Mad Tidings or how to fill a stocking better than Joan Harris

As season 4 of MadMen builds towards what promises to be a thrilling climax and the festive season approaches, I find myself pondering swelegent Christmas gifts for those who’ve become irresistibly drawn to the series and who – like me – will doubtless be bereft when we’re forced to bid farewell, albeit temporarily, to the characters, wit and wisdom we’ve come to know and love since 2008.  What did we watch before?  And how to keep the Mad mood alive until the Season 5 kicks in?

Stocking fillers for the Joan Harris in your life She probably already has the pen pendant (or an approximation thereof) so No.1 on my list would be a discreet brooch; nothing too ornate or gaudy, possibly something in a matte gold or gilt – ideally a timeless starburst design to accent that navy wool dress with the 3/4 length sleeves.  Were it still open, I’d be recommending the late lamented Steinberg and Tolkien on the King’s Road, Chelsea but you can find beautiful examples across all price ranges at Alfie’s Antique Market, Northcote Road Antiques Market or in any good vintage clothing or second-hand jewellery store.

Stocking fillers for the Betty Draper in your life Neighbour Francine has been known to remark, “Oh, Betty, you have the worst luck entertaining”, so make Betty’s life easier with a cute cocktail apron in peek-a-boo chiffon or perhaps a more serviceable offering in a perky cotton print (cheery cherries are a safe bet).  For a wonderful selection available to order on line, check out Carolyn’s Kitchen, an emporium of retro delights that knows just how to put the kitsch in kitchen (and the pin-up in pinafore).   And forsaking Santa’s stocking staple the satsuma, why not brighten Betty’s day with a few fresh limes – perfect for her vodka Gimlet.   Something tells me she’ll be needing one.

Move over Malibu, here comes Madison Avenue

Stocking fillers for the Sally Draper in your life I know Sally didn’t rate the Barbie baby Gene “gave” her but has she seen the limited edition MadMen Barbies available from Vogue Collectibles?  Hmm, thought not.  Here she will find her mommy, Betty, daddy Don and that nice lady with the red hair from daddy’s office.  Oh, and uncle Roger, too.  Who could resist?  But if that doesn’t float her boat now that she’s getting to that “awkward” age, how about a totally cool Beatles’ collectable?  New York’s Fab4 Collectibles offer a dazzling array of original memorabilia from concert tickets to vintage vinyl that’s fab, gear and groovy!

Stocking fillers for the Don Draper in your life Yes, you could buy him a bottle of Bourbon to keep him in Old Fashioneds for a goodly while or perhaps a leather-bound little black book to help him keep track of his many lady friends, but maybe what Don really needs is some proper relaxation time such as he always enjoyed with Anna in California; a chance to detox from the rigours of Madison Avenue and be himself.  If the budget won’t stretch to a plane ticket to exotic climes, consider trial membership at an up-market gym or pool, or a spa day at Gentlemen’s Tonic (book signings permitting, perhaps Roger could drop by for a manicure).  Oh, the water feels good… perfect for clearing his head and getting his creative juices flowing.  Those CLIOs don’t win themselves, you know.

Stocking fillers for the Peggy Olsen in your life Poor Peggy!  She may have got where she wanted to be but it’s still very much a man’s world.  In dodging the rampant sexism she and her distaff coworkers encounter day in and day out, it’s important she doesn’t compromise her femininity in her struggle to be taken seriously in the boardroom.  I would therefore recommend a lipstick case so that she can discreetly correct confidence-sapping lippy SNAFUs prior to client presentations or, maybe now that she’s on her way, that coveted Hermès scarf…

And for MadMen aficionados everywhere, may I heartily recommend Roger Sterling’s magnum opus Sterling’s Gold – Wit & Wisdom of an Ad Man.  Available now from all good booksellers.

Posted in Random Musings | 3 Comments

The dead wood stage

The other day I came across an old email in which I’m regaling a male friend with the trials and tribulations of my Sunday.  I was making the point that whilst his routinely revolved – and probably still do – around ensuring his roast was on the table by 1pm (honestly, I’ve barely recovered from The Archers omnibus to worry about lunch that early in the day), mine, in keeping with most women of my acquaintance, are usually taken up with a litany of errands, social busy-ness and sundry thankless tasks causing me to ponder whether three years later and seemingly no wiser, I may have finally reached the dead wood stage.

It seems Yahoo has decided to go up the pictures today. The email I thought I’d sent you at 10am this morning decided not to go but to languish in my draft folder all day, hence the apparent lateness of my hair appointment.

Have actually had an INCREDIBLY frustrating day:

6.15am: woken by inconsiderate, lead-footed bloke who’s shacked up with the woman above (more fool him).  Wouldn’t mind, but I didn’t retire until 1am.

7am: after fitful attempts to fall asleep, get up as by now room is flooded with sunlight and am wide awake.  Console self with virtuous thoughts about making the most of days like these.

10am: miraculously have managed to stick to (correctly pronounced) schedule i.e. have breakfasted, showered, dressed and even sent emails (or not, as it later transpires), and am ready to leave house with an hour to get to 11am hair appointment.  Mr Bluebird is indeed upon my shoulder.

10.57am: attempt to pay for a bottle of mineral water in Marks & Spencer (as will be “under the dryer” for at least 45 mins, dehydrating) but no tills are open.  Jobsworth informs me they can’t take cash until 11am on the dot.

11.00am: leave M&S in huff but not before spotting my favourite Spanish tortillas in deli cooler.  Plan to return après hair to purchase as local branch does not stock.  Sprint to salon.

11.03am: arrive.

Barbara Eden as style icon Jeannie

11.45am: despite insisting that I only want a teeny trim off the overall length, stylist (of three years who should know by now) proceeds to chop off 2”-3” whilst relating tales of woe pertaining to vindictive area manager.  Thankfully had presence of mind to bring along I Dream Of Jeannie/Barbara-Eden-style-clip-on-poni-tail-wiglet-thingy as cannot attend social event minus trademark tresses.

12noon: am placed under dryer with assortment of women’s periodicals and a not bad cup of tea.  Read about cast of Desperate Housewives for the umpteenth time.

1.00pm: am released from dryer torment.  Face has turned puce.  Am combed out, bouffed and wiglet is attached.  Look like a Shindig! podium dancer or an extra from Austin Powers.  Vow to own go-go cage before 45th birthday.  And Le Corbusier caramel leather recliner by age fifty.

1.25pm: purchase tortilla.

1.40pm: mobile beeps. Couple who’d said they’d be going to housewarming around 4pm and would meet me at North Greenwich tube are in fact there already. Typical.  Not a problem as Dave will leave party, drive out and meet me but I must go to Woolwich Arsenal BR instead as is nearer (apparently).  Heart sinks as journey is bound to be plagued by Sunday service shortcomings/essential maintenance…

2.30pm: after hideous, sweaty bus journey arrive home but am delayed by friendly neighbour on driveway.  Am annoyed with self as always forget she’s terribly short-sighted so could probably have sneaked in communal hall undetected.  Joined by second talkative (and slightly paranoid) neighbour so feel obligated to stop and chat as will look like I have a favourite.

2.50pm: Shower. Change.  Redo make-up.  Spray new ’do to death as second neighbour mentioned rain in manner of harbinger of doom.  Transfer guacamole to Tupperware box.  Place tortilla in fridge.  Grab nice bottle of chilled Chablis.  Remember pile of CDs borrowed ages ago as favour to Dave and Jane who cannot burn CDrs.  Deliberate over whether to take brolly.  Decide against.

3.10pm: Leave house.  Sun has reappeared.  Hurrah.

3.20pm: Arrive at Streatham BR for journey to London Bridge.  Attempt to purchase a ticket from machine as all counters shut.  Task impossible as “touch screen” technology does not work.  Wonder how many germs lurk on screen.  Mumble profanity.  Decide to pay at “other end” as have Oyster card and winning smile.  Trek to platform to discover there is no train service beyond Herne Hill.  Must take replacement bus service from there.  Utter further profanity and stomp off in direction of bus stop.

3.25pm Am now on third sweaty bus journey of the day en route to Brixton.

3.35pm Am chatted up briefly by polite foreign bloke who wants to know how far it is to Brickton (sic).  Bless.

3.45pm Arrive at Brixton underground and purchase bottled water and a KitKat (emergency rations) in case power fails and am obliged to boost morale of carriage occupants and/or lead people to safety.  Remember also have wine and guacamole (and two bags of corn chips) so could throw impromptu Tube party if the worst comes to the worst.  Worryingly also have James Taylor CDs.

3.48pm Arrive at Stockwell.  Change to Northern Line.

4.15pm Arrive at London Bridge.  Purchase ticket to Woolwich Arsenal from automated machine as instructed.   Have doomy feeling on discovering am miles from relevant platform.  Bag weighs a tonne.  Am starting to feel really cheesed off.

4.17pm Discover there are no trains to Woolwich Arsenal.  News is delivered in manner one might use to address a very small child or deranged person.  Apparently must go to Plumstead.  But have just missed train.  Must wait until 4.35pm.

4.19pm Purchase iced coffee from AMT and eventually find seat on platform away from smokers.  Drink iced coffee too quickly and regret instantly as mouth now tastes bitter and am obliged to use grim-looking Ladies room at other end of platform owing to diuretic effect of said beverage.

4.22pm: Decide to brave Ladies.  Am mildly disconcerted to discover a man washing his hands.  Oh no, is slightly butch-looking woman with rucksack and sensible hairdo.  Instantly feel excessively trivial and girly as am wearing turquoise lily in hair, matching mules and dress with (discreet) sequin appliqué.  However, am delighted to discover sufficient paper, soap and hot water.  Maybe Britain has finally got a clue.  Apply mascara as left house hurriedly and forgot.

4.27pm: Assist small child to work soap dispenser as understandably her father does not want to enter Ladies and risk contravening some bye-law.  She is very polite and thanks me in perfect English, even though her papa addresses her (from beyond the door) in German.  Am impressed.

4.32pm: Mobile rings.  Is Dave to say they are leaving at 5pm – am I still coming?  Melanie (who is my only connection to hostess) is also leaving at 5pm.  ****!  She told me she’d be there until 8pm and would run us home as she lives half a mile from me.  Am stymied as have only bought single ticket and swapped everyday handbag for smaller, party-type variant so do not have wallet with cards.  Am passed over to hostess but cannot make myself understood above combined station and party clamour.  Know no-one else at gathering apart from her.  Don’t want to go and be marooned with strangers so make my excuses.

4.33pm: After a moment’s deliberation, decide to head back just as train pulls in.

4.37pm: Muse on concept of all dressed up and nowhere to go.  Feel like Mary from the Shangri-Las.  Too proud to blub in public though on point of tears owing to sheer frustration.  Think “friends” could have agreed to meet me at Plumstead and collect their blinkin’ CDs, if nothing else.  Muse on potential merits of hacking “dead wood” from life.

The infamous Tower, Colliers Wood - if it can't be demolished, at least let it be spruced up a tad. http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=308679532901&v=wall

4.47pm: Once aboard southbound Northern Line train decide to alight at Colliers Wood, exit station and phone brother who loves guacamole so that entire day is not in vain.

5.10pm Arrive Colliers Wood.  Call brother but is out. Probably working.

5.12pm: Head back to Balham.

5.18pm: Arrive at Balham.  Spot bus, so must run in mules carrying heavy bag of party favours. Congratulate self for catching bus and not breaking ankle in process.

5.35pm: Arrive home.  Decide to sample guacamole.  Is delicious.  Contemplate delightful evening ahead with self catching up on telly, writing and chores.

5.38pm: Must not be selfish and keep all guacamole. Is too good.  Must share with the world.

5.40pm: Decant portion of guac. into dinky ceramic dish, cling film and take to neighbour explaining dreadful travel gyp which has led to my premature return.

5.42pm: Neighbour explains she is having second neighbour round for drinks so I should come, too.  Agree to join.

6pm-8.20pm: Enjoy delightful and relaxed catch-up with neighbours one and two who fall upon guac. with genuine relish.  Am relieved to learn have not lost culinary touch.  All’s well that ends well.

8.50pm: Discover More 4 is showing my favourite episode of Father Ted (the Elvis talent contest) and that Curb… is on immediately afterwards.  Life is sweet.

9.25pm: Ten minutes into Curb… Jane calls to ask whether I got home OK.  Is thinly veiled female attempt to gauge how hacked off I am.  After listening to vacuous waffle about gathering I missed, can take no more and utter my favourite lie: “I hate to be rude but…” Whip crack-a-way!

Posted in Samsk In Her City | 1 Comment

Dors keep swingin’

The ever-glam Diana Dors circa early 1980s

As Britain’s best-loved blonde bombshell of the post-War era, Diana Dors is as synonymous with mid-50s’ glamour as a pink Cadillac.  But the former Rank starlet was much, much more than just a buxom pin-up.  With an astonishing ability to reinvent herself and move with the times, the 60s and 70s saw Diana develop into one of the UK’s most respected character actresses with gritty stage and TV roles, a chat show, several books and even a spell as a GMTV agony aunt to her credit.  In the wake of a recent showcase hosted by the BFI and DVD releases of some her early work, one of the tragedies of Diana’s death at the age of fifty-two is that she never lived to see the recognition her work is now receiving.

'Swingin' Dors': originally released in 1960

One of the albums in the Pye vaults that piqued my interest most was Swingin’ Dors.  Recorded by Diana Dors at the height of her UK television show’s popularity and produced and arranged by Wally Stott as was, the long-player had been released on sumptuous red vinyl with an innovative gatefold sleeve; a truly no-expenses-spared affair that echoed the glamour of the Swindon starlet.  By the time I joined Castle Music (Pye Records’ erstwhile custodian) in the late 1990s, Swingin’ Dors had become a collector’s item, and although there had been sporadic reissues these were invariably low budget cheapies or bootlegs, with little or no attempt made to replicate the deluxe feel of the original.  A long-time fan of Diana, it became a personal goal to see the release reissued in all its glory but it would take nearly ten years for this to come about.

One afternoon in April 2007, I took a call from a colleague in the Royalties department.

“Do you know anything about Diana Dors?”

Tentatively I replied, “yes… ish … how can I help?”

“Well, we’ve had a call from her nephew…”

“Nephew…?  Do you mean her son..?  Was the chap’s name Jason, by any chance?”

“Yes, that’s right!  Listen, I’ve got a number for him – could you possibly give him a call?”

“What’s it regarding?”

“It seems a Japanese label has released her album and he was wondering if we’d licensed it to them.”

“No… not us. I’d better call him.”

In fact I didn’t phone Jason until the following Friday, but in a curious way the delay proved to be auspicious.  Jason Dors Lake is Diana’s son by her third husband actor Alan Lake and, along with many other people’s, my heart had gone out to him when his mother died from cancer in 1984.  The double blow of the loss of his father some six months later was incomprehensibly tragic.  More recently I had seen him on television in Channel 4’s 2003 documentary Who Got Diana Dors’ Millions? Having watched the programme, clearly it hadn’t been Jason and much of the mystery surrounding the late star’s estate and “missing” assets continues to rattle on, seemingly with no  solution.  It was for this very reason that Castle Music had previously chosen not to release Swingin’ Dors because of the lack of paperwork and any easy means of contacting Diana’s estate…

With his ready sense of humour, Jason and I quickly established a rapport over the phone.  I explained the chances of him slapping a “cease and desist” on the offending label were slim, ostensibly because the record had been on sale for some time and because it was a bootleg, there’d be no easy way of tracing those responsible.  As we talked, a germ of an idea began to form.  Given he was the rightful beneficiary of Diana’s estate and in the absence of any third party claims (of which there had been none), were Jason willing to grant Castle Music a license, then perhaps together we could create a legitimate release – one of which we could all be proud, packaged properly in its original format and promoted with his full endorsement?  Neither of us needed much encouragement to pursue this idea and as we said our goodbyes, he added, “I’m so glad you rang.  I was feeling pretty low today… it’s the anniversary of my mother’s death and I was just thinking, ‘come on, Mum, send us a lucky break’ and the phone rang.  I wasn’t going to pick up but I’m pleased I did.” As he spoke, my arms began to quiver with goose bumps.

Within in a few weeks a deal had been thrashed out and I was on my way to meet Jason at his home on the sunny Kent coast.  Tall, good-looking and instantly recognisable as the son of his famous parents, it’s fair to say we got on like a house on a fire.  Sitting on the deck, with the waves lapping the shore and a chilled glass of rosé, we spent the afternoon going through what few mementos he’d been able to retrieve prior to the sale of the family home Orchard Manor in Berkshire.  We even came across Diana’s first husband Dennis Hamilton’s driving license complete with speeding endorsements!  Over the years, fan and collector Paul Sullivan, who runs the official Diana Dors web site, has furnished Jason with copies of photographs and other memorabilia, but even so it was sad to see just how few personal photos Jason had.  Over the coming months and thanks in no small part to Paul, who gave freely both of his time and his archive, the project began to take shape.  Uncanny coincidences also began to unfold.

Diana's Cadillac convertible is on the left (Photo courtesy of Alex Szczepanski)

Speaking to my brother about the release, it transpired that in the early 1950s our recently widowed grandmother, then living in leafy Putney, had put her house on the market and that Diana and Dennis Hamilton had been to view it.  An authority on classic cars, he also told me that in the 1970s he’d been offered a powder blue Cadillac previously owned by Diana Dors.  At the time he’d declined, as he was more into pared down SoCal hot-rods than gas-guzzling showboats.  A few years later, he caught sight of said Caddy languishing in a West London breakers yard and had the presence of mind to document it for posterity (above right).  I was relieved to discover that the car had since been salvaged, fully restored and is now leading a life of ease befitting its former owner cruising the highways and byways not of Swindon but Sweden!

Diana relaxes in her dressing room

Powered by industrial quantities of Twinings Rose Pouchong, Dan Rosen took the design reins and with his painstaking eye for detail the album was replicated as close to the original as possible but with the added bonus of a memorabilia-laden LP-sized booklet.  Including an essay by Paul and with contributions from Malcolm Baumgart and Diana’s friend singer Billie Davis, many previously unseen photographs were also featured, notably candid shots of Diana relaxing in Cannes and reclining on the beach with her dogs.   As well as the vinyl edition, Swingin’ Dors was also made available as a CD digipack complete with the split gatefold cover and a dinky CD-sized booklet.  All in all, the pair looked splendid and as the October 23rd release date drew near, we began to circulate review copies to the music press.  Given the project had first been mooted on the anniversary of her passing it seemed appropriate that its release was to fall on what would have been Diana’s 76th birthday, although that was more by accident than design.

Ooh la la! Diana performs in Las Vegas

The music on Swingin’ Dors was something of a revelation to me.  Wally Stott’s superb orchestral arrangements combined with a great song selection and Diana’s understated vocals make for a sophisticated yet light-hearted listen.  Her warmth and down-to-earth personality shine through and it’s easy to see why, in her later years, she became such a hit on chat shows and panel games.  I was genuinely surprised at just how good the album is and judging by its lavish wrapping, extravagant by 1960’s standards, clearly Pye had had high expectations, too.  Given Diana had made several well-publicised motion pictures in Hollywood, Swingin’ Dors also saw release in the US on Columbia Records and in many other overseas territories including Mexico.  With its suggestive feel ‘Roller Coaster Blues’ is the perfect vehicle for the pouty star’s intimate style, and on ‘Come By Sunday’ her tongue-in-cheek humour really comes to the fore.  In the wake of the reissue’s limited release, club deejays lucky enough to find a copy were reputedly spinning tracks for retro sophisticates and at the time remixes of some were mooted.

Perhaps not surprisingly, there was to be a further twist in the tale.  In August we learned that the Sanctuary Group (who’d acquired Castle Music in 2000) had themselves been bought by the Universal Music Group.  Overnight the company was plunged into uncertainty and with it, the release schedule.  No-one had any answers and those that did were keeping schtum.  Phones rang off their hooks, speculation was rife and morale plummeted.  With impending redundancy looming, our production team worked valiantly to ensure that parts were sent out to manufacture before the shutters came down.  After all the effort that had gone into this release in particular, we couldn’t believe the rug was being pulled from underneath us.   With some trepidation, I informed Jason.  Miraculously, both the vinyl and CD releases came in on time and were delivered to our distributor.  Initial orders had been promising and reviews glowing but with so much doubt surrounding the label’s future, retail customers found it nigh impossible to get hold of stock and  ultimately both formats sold in minimal quantity.

That September I left Sanctuary’s employ where I had worked as a label manager and latterly a consultant on and off for almost ten years.  It seems ironic that of all the releases I had most wanted to get my teeth into, Swingin’ Dors was to prove my swansong for the label.  So tonight, on what would have been her 79th birthday, I am raising a glass in honour of Diana and slipping Swingin’ Dors on the deck.

With grateful thanks to Jason Dors Lake, Marcella Trowell, Paul Sullivan and Dan Rosen.

One of my favourites: Diana on the set of 'The Unholy Wife' (1957)

Posted in Time Machine | 2 Comments

Mighty high cotton

Are you gonna be there? Well, I got my invite.

Mondays aren’t generally renowned for their life-affirming qualities.  But Monday 21st October 1985 was to prove an exception and has taught me never to judge the day by its downbeat wrapper.  My first driving lesson had seen me happily pootle around Tooting’s leafy side streets, and whilst I’d managed not to hit anything or anyone, I sensed from the instructor’s ashen face on dropping me home that I probably wasn’t quite ready to be let loose on Hyde Park Corner at rush hour (no namby pamby traffic lights in those days, either).  The indecent haste with which he then lit a cigarette and floored it suggested I wasn’t wrong.  No sooner was I indoors, than the phone started ringing.  With teapot mid-air, in customary fashion my mother looked at me, I at her and then at my brother as we broke into a well-worn chorus of “oh, no – who can that be?” none of us wanting to get stuck on the phone while the PG grew cold.

Inevitably I drew the short straw and picked up the phone, “8591?”

“Are you doing anything?” was my sister’s urgent reply.

“Just about to have some nosh.”

“Well, forget that and get up to Capital Radio.  Roger Scott’s giving away tickets for a Carl Perkins gig to the first twenty people who turn up to the foyer in 50s gear.”

“Can’t you go?  You’re only down the road.”

“I’ve already had my break.”

“Oh, all right.  When is it?”

“Tonight!”

A frequent visitor to these shores from the time he first toured alongside Chuck Berry and The Animals in 1964, Rockabilly pioneer Carl Perkins was always assured a warm welcome whenever he came to the UK.  One of the original Sun stars, Perkins wrote songs that became Rock’n’Roll standards almost as soon as the ink was dry, earning covers by former label-mate Elvis Presley and later The Beatles – not bad going for a poor ol’ country boy from Tiptonville!  Regular appearances alongside Johnny Cash in the early 70s, coupled with the launch of his Ol’ Blue Suede’s Back album at the height of the Rock’n’Roll revival and sporadic tours in the 1980s and 90s, ensured this modest yet supremely talented gentleman had a special place in the hearts (and record collections) of his many European fans.  That’s hardly surprising really, bearing in mind that in 1956 he’d given the world ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ and from that point had been on a mission to rock its collective socks off.

Castle Select's 2002 reissue which featured Carl's previously unreleased track-by-track narration

Born too late to have witnessed his first UK appearances, and still too young to tag along to the launch party for his Ol’ Blue Suede’s Back album in 1978, it wasn’t until that night in 1985 that I finally got to see the great Carl Perkins perform live.  His Sun recordings had reverberated around the house as I was growing up, thanks to my sister Sue’s Rockabilly leanings and her particular soft spot for Pa Gherkins, by which Buchanan & Goodmanism he was affectionately known.  So when Sue phoned me that Autumn day to tell me Capital Radio deejay Roger Scott was giving away a limited number of tickets for a “Carl Perkins television show” to the first people to turn up at the station dressed in appropriate Rock’n’Roll attire, in truth I didn’t need much persuasion to put my cat clothes on and high-tail off to Euston Tower in the hope of being one of the lucky few to secure ring-side seats.  Having been given the sartorial thumbs up by Mr Scott and awarded our tickets, so began the scramble to get home, doll ourselves up and hopefully cajole our brother Al into driving us to the studios where the show was being recorded that night.

Come on, it’s starting!!” came the urgent cry as we all bolted into the sitting room brandishing plates of peanut butter on toast and a tray of tea.  Exactly thirty years to the day since the release of its namesake, January 1st 1986 saw Channel 4 air Blue Suede Shoes – A Rockabilly Session, a one-off television special that has since come to be regarded a classic, not least for its stellar line-up.  For too long Rock’n’Roll had been confined to the media back burner and aside from a few specialist shows, radio airplay was limited in spite of a thriving underground scene.  Contemporary bands such as The Stray Cats had succeeded in breaking into the mainstream in the early 80s, and although their hits had tailed off by 1983, they remained a popular live act.  Despite enviable credentials and retro appeal (oft-plundered by fashionistas and advertising agencies alike to wit: BBH’s Levi’s 501s campaign), the Big Beat barely registered on the uber-trendy Richter scale of youff programmes such as The Tube, so the idea of an entire hour’s peak-time viewing dedicated to the genre was nothing short of remarkable, and indicative of the pioneering stance championed by Channel 4 in its early days.

Music publisher Graham Nolder had first conceived the idea of a TV show where Carl Perkins could perform his classic songs alongside an all-star band after the pair had briefly worked together in the early 80s.  By 1984 the time was right and, having recently made the reunion album Class Of ’55 with fellow Sun luminaries Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison, Carl was clearly in nostalgic mood and agreed to take part.  In order to persuade some of the scene’s hottest players to come on board (all of whom shared the happy coincidence of being his friends), Carl duly recorded a series of personal video messages along the lines of “Hello, I bet you didn’t expect this.  I have been invited to record a TV show of my Rockabilly songs and I’d be really honoured if you could come along to play.” The tapes were mailed out and the response was overwhelmingly positive, although sadly none of his Class Of ’55 compadres was able to participate in the live show.  Meanwhile Carl’s career was enjoying an unexpected fillip thanks to a cameo appearance in John Landis’ black comedy Into The Night, in which he engages in a bizarre knife-wielding fight-to-the-death with David Bowie.  Although the show had originally been mooted shortly after Carl received the Elvis Presley Foundation Memorial Award for his contribution to Memphis art forms in 1984, such was everyone’s schedule that it would be a full 18 months before they could all be available in one place at the same time.  That place turned out to be London’s Limehouse Studios, on the site of what is now Canary Wharf.

Put your cat clothes on...

Pre-Docklands Light Railway, pre-Jubilee line extension, we were glad of a lift across town that October evening to a remote warehouse-like venue that was literally in the middle of nowhere at the furthest reach of a dead-end street.  In that infuriating way brothers have, Al was not convinced “we’d got this right” and seemed reluctant to leave us, clearly envisaging Dickensian cut-purses and the like but we told him not to worry and he duly split, the Camaro’s tail-lights glowing like embers as he drove off.  Needless to say, we’d given no thought as to how we’d make the trek back to Wandsworth; getting here was all we’d been worried about.  As we stood outside in the inky black chill with the wind lapping off the river and rustling our petticoats, the crowd grew steadily and an atmosphere of anticipation began to crackle in the frosty night air.  We stood for nearly an hour watching the good and the great being whisked inside and as our tickets didn’t specify who else would be playing, we wiled the time away speculating who Carl’s “friends” might be as we stamped our feet to keep warm.  Suddenly the wait was over, the doors flew open and we were in.

Seated to the left of the stage we watched the technicians setting up and before long Carl emerged to welcome the audience and inform us that “if we’re lucky, they’re gonna see this all over the world”. We’d already spotted Dave Edmunds and Mickey Gee tuning their guitars and knew we were in for a blast when Stray Cats’ bass player Lee Rocker and drummer Slim Jim Phantom also appeared.  With Geraint Watkins on piano and Carl’s son Greg on electric bass, the stage was set and the cameras began to roll.  Teasing us with the opening lyric to ‘Blue Suede Shoes’, Carl then ripped into ‘Boppin’ The Blues’, swiftly followed by another Perkins’ sartorial ode, ‘Put Your Cat Clothes On’.  Aside from the sheer energy that hit us like a tidal wave, what was also immediately evident was the easy rapport between Carl and the other musicians who were clearly relishing performing alongside one of Rock’n’Roll’s founding fathers.

Band introductions complete, the first surprise of the evening came after Slim Jim slipped away leaving a vacant drum kit …enter Ringo Starr!  We couldn’t believe we were sitting feet away from the former moptop watching him reprise ‘Honey Don’t’ which he’d first recorded for 1964’s Beatles For Sale.  Relaxed and in fine fettle, Starr’s trademark drollness came to the fore as he threw Carl a few good-natured – and clearly unrehearsed – verbal curves.  Before we’d had time to catch our breath, Carl was welcoming another Rock legend on stage, none other than guitar great Eric Clapton.  The pair tore into ‘Matchbox and traded licks on an equally exuberant ‘Mean Woman Blues’.  What we didn’t realise as we sat transfixed by what was rapidly shaping up to be the gig of the century, was that Clapton had just stepped off a plane from Japan and headed straight from the airport to the studios.  If he was jet-lagged his playing certainly didn’t give it away.

After the pace slowed with a superb rendition of his first Sun release ‘Turn Around’, it was time for the evening’s only female guest to make her entrance.  Remarking that he used to rock this young lady in her cradle, Carl welcomed out feisty Country chanteuse Rosanne Cash.  Duetting on a down-homey ‘Jackson’ that underscored their affection for one another, Cash then rocked out to great effect on ‘What Kinda Girl?’, a Steve Forbert song which had originally appeared on her 1981 US Country #1 album Seven Year Ache.

“This is a special of all the greatest things that could ever happen to me. This is my night with my friends.”

Wondering how the evening could possibly be improved upon, the question was answered when Carl introduced his next guest in emotional tones, “…somebody said he retired. I said, ‘it ain’t true, he will come out, he’ll shake again’ and he is here is to rock with us and celebrate tonight: George Harrison!” The studio fairly erupted as a dapper-looking George strode up, strapped on his guitar and launched into ‘Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby’, followed by a breathtaking ‘Your True Love’.  No-one could have been left in any doubt as to the deep friendship between the two, as evidenced on their duet ‘The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise’.  Seated alone with Carl, Harrison watched attentively as his friend nimbly demonstrated Les Paul’s famous echo technique; the love and respect Harrison held for him was there for all to see and humbling to behold.

L-R: Carl Perkins, Dave Edmunds & George Harrison (photo courtesy of Mark Lewisohn)

The scene was then set for an informal jam session and with all the musicians seated in a row “like a bunch of 1st graders” it was time for Carl to play the role of teacher, as he led the group into a barnstorming Rock’n’Roll medley.  Kicking off with ‘That’s All Right, Mama’ and segueing into ‘Blue Moon Of Kentucky’, the feel didn’t let up for a moment as the “students” brought it home Gospel-style with a rousing ‘Night Train To Memphis’.  Strumming the opening bars and taking the vocal lead, Harrison introduced another feel-good Perkins classic, ‘Glad All Over’ whilst Carl confessed he couldn’t remember the words!  Admitting it would be remiss to let an occasion such as this go by without mentioning Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl and co. paid tribute to The Killer with ‘Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin On’.

By now many of the audience were taking to the floor to bop and jive as Carl broke into ‘Gone, Gone, Gone’ followed by the undoubted climax of the evening: ‘Blue Suede Shoes’.  Looking back it’s hard to do justice to the electrifying atmosphere of that night such was its magnitude, an event made all the more enjoyable because of its easy-going, organic nature.  What came over on TV was every bit as exciting as watching the performance live; a group of buddies (albeit the superstar kind) having fun and revelling in each other’s playing as though they were jamming at home.  Full marks must go to director Tom Gutteridge who managed to capture that spontaneity without impinging on the natural ebb and flow of the recording.  The sight of Carl on stage surrounded by world-class musicians and friends alike, performing his best known and perhaps best loved song was as fine an endorsement of Rock’n’Roll’s longevity and relevance as anyone could wish to have.

After a stunning encore, a tearful Carl told the audience “I have sung that song since 1955 when I wrote it exactly 30 years ago this month.  I have never in my life enjoyed singing that song like I did tonight with these people, my friends, my Rockabilly buddies and you, the greatest people in the world.  God bless you.”   In conveying his heartfelt thanks, Carl’s humility and generous spirit shone through.  Here was a true originator, an artist who had inspired a generation of musicians to greatness and yet he’d never lost sight of the joy of performing in front of a live audience.

As the crowd began to flock around Carl, Sue and I noticed George standing to the right of the stage unplugging his guitar and exuding characteristic Zen-like calm.  “Let’s go up to him, he’s all on his own.” So we did.  “Excuse me, Mr. Harrison..?” “Here, what’s all this ‘Mr Harrison’, girls?” he replied, smiling as we giggled.  “Well, we don’t know you..!” I replied, coyly.  The three of us chatted for a while, we thanked him for an amazing show and he very graciously autographed our tickets.  With Carl, George, Roger Scott, Carl’s son Greg, and more recently Mickey Gee all sadly gone, I now treasure the memory of that evening all the more.

Buoyed by the international acclaim which followed the broadcast, Carl found himself rebranded a “living legend”, much to his bemusement as he was very much focused on the here and now, writing new material and with plans for a follow-up US TV special already mapped out.  Even so, his illustrious past continued to colour his present and in 1986 he was awarded a Grammy Hall of Fame Award for ‘Blue Suede Shoes’.  In November of that year he was selected for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame along with Roy Orbison, joining fellow Sun pioneers Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis who’d been among the inaugural inductees the year before.  In his autobiography Go, Cat, Go! published a year before his death, Carl describes turning to Roy at the plush awards ceremony at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel and congratulating his friend, “I’m proud of you”.  Roy responded in kind, adding, “I wish Elvis had lived to experience this.  This is mighty high cotton, isn’t it?” Mighty high cotton, indeed, and pretty much how I still feel about that magical night twenty-five years on.

And although we probably could’ve floated home on a cloud, in case you’re wondering how we actually made it back… Sue started chatting to a couple of Teds who happened to live in Peckham, south-east London.  Much to the annoyance of their girlfriends I don’t doubt, one of them offered us a lift so we all piled into his car.  Sue and I have often pondered what an incongruous sight that must have been; a Datsun Bluebird laden down lowrider style so that its rear axle was practically sparking the tarmac as we sputtered up the Old Kent Road, packed to the gunnels with net petticoats, outsized quiffs and many happy memories of Carl and his friends.

This article was originally published in Now Dig This, Issue No. 331 October 2010

Recall DVD SDVD514

Carl Perkins & friends: Blue Suede Shoes · A Rockabilly Special is available on DVD from Snapper Music PLC

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Hot and bothered

I’m staggered that in the aftermath of the heroic, death-defying rescue of the 33 Chilean miners (go, Chile, go!), it appears to be beyond the wit of Transport for London to regulate the temperature in their new (note: new) rolling stock on the Victoria line.  At 10am yesterday morning the carriages were being heated (uh-huh) by hot air blowing with some considerable force from the a/c vents.  Why?  The same was true of the bus I took home from Balham later on.  Again, why??  Outside the temperature was an almost-balmy 15C with only the faintest whisper of a breeze.

The doubtless desk-bound dimwits who authorise this should be forced to journey from Cockfosters to Modern via Upminster wearing a 15-tog duvet every day for the next 40 years armed with four bags of shopping and a recalcitrant toddler!  Granted, the temperature has dipped (and granted, you might be chilly travelling at 5am if your MO is hotpants and a handkerchief top in October) but not so much as to warrant additional heating on the Underground…  just saying those last five words makes my blood boil at the waste of energy and sheer stupidity of those responsible.

If Boris Johnson and co. are serious about making London a city fit for the Olympics, then this burning issue must be addressed.  Similarly, if the workforce is to endure another winter of financial gloom, savage cuts and various permutations of ’flu (and of course, everyone is now so terrified being sacked, they’ll struggle in regardless spreading their lurgi to all and sundry in a colossal own-goal of counter-productivity), then the important but seemingly overlooked issue of adequate ventilation on public transport, in shops and in offices must be tackled with the same zeal normally reserved for criticising bankers’ bonuses and issuing parking fines.

On the buses... as it should be

Bring back the RM2 double-decker with its lovely wind-down windows (not those risible flaps that afford no air circulation whatsoever), plush upholstery and flattering pre-EU legislation lightbulbs not ghastly strip-lighting that makes everyone look like they’ve just spent the day boozing in a low-rent nightclub, and for goodness’ sake bring back bus conductors!  Perhaps then ill-mannered school children scoffing chicken from a box would be a) forcibly ejected from the vehicle, and b) held in detention and forced to eat gruel if they dared to clamber past me without so much as a “skooze”, especially if I’m wearing light-coloured suede (as I am wont to do on a dry Autumnal day).  As a result of heat exhaustion, dehydration, delays caused by platform congestion, road works and noise pollution, I was forced to spend the latter part of yesterday in a darkened room trying to recover from a TfL-induced migraine.

What is it about the unholy union of Bob Crow and Boris Johnson that makes me want to bang their heads together in manner of Peggy Mount in Sailor, Beware!?  In my mind’s eye I can still picture the elegant clippie who used to work the 19 bus route in the 70s.  A lady of a certain age yet svelte and sprightly, she was always immaculately turned out with grey gloves and wore her hair in 40s-style victory rolls.  She exuded glamour and gravitas, and although people routinely behaved themselves (hey, they even queued in those days), in the event of a fracas I imagine she’d have brooked no nonsense.

She certainly would not have tolerated the torrent of vile language that spews forth from passengers as they “converse” or worse, reveal the ins and outs of their “private” lives for all to hear as they gabble unabashed on their mobiles.   On a summer’s day her pretty painted toenails would peep through flat navy sandals and I used to think: that’s the job for me, a cheery “any more fares, please”, loping up the stairs and down again, helping the odd dowager duchess off at Pont Street and handing her her Fortnum’s bags, then hanging by the rail on the hop on platform, the wind in my hair as we’d sail over Battersea Bridge bound for the garage and the bright lights of Clapham.  Ding ding!

Up The Junction (1967): note the buses behind Sylv as she and sis Rube walk new girl Polly back to the factory after egg'n'chips in the cafe.

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Happy Kanelbullens dag!

Yummy, yummy: Söder Munken's finest

According to its Facebook page, the annual Kanelbullens dag (Cinnamon bun day) will see over 5,000 fans tucking in to this delightful confection on the 4th October by way of celebration.  As a devotee myself, no trip to Stockholm is complete without several visits to the charming Söder Munkens konditori and bageri on Renstiernas Gata in Södermalm.  This delightful bakery/café with its ornately carved door in the heart of Söder’s trendy shopping district offers not just a treat for the tum, but a feast for the eyes with its mouth-watering window displays and imaginatively decorated celebration cakes.

Located close to Stockholm’s central station (T-Centralen), the Hemköp food hall in Åhléns department store makes a convenient stopping off point to refuel before heading out to the airport.  In this era of no-frills flying and uninspired in-flight sarnies, here you’ll find a dazzling array of salads, delicatessen and freshly baked goodies to take-away including the kanellängd, a larger, plaited version of the bun intended for sharing…  Many’s the time I’ve staved off ecomony ennui with surreptitious bites of bulle and strong, Swedish coffee as my flight starts to blink “delayed” on the departure board.

Autumn in Södermalm: made for kanelbullar

So what makes these buns so delish?  Firstly, the irresistible combi of cinnamon, brown sugar and butter is incredibly moreish when married to the lightly crisped yet doughy texture – especially on a cold day.  Secondly, there’s an essential ingredient – and one which sets the Swedish bulle apart from its American cousin, the cinnamon roll – sweet’n’spicy ground cardamom, perhaps more usually associated with Indian food (in the UK at least).  Unlike their US counterparts, kanelbullar are rarely iced but rather sprinkled with pearl sugar for added crunch.  With the possible exception of The Nordic Bakery on Golden Square, I’ve found it virtually impossible to buy good cinnamon buns in London so perhaps it’s time I took a leaf out of my nephew’s book and started making my own.

Ingredients (Makes approximately two dozen buns)

For the dough:

35 g yeast

100 g sugar

300 ml milk (room temperature)

1 egg

120 g butter

1 tsp salt

1 tbs ground cardamom

750 g flour

For the filling:

100 g butter (softened)

50 g brown sugar e.g. light Muscovado

2 tbs cinnamon

For the glaze topping:

1 egg

2 tbs water

pearl sugar (optional)

Method Crumble the yeast into a bowl and stir in a few tablespoons of milk.  Melt the butter in a pan and pour in the remaining milk.  Transfer the yeast and butter mixtures to a dough-mixer, add the rest of the dry ingredients and knead for 10-15 minutes.  Cover with a tea-towel and leave the dough to rise at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Roll out to an oblong shape approximately 3mm thick and 30cm wide.  Using a palette knife spread the softened butter on top.  Combine the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle it over the buttered dough.  Fold the dough over the long way to form a sausage shape and cut into about 24 slices.  Place the individual slices with the cut edge upwards in paper moulds.  Transfer to a baking sheet and let the buns rise under a tea-towel for about 60 minutes or until they have doubled in size.

Beat together the egg and water, brush the mixture carefully on the buns and sprinkle the pearl sugar (if using) on top.  Bake in a pre-heated oven at 220˚C/425˚F for 5-6 minutes until  golden brown.  Allow to cool on a wire rack – if you can!

Read all about it: 4th October is Kanelbullens dag

Posted in Random Musings | 6 Comments

Instroville meets Coolsville!

INSTROVILLE Hits & rarities from the Golden Age of Pop Instrumentals (Fantastic Voyage FVDD061)

Just as Doo Wop and the Girl Group sound made their contribution to the story of Rock’n’Roll’s, so too did the Pop Instrumental, bringing with it a new dimension and diversity to the charts.  From the mid-1950s until the British Invasion, arguably Instrumentals were to spawn more one-hit wonders than any other genre, largely because so many were recorded by “faceless” session players, as opposed to bona fide Pop artistes who came to prominence  via TV shows such as American Bandstand.

Often used by radio programmers as a convenient means by which to segue seamlessly into the news, some “anonymous” instro might become part of a station’s playlist if enough listeners enquired after it and many did… in droves.  Dyed-in-the-wool Jazzers, seasoned Bluesmen, Country gentlemen and proto-Punks peppered the US Pop and R&B charts with numbers both perky and menacing, their sax-honkin’, piano-plinkin’, bongo-stompin’, Fender-twangin’, finger-clickin’ sounds leaving an indelible print on Pop music.

Covering the period 1956-9, this carefully compiled, hit-laden 50-track set draws together chart-toppers (Dave ‘Baby’ Cortez, Santo & Johnny, The Champs, etc.), lesser-heard gems (Joe Maphis, Larry Collins, The Frantics, Cozy Cole) and cult classics (The Spacemen, Link Wray, Martin Denny).  Essential listening for all instro devotees.

Available on Fantastic Voyage. Original 45rpm sleeves courtesy of Jim Hilmar.

Apart from being a good listen, Instroville’s strength makes it the ideal starting point for anyone dabbling in 50s instrumentals for the first time and for this purpose I’d highly recommend it. Pipeline

A Jim Dandy compilation of Rock’n’Roll instrumentals, of which at least a couple of dozen would surely be considered classics of the genre by aficionados… an ideal place to begin your investigation of the much loved instrumental. Eric Dunsdon • Now Dig This

The joy of sax, guitar and drum… collectors will welcome the rarities spread over this double disc set, including The Cyclones’ Bullwhip Rock, The Frantics Fog Cutter and The Strangers Caterpillar Crawl. 4/5 Kingsley Abbott • Record Collector

FVDD150 COOLSVILLE! Hits & Rarities from the Golden Age of the Pop Instrumental

FVDD150 COOLSVILLE! Hits & Rarities from the Golden Age of Pop Instrumentals

Also check out companion volume Coolsville! 

This is exemplary stuffVintage Rock

… a very nice set and presentation (with good booklet and liner notes) and a fine follow-up to the label’s Instroville. 4/5New Gandy Dancer

Fantastic Voyage always does a good job of mixing in classics with more obscure tracks, and this set doesnt disappoint. Icon Fetch

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Girls Gone Rockin’

GIRLS GONE ROCKIN’ 75 Fabulous Femme Rockers (Fantastic Voyage FVTD054)

If one were to go by the charts alone, it would be easy to figure that red-blooded Rock’n’Roll, and its kissin’ cousins R’n’B and Rockabilly, was solely a male preserve.  And to a degree that was the case but as this superb collection reveals, when it comes to cuttin’ a rug or settin’ the woods on fire, the girls can easily give the boys a run for their money.  Indeed, more than fifty years on, many first generation rockin’ gals continue to inspire contemporary artists such as Imelda May and VV Brown, whilst others  – like Etta James and Wanda Jackson – endure under their own steam, winning accolades well into their seventies when most ladies have long since hung up their sequinned mules.

Some used Rock’n’Roll as a springboard for recording careers which were to blossom across the decades and branch in new directions, whilst others’ quickly faded into obscurity like last night’s prom corsage.  Many were trail blazers, standing up for themselves against an ever-present backdrop of chauvinism and bigotry.  A few broke the mould by penning their own material or by refusing to play second fiddle to their male counterparts.  More often than not, digging in their cha cha heels didn’t win them any fans with industry bigwigs but no matter, as these discs prove their true worth was in being able to lay down the Big Beat with aplomb.

Lorrie Collins

Drawing together some of the finest female singers from across the Roll’n’Roll spectrum, this 75-track set sees chart-topping R&B mamas rubbing shoulders with Boogie Woogie country gals, and demure Pop princesses mingling with Rockabilly fillies whose lesser-heard down-home ditties have nonetheless earned them a place in collectors’ hearts.  From sassy city slickers such as Annisteen Allen and LaVern Baker, to Southern songbirds like Sun Records’ Miller Sisters and the then-fledgling artist/writer Jackie De Shannon, this is as diverse and compelling a set of distaff rockers as one could hope to find.

Available on Fantastic Voyage

From feisty rockabilly to attitude-laden teen pop… as often happens, its the more obscure outings providing the seat-grabbing moments.  A grandly defininite statement which strikes on many levels. 4/5 Kris Needs • Record Collector

… A very well-thought-out collection of girls – black and white – doing R&B, Country or Pop, but always 100% rocking.  An interesting compilation , and almost always entertaining. Pete Bowen • Now Dig This

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The grass isn’t always greener

“Delightful!” I mutter drily, perusing the local rag.  Just as house prices have plummeted, burglaries have risen exponentially thanks in part – the article alleges – to a greater emphasis by police on vice.  Momentarily a nostalgic vision of Soho circa 1959 flashes through my mind; a bottle blonde with jaunty beret à la Vera-Ellen in Words And Music standing in a doorway, Cliff & the Shads twanging in a coffee bar but sadly 21st century Streatham doesn’t possess nearly as much blowsy charm (although happily it does now boast a Caffe Nero).  At least the soaring price of scrap metal means I no longer wake to find vandalised cars with half-eaten takeaways on their parcel shelves abandoned in what few Red Route-exempt parking bays we have at our disposal.  Big whoop!

Oh, to be in Streatham now that Spring is here...

I duly email this comforting news to my sister who lives 100 miles away in a quiet Northants town, subject heading: “Welcome to my world”.  She responds that her teenaged son often wishes their town were as lively!  Lively?? Quoting from their local weekly paper, the most serious incident concerns a paper towel dispenser having been set alight in the carpark of the newly opened Waitrose, “… some blackening to brickwork occurred.” In between urging me to relocate to the wilds, she’s now taken to seeking out the most pedestrian non-articles in order to wind him (and me) up.  Give me “Kitten rescued from tree” or “Vicar pronounces W.I. cake stall best since 1953” any day of the week.

Whilst the urge to up sticks and move somewhere less lively is an almost constant preoccupation, I console myself – or is it kid? I never can decide – with some of the perks living in London affords the singleton.  During a recent short-lived spell of employment in Foots Cray, where I seldom left the office before 7pm, I could traverse the thirteen miles home via bus and two trains safe in the knowledge that Sainsbury’s would still be open, a comforting beacon on the Balham skyline beckoning the hungry straggler.  Similarly, no matter how flaky my last minute arrangements, I know I’ll be able to get to where I need to be and crucially, that I’ll also be able to get home.  It was only when I house-sat for sis that I came to realise how dire rural public transport can be.  What good’s a bus that stops running at 6pm if you want to visit friends for the evening?

So whilst deadheading roses, knitting cardies in 3-ply and solving mysteries in some village idyll might seem alluring to the careworn city slicker whose daily commute involves cattle truck conditions, discarded chicken bones and lamb chop armpits, to borrow a line from Peggy Lee’s ‘Is That All There Is’, “oh, no, I’m not ready for that final disappointment.” Well, not quite – but I’m getting there.  And there had better have a Waitrose.

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A beautiful find

Released on Lionsgate, 2008: Essential viewing, essential listening

Three episodes into Season 4 of MadMen, I’ve lately been reminded of the stellar contribution David Carbonara’s music has made to this series.  As sublime to listen to as MadMen has been to watch, I was compelled to buy the original score album (left) on hearing Rimsky-Korsakov’s ‘Song Of India’ masterfully woven into the scene where Betty descends the Savoy Hotel staircase to meet Don for cocktails on Valentine’s Day (Season 2, episode 1: For Those Who Think Young).

Whilst the whole compilation hangs together very well, standout tracks include ‘The New Girl’ suite (playful hints of Martin Denny), ‘Betty’s Ride’ with its gently undulating bossa nova, so right for 1962, and the Mancini-esque ‘How Many Get Sable’ with its nod to an era of Holly Golightly haute coifs and Haute Couture.   The haunting ‘I’m Not Going To Fight’ and ‘The Carousel’ encapsulate the series’ darker side with subtle melancholy, like the sun’s fading rays permeating an empty room on a winter’s afternoon.

The new girl: http://www.amctv.com/originals/madmen/madmenyourself/

This has now all-but toppled Rolfe Kent’s superb Sideways soundtrack from No.1 in my top five “music-to-work-by” collection.   Top marks, too, for the superb selection of period savvy tracks which have found their way into the series (and onto assorted companion releases), in particular the little-heard Pentagons’ track ‘I’m In Love’ (spookily never a hit) which can be heard emanating from the radio in Don’s brand new ’62 Caddy as he and Betty picnic with the children on a Sunday afternoon (Season 2, episode 7: The Gold Violin).  “We should only do this…” I hear you, Don, I hear you.  Just remember to take your litter home with you next time.

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