Monday, 25 October 2010

A golden oldie and a missing song

I realise that this post might elicit a response of despair and a shake of the head, so I'll admit upfront that I will be covering both my questionable taste in music and an over-emotional response to a tune on the radio. Then I'll leave it to you to decide whether to read on.

This morning while driving to work I listened, as I do most mornings, to Chris Evans' breakfast show on Radio 2. He has a daily feature, Golden Oldies, introduced by the marvellous Moira Stewart, for which listeners nominate a favourite song which evokes a special memory. Usually it's a tale of a song which sparked a long-ago romance or a tune that accompanied carefree dancing days. Today's was slightly different.

I didn't catch the name of the man who'd written in - for which I'm sorry - but his special memory was the tale of how, as a child, he'd been known by family and friends as the boy with the shining eyes. His mum told him this was due to his Spanish ancestry and so, whenever he was feeling sad and needed cheering up, she would sing him the Al Martino song Blue Spanish Eyes.

As I drove along, listening to the song I found myself crying. It wasn't Al Martino's fault. It couldn't even be blamed on my normal frustrations with the M25. It was just that I had a really clear image of a little dark-haired boy gazing up adoringly at his mother, a woman who could make things better for him just by singing.

I've often thought that the world would be a much better place if everyone would just sing a bit more. Just look at what it did for the Von Trapp children. I don't think it's a coincidence that almost all of the important events in our lives are accompanied by song.

I've written here before about our family love of musicals and our habit of over-loud singing in the car; this morning's Golden Oldie set me thinking, not about our recent song-book, but about the songs I grew up with.

My Dad had a fine repertoire of Music Hall songs, we all learned to sing along to 'Any Old Iron', 'If you were the only girl in the world', and, a real classic, 'Knock 'em in the Old Kent Road'. But there is one song, which so completely reminds me of him, that you'd only have to say the words and he'd be back in the room. It's not a love song, nor a cheery uplifting tune, but it would be my version of the song-that-always-makes-me-feel-better.
Three lonely prisoners, in a lonely prison cell, the story of their lifetimes to each other they did tell...
He sang it to us hundreds of times, he taught it to all of my children, but I've never, ever, heard anyone else sing it. I've tried googling the lyrics, in the hope that someone, with a passion for songs from the early twentieth century, might have stumbled across it and shared their knowledge - but nothing. I've sometimes wondered if it was a 'proper' song at all, or something that Dad had made up. The tune and lyrics never changed - so if he did make it up, he did a pretty good job of it.

I won't be writing in to Chris Evans and Moira Stewart. I know I won't be driving along to work one day hearing it playing on the radio, but that's ok. I can play it on my own internal juke-box any time I like and it will still always make me feel better.


Louis said...

I remember him singing that one to you never know he could have made it up knowing Grandad, he used to write short stories for us when we was little. I think Faye still has one he did about "The Tale of the terrible twins" shame he aint here no more he's very much missed!! x

Baglady said...

I love how songs can evoke memories like that - I wonder where your Three Prisoners song came from.

(I listen to Radio 2 in the mornings, too. So glad Sir Tel has gone, bumbling old fart that he was)

Happy Frog and I said...

Dock of the bay by Otis Reading really reminds me of my dad. My dad used to make up song lyrics as well though. The lines you quote sound like a folk tune, possibly and Irish one? If I find anything that fits I will let you know.

Pat said...

I remember my Dad coming in from work one day and singing to my Mum;
'I can't love you any more...'
Our jaws dropped - we thought our happy life was going to end. But the next line was:
'Any more than I do.
For if I loved you anymore,
I would have to be two.'

Liz said...

I found this and it sounds like it might be your song. Start about halfway down the link...

There was a lot of Mitch Miller and Max Bygraves when I was a kid. None of my friends knew it 'cause their parents were all younger than mine. But my favourite was one my Dad sang...
"The barefoot boy with the boots on
Came shuffling down the street
His pants were full of pockets
And his boots were full of feet..."

Crazy, like my Dad.