Duane Eddy : Drive South (A road movie in 5 Songs)

‘Drive South’ starring Henry Fonda as Charlie

and Jean Arthur as Anna

Music by Duane Eddy

Minnesota 1938

Scene 1 – Introducing Anna

Anna looked out at the Minnesota night sky.

A distant moon illuminated swarms of ghostly moths fluttering by her window.

Snow and ice all around. And, the Cold … the Cold.

No matter how thick the blankets you sheltered under you were always cold in Minnesota in Winter.

A Winter which seemed to reign all through the year.

How many stars were there above Lutsen?

Thousands upon thousands. And, she had wished upon every one.

Every one.

Wishing that one day, soon, she would be looking at those same stars somewhere far away where the days and nights were warm.

With someone who would take good care of her and call her Anna not Anni-Frid.

Like Papa and the boys always did. Papa was already planning a marriage for her to a local farmer, a widower, who came of ‘good Norwegian stock’.

Anna. The name she called herself. The name she would take with her out into the world beyond the fences of the farm.

South. Like the birds to live, to thrive, she would have to head South.

South.

Scene 2 : Introducing Charlie

Charlie came from the South.

Georgia.

Now you could blink your eyes twice and miss all there was to see in Alapaha.

But it was home. The air smelled sweet and the peaches were so fine – straight off the tree.

And, if it wasn’t for that trouble he’d got into with the local Sheriff on account of a misunderstanding about the ownership of a truck he won, fair and square, in a card game with one of the Faulkner boys he would be there still.

Instead, he had to high tail it out of there without a backward glance. Better that than a long spell behind bars or be baked to death on the chain gang.

Sure, he didn’t know how he would pay the next time he needed gas. But, with a grin, he thought somehow he would find a way. He always did.

He knew the dirt roads and trails round here better than anyone. Forty miles of bad road and he would be long gone.

All they would ever catch of him would be the dust he left behind!

Scene 3 : Love and flight

Now, Charlie was thousands of miles away from the Southern sun in Minnesota. Still, there wasn’t a car or a tractor ever made that Charlie couldn’t make run even if everyone else had given up on it.

And, there was always work in farming country for a man who could save the struggling farmer the price of a new machine by resurrecting an old one.

Word got around. And so did Charlie. Farm to farm making those machines last one more harvest.

Charlie thought The Olsens worked harder than Georgia mules. And it seemed they were about as talkative too.

They were head down and close mouthed from sun up to sun down.

Though Charlie liked to talk he’d come to understand that these Norwegian folks spoke only when it was strictly necessary.

Only Anna spoke as if talk was a pleasure. When they got a chance to talk before the shadow of Mr Olsen or one of his five hulking sons intervened.

But, you can say a lot in a very few words. A lot.

Old Mr Olsen near cracked a smile Charlie got his old John Deere running again. Come in boy and wash up and let us share supper with you.

Anna is a fine cook – we will miss her food when she leaves us to become Mrs Nordstam come spring.

And, as he came into the house there was Anna haloed in the half light .

And, that was that. He couldn’t, wouldn’t, let her become another man’s wife.

He knew from the look in Anna’s eyes that she had been waiting for him just as much as he must have been waiting for her.

Some things don’t need words. A look is more than enough.

He told Mr Olsen he’d come back in the morning.

And he did. At three. Before anyone was awake.

Apart from Anna. He knew she would be awake. And waiting.

They had to walk a long ways in the still moonlight to where he had parked the truck.

They didn’t speak but they both knew that they were bound together now and that the road ahead, however bumpy, would be one they traveled together.

So, as the truck pulled away heading South their faces were shining bright as any star and their hearts were on fire.

Charlie said they would find a preacher once they crossed the state line.

And they drove South. South.

Under the canopy of heaven.

Scene 4 – Odyssey of love

Together in the truck and the truck stops they found they were as close as two people can be.

As the ribbon of the road unfurled they told each other the stories of their childhood and their secret dreams.

They would never forget the changing light and the charging of their hearts as they headed South.

The names of the towns they passed through or where they stayed when Charlie was working became hallowed beads on their love’s rosary.

Redwing, Bemidji, Grand Rapids, Aitkin, Brainerd, Little Falls, St Cloud, Elk River, La Crosse, Potosi, Dubuque, Lomax, Kampsville, Granite City, Cairo, Columbus, Tiptonville, Golddust, Locke, Memphis.

Of course, there were times the truck broke down and days when they thought they’d never see another dollar.

Charlie got in a fight a time or two and Anna longed for the days when they would have a home to call their own. A home where they could have a family.

In the meantime they kept moving.

Scene 5 – A home of their own

Kept moving. ‘Til the day they found Bell Buckle or Bell Buckle found them and they claimed each other.

Turned out Bell Buckle was in sore need of a first class mechanic and a woman with a smile as bright as the Southern sun.

Under the Southern sun two become three, then four and finally five.

And, they were never really cold again.

Note :

Duanne Eddy with his trusty Gretsch 6120 made some of the defining instrumentals of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Every home should have his Greatest Hits securely shelved.

I intend to write much more about Duanne when, ‘Peter Gunn’ features on The Jukebox later.

Bob Dylan & Bruce Springsteen agree : Wanda Jackson Rocks!

‘Wanda Jackson, an atomic fireball of a lady, could have a smash hit with just about anything.’ (Bob Dylan)

‘There’s an authenticity in her voice that conjures up a world and a very distinct and particular place in time. It’s not something that can be developed.’ (Bruce Springsteen)

‘When I start erupting aint nobody gonna make me stop!’
(Wanda Jackson, Fujiyama Mama)

We are creatures of diverse tastes. What satisfies our appetite one day may not excite the taste buds the next.

Sometimes only Lobster Thermidor will do. Then again, some days you’d be nearly prepared to kill for a half pound hamburger slathered with onions and hot mustard.

Those of you with a sophisticated palette might care to sip a Joseph Drouhin Premier Cru Clos des Mouches at dinner followed by a vintage Port.

Some days I would too.

On others though I’d be prepared to fight my way the toughest bar crowd for a pint of plain. Which as we all know is sometimes your only man.

Settling into my armchair at night in need of wisdom I often reach for the poetry of Seamus Heaney or the deep humanity of Anton Chekhov.

Still there are times when I need the relentless drive of a Lee Child thriller or the guaranteed laughter always present in the pages of P G Woodhouse.

Similarly when it comes to music surveying the serried ranks of my record collection my eye will often be irresistibly drawn to the section containing several versions of Schubert’s masterpiece song cycle, ‘Wintereisse’.

But, but, there are times when I crave, need, and absolutely demand nitroglycerin fueled music that will blast me out of earth orbit before parachuting me back home – shaken, stirred and wholly satisfied.

And ready to relaunch.

When I feel like that I return over and over again to the late 50s/early 60s records of the Queen of Rockabilly.

The extraordinary Wanda Jackson.

Who else could deliver the lines:

‘I never kissed a bear, I never kissed a goose,
But I can shake a chicken in the middle of the room.’

and make you think – yeh, that’s exactly the kind of party I’m looking for.

Let’s have a party!

I have been known to play, ‘Let’s Have A Party!’ a dozen times in a row when the humour is on me.

Other times I’m more sober and can be content with only half a dozen spins.

Every time I hear the record I’m more and more convinced that it’s one of the greatest records ever made.

I would happily swap you a hundred foot tower of, ‘Corporate Rock’ Deluxe Box Sets for Wanda’s spine tingling, ultra sexy, ‘Hooooh’ exclamations that, once heard, will surely never leave your head.

Big Al Downing (see previous Black Rockabilly post) takes care of the pyrotechnics on piano. Big Al with guitar slinger Vernon Sandusky had been a member of Bobby Poe and the Poekats who had toured with Wanda. Producer Ken Nelson added Buck Owens on rhythm guitar and is that James Burton in there too?

Fabulous though these musicians were the undoubted star of the show is Wanda’s incendiary vocal.

Wanda sings like a wondrous mix of angel and banshee (maybe that’s a pretty good definition of the woman of all young men’s dreams!) one moment crooning pretty, the next outgrowling any bear that ever lived. All the while she’s absolutely in control and having an absolute whale of a time.

What more can you ask of a record!

Wanda was born in Maud, Oklahoma in 1937. Through her musician father she developed a deep love for the Western Swing of Bob Wills, Spade Cooley and especially, Hank Thompson.

In her early teens she was a radio star in Oklahoma City before hooking up with Thompson to record country songs for Capitol. Later she recorded straight country for Decca before rejoining Capitol in 1956.

Once she graduated from High School she hit the road with her father acting as manager and chaperone. Her dad was friendly with Bob Neal who was then managing a very promising hillbilly cat called Elvis Presley!

Wanda often toured with The King over the next few years and it is said that their closeness went beyond the artistic realm. Hardly surprising as Wanda was an absolute knockout beauty and Elvis wasn’t to shabby in the looks department either!

Elvis certainly encouraged Wanda to sing Rockabilly/Rock ‘n’ Roll and the results both live and on record were astonishing.

Wanda, at her thrilling best, is every bit as electric as Jerry Lee or The King himself.

Listen to her astounding performance of, ‘Fujiyama Mama’ from 1958 which, incredibly, was a No 1 hit in Japan.

Wanda tells us that, ‘Well you can talk about me say that I’m mean, I’ll blow your head off baby with nitroglycerine’

Who can possibly doubt her the enormity of her explosive power!

The more I reflect on what distinguishes the artists who appeal to me the most I realise that it’s the qualities of life force and personal presence in the voice (whether instrumental or sung) that does it for me. And, what presence there is in Wanda’s voice!

As regards life force let’s just say that Wanda probably watts out more energy in a two minute record than any nuclear power station. And, of course, repeated exposure to Wanda’s energy will do you nothing but good!

Wanda was able to take a contemporary R&B standard like Leiber & Stoller’s, ‘Riot in Cell Block No 9’ and give it a powerful, wholly individual reading reflecting her femininity and her humour. What a blast!

The clip below shows you how Wanda was a mercurial live performer easily dominating the stage while joyously interacting with her fellow musicians. When I get accees to time travel technology I’m definitely going to set the coordinates to a Wanda Jackson show in 1960.

What a party that will be!

Wanda Jackson. Wanda Jackson!

Always and ever the Queen of Rockabilly.

You betcha! Yeh!

Notes:

‘Let’s Have A Party’ (written by Jessie Mae robinson)was recorded in 1958 but not released as a 45 until 1960. Elvis featured it in the film, ‘Loving You’. Wanda’s version was top 40 in the USA and the UK.

The young paul McCartney must have been listening as he recorded the song himself on his Rock ‘N’ Roll record aimed at the Russian market. Of course, Paul does a mean, ‘Hooooh!’ himself!

By the mid 60s Wanda returned to country music as the tsunami from Liverpool capsized the careers of so many of the original Rock ‘n’ Rollers. Many of her country sides are well worth investigating.

But for me her glory will always be contained in those epochal records from 1958 to 1962.

These are best found on an Ace Records compilation, ‘The Queen of Rockabilly’

As so often Bear Family Records will satisfy those who demand comprehensive career coverage.

The European Rockabilly revival of the 80s/90s (in which I enthusiastically participated) saw Wanda tour and record a worthwhile album, ‘Rock ‘N Roll Your Blues Away’ on Rounder Records.

Later, she joined forces with Jack White to record the truly fine, ‘The Party Ain’t Over’ on Nonesuch in 2011.

Wanda has had a real influence as an exemplar of excellence on female artists like Adele, Rosanne Cash, Imelda May, Cyndi Lauper and Rosie Flores.

A Poem for All Ireland Sunday – Up Tipp!

This Sunday sees my Dad’s beloved Tipperary contest the All Ireland Hurling final against all conquering Kilkenny.

So I have decided to Reblog a post from the early days of The Jukebox which evokes the feelings of anxious exiles listening to the radio on All Ireland Sunday.

Up Tipp! Up Tipp!

Once or twice a year when the stars are in their correct alignment and the muse comes to call I find myself moved to write a poem.

I present one below that came unbidden one Sunday afternoon some years ago just after I had listened to a commentary on an Irish hurling match between arch county rivals Tipperary and Kilkenny.

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Sundays in summer my father took me with him to hear the Gaelic Games
Hurling, of course, a Tipperary Man’s birthright and delight.

Since radio reception of RTE – which on the old valve box still read, ‘Athlone’
Was poor and filled with a blizzard of wordless static we’d take the car (a Hillman Imp)

Up the vertiginous slope of Harrow on the Hill and park next to a telegraph pole –
In search of a perfect signal

As if by magic through the air came the alternating anguished and ecstatic tones of Michael O’Hehir –
his voice slicing through the miles like the Sliothair splitting the posts
For a marvellous point

Listening, rapt, willing victory, the match would pass in what seemed minutes
After, we’d sit in easeful silence as the evening became itself
And we were simply ourselves : a father and a son at one

Listening on a clear channel.

Notes:

Though I firmly believe that a poem should always retain some mystery many of you deeply versed in the lore of music may find some of the references above baffling.

Here’s a key that may help!

Gaelic Games: The principal Gaelic games of Ireland are Gaelic Football and Hurling. They are played throughout the island of Ireland.

The GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) was instrumental in the revival of these games in the late nineteenth century.

The GAA was very important then in Irish society and culture in fostering a sense of distinct Irish national consciousness. Now that the Catholic Church, has largely lost its grip on Irish society, the GAA is probably the most interwoven institution within that society.

Its strength is that it is an intensely local organisation calling on and winning loyalty from the family, the town land, the parish and finally the County.

GAA rivalries at every geographic level are staggeringly intense. Reputations made playing these games last a lifetime and more.

Hurling: A wonderful field sport played by teams of 15 a side. Players use sticks, called Hurleys. The Sliothair (a ball near in size to a baseball) can be hand passed and hit through the ground or the air.

A point is scored by sending the Sliothair above the bar and between the posts of the opponent’s goal.

Hurling calls for bravery, speed of thought and action and enormous technical skill. Played well it is absolutely thrilling to watch.

RTE: Radio Telefis Eireann – the national broadcasting station of Ireland.

Harrow on the Hill: A leafy suburb some ten miles from central London. Chiefly known for the fee paying public school attended by such luminaries as Lord Byron and Winston Churchill. I grew up there.

Michael O’Hehir: A much beloved commentator on all Irish sports from the mid 1930s to the mid 1980s but particularly associated with Gaelic games.

For exiles from Ireland listening to him was an extraordinarily powerful emotional experience. He was deeply knowledgeable and had the gift of coining a memorable phrase in the moment an event took place.

His voice could climb dizzily through the registers from marching band flute to ear splitting soprano saxophone squaks!

This post dedicated to the memory of my father, Wally Hickey (1926 – 1989).

Joyous update!

Tipperary 2-29 Kilkenny 2-20 ..

All Ireland Champions 2016 – Tipperary!!

An epic performance by the men in Blue and Gold!

My Dad will be having quite the party in Heaven!

Springsteen, Bowie, Richard Thompson & The EasyBeats all have Friday on their minds!

Damn that alarm! Always too early. Every day. Every day.
 
Funny how I know the alarm is bound to ring yet somehow it’s always a surprise.
 
Another day. Here they come, rolling out their carpet of misery.
 
Mournful Monday. Terrible Tuesday. Woeful Wednesday. Tormenting Thursday.
 
Still, still … I got Friday on my mind. Friday on my mind.
 
Guess Mama was right – I should have listened in School.  
 
Maybe then I’d have a job that meant something to me instead of this endless grind where I’m treated as if I’m no more than a cog in a wheel.
 
Got to get through.

Monday morning punch the clock.
 
Monday night punch the clock.
 
Tuesday morning punch the clock.
 
Tuesday night punch the clock.
 
Wednesday morning punch the clock.

Wednesday night punch the clock.
 
Thursday morning punch the clock.
 
Thursday night punch the clock
 
Friday Morning punch the clock.
 
Friday night punch the clock.
 
One of these Friday nights I’m really gonna punch that clock!
 
 

 
 

I do my job. As well as they’ll let me.

Anyway they ain’t said I broke no rule.

Maybe one day if I keep my nose clean I’ll get that raise in pay they been promising for so long. Maybe.

Until then I’ll keep my mind fixed on Friday when I ain’t just one more guy on the shift.

My time. Off the clock.

My time. Off the clock.

Friday on my mind. Friday on my mind.

An undeniable hit from the first second of the intro!

And, a massive 1966 worldwide hit it proved. Top 20 in the USA, top 10 UK, No 1 in The EasyBeats Australian home and also in Holland.

In Australia it’s an iconic symbol of the emergence of a far away continent into pop culture consciousness.

So it’s been voted Australia’s best song of all time as well as being safely lodged in their National Sound Archives Registry.

The song was written by Henry Vanda and George Young lead and rhythm guitar respectively. Dick Diamonde held down the bass with Gordon Fleet behind the drums. The impassioned vocal courtesy of Stevie Wright.

All their energy and talents mesh together here perfectly to lay down a pop classic that always comes up no matter how many weekends it has kickstarted.

Friday on my mind is a wonderful adrenaline rush of a song that sums up a universal feeling. The sense of gathering excitement is brilliantly realised.

Perhaps they were able to capture such a feeling because as the sons of migrant families to Australia they were hyper alert, as migrants often are, to the signals of culture all around and desperate to make their mark in their new world.

They met up at Villawood Migrant Hostel and via intense practice and stints at ‘Beatle Village’ venue in Sydney they became a formidable live band ready to conquer a continent and take on the world.

Their second Australian release in 1965, ‘She’s So Fine’ had launched them into pop orbit and brought them adulation at near Beatles level at home.

But the epicentre of the pop world in 1966 was London. So it was there in September with Shel Talmy (producer of hits for The Kinks) at IBC studios that they recorded the record that will always define their career.

Let’s return to the term, ‘hyper alert’. Perhaps the single artist in the modern era who most exemplifies that quality is David Bowie.

Sharply intelligent, artistically omnivorous and hugely ambitious he hoovered up every influence in the 1960s air (and in all the decades thereafter) right up to his majestic sign off with, ‘Blackstar’.

His 1973 record, ‘Pin Ups’ celebrated the 1964 to 1967 world that David Jones/Bowie moved in before his own career ascended to the stratosphere.

Bowie lends, ‘Friday On My Mind’ his own wild glamorous sheen.

Now, The Boss, Bruce Springsteen, is well known to be tuned in to the blue collar life.

Growing up in New Jersey his ears will have pricked up at the skewering of working class realities captured by The EasyBeats.

And, Bruce pays his dues. So, arriving to tour Australia he has no hesitation in pulling out, ‘Friday On My Mind’ and bringing the full force of his personality and the drive of the E Street Band to lift the roof off!

As the 21st Century approached Playboy Magazine decided to ask a series of musicians for their choices for the music of the millennium.

Playboy assumed that the responses would be choices of music from the 20th century and for all but one contributor the assumption proved correct.

The exception was the list provided by English guitar and songwriting genius Richard Thompson.

Richard must have delighted in producing a list that included both, ‘Sumer is Icumen In’ and, ‘Oops! … I Did It Again’.

Richard as a teenager was playing and attending the iconic 1960s clubs like the UFO. And, who,knows that he crossed paths with The EasyBeats. He certainly recognised a classic guitar figure when he heard one.

There’s a caricature of Richard a misery laden, doom and gloom merchant. In truth he’s a serious musician with well honed wit who can turn his considerable gifts to any subject he chooses.

Listen to him give Friday another dimension.

Few songs appeal so powerfully to so many artists.

Vanda and Young with The EasyBeats have succeeded in keeping Friday on our minds eight days a week.

Mona Lisa must have had the Highway Blues …

‘The Mona Lisa must have had the highway blues – you can tell by the way she smiles’ (Bob Dylan)

Ah, The Mona Lisa. La Gioconda. Leonardo Da Vinci. Lisa Gherardini.

There is a fascinating post to be composed concerning the artistic, cultural and historical significance of the most famous painting in the story of art.

A painting of enormous influence which has beguiled artists, scholars and the public for more than 500 years.

Such a work would have to pay proper attention to; the signifance of the Renaissance in Florence, the relationship between secular and sacred art, the role of patronage in an artist’s life and the thorny subject of the role of the male gaze in the representation of women throughout the ages.

I wish the author of such a study well.

For my part, although I have an abiding interest in art history I must confess that when I hear the name Mona Lisa my initial response is not to reflect on the weighty matters outlined above but instead to launch, full throatedly, into my own rendition of a 1959 Rock ‘n’ Roll classic out of Sun Studios in Memphis.

‘Are you warm, are you real, Mona Lisa?
Or just a cold and lonely lovely work of art?’

I refer, of course. to Carl Mann’s immortal, ‘Mona Lisa’.

Well, great googly moo! Ain’t that just a barn burner!

Texan Eddie Bush provides the overproof White Lightning guitar with Carl pumping out the setting the woods on fire piano underneath his amazingly assured vocal.

W. S. Holland on drums and Rob Oatwell on bass make sure that the song’s rhythmic attack never lets up as a few million synapses in your cerebral cortex flash and flash and flash until it’s permanently seared into your memory.

Carl and the boys recorded, ‘Mona Lisa’ at Sun Studios and it was issued, after some hesitation by Sam Phillips, in March 1959.

It went on to be a top 30 Billboard hit and to sell well over a million copies. It’s a certifiable Rock ‘n’ Roll classic and the record which will ensure that the name Carl Mann burns bright in history.

It might well have sold even more had Conway Twitty not put out his own version after hearing Carl’s far superior take on a visit to Memphis.

Astonishingly Carl was a mere 16 year old when he laid down, ‘Mona Lisa’. He had been born in the rural area of Huntingdon Tennessee in August 1943.

The Mann’s had a lumber business which Carl would return to after the heady months following the issue of Mona Lisa turned into a life sapping grind.

Growing up in Tennessee Carl; in church, through The Grand Ole Opry and from youthful forays into honkytonks drank deep of the living streams of Country, Rhythm and Blues and Rocksbilly music that were the virtual birthright of Southern musicians.

Inevitably the towering figures of Hank Williams and Elvis loomed large in his musical imagination.

Carl was something of a musical prodigy and while barely a teenager he had performed on local radio in Jackson and featured on WSM’s Junior Opry. It was in Jackson that he made his debut recordings for Jimmy Martin’s Jaxon label.

His output for Jaxon includes a prime slice of Rockabilly in, ‘Gonna Rock’n’Roll Tonite’ coupled with ‘Rockin’ Love’ which was issued under the name of Carl Mann and the Kool Kats.

It was when W S Holland, who had played with Carl Perkins, hooked up with Carl that the introduction to Sun Records was made.

Carl never managed to hit the mother lode again with Sun and his subsequent mainstream country music work is undistinguished.

However, the late 1970s Rockabilly revival in Europe gave Carl an opportunity to demonstrate that Mona Lisa wasn’t entirely a fluke. In Holland he made two eminently listenable albums with stellar guitar from Eddie Jones.

Tiring of travel and over fond of the bottle Carl wisely retreated to Tennessee where he remains.

Perhaps, as he rocks on his porch swing he sometimes, purely for his own amusement, croons a stately version of Mona Lisa and smiles as he realises that he created a lovely, warm and very real work of art all those years ago.

P.S. Through pure serendipity I wrote this post on Carl’s 74th Birthday. Many happy returns Carl!

Notes:

‘Mona Lisa’ was written by Ray Evans and Jay Livingston. It was penned for the film, ‘Captain Carey’ and won the duo the Oscar for Best Original Song at the 1950 Academy Awards.

Nat King Cole’s typically poised performance atop a Nelson Riddle arrangement of the song was a massive No 1 hit in 1950.

There have been innumerable versions since with my own favourites being those of Willie Nelson and The Neville Brothers.

Fine CDs of selections Carl’s best work can be found on the Charly and Bear Family labels.

Carl’s revival period can be found on the CD, ‘In Rockabilly Country’ on the Rockhouse label.

Lavender, The Lark and The Sublime

If you grow it they will come.

Lavender that is.

Not so far away several acres of transplanted heaven glows blue and purple.

Hip high bushes tremble in the Summer breeze.

A Summer breeze carrying an intoxicating scent that lifts the heart and calms the spirit.

Peace comes dropping slow.

Rows and rows of nature’s glory climb towards a hazy horizon.

People of all ages and cultures walk the straight path between the rows with like devout pilgrims.

In the shimmering stillness there is an awareness of profound blessings to be harvested here.

Settling into the self, breathing slow, sloughing off the shackles of busyness.

Emerging into simple being.

Being.

The bonny birds wheel higher and higher in the sky making perhaps for Leith Hill.

Leith Hill where the young Ralph Vaughan Williams’ musical soul was quickened and nourished.

A musical soul which survived the horrors of war to produce quicksilver streams of tender beauty.

A musical soul which evoked in, ‘The Lark Ascending’ a sense of the mystical gyre uniting life and death.

Walking among the lavender it seemed as if this wondrous music infused the air.

I have chosen to feature an incandescent performance by by Nicola Benedetti.

Listening we are invited to enter the realm of the sublime.

Note: I would urge you to seek out the astonishing poem by George Meredith which inspired Vaughan Willians to create his own masterwork.

Nick Drake : River Man, Oh how they come and go …

I was woken this morning from a full five fathom sleep by the shrill steam whistle of a ferry boat about to depart for the tranquil sanctuary of some green Nordic isle.

As I floated upward into consciousness I carried with me a gift from my subconscious: no doubt inspired by the moon above the harbour the previous evening.

So .. luxuriating in the drowsiness of my summer vacation and not equipped or inspired to present you with my customary impeccably researched and deeply pondered musings I offer to you the gift given to me.

Nick Drake. For a spell in the 1970s I was deeply obsessed with the persona and music of Nick Drake (whereas now I remain merely mildly obsessed).

And, there is good reason to be obsessed with the music of a man who left to us, after such a short life, so much intense beauty.

I will have much more to say about Nick Drake later.

For now I will content myself with stating that he was a songwriter with a particularly English, romantic and lyrical sensibility who wrote songs of mythic power.

He was a superlative guitar player with a wholly distinctive tone and sound. And, he was a singer whose voice will haunt your imagination.

River Man has a beguiling pastoral grace demonstrating all the above virtues. I’ve chosen to showcase a live in the studio version recorded for the great British Disc Jockey and cultural bellwether, John Peel.

Nick Drake seemed to live his life drifting further and further away from the safety of the shore.

Yet, even as he heartbreakingly faded away from us into the unknowable blackness beyond he was able to pull from his inner being shafts of light that still blaze with creative fervour.

Like the the moon his music has a mysterious attraction that moves the tides of our hearts.