As we step tentatively into week 10 of the U.K. lockdown there are some potentially positive signs. Our esteemed Prime Minister – or more accurately, his main advisor – has decided that it may be possible to open up some retail outlets from 1 June, and quite a few more from 15 June. No joy for the hotel, catering and tourism lot yet, though. This is, of course, all predicated on there not be a worsening of the situation before then. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, we had one of our rather few Bank Holidays yesterday and, judging by the reports of hordes descending on beaches and one of these invasions turning into a mass brawl, the end may not yet be in sight. It appears that the plebs are beginning to tire of the lockdown and are deciding that it doesn’t apply to them. That may be the result of last week’s statement by the PM, which confused more than it clarified. No change there, then. More likely it was because of the story splurged all across our news media that the aforementioned main advisor, Dominic Cummings, had been caught travelling to Durham from his London home either twice or thrice, depending on which source you believe. This was despite the rules that he wrote for Johnson to announce. I could say much more on this, but you can easily find coverage of it if you’d like to know more. I am enjoying watching the hypocrites squirming, though, and thinking up ever more implausible justifications. But the petition for Cummings to be sacked now has more than 500k signatures – watch a news space near you!
The underlying takeaway from this, for me, is that we are embroiled in an unknown situation, we have some clues as to what may happen, but don’t know how it will end. Rather like a mystery, in fact, which seemed a suitable theme for this week’s two tunes (spot the seamless segue!).
This week’s first song goes way back to my teenage years and is, I think, very appropriate for what we are currently experiencing. If many shops do reopen next month, it will very much be a Magical Mystery Tour into an unknown future. Roll up, roll up:
The original version of that was released as two 7 inch EP discs, presented in a lovely book format with loads of colour photos of the making of the film, which was first shown on the newly colourised BBC2 channel on Boxing Day 1967. I remember it well, though we were only watching in black and white: neither of my parents was willing to sell a limb to be able to afford a colour tv at that point. It received an audience of 15m, but was savaged by the critics: a good reason, if you needed one, to ignore those idiots! While visiting YouTube for this video I also found a short ‘making of’ piece about the film, which I thought was also worth sharing, both for its historic content and for the snippets of all six tracks on the EP:
My second tune for this week is a little piece of wisdom from the lovely Iris DeMent. Pondering on the meaning of life and the possible hereafter, she comes to the conclusion that the best course is to ‘jest’ Let The Mystery Be:
As someone says at the end of that clip, that one is for keeping. It was recorded in 1995 for the first series of a programme called Transatlantic Sessions, which brought together folk, country and Americana musicians from both sides of the pond. There have to date been six series of this, and they are highly recommended. In recent years there has also been a set of live gigs around the UK, which I was lucky enough to see back in 2014 – also highly recommended!
If you scroll down the comments far enough you will see one from me (I’m CliveChip – don’t ask!) which mentions the version of this song by 10,000 Maniacs, with a guest appearance by David Byrne, of Talking Heads. For what I imagine are contract reasons around Byrne, that didn’t appear on the Unplugged album for which it was recorded. However, there are videos of it and in a fit of unparalleled generosity I thought I’d share one with you – unlike some, I’m still keeping to my ‘rule’ of two songs per week, after all:
I think that is also a lovely version, or perhaps it’s just because I love the song. If it has piqued your interest in Iris DeMent I can also recommend watching her perform with the late John Prine on his song In Spite Of Ourselves – it’s a little gem.
That’s your lot for this week’s bumper edition, in which I have somehow managed to get four videos out of two tunes. Not bad, eh? As always, I wish you well. Be safe, and hopefully the end of this nightmare is in sight.