CAPTAIN AMERICA (Catch me now I’m falling on LB) : the allusion is to the successful ‘golden age’ Marvel comic book superhero dating back to the World War 2, originally created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. Just stick him into Google’s ‘image search’ and you’ll find loads. Also the name given to the Peter Fonda character by the Dennis Hopper character in that time machine of a sad (and wretched save for the scenery, some of the music and Jack Nicholson) little movie ‘Easy rider’, but I hardly think that is apposite here.
CAPTAIN SCARLET (Daylight on PA1) : that’s Captain Scarlet & the Mysterons, not a psychedelic garage band but a naff British science fiction action puppet show of the 1960s, successor to Thunderbirds out of the Gerry Anderson stable on Slough Trading Estate (which has a significant place in my biography, but that’s another story). It has its supporters. See for yourself.
CARTIER (Add it up on GTPWTW) : a frightfully expensive posh jewellery concern. A really annoying chant from Ms. Hynde.
CASANOVA (Over the edge on Phobia) (The poseur on the Velvel Sleepwalker) (Hidden quality on Picture book Vol 5): he was a librarian by profession, like Mao Zedong and Philip Larkin. Unlike them he knobbed thousands of women – well you can hardly call it making love, can you? – it says in his autobigraphy. Obviously something there was about him.
CHARLIE, Uncle (Picture book on VGPS) : or more precisely “fat old uncle Charlie”. This entry is for the completists. We all had one, not necessarily fat, or called Charlie for that matter. Noone specific that I can see from the Davies family tree.
CHAUCER (A well bred Englishman from 80 days): wrote The Canterbury Tales. Sixth Form A level memories don’t exactly flood back, though that first couple of lines is one of the great opening lines: Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote / The droghte of March hath perced to the roote. You know the one. When April showers … no, hang on, I mean T.S.Eliot’s nod and a wink – April is the cruellest month – in The Waste Land. Anyway, Geoffrey Chaucer, 1343 – 1400, known as the Father of English Literature, no less. He was the first poet to have been buried in Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey; his remains were moved to that particular corner of the Abbey – he’s been a local resident so was there already – 156 years after his demise. Terry Jones, of Monty Python fame, wrote a book suggesting he might have been murdered, but that’s by the by. As well as the poetry, philosophy, alchemy and astronomy he also had a proper job, maintaining an active career in the civil service as a variously bureaucrat, courtier and diplomat. He wrote other stuff as well but it’s the Tales that have secured his place in the roll call. Before him the dominant literary languages in England were French and Latin; he is crucial to the establishment of vernacular English – albeit what we now call Middle English – as a legit lingo for yer cultured classes.
CHOW, Mister (Where are they now? on PA1) : Michael to his mother, Mister Chow was the name of his clothes shop, swinging London and all that.
CHRISTIE, Julie (‘Julie’ in Waterloo sunset; not really but hey …) : that’s the beautiful Julie Christie, or so some like to believe. Of late Ray has played the association down in interviews. I suspect it’s a bit like the naming of the new city of Milton Keynes … here’s a village going back to the middle ages in the middle of the designated area and here’s a major twentieth economist and an epic revolutionary poet … too good not to use. However, Christie, along with Terence Stamp (‘Terry’), with whom she was once an item – was something of a swingin’ ’60s London icon. She came to general prominence when featured in a televion show scripted by scientist Fred Hoyle, ‘A for Andromeda’, which was broadcast in seven episodes, October and November 1961. In this she was first seen, if memory serves me correctly – it was a long time ago, but for reasons which will shortly appear obvious, it’s a reasonable hunch – on a laboratory slab as a newly created perfect ‘artificial’ human being without too many clothes on, fresh from the test tube as it were. Or sky clad as those of a more magickal bent might have it. I don’t think it’s overstating the case to say that this made an enormous impression on a whole generation of adolescent British boys and their socio-sexual development (I was 13 at the time). Sadly this is one of the many masterpieces that the BBC in its infinite wisdom wiped the tapes of – to record over, the cheapskates – before they sussed that some of this stuff may have lasting cultural value, along with the first two Quatermass series, the ‘Juke Box Jury’ where the Stones were the whole jury and rubbished everything except the Everly Brothers’ epic ‘Ferris wheel’ and a whole lot more. Christie also figured in another of those ‘angry young men’ black and white English movies, a genre which seems to have had some impact on Ray’s songwriting and social thought – in this instance the very funny ‘Billy Liar’ which was written by Keith Waterhouse. And then there was ‘Far from the madding crowd’, ‘Doctor Zhivago’ and the now deeply embarrassing ‘Shampoo’. But there was a fine performance in the revisionist Western ‘McCabe and Mrs Miller’ and she was a great Gertrude in Kenneth Branagh’s ‘Hamlet’. And mesmerising in ‘Don’t look now’, with donald Sutherland in Venice. Later prominent in animal welfare campaigns among other concerns. Commendably she has never played the celebrity game. For an update on how she’s faring in 2007 try checking out an interview with Tim Adams in the Observer or an interview with David Jenkins in the Daily Telegraph in early 2008. (14 Feb 08)
CHURCHILL, Winston Spencer (1874-1965) (Mr.Churchill says on Arthur) : the reason for John Lennon’s middle name until he changed it to Ono, and not for nothing was Winston Smith the main protagonist in George Orwell’s ‘Ninetten Eighty Four’. Britain’s war time leader stormed to victory in the BBC’s “Greatest Briton” popularity contest / national debate of November 2002; Isombard Kingdom Brunel came second – I voted for William Shakespeare; Lennon actually came in seventh. WSC was a maverick politician who came good as leader of the war time coalition government in the UK. He was one of those people you just could not invent – a life so full of incident (and failure) and completely over the top that in a novel or a movie it would have been met with disbelief; he even won the Nobel Prize for literature.
His oratory is still celebrated and much quoted. His speeches rallied the British people and their allies during the Second World War when things were not exactly going our way against Herr Hitler – “Never in the field of human conflict …” et al. Much loved as a war leader but promptly kicked out on his arse in the first peacetime elections, although he and the Tory Party were to return in 1951 after Attlee and his Labour Party chums made a bit of a balls-up of the great march of British socialism; but they had created the National Health Service and done not a few good things by then. Churchill was also famous iconically for his cigar, his two-fingered victory salute and quick wit. And the fact that all new born babies look a little bit like him (mostly bald and not thin of face). He coined the phrase ‘Iron curtain’. Much anecdotage and many quotations to be found on Wikiquote. Well worth a visit. I like his being challenged on leaving the loo without washing his hands: “At Eton they taught us to wash our hands after using the toilet.” To which Churchill say, “Well, at Harrow they taught us not to piss on our hands.”
I bought a 6 inch high plaster bust of him on a school trip to the family – his, not mine – seat at Blenheim Palace in the late ’50s or very early ’60s which I subsequently used for target practise. History has, however, absolved him of the charge of sending in armed troops to sort out the Welsh miners in a labour dispute in 1910; they were already on their way when he ordered they be stopped at Swindon & Cardiff.
The very first colour supplement to a newspaper to be published in the UK – it was the Sunday Times we have to blame – featured photos of his State Funeral. There’s an interesting memoir from someone involved in the Funeral Train – pulled, of course, by the Battle of Britain class steam locomotive named after him – that was a part of that day’s events; more of an old England, a memory worth clinging to. It was the last time a steam locomotive was used for a state occasion. 50 years on the loco was restored in all its finery and the National Railway Museum had a major 50th anniversary exhibition about it.
CLARK, Ossie (Where are they now? on PA1) : Where indeed? Born 1942 in Liverpool, brutally battered to death by his male lover in his council flat in 1994, Clark’s ultimately awful story is a morality tale for the times; he could be a character in a Ray Davies song if he wrote them this dark. Among other things the man who put Mick Jagger into a catsuit, feted fashion designer, mover and shaker in the later vintage of Swinging London, he was declared bankrupt in 1983. Achieved iconic status in one of the most celebrated paintings of the age – David Hockney’s double potrait ‘Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy’; Percy was the cat, nothing to do with the film. Mrs Clark was fabric designer Celia Birtwell – Hockney’s muse. (Completely tangentally, it was Hockney’s house in Powis Square, Notting Hill Gate, that was used for the filming of ‘Performance’.) Clark kept a multi-coloured variously patterned warts and all diary from 1974 on, which has been published in black and white with examples of the full graphic wonder and a summary of the earlier heady years – ‘The Ossie Clark Diaries’, edited by Lady Henrietta Rous (Bloomsbury, 1998). It is a fascinating primary document of the London scenes he thrived and ultimately floundered in. Lots of names dropped all over the place (no, that’s unkind, he helped make the scene); the brothers Davies don’t get a mention.
CLAUS, Santa (Father Christmas single 1977, bonus track on Misfits reissue): see Father Christmas for a fatuous answer with an autobiographical afterthought, or have a look at this website (no, don’t worry, it’s legit, not a porn site, trust me) for some fascinating stuff about old, no, sorry, Saint Nick. (So just how does Santa fit down a chimney?).
CLOWN, A (Death of a clown) : Dave being autobiographical apparently. I’ll drink to that.
COLLINS, Grenville (The moneyground on LVPATM):
“Robert owes half to Grenville / Who in turn gave half to Larry”
One of the group’s original Hooray Henry managers. A dealer on the London Stock Exchange, rather than following a more traditional career, along with his chum Robert Wace he fancied a bit of the ’60s action. The tale is told in various group biographies and autobiographies. It is his voice – “Hello, who’s that speaking, please” – that kicks off ‘Party line’, the opening track of the ‘Face to face’ album.
Johnny Rogan spoke to him about the song and album for his 1984 Kinks biography: “I didn’t see the funny side of that at all. Grenville and I were very upset by some of the lyrics on the album because, by and large, they were untrue. The fact was that Grenville and I never earned a dime from his [Ray’s] songwriting.”
Parted company with the Kinks soon after the release of ‘Muswell hillbillies’, formed Richochet Enterprises with Wace and onetime Elton John manager Ray Williams. Despite handling the critically acclaimed Stealers Wheel (‘Stuck in the middle with you’) they went into voluntary liquidation in late 1974 (Billboard 2/11/74).
And there the internet trail goes cold … may have become an art dealer. My evidence? A piece from the Oxford Mail in October, 1999: “Art dealer Grenville Collins was left needing hospital treatment after a train window fell on his head …” Could have happened in one of Ray’s songs. Age is given as 56 then, so born 1943, which could fit. How many Grenville Collinses can there be?
COOPER, Henry (London song on Storyteller): English heavyweight boxer and icon (“Our ‘enry”) who actually famously once floored Mohamed Ali and earned the respect of the great man. Subsequently appeared in various tv ads for stuff like Brut, an eau de Cologne (“Splash it on”).
COWARD, Noel (1899-1973) (Stand up comic on Other people’s lives): Though equally at home New York or the South of France, in many ways Noel Coward was an archetypal Englishman (“Mad dogs and …” was one of his). A truant who used to skip school to watch the trains at Clapham Junction (everything out of Waterloo and Victoria – a railway enthusiast’s delight) he became a prolific dramatist (Blithe spirit, Private lives, The vortex), songwriter, review and caberet performer, film actor and script writer (black and white wartime dramas like ‘In which we serve’ and ‘This happy breed’ too good to be just propaganda), prominent queen(‘Mad about the boy’). Ray has always admired him and his is a name often cited in relation to some of Ray’s work (‘End of the season’ hits that particular spot I think). The song ‘London pride’ – his response to the Luftwaffe’s bombing of London – is nothing short of a national monument, a pride to be proud of. Oh, and he also scripted the film ‘Brief encounter’, which in 1999 came second in a British Film Institute poll of the top 100 British films.
In his fine book about the music of London, Paul du Noyer sums Coward up thus:
“To his heritage of London music hall and Gilbert and Sullivan he added the surging energy of America’s Jazz age. In so doing he laid the foundations of English pop, and taught the British to use their native wit in the new transatlantic idiom.”
And he knew what he was doing. “Strange how potent cheap music is,” is a line from his play, ‘Private lives’. And in justification of what his accusers said was low art:
“Populat tunes probe the memory more swiftly than anything elses.”
The rock and roll generation may recall his performance in 1969’s ‘The Italian job’ as Mr Bridger, the criminal boss behind bars who gives his blessing to Michael Caine’s scheme. “You were only supposed to blow the bleedin’ doors off” was not one of his lines. Same film features a jaunty song called ‘The self preservation society’ as its outro, the coach hanging over the cliff – any one not going to argue in this Kinks kontext (the only time you’ll see the K thing indulged on this site) that the band were not an ‘influence’ on that.
Can’t resist (Feb, 2006) adding this quote from David Winner’s interesting enough book ‘Those feet: a sensual history of English football’ (Bloomsbury, 2005) about ‘The Italian job’:
“The casting of Noel Coward as Mr Bridger, the royal family obsessed crime boss who wants to ‘help Britain’s balance of payments’, gave the film deep resonance. Off screen, the old faux-aristocrat Coward and sexy young working-class hero Caine became friends; on screen, something more profound occurs. As the writer John Lahr says: ‘The very notion of the English that the English themselves have, is something that Coward created in art and was then adopted by the public … English cultural history between the world wars is, in some extremely large part, Noel Coward.’ The Italian job is where Coward hands on this baton of Englishness to Caine. The old Englishness meant duty and self-sacrifice; the new kind would be carried by football, pleasure and humour. The old imperialism turned into a kind of jokey, postmodernist version of the same thing.”
With the wind blowing in the right direction, I think there’s a reasonable case to be made for seeing Ray Davies as the missing link.
Coward was not unaware of Ray Davies. In the ‘What I’ve learnt’ feature in the Times Magazine of November 13, 2010, Ray reports, “Ned Sherrin was a great. I got to know him in the Sixties when I received a note that said: “I thought Dedicated follower of fashion worked rather well. So did Noel Coward, who’s friend of mine.”