A garland of poems for ChristmasTide

In a time when more than ever we are hectored and daily assaulted by instant, ill informed and ill expressed opinions from commentators and pundits in print, on the airwaves and on social media we need more than ever the considered voice of poetry.

I believe that poetry is one of the glories of our species. Proof, that somewhere in the human spirit there is always a blessed movement towards understanding, reconciliation and wholeness.

Poetry has been a constant nurturing companion in my life. It’s poetry I turn to most for fellow feeling, illumination and consolation.

So today I’m collecting a garland of Christmas poems for you to ponder as you gather round for your seasonal celebrations. Drink deep!

First, ‘December’ by John Clare (1793-1864) a poet who was deeply attuned to the turning of the seasons and the rhythms of rural life.

‘… And some, to view the winter weathers,
Climb up the window-seat with glee,
Likening the snow to falling feathers,
In fancy’s infant ecstacy;
Laughing with superstitious love,
O’er visions wild that youth supplies’
Of people pulling geese above,
and keeping Christmas in the skies.’

Next the short but immensely wise, ‘BC : AD’ by the much under rated
U A Fanthorpe.

‘… And this was the moment
When a few farm workers and three
Members of an obscure Persian sect

Walked haphazard by starlight straight
Into the kingdom of heaven.’

Now we turn to that great rarity a genuinely popular poet – John Betjeman (1906-1984).

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Lets her this one!

Now for a very distinctive voice. ‘Advent: A Carol’ by Patric Dickinson (1914-1994) a writer who revered and translated the Classical poets while looking at the world himself with a sharply individual measured intelligence.

He’s pictured below with a much more famous poet – Dylan Thomas.

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‘What did you hear?
Said stone to echo:
All that you told me
Said echo to stone.

Tidings, said echo,
Tidings, said stone,
Tidings of wonder
Said echo to stone.

Who then shall hear them?
Said stone to echo:
All people on earth,
Said echo to stone.

Turned into one,
Echo and stone,
The world for all coming
Turned into one.’

One of the greatest ever Christmas poems is surely by Christina Rosetti (1830-1894)

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‘In The Bleak Midwinter’ is one of the glories of English poetry.

‘Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air-
But only His mother
In her maiden bliss
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss

What can I give Him?
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a wise man
I would do my part;
Yet what I can, I give Him-
Give my heart’

Let’s hear that sung with elegant fervour by the very fine choral ensemble, Chanticleer.

‘The Carol Of The Poor Children’ is by Richard Middleton (1882-1911) a fascinating turn of the 19th/20th Century figure now more known for his stories like ‘The Ghost Ship’ than for his striking poetry.

‘Are we naked, mother, and are we starving-poor
Oh, see what gifts the kings have brought outside the stable door
Are we cold, mother, the ass will give his hay
To make the manger warm and keep the cruel winds away
We are the poor children, but not so poor who sing Our Carols with our voiceless hearts to greet the new-born king
On this night of all nights, when in the frosty sky A new star, a kind star is shining on high!’.

Anyone who has been a regular visitor to The immortal jukebox will know that I have deep feeling for the Irish contribution to literature and music.

So it was compulsory for me to include ‘A Christmas Childhood’ by
Patrick Kavanagh (1904-1967) the sage of Iniskeen, one of the great figures of 20th Century Irish Literature. Kavanagh became a major figure in Dublin life and is commemorated by a Canal side statue.

Sit back and listen to the wonderful musical of Kavanagh’s words read aloud and linger for a performance of The Wexford Carol.

‘Carol For The Last Christmas Eve’ is by a favourite poet of mine,
Norman Nicholson (1914-1987). He came from Millom in England’s rural Cumbria. Never fashionable Nicholson’s work will endure.

‘The first night, the first night,
The night that Christ was born,
His mother looked in his eyes and saw
Her maker in her son.

The twelfth night, the twelfth night,
After Christ was born, the Wise Men found the child and knew
Their search had just begun.

But the last night, the last night,
Since ever Christ was born,
What his mother knew will be known again,
And what was found by the Three Wise Men,
And the sun will rise and so will we,
Umpteen hundred and eternity’

Our next poet Charles Causley (1917-2003) had a mythopoetic imagination and the ability to make his words sing with bardic power.

‘Mary’s Song’ has always moved me.

‘Warm in the wintry air
You lie,
The ox and the donkey
Standing by,
With summer eyes
They seem to say:
Welcome, Jesus,
On Christmas Day!

Sleep, King Jesus:
Your diamond crown
High in the sky
Where stars look down.
Let your reign
Of love begin,
That all the world may enter in.’

I am going to conclude and hang my garland with ‘Christmas Night’ by a contemporary English poet, Lawrence Sail (b.1942).

‘On the wind, a drifting echo
Of simple songs. In the city
the streetlamps, haloed innocents,
click into instant sleep.
The darkness at last breathes.

In dreams of wholeness, irony
is a train melting to distance;
and the word, a delighted child
Gazing in safety at
a star solid as flesh.

May you all enjoy every moment and morsel of Christmas Tide.

Happy Christmas! From The Immortal Jukebox

Christmas is a time for celebration. A time for tradition – for the tried and tested. There is enormous pleasure to be harvested from the repetition of personal and family rituals.

Through these we reassure ourselves that whatever the trials of the year now concluding that, all in all, all is well and shall be well.

I’ll raise my glass to that and institute an Immortal Jukebox tradition of wishing all my readers a happy and peaceful Christmas and a new year that brings all you are hoping for by reblogging the final post of the Christmas Cornucopia featuring the incomparable Judy Garland, Bob Dylan and Charles Dickens.

First, the Keeper of American Song, Bob Dylan, with his inimitable spoken word rendition of Clement Moore’s, ‘The Night Before Christmas’.

It is safe to say that Bob’s pronunciation of the word ‘Mouse’ has never been matched in the history of the dramatic arts!

Of course, in the process of his more than 50 year career Bob has continually been reinventing himself and in so doing has gloriously renewed American culture.

The clip, above comes from his wonderful, ‘Theme Time’ radio show where over a 100 episodes he displayed an encyclopaedic knowledge of twentieth century popular music and a wicked sense of humour.

Bob also recorded for the season at hand the deeply heartfelt, ‘Christmas In The Heart’ album which gets better and more extraordinary with every hearing.

It is clear that Bob, who is well aware that it’s not dark yet (but it’s getting there) is consciously rounding out his career by assuming the mantle of the grand old man of American Music tipping his hat to every tradition (hence Shadows In The Night – his wonderful Sinatra covers CD).

The only safe thing to say about Bob is that he will have a few surprises for us yet!

Now we turn to Judy Garland with a Christmas song without peer, ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’. Her singing on this song seems to me to be almost miraculous.

It’s as if her singing really came from the secret chambers of the heart all the rest of us keep under guard. No wonder she has such a deep impact on us – we know she is expressing a profound truth about the human condition – our need to love and know we are loved.

Judy Garland paid a high price in terms of personal happiness for living her life and art with such an exposed heart and soul but she fulfilled a vocation given to very few and left an indelible mark on her age and will surely do for aeons to come.

Today, not a poem but the concluding passages from, ‘A Christmas Carol’ by the incomparable Charles Dickens – a writer for all seasons and situations.

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‘Hallo!’ growled Scrooge, in his accustomed voice, as near as he could feign it. What do you mean by coming here at this time of day?

‘I am very sorry, sir’ said Bob, ‘I am behind my time,’

‘You are?’ repeated Scrooge. ‘Yes. I think you are. Step this way, sir, if you please.’

‘It’s only once a year, sir,’ pleaded Bob, appearing from the Tank. ‘It shall not be repeated. I was making rather merry yesterday, sir.’

‘Now I’ll tell you what my friend, said Scrooge, I am not going to stand that sort of thing any longer. And therefore, he continued, leaping from his stool and giving Bob such a dig in the waistcoat that he staggered back into the Tank again, and therefore I am about to raise your salary!’

Bob trembled and got a little nearer to the ruler. He had a momentary idea of knocking Scrooge down with it, holding him, and calling to the people in the court for help and a strait-waistcoat.

‘A merry Christmas Bob!’ said Scrooge, with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back.

‘A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a year! I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob! Make up the fires, and buy another coal-scuttle before you dot another i, Bob Cratchit!’

Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did NOT die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world.

Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed; and that was quite enough for him.

He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards, and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.

May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless us, Every One!

And who am I to do anything other than echo Mr Dickens and Tiny Tim?

So, to all the readers of the Jukebox I wish you a peaceful and joyous feast – however you choose to celebrate it. God bless us, Every One!

Ry Cooder, Elton John, Solomon Burke & Jim Reeves: ‘He’ll Have To Go’

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Oceans and oceans of emotion have flowed through the telephone wires buzzing above your head. Think of all the announcements.

I’ve passed my exams!

I’ll be home for Christmas!

We are going to get married!

It’s a Girl!

We did all we could but I’m sorry to tell you that …..

There was a time, centuries and centuries, when announcements like that came by letter or were delivered face to face. The invention of the telephone allowed direct personal communication at great distance bringing the disembodied voice right into your ear and mind.

And, humans being human the telephone has been used for every virtuous and nefarious purpose imaginable.

Right now someone is planning to call you with the aim of draining your bank account.

Right now someone is patiently listening to a tortured soul who thinks life isn’t worth living anymore and assuring them that there is at least one person who will answer when they call again.

Right now some poor sap is reeling as he learns that the party’s over; that love can lie, that the love still burning so bright for him is naught but cold, cold ashes for her. And, you know what? He still won’t believe it!

Slumped on his bar stool with the jukebox blaring he tries to clear the fog in his head to summon up all his persuasive powers for one last, ‘Don’t Go!’ plea.

Surely, if he can only find the right words, he can reignite those hot flames and they will be together again:

‘Put your sweet lips a little closer to the phone
Let’s pretend that we’re together all alone
I’ll tell the man to turn the Jukebox way down low
And you can tell your friend there with you he’ll have to go’

Ah, Jim Reeves, Gentleman Jim, the Prince, the peerless Potentate of three in the morning melancholia! I’ve spent many a night drinking deep with that velvet voice.

Many a night his oracular tones have echoed and reechoed in my mind and heart as I battled to accept the unacceptable, searching to find reasons, answers, and eventually a way out.

Mostly Jim taught me that there was no easy way out – some things can’t be worked round. No, they have to be got through, endured.

And if you need a companion on your exhausting, perilous progress back to sanity and some vestige of normality you won’t find one better than Jim Reeves.

You wont be surprised at Jim’s popularity in the Americas and in Europe. But, you might be a little taken aback to learn of his immense popularity in Jamaica and that in India and Sri Lanka he is enormously admired and revered by many as a, ‘Gandharva’ an earth born singer in tune with the heavens.

Jim’s, ‘I’m speaking directly to you, just you, in all your pain’ confiding vocals cut through barriers of race and culture.

No one is immune from Jim crooning, ‘Should I hang up or will you tell him he’ll have to go’ or, ‘Do you want me answer yes or no’.

And, tell me you don’t how the terrible cost of choking out the words, ‘Darling I will understand’.

Jim took Jim and Audrey Allison’s song which had done nothing in its first recording by Billy Brown and gave it a magic that endures. A magic that has won millions of listeners (14 weeks a country No 1 in 1960) and inspired hundreds of singers to seek out that magic too.

Jim Reeves life was cut short by a plane crash in 1964 but there can be doubt that as long as hearts get broken and people seek solace in music that Jim’s voice will live on.

Any Jukebox that I’ve got anything to do with will always have a copy of Jim Reeves ‘He’ll Have To Go’ ready to play for the lost and the lonely when they need it.

So, as sole proprietor of The Immortal Jukebox I’m announcing that, ‘He’ll Have To Go’ has been awarded the position of A13 on The Immortal Jukebox.

As its the season of goodwill and a time for generosity I’m donning my Santa Claus suit and bringing you several other versions of the song for you to digest with your drink of choice.

First up a rapturous, let’s turn the lights down and sway together in the cantina live version by Jukebox favourite, Ry Cooder, accompanied by Flaco Jimenez, the king of Conjunto, Norteno and Tejana accordion.

I think you’ll want a premium Tequila here.

‘He’ll Have To Go’ is always thought of a Country Pop song. However as the regal Solomon Burke definitively demonstrates below it works every bit as well as Country Soul.

Solomon has power in reserve as he cruises through his version suggesting depths of emotion by subtle shifts in tempo, accent and volume.

Solomon never lets you down.

I think a fine Tennessee sippin’ Whiskey will do the job here.

To conclude a version by one of the great rock/pop stars of the modern era, Elton John. At heart Elton has always been a huge music fan – someone who genuinely loves songs and singers.

As he says here he started out as the unregarded boy in the corner of the pub playing the piano. Since then, of course, he’s written more than a few songs himself that we all know by heart.

That’s how you become a huge star selling tens of millions of records. In addition he has been a relentlessly hard working performer and you can hear the fruits of all those hours on stage in this solo performance from 1992.

You’ll have to uncork the Champagne for this one.

Finally perhaps we should all close our eyes and sing our own a cappella version – remembering the time we all wished we could have said:

‘Put your sweet lips a little closer to the phone
Let’s pretend that we’re together all alone
I’ll tell the man to turn the Jukebox way down low
And you can tell your friend there with you he’ll have to go’

This post dedicated to George who’ll be listening in his rural retreat – no doubt with a fine bottle at hand.


I listened to a lot of versions of, ‘He’ll Have To Go’ preparing this post. A lot.

One I would definitely have included if Youtube would have cooperated was that by Glasgow’s great son, Frankie Miller (please look it up).

Frankie’s version is deeply heartfelt. In his 70s and 80s pomp Frankie could out write and out sing almost any singer you can think of.

Peers like Rod Stewart and Alan Toussaint recognised his special qulaities. Principally his ability to wring every blood drop of emotion from a song while carrying his audience with him through his beautiful rhythmic assurance.

If you do one thing this holiday season seek out Frankie Miller’s CD, ‘Highlife’ and then work your way through his catalogue. You won’t regret it.

I recommend a peaty single malt from Islay as your accompaniment.

Other versions I think you might profitably seek out include those from: Bryan Ferry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Rivers, UB 40, Brook Benton, Nat King Cole, Billy Joe Royal, Ronnie Milsap, Johnny Cash, Harry Dean Stanton, Jackie Edwards, Elvis Costello and Tom Jones.

Johnny Cash & Brother Claude Ely – Aint No Grave!

‘In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed … Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting?’
(St Paul 1 Corinthians)

‘When Brother Claude Ely would get up to sing, I mean he would just get a key on the guitar and when he started singing, it was like the heavens would open up’ (Dennis Hensley lead guitarist at Brother Ely’s Revival meetings)

‘Aint No grave gonna hold my body down .. Gonna get up out of the ground!’ (Brother Claude Ely)

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As I said in CC1 I often, to the delight and/or outrage of my friends, casually drop the name of an obscure artist into conversation stating that they recorded one of the greatest records ever made. I then respond to the blank stares by swooning in mock horror while exclaiming, ‘What do you mean you’ve never heard of ….’

Well, I’m gonna do it again today – what do you mean you’ve never heard of Brother Claude Ely?

He only recorded one of the greatest records ever made! I’ll brook no doubt about it, ‘Ain’t No Grave Gonna Hold My Body Down’ represents an inspirational peak in American gospel music and is a cornerstone of the treasury of American popular music in the 20th Century.

Prepare to be amazed!

Hearing that it’s no surprise to learn that Brother Claude, a heavy set man sporting a gold front tooth, wearing a white suit and cowboy hat, prowled his stage like an impatient panther. Preaching, singing and praying like a man possessed he worked up a torrential sweat that necessitated tender ministrations from a series of acolytes.

Now, you can unquestionably hear the influence of Claude’s soul shaking testifying in the epochal careers of Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash. If there is such a genre as Rockabilly Gospel Brother Claude was its only true monarch.

Elvis’ mother, the sainted Gladys, definitely attended the electrifying revival meetings where Brother Claude preached the word of The Lord and set the house alight with his fiery flailing guitar and burning bush vocals.

They say Elvis himself was blessed by Brother Claude and saucer eyed he must surely have learned a lot from Claude about how to lift an audience to ecstasy.

Brother Claude was born in Pucketts Creek, Virginia in 1922. He was brought up in the Pentecostal Holiness tradition and it soon became clear that Claude was one of those who felt the spirit profoundly.

The legend goes that he wrote, ‘Ain’t No Grave’ as a TB stricken 12 year old in 1934. A Sears guitar was brought to him in his sick bed and then .. ‘By the hand of God my fingers began to play the chords and a voice came into my mouth to sing. From that day on I have been playing guitar and singing’.

Following spells as a miner and WW2 serviceman Claude became a full time preacher in 1949 – a minister in his own Free Pentecostal Church. He carried the divine message message with him as he criss crossed The Appalachians singing and preaching.

Arriving in a new town he would drive one handed while bellowing into a bullhorn, ‘Tonight I’ll set up a tent in the middle of town – please come out and experience the fire and Holy Ghost’.

As soon as those physicists at CERN figure out how to set up a time machine I’m gonna book a trip back to Apallachia in the early 1950s and get with the Spirit with Brother Claude!

The canny Sid Nathan at King Records out of Cincinnati recognised how powerful a draw Brother Claude was and arranged in 1953 for a live recording to be made at a Courthouse in Letcher County, Kentucky.

So, we have the manna of a captured performance from Brother Claude at the height of his very considerable powers.

In addition to his travelling jubilee Claude reached out across the airwaves through his, ‘Gospel Ranger Show’ which greatly expanded the reach of his preaching and the number of his devotees.

Brother Claude raised roofs, wrecked churches and burned barns all the way through to his death, at 55, in 1978. And, when he died he was performing what else but, ‘Where Could I Go But To The Lord’.

Where indeed! Brother Claude Ely, after all his holy exertions, is at rest now. Waiting for the trumpet to sound. Waiting for the trumpet to sound.

Johnny Cash, one of the Mount Rushmore figures of American music, was a great song collector. Throughout his life and career he had an ear out for remarkable songs. Songs that would sing in the blood and challenge the spirit. Songs that he could incarnate; bringing his extraordinary physical and spiritual intensity to them.

Johnny Cash, to his cost, knew all about the fallibility of mankind, all about sin and redemption. So, when he sang a Gospel song he was always a pilgrim who knew that his journey home would not be without snares and painful desert wanderings.

And, as death loomed large, in his epic ‘American’ recordings he set down a one foot in time, one foot in eternity, version of, ‘Ain’t No Grave’ that will haunt you.

This is the sound of a man, a pilgrim, who is bone tired, footsore and weary from decades of journeying. The ominous simplicity of the recording suggests a man jettisoning the inessential as with courage he knowingly, painfully, head bowed, eyes dimmed, readies himself for the last few strides of his earthly journey.

It’s a journey whatever our faith or lack of faith, whatever life we have lived that we will all, one day coming, have to make.

For some, listening to Brother Claude and Brother John lightens the load we carry.


Ace Records has issued a fine compilation of Brother Claude’s King recordings called, ‘Satan Get Back!’ The 23 glorious tracks it contains should be in every collection.

Macel Ely, the nephew of Brother Claude, has with the assistance of the wholly wonderful Dust To Digital publishing/recording company put together a superb biography/oral history complete with CD called,’Ain’t No Grave: The Life and Legacy of Brother Claude Ely’.

The American Recordings series by Johnny Cash, produced by Rick Rubin, may constitute one of the greatest American autobiographies.

Rock and Roll Will Stand! Jonathan Richman & The Showmen tell you why!

Some folks never liked Rock and Roll.

It was too loud, too pagan, too young, too black, too sexy, too shameless, too crude, just too, too, too!

But, if you got it – you got it! It was the sound; of an ice age thawing, of continental plates shifting, of blood singing in the veins, of a door being thrown open so wide that nothing could ever close it.

It was the sound of today and the sound of a million better tomorrows. It was the sound you had been waiting for all your life. It was the sound of destiny.

And it was heard loud and clear in Detroit and Delhi, in Louisville and Liverpool, in Hibbing and Harrow, in Memphis and Manchester, in Newcastle and New Orleans, in Sydney and Singapore, in Paris and Paros, in Zeebrugge and Zurich.

It was heard loud and clear in Norfolk Virginia where Norman ‘General Johnson’, Milton, ‘Smokes’ Bates, Dorsey ‘Chops’ Knight, Gene ‘Cheater’ Knight and Leslie ‘Fat Boy’ Felton formed a group which came to be known as The Showmen.

In 1961 in New Orleans under the tutelage of the great Alan Toussaint (RIP) they cut a record for Minit Records which with sashaying charm really says it all (and you can dance close, really, really close to your true love while you’re listening)

‘ It will be here for ever, Ain’t gonna fade, Never no never … Rock and Roll forever will stand’.

It Will Stand was a top 100 hit in 1961 and 1964 and a radio and Jukebox hit always and everywhere. It’s irresistible good humour is bound to lift every heart and bring a smile to every face.

Who can stand against heartbeats and drum beats, finger popping and stomping feet, saxes blowin’ sharp as lightnin’, voices lifted in harmonious joy and celebration?

Some artists have a ragged but right, rough and ready, rock and roll heart. Think Keith Richard, Bonnie Raitt, Paul Westerberg and Ray Davies.

Think Jonathan Richman who has always had the keys to the secret heart of Rock and Roll.

Jonathan knows in his very bones that Rock and Roll will stand. And I’ m here to tell you he’s 100% right.

Rock and Roll will stand.

Rock and roll will stand because of Chuck Berry’s cruising Cadillac way with words.

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Rock and roll will stand because of Jerry Lee Lewis’ backwoods testifying and hotter than hellfire piano.

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Rock and roll will stand because of the you can feel it in the pit of your stomach and centre of your soul Bo Diddley beat.

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Rock and roll will stand because of the tenderly tough crooning of Gene Vincent.

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Rock and Roll will stand because you can still hear the sonic boom that followed the entry of the quasar – Little Richard, into our universe.

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Rock and roll will stand because Elvis Aron Presley’s stance and singing tilted the axis of the earth.

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Rock and roll will stand because Don and Phil Everly sang sweeter than any nightingale choir.

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Rock and Roll will stand because Dion and The Belmonts sang Homeric tales of street corner life.

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Rock and Roll will stand because Antoine Fats Domino made everyone’s day brighter every time he sat down at the piano to sing!
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Rock and Roll will stand because that mist you see high above in the dawn sky is the vapour trail of The Moonglows, The Orioles, The Penguins and The Five Satins.

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Rock and roll will stand because Lowman Pauling, Duane Eddy, Link Wray and Lonnie Mack made their strings rumble and flash like thunder and lightning.

Rock and Roll will stand because of Buddy Holly’s heartening and heartbreaking songs.

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Rock and Roll will stand because Earl Palmer, Hal Blaine, Charlie Watts and Ringo Starr laid down a beat that can never die.

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Rock and roll will stand because Goffin and King, Leiber and Stoller, Greenwich, and Barry. Pomus and Shuman and Bumps Blackwell told us the story of our lives and made us dance and fall in love at the same time.

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Rock and Roll will stand because The Shangri Las, led by the great dramatic actress Mary Weiss, found grand opera in the lives of teenage girls.

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Rock and roll will stand because John Lennon and Paul McCartney sagged off school and learned to write songs that made you feel that to be alive was a very fine thing indeed.

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Rock and roll will stand because one of the great American pathfinders Bob Dylan refused to recognise the bounds of the maps he inherited while brilliantly and brazenly opening up a whole new territory for song.

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Rock and roll will stand because Jimi Hendrix unleashed a cosmic orchestra of sound from the electric guitar.

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Rock and Roll will stand because true artists like Patti Smith keep reinventing it!

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Rock and roll will stand because Brian Wilson, a chubby kid from Hawthorn California, heard a celestial blend of voices and instruments in his head and had the genius to make that blend come alive in pop symphonies.

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Rock and Roll will stand because even though Amy Winehouse drew a losing hand in love and life she left a lasting legacy of songs that will always wring our hearts.

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Rock and Roll will never die because though Pete Townsend grows old, ‘My Generation’ never will.

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Rock and Roll will stand because Lucinda Williams knows what a sweet old world we live in and can make us cry as we realise that.

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Rock and Roll will never die because that’s what you listen to, full blast with the top down, as you leave a town full of losers – pulling out to win.

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Rock and roll will stand because somewhere right now a teenage singer is thrusting out his hip, leaning into the mike and counting the band in:

.. ‘1, 2, 3, 4!’

Rock and roll will stand because somewhere right now a teenage guitarist is windmilling his arm and about to hit that magic, magic note.

Rock and Roll will stand because somewhere right now in a back bedroom while her parents are asleep a teenage songwriter has found a way to express the inexpressible thrill of falling in love.

Rock and Roll will stand because in a basement across the tracks a band are vamping for all their worth as they chant in unison,

‘And her name is G L O R I A!’.

Rock and Roll will stand because you KNOW exactly what; Sham-A-Ling-Dong-Ding, Awop Bop a Loo Bop a Lop Bam Boom and Great Googly Moo really, really, mean.

Rock and Roll will stand.

This is Christmas Cracker 4 and the 100th post on The Immortal Jukebox – an opportunity for me to thank everyone who has read, commented and shared these missives from my own Rock and Roll heart. I hope you will stick with me for the next 100!

John Lennon & Rosie and The Originals – Angel Baby

‘[Angel Baby] … This is by a 15 year old girl from National City California named Rosie. This is going to be a hit Guys and Gals’ – DJ Alan Freed on K-Day Radio, November 1960.

‘This here is one of my all time favourite songs. Send my love to Rosie – wherever she may be’ (John Lennon)

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1960 was a momentous year. In Greensboro, North Carolina four black students are refused service at a segregated lunch counter in Woolworth’s. They begin a sit in protest that is repeated throughout Southern States that summer as Civil Rights protests become a powerful political, social and cultural movement.

High over the vast territory of the Soviet Union a U2 spy plane piloted by Gary Powers is shot down triggering a rapid rise in the temperature of the Cold War.

In November John Fitzgerald Kennedy becomes the 35th President of The United States seeming to symbolise a new era of optimism – Camelot on the Potomac.

Meanwhile in a former aircraft hanger in San Marcos California, on 2 track machine, a 15 year old Mexican-American girl called Rosalie (Rosie) Hamlin lays down a song she had written a year earlier to celebrate her first love.

A song that John Lennon then an unreconstructed leather clad Rock ‘n’ Roller with a scarifying, scabrous, Scouse wit will remember, with love, to the end of his days.

That song, ‘Angel Baby’ features an ethereal vocal by Rosie that will never be forgotten by anyone who hears it. It’s the sound of a true, innocent heart filled, full to bursting, with delirious youthful passion.

It’s the sound of the children of Neverland wheeling in the heavens as they fly straight on to another rosy morning.

And, if in your venerable age and wisdom you shake your head at such simple feeling I’m here to tell you that you are too old brother, too old sister.

Every time I hear, ‘Angel Baby’ I’m teleported back to my 14 year old self when there were as many possibilities of love and longing for love as there were stars in the night sky.

Sing it Rosie, sing it for the 14 year still living somewhere inside us all.

I love the Sputnik guitar intro to Angel Baby. I love the sense that there is no artifice at all here – nothing getting in the way of a distillation of a pure oceanic feeling.

It doesn’t matter a hoot that the bass player, Tony Gomez, had to play an untutored plodding sax solo because the regular saxman Al Barrett had to stay home because his mother wouldn’t let him out until he’d mowed the lawn (!)

What matters is that Rosie with David Ponci, Noah Tafolla and Carl Von Goodat made a record that hummed and crackled with the music of the spheres.

At first Rosie couldn’t get anyone in the music business to be interested in her record. Then she had the bright idea of getting Kresge’s department store in San Diego to play the record in their listening booths (remember listening booths?) and lo and behold the kids of San Diego found that they knew exactly, exactly, what Rosie was singing about.

They began clamouring to buy Angel Baby so that they could call up it’s magic anytime they wanted. In the event, ‘Angel Baby’ was issued by Highland Records in November 1960 and went on to hit the top 5 in the Billboard charts.

In a tale too tawdry for the telling Rosie was denied composer credit and royalties for decades. She went on to record an early 60s LP for Brunswick Records before slipping out of the limelight into family life with only brief, subsequent forays into the nostalgia circuit.

Yet, every time she steps up to a microphone or is heard on the radio crooning, ‘Its just like heaven being here with you, You’re like an angel, too good to be true’ she conjures up a miracle.

In late 1973 John Lennon was in a bad way. It seemed everything was broken. He sought oblivion in drug and alcohol fuelled binges that became the stuff of legend. Groping towards a way out he decided to record an album of songs from his youth, songs that had been favourites of his before the fame and the madness took over.

Songs from the days when John Lennon was above all else a man who loved songs and singers. A man who longed to write, perform and record songs of his own which could be set alongside the original mother lode of Rock ‘n’ Roll classics.

It’s no surprise that the album features songs by Chuck Berry, Gene Vincent, Little Richardand Fats Domino – these were the songs the Hamburg Beatles had played and played untilthey were second nature.

Yet, Lennon the leather throated rocker always had a softer aspect reflected in his love for the stoic, broken hearted ballads of Arthur Alexander.

And, in his, ‘lost weekend’ amid the too many musicians, too many producers and engineers chaos of the, ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ sessions he reached back for an artless song that expressed something beyond the ability of words to fully express.

He reached back for the sound of:’Ooh, ooh, I love you, oh ooh I do, No one could love you like I do, Oooh, ooh, Oooh, Oooh, ooh, ooh , ooh, ooh, ooh …………. ‘

He reached back for, ‘Angel Baby’. And he sang it with all his heart.



Thanks to Rosie for the lightning strike that set a match to many a heart.

This post written on December 8 2015 – the 35th Anniversary of the death of John Lennon.

Thanks to John for the meteor shower of genius that lit up the entire world. Roll on John, Roll on John, Roll on John. Ar dheis De go raibh a anam

Denny Laine (Moody Blues) & Bessie Banks – ‘Go Now!’

Almost all of us have faced that moment. That moment. The moment when you finally realise that it really is over. That no longer are you one of two. That the gilded future you were walking so confidently into is now a bomb strewn wasteland.

And, it’s all you can do not to break down right there. Not to scream and scream again – Why! Why! Who! Who! Oh you’d better get ready for; the blind denial, the lacerating anger, the shameless, shameful pleading, the empty bottle of Gin, cant lift your head above the pillow depression and, eventually, eventually, the bruised, well, ‘that’s that then’ weary acceptance.

Of course, there’s a song for every one of these stations of the romantic cross. No Jukebox would be complete without a slew of drive you to tears, (sitting in the bar you’ve already been driven to drink!) rip your heart apart ballads. I’ll leave it to you to count how many stations/stages you are returned to listening here today.

As Christmas Cracker 2 The Jukebox is featuring a superlative break up song from 1964, ‘Go Now’ in stellar versions by Bessie Banks and The Moody Blues, the latter featuring one of the most under appreciated singers of the era, Denny Laine. [Day 2 from last year’s Christmas Cornucopia featuring Eartha Kitt’s seriously sexy ‘Santa Baby’ and a deliriously enjoyable cajun version of, ‘Silent Night’ can be found here http://wp.me/p4pE0N-50%5D

First up Bessie Banks tremendous original as issued by Leiber&Stoller’s Tiger/Blue Cat labels. The song was written (with Milton Bennett) by Bessie’s then husband, Larry Banks, a Brooklyn born veteran of the Rhythm and Blues vocal group scene (checkout his classic with the Four Fellows, ‘Soldier Boy’ from 1955).

I love the bruised dignity with which Bessie sings, ‘Go Now’ especially her defiant, let’s face the facts, A cappella introduction to the song. I love Gary Sherman’s beautifully measured arrangement which incorporates gospel piano, mournful horns and emotion swelling backup vocals led by the always excellent Cissy Houston.

I love the way the record and Bessie’s vocal grows and grows in emotional power without ever collapsing into hysteria. ‘Go Now’ is all the more effective as a heart-breaker becauseof its heroic restraint and illustration of how shattering it is to know that you are still in love even as you have to say Go Now!’

Only when your lover has closed the door can you let those tears you’ve been holding back flow and flow and flow.Bessie’s version of, ‘Go Now’ was released in January 1964 and was a top 40 hit on the R&B charts. However, it became a much more substantial hit through the cover by The Moody Blues which was issued in November that same year.

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The Moody’s take on the song hit the Number One spot in the UK while making the Top Ten in America. In the early 60s a constant flow of great American records came across the Atlantic in the cases of keen eared collectors before being pounced upon by groups seeking songs they really sink their musical teeth into.

It was Denny Laine, at that time the lead guitarist and main singer with The Moody Blues who knew immediately on hearing, ‘Go Now’ that it would suit his glorious plaintive vocal style and that the band: Clint Warwick (bass), Mike Pinder (piano), Ray Thomas (Woodwinds/percussion) and Graham Edge (drums) could come up with a distinctive arrangement which would prove an irresistible pop hit.


This is a much more assertive, damn and blast your eyes, version of the song benefitting from the spooky unintentionally distorted piano (of course in the history of popular music many a great record is born of unintended distortions!) and a very English layered vocal chorale sound.

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Most of all this version wins you through the magnificence of Denny Laine’s lead vocal which brilliantly evokes the bewilderment, outrage and exhaustion of the spurned lover. Denny barely seems to take a breath as his vocal flows magisterially through the song sweeping us away until we are left beached and emotionally wrung out as the last notes fade away.

I hope you all spend Christmas fast in the love of your loved ones and that you do not find yourself forced to summon up ‘Go Now’ to describe your situation ever again.


Larry Banks – in addition to his work with The Four Fellows became beloved of Deep Soul aficionados through his work as writer and producer with The Cavaliers, The Geminis, TheExciters and with his second wife Jaibi (Joan Bates).

You can explore his work through Ace Records’ ‘Larry Banks’ Family Soul Allbum’

The Moody Blues – I highly recommend their debut, ‘The Magnificent Moodies’ when they were still an R&B beat group evolving into a kaleidoscopic pop outfit. Throughout the album Denny Laine’s vocals are breathtaking. One listen to his soaring coda to, ‘From The Bottom Of My Heart’ should make you a sworn devotee!

Denny Laine – after leaving The Moody’s and before joining Paul McCartney’s Wings Denny recorded a series of singles with his own, ‘Electric String Band’ featuring string players from the Royal Academy Music School.

I have great affection for their second single, ‘Catherine’s Wheel/Too Much In Love’ but their debut single, ‘Say You Don’t Mind/Ask The People’ is to my mind one of the great,’lost classics’ of the 1960s.

Some may know, ‘Say …’ through the early 70s hit version by Colin Blunstone. But, trust me, do yourself a favour and seek out the wondrous original featuring yet another great Denny Laine vocal.

Mac Gayden – Everlasting Love, Crazy Mama : The Glory of The Nashville Cat

While you’re getting on with your everyday life the world keeps on turning. Day becomes night and Spring ripens into Summer before Autumn leaves fall heralding the coming of Winter.

And, though it once seemed so very far away ChristmasTide is upon us once again! Last year The Jukebox celebrated with the very well received,
‘Christmas Cornucopia’ series which featured a gallery of great artists singing Christmas songs.

The Cornucopia will return next year. Those of you of a nostalgic bent (and everyone gets a free pass to indulge in nostalgia at Christmas) and those who have become Jukebox readers this year are warmly invited to catch up with the first Cornucopia post here http://wp.me/p4pE0N-4U

This year, as my own form of indulgence, The Jukebox is going to present a series of artists and records which hold a special place in my affections – often for reasons I can’t fully explain (which is the way with many of our deepest affections).

Many of these have been fixtures in my music treasury for decades and have been the subject of lengthy encomiums delivered with beery exuberance on licensed premises often starting with the phrase, ‘What do you mean you’ve never heard of ….’

Given the season that’s in it I have called this series, ‘Christmas Crackers’. So let’s get cracking with a record from 1975, Mac Gayden’s hugely uplifting, ‘Morning Glory’ a song that always puts a mile wide smile on my face every time I hear it.

Now tell me that ain’t better than a medicine for healing!

This is guitar playing that soars with devotional grace like the lark. Guitar playing that glides and glides, stilling time as it opens up azure realms of weightless joy. John Sebastian of The Lovin’ Spoonful (whom god preserve) wrote a hymn to the skills of Nashville’s musicians called ‘Nashville Cats’ which perfectly captures the brilliance of Mac Gayden’s guitar playing here:

‘Nashville cats play clean as country water, Nashville cats play wild as mountain dew’.

I first listened to Morning Glory on the radio in my student room in Cambridge. I vividly remember my deeply knowledgeable muso friend Neil (who improbably managed to combine a deep appreciation of Albert Camus with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the fabulous reggae records emanating from Jamaica’s Studio 1) nearly breaking his neck as he vaulted down the stairs from his room in the floor above me to breathlessly ask, ‘Who the hell is that guitar player!’.

Mac Gayden, I airily replied based on thirty seconds or so of superior knowledge! From that moment on I made it my business to find out all there was to know about Mac Gayden.

Turns out he really was a born and bred Nashville cat and that as well as being a stunning slide guitar virtuoso he had played with the great and good all the way from Bob Dylan to Elvis.

Mac was also a fine producer and a terrific songwriter with a gem studded catalogue of songs. And, one of those songs, ‘Everlasting Love’ was one of those songs that got up andwalked by itself into immortality.

A song that was a hit in the 1960s and 1970s and 1980s and 1990s and which is still beingsuccessfully covered in the 21st Century! Everybody knows Everlasting Love, though I doubt one in ten thousand could name Mac Gayden as its author (strictly speaking co-author with Buzz Cason). A song that’s built up a very healthy pension for Mac Gayden.

There are versions worth investigating by U2, Carl Carlton, Gloria Estefan, Rachel Sweet, Love Affair and Jamie Cullum. But, as is my default setting, it’s the beautifully restrained and dignified glowing original from 1967 by Robert Knight that features here on The Jukebox today.

The genesis of the song goes back to Mac picking out a lullaby melody on his grandmother’s piano when he was only 5 years old! The same warm melody that’s carried by the horns and organ on Robert Knight’s version above.

The more immediate inspiration for Everlasting Love was the rumbustious live music scene of Nashville’s Vanderbilt University. The fraternity houses provided lots of work for Music City’s up and coming musicians.

The legend goes that one night as Mac took a break from his set at Phi Delta he was entrancedby the sound of a true rhythm and blues/soul voice carried on the night air from Kappa Sigma.

Investigation established that this was the voice of a Franklin Tennessee native, Robert Knight, who had an early 60s hit as a member of The Paramounts with, ‘Free Me’. After some hesitation Robert was persuaded that Mac was a Nashville Cat who was every it as much at home with R&B and soul music as he was with Country music.

The result of their collaboration was a record that might be termed country soul – a record that is immediately memorable and singable with a chorus that all of us think we must join in with arms aloft enthusiasm. The rest as they say is history.

Mac Gayden’s superb slide skills and his understanding of when to unleash those skills and when to lay back supporting others made him a handsome living as a studio musician.

In addition in the early 1970s he was part of two high class Nashville based musical ensembles, Area Code 615 and Barefoot Jerry which allowed fellow studio greats like Wayne Moss, Charlie McCoy, David Briggs and Kenny Buttrey to stretch out, maintain the groove and show off their chops for longer than a radio friendly single demanded.

I am going to close this tribute to Mac Gayden with his sublime Wah-Wah slide playing with the laid back and leathery supreme master of sun going down back porch groove, J J Cale. There may be a track that’s more lazily hypnotic and addictive than, ‘Crazy Mama’ but if there is I haven’t found it for four decades and more!

Mac Gayden belongs in the secret hero category of musician. I hope that today’s Christmas Cracker feature has done something to let the secret out. Spread the word!

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Mac Gayden – In addition to Everlasting Love Mac Gayden also wrote the Northern Soul classic, ‘Love On a Mountain Top’ for Robert Knight. The Box Tops, Clifford Curry and Geno Washington all took full advantage of his soulful strut of a song, ‘She Shot A Hole In My Soul’.

Morning Glory can be found UK Ace Records excellent combination of two 1970s albums, ‘Skyboat’ and, ”Hymn To The Seeker’

I also recommend, ‘Southern Delight’ by Barefoot Jerry and Area Code 615’s eponymous debut LP and the, ‘Trip To The Country’ follow up.

Robert Knight – His tender tones can be explored further on a compilation inevitably named Everlasting Love on the BGO label.

Buzz Cason – As well as co-writing Everlasting Love Buzz worked with Leon Russell, The Crickets and Snuff Garrett. He sang backup for Elvis and Kenny Rogers. He ran a very successful recording studio and wrote a fascinating memoir, ‘Living the Rock’N Roll Dream’.

Yet, despite all these accomplishments his greatest moment for me is as the writer of, ‘Soldier of Love’ for the peerless Arthur Alexander.

A song picked up, played and greedily memorised by a couple of young men from Liverpool, Paul McCartney and John Lennon who would go on to write more than a a few classic songs themselves!