hall type repetoire with tracks like "Where Did Robinson Crusoe Go"...

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                          • #14
                            Babycart is right you hear its influence in a myriad of quintessentially English bands. Ian Dury, early Genesis and the Canterbury scene were the first thing that came to my mind. I think the Cardiacs 'classic' 80's line up had a huge music hall influence albeit surreal as this bonkers appearance on 'the tube' demonstrates:

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                            • #15
                              I was waiting for you to flag them up! I know exactly what you mean
                              Everyone tear down your own little wall
                              That keeps you from being a part of it all
                              Because you've got to be one with the one and all
                              You've just got to be close to it all

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