Sunday, 26 January 2014
ELDER MUSIC: Roger McGough
This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
ROGER MCGOUGH is an English poet who has in the past dabbled in music as well. He's one of those very rare beasts – someone who makes a living from writing and performing poetry.
He is from Liverpool and is a member of a group called The Liverpool Poets who were influenced by both the Beat poets and sixties' rock & roll.
A collection of their poems sold in numbers usually associated only with pop music singles. Indeed, Roger was in a pop group in the sixties that sold a bunch of records.
Besides poetry he also wrote the dialogue for the animated film, Yellow Submarine, for which he was paid but didn't receive screen credit.
Musically, Roger is most famous for being in the band THE SCAFFOLD, a trio whose other members were John Gorman and Mike McGear.
That last name was just a stage name for Michael McCartney who had an older, slightly more famous brother named Paul.
The Scaffold had a million selling record (and others that did pretty well too) in the sixties and played to sold-out audiences all over the place. They released four albums as well. Their biggest song was Lily the Pink.
In 1968, Roger and Mike recorded an album called McGough & McGear where they had the help of a number of musicians who may be familiar to you on that album – Jimi Hendrix, Paul McCartney, Jack Bruce, John Mayall, Spencer Davis and others.
A song from that album is Yellow Book.
Here Roger reads his poem, A Fine Romance, which he wrote for the Alzheimer's Society. It seems to me to fit in well with TimeGoesBy. It explores the theme of dementia and its impact on relationships.
The Scaffold's other big seller was Thank You Very Much.
The song was written by Mike and has a number of obscure references which he has assiduously refused to explain the meaning.
The Scaffold weren't just about singing and playing; there was always some poetry, Roger's of course, as well as vaudeville elements.
One track where Roger contributes a little of his works is Buttons of Your Mind.
Those with long musical memories might recall a song from the early fifties called The Deck of Cards. In north western Victoria where I lived as a whippersnapper, the local radio station would play Wink Martindale's version of this song.
Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, lived in south western Victoria and she said her station played Tex Ritter's. We discuss why there was a difference now and then when we'd run out of trivial things to talk about.
Anyway, The Scaffold recorded this song and I imagine that those who remember it are already thinking of skipping it and going on to the next one. I suggest you don't do that as they perform it the way it should have been done in the first place.
They call it The Pack of Cards for reasons that will become obvious.
Almost certainly, Roger's most famous poem is Summer with Monika.
I have that in an actual book and it's a beautiful, wry, poignant work. He has recorded it several times over the years, including a recent one with a symphony orchestra.
With that one, Roger performed the complete poem but at more than 32 minutes it's a bit much for this column. There's a shorter version Roger did back in the sixties on the McGough & McGear album that captures the essence of the poem and I'll share it with you.
Paul McCartney produced the album and you can hear him briefly at the beginning of this track. That's Andy Roberts playing guitar.