GABOR, Zsa Zsa (It on OFTR): Miss Hungary of 1936, moved to Hollywood where her acting talents ensured she was one of the first of the modern breed of ‘celebrities’ – famous for being famous and little else. Called practically eveybody ‘Dahling’ claiming she could never remember names. She appeared in the original ‘Moulin Rouge’ (1953, her singing voice was dubbed over) and more famously in ‘The Queen of Outer Space’ (1958) in which she played a Venusian professor. The latter is one of those movies so bad they come out the other side and debate still rages (ho hum) as to whether or not it was parody from the start. Nine marriages and various other exploits (talk shows, slapping a policeman, drunk driving in broad daylight with open vodka bottle to hand etc) helped keep her in the headlines and the wisdom garnered from her experiences has ensured her a place in modern dictionaries of quotations. In 1970 she published ‘How to catch a man, How to keep a man, how to get rid of a man.’ First marriage was in 1937 to a Turkish diplomat, her ninth to some sort of prince came 49 years later. In between came the extremely rich hotel tycoon Conrad Hilton (no.2) and George Sanders (no.3) who also married her sister, though not at the same time. Given Mickey Rooney’s performance in the same arena it’s a wonder they didn’t tie the knot if not even briefly; this index can get a bit incestuous at times. Choice pearls of wisdom: “I am a marvellous housekeeper. Every time I leave a man, I keep his house.” Or: “I never hated a man enough to give him his diamonds back.” Then there’s: “A man in love is incomplete until he has married. Then he’s finished.” Right on, sister. “How many husbands have I had? You mean apart from my own?” I could go on, but for an insignificant role in what is probably a top 3 Ray Davies’s worst ever she’s had far too much space anyway. Par for the course, of course, and part of the problem.
GAINSBOROUGH, Thomas (20th century man on MH) : English landscape and portrait painter (1727-1788). One of the original members of the Royal Academy and the London in-crowd of the time. Among his sitters were Samuel Johnson (now there’s a subject for Ray) and the actor David Garrick. ‘The blue boy’ is one of his too.
GARBO, Greta (Celluloid heroes on EIS) : she just wanted to be alone. Enigmatic and beautiful, this Swedish film actress had an interesting take on celebrity – she locked herself away for decades. Would that a few more of those around today followed her example. Born in 1905, Greta Louisa Gustafsson started work as a lather girl in a barber shop (you couldn’t make it up). She followed Mauritz Stiller, the director who gave her her screen name to MGM and Hollywood, and made a few silents before successfully crossing into the talkies with ‘Anna Christie’ in 1930. “An inpenetrable gaze”, “perfect bone structure” and “rich low voice” are just some of the phrases I could have lifted from my myriad sources. At her most seductive in ‘Mata Hari’ (1932), the same year also saw the release of ‘Grand Hotel’, one of the first multi-star blockbusters in which the favourite quote was first heard. A new contract at the peak of her acclaim gave her almost total control and in 1934 she got Laurence Olivier fired from ‘Queen Christina’ in favour of a one-time co-star and current lover John Gilbert, whom the talkies had not favoured. Put “Greta Garbo” into Google’s estimable Image Search and you will find any number of movie posters like the one shown here with her willfully swooning into the arms of such men. At the age of 36 after a flop she retired to a secluded life in New York City. In the late ’40s she had an affair with Cecil Beaton. His photographic portraits of her are stunning works. She became a US citizen in 1951, was chums with JFK and Jackie O. The revelation of a possible lesbian affair in Mercedes de Acosta’s notorious 1960 autobiography (Acosta had a remarkable track record, including Marlene Dietrich and Isadora Duncan) was much resented. She died in NY, 1990. “I never said, ‘I want to be alone.’ I only said ‘I want to be left alone.’ There is all the difference in the world.” “Life would be so wonderful if we only knew what to do with it.”
GARTER/ GATTA, Pollyanna (Polly): I’m not sure about this one – a garbled surname of no consequence lost in the mix? You might try looking up POLLY for some interesting specualtion concerning Dylan Thomas’s ‘Under Milk Wood’.
GENEVIEVE, Sweet Lady (Sweet Lady Genevieve on PA1) : hard to escape a tangental reference to a vintage car and film of the same name that Ray must have seen more than once on the telly at Christmas.
GIRL (various) : you really got me going, she’s got everything etc etc. Lennon wrote about her too for the Beatles.
GENGHIS KHAN (Powerman on LVPATM) : Mongol conqueror (c1160 – 1227). At its height his empire stretched from the Yellow Sea to the Black Sea. Sometimes described as waspish in character.
GLEASON, Jackie (It on OFTR): known in his native land as “The great one”. In the UK we know him best as the huge and mostly silent presence as Minnesota Fats in ‘The Hustler’ (1961), the ultimate pool hall champ Fast Eddie Felson, the Paul Newman character, has to beat (“Fat Man, you shoot a great game of pool” – truly one of the great movies); later as Sheriff Buford T. Justice in the ‘Smokey and the Bandit’ sequence of films with Burt Reynolds. But in the US he was a major comic performer, best known for the early tv sitcom ‘The honeymooners’ – he played Ralph Kremden, a Brooklyn working man among others – which was a huge success but only ran for one series (albeit one of 39 shows) because, Gleason said, there just wasn’t enough good material coming through and he didn’t want to cheapen the achievement – a moral that we could wish others would live by. He subsequently had his own variety show throughout the ’50s and ’60s, one of the features of which were a series of catchphrases which you probably had to see and hear to get the full effect, cos they sure don’t look like much on paper (or the computer screen) – like “To the moon Alice, to the moon” or “I got a big mouth”. Born Herbert John Gleason in Brooklyn February 1916, he didn’t have it easy. Won a talent contest at the age of 15 and worked as emcee, radio dj and nightclub and theatre stand up, creating a series of characters that were to populate his later tv work (not to mention carnival careers as daredevil driver, and exhibition diver in the water follies in Atlantic City) before getting into films courtesy of no less than Jack Warner (that’s the American studio boss, not PC 49). Was also successful as a singer and song writer with albums like “Music, martinis and memories”. Died 1987.
GOD (Hymn for a new age on Working man’s cafe) : “I don’t believe that God is a man with white hair / Sitting in a big chair” sings Ray. Bill Bailey’s “non-specific” deity then (“God save our gracious queen? Why would we invoke a non-specific deity to bale out these unelected spongers?”). But I digress. Theologically it doesn’t sound like Ray has moved on much from ‘Big Sky’. So … agnostic, and still (I almost said, Thank God) many miles away from Brother Dave’s (some would say barking) spiritual position. There’s new age and New Age I guess. I wouldn’t expect to meet him inside a church unless he was there, like me, for the building’s sake (or weddings or funerals, of course). He does claim to have a soul in this song – “My soul’s too far gone to be saved” – but I suspect, like me, when he says ‘soul’ his first thought is always going to be Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding and their Stax/Atlantic chums. I have huge respect for the opening lines of Patti Smith’s epic ‘Horses’ album – “Jesus died for somebody’s sins / Not mine” – even though I believe she is some sort of believer these days. For what it’s worth, I’m firmly in the Richard Dawkins camp; and despite what my mate Neil says, I do not feel atheism disqualifies me from appreciating Bob Dylan and his works in some depth. And as for God being, “a concept by which we measure our pain” – nah. (28/10/07)
GOOD OLD MOTHER RILEY : see RILEY
GOODWIN, Harry (Top of the pops on LVetc): 1924-2013. In house Top of the Pops photographer at the BBC’s Manchester studios 1964-1973. He’s not actually named in the song – it’s an in-joke – but during the instrumental break you can hear someone saying “Shot of a lifetime! It’s a Rembrandt!” This was Harry’s oft heard instant commentary on his work as he snapped away. Plenty of obituaries on the web; here’s a link to the Independent‘s. Some great images (though none of the Kinks) can be found here:
and more here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-19931108
GRANDPAPPY (Have a cuppa tea on MH) : see GRANNY
GRANNY (Have a cuppa tea on MH) : in the remastered MH CD booklet, Ray says the song “…was about my gran. She was like a fairy godmother. You could sit with her and she knew everything. You could see it, she just knew where everyone was at. It was a real privilege being with her.”
GRANT, Cary (Artificial man on PA2) : born Archibald Leach, England 1904, died 1986. Something of an all rounder, his career spanned at least three decades. Remember him hiding from a plane in a corn field in ‘North by North West,’ Hitchcock’s classic spy thriller?
GRECO, Juliette (Art school babe on Storyteller) : I daresay there’s plenty of pics to be had on the web. Parisian chanteuse. She was one of the main visual sources for the look adopted by many aspirant beatnik intellectual young women in the UK in the early ’60s. There’s a photo of feminist historian Sheila Rowbotham accompanying her own tales of aspirant beatnikdom in the anthology she edited, ‘Growing up in the ’60s’, and in her full memoir of the time, which catches the look perfectly.
GRENVILLE (The moneyground on LVPATM) : see Grenville COLLINS
GUCCI (Add it up on GTPWTW) : accessories designer. Yuppy designer label nonsense.
HANCOCK, Anthony Aloyisius (Fortis Green) : ” … the lad himself” as he used to say. English comedian (1924 – 1968) famous for ‘Hancock’s half hour’ – originally on the radio from 1954-1959 and successfully transferring to television 1956-1961. The tv episode called “The bedsitter (Hancock alone)” from 1961 – basically a 25 minute monologue – is one of the all time classics, not least for his struggles with a book on the history of philosophy by Bretrand Russell (“Well if that’s what he means, why can’t he just say so?”). A very funny man, his best work was scripted by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson; his career stalled when he insisted on doing his own material. He committed suicide in Australia, a dreadful waste. Also the hero of one of my mate Mat’s best short stories (he didn’t do novels for a long while because they just weren’t cost effective) in which he is cloned back to life. The Tony Hancock Appreciation Society website is a lovely piece of work with a lot of voice samples. The Davies family would almost certainly have listened to the radio shows as a family.
HANDEL, George Frideric (sic) (A well bred Englishman from 80 days) : his Water Music and Fireworks Music were written for celebrations on the Thames but he was, like George I, the UK monarch of the time, actually German, born in Saxony in 1685. Significant in the development of opera, he was Beethoven’s favourite composer, practically all will know his Hallelujah Chorus whether they’re aware of it or not. Sometimes you wonder about Ray Davies as a lyricist … Handel spent a lot of his later life in England and has a plot in Westminster Abbey, but … English? This idea is further developed in the entry for Sir Walter Scott.
HAYWORTH, Rita (Oklahoma USA on MH) : What chord is that she’s playing? Hollywood actress and dancer, big in the ’40s. I challenge you to remember (remember?) the name of a single film she made. Definite pin-up material, though. A certain je ne sais quois … Her signature role (it says here on Wikipedia) was as the ultimate femme fatale (up till then, of course), in Gilda, of 1946; wearing black satin and performing “a legendary one-glove striptease”, it apparently gave the censors a headache. Some claim her image was painted on the first nuclear bomb to be tested at Bikini Atoll in the South Pacific – bombshell: geddit? – though it would now seem that only the name Gilda was used; there is extensive coverage about this at http://conelrad.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/atomic-goddess-revisited-rita-hayworths.html. She was not amused.
She was the first dancer to partner with both Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly on film. Married 5 times, her second hubby was Orson Welles. She concluded: “What surprises me in life are not the marriages that fail, but the marriages that succeed.” Born 1918 as Margarita Carmen Cansino, New York, she was the daughter of a Spanish flamenco dancer and an Irish-american Ziegfeld girl. Died 1987 after some troubled later years; turned out she’s been struggling with undiagnosed Alzheimers. Also mentioned in songs by Madonna (Vogue) and the White Stripes (Take, take, take).
HELENA, Sweet (Johnny Thunder on VGPS) : inhabitant of the village. Second time she’s mentioned she says, “God bless Johnny”. Not a clue who she is; may have a surname the first time she’s mentioned, but damned if I can make it out.
HENDRIX, Jimi (The road on RL) : reinvented the electric guitar among other things. I read of his death in a London evening newspaper over someone’s shoulder on my way home from work on the single decker 210 bus from Golders Green to Highgate via Hampstead Heath, got home, put on some Bach organ music and the house of bedsits was raided by police because of the hemp plants in the garden, the crop of a couple upstairs I didn’t even know; I was busted for one careless old joint end which may or may not have been mine. Which is the way it was in those days. Another memory: the Sheffield University Rhythm and Blues Society coach trip over the Pennines to see him at UMIST. Frankly at the time I was disappointed, seemed to be going through the motions; I can’t remember anything about the music. Probably the best Dylan cover of all time with ‘All along the watchtower’; should one be surprised that Joan Bakewell, currently (2009) official old people’s champion or something, recently chose his ‘Voodoo chile’ as her opening choice on Desert island Discs?
HIM (Did you see his name? on Kinks Kronikles) : his name was in the local paper, from court proceedings (shoplifting) to obituary column and coroner’s report. A morality tale.
HITLER, Adolf (Powerman on LVPATM)+(Nobody gives on PA2) : failed painter and deluded German dictator 1933-1945 who put the world through a lot of misery but saved Winston Churchill’s political career. John Cleese based his silly walk on the bastard. A terrible lesson for us all in the democracies.
HOLLYWOOD ARGYLES, The (One of the survivors on PA1) : ‘Alley Oop’ was their main hit. Influential in an undefinable way, a novelty record that transcended its novelty. I can’t remember which website I nicked this fascinating and revealing music biz tale from:
“The Hollywood Argyles was a group assembled after a record, Alley Oop, had already been released under that name. The song was written by Dallas Frazier and recorded by vocalist Gary Paxton and producer Bobby Rey while Paxton was a member of the Arizona-based duo Skip And Flip. Because that duo was contracted to Brent Records, and Alley Oop was issued on Lute Records, the name Hollywood Argyles was created for the occasion, named after the intersection where the recording studio was located, Hollywood Boulevard and Argyle Street. When the Coasters-like novelty single made its way to number 1 in the US charts, a group was created, including Paxton, Rey, Ted Marsh, Gary Webb, Deary Weaver and Ted Winters. Further singles by the Hollywood Argyles … failed to reach the charts. Paxton later started the Garpax label, which released the number 1 Monster Mash by Bobby Boris Pickett. More recently, as a born-again Christian, Paxton was rumoured to be romantically linked with fallen US evangelist Tammy Faye Bakker.”
In ‘X-Ray’, Ray describes, seemingly without knowing any of the above, how one incarnation of the band opened for the Kinks at one venue on their first American tour:
” … a classic band from the first wave of rock music in America […] They had this weird lead singer who looked like a Hawaiian version of James Brown and a curvaceous back-up singer who turned out to be the lead singer’s wife.”
HOLMES, Sherlock (VGPS on VGPS) (London song on Storyteller): Oh come on, you know – Sherlock Holmes. Fictional English detective, created by Arthur Conan Doyle. Deerstalker hat, played the fiddle, took cocaine, lived in Baker Street. ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’. Doyle felt bogged down by his character’s popularity and tried to kill him off in a fight with his arch-enemy Moriarty (also mentioned in the song) at the Reichenbach Falls; he subsequently returned, having it appears, faked his death due to his knowledge of the ancient Japanese art of baritsu – probably the first modern example of the ‘Dallas’ death-of-Bobby-Ewing manouvre, whereby his death (and therefore a whole series) turned out to have been one character’s dream.
HOPKINS, Nicky (Session man on Face to face) : doyen of session pianists, playing harpsichord on this very track. Died aged 50, 1944-94. Significant contributor to significant recordings by The Kinks, The Who and the Stones, who turned down an inviation to join Led Zep, his prodigious ouput is detailed in the mondobongo blog , albeit in French, though there is a Google translate button there. Ray penned a tribute to him for the New York Times, which I’ve given a page to itself, dated January 1, 1995.
HORRIBLE, Mr & Mrs (Labour of love on SOC) : they’re used as an example to support the songwriter’s thesis concerning the state of late twentieth century marriage. See also ‘Property’ on the same album for the inevitable divorce.
HUBBARD, Old Mother (Complicated life on MH) : nursery rhyme character who lived in a shoe, had so many children she didn’t know what to do. It was indeed a complicated life.
HUMP BACKED MAN (X-Ray on Storyteller) : wandered the streets of Muswell Hill in Ray’s youth. The full tale is there in X-Ray.
HYNDE, Chrissie (Animal on TTB) : or so some allege. Born 1951 in Akron, Ohio, she had an interesting punk past before making it with her band, the Pretenders. Talented musician, singer and writer, she and Ray had a daughter together before she went off with Jim Kerr of Simple Minds. There is a story that they got as far as the Registry Office but the Registrar refused to perform the ceremony, not, as popularly believed, because they were arguing so badly, but because they’d missed their timeslot … because that had been arguing at length before the ceremony could take place. She’s made some great records and has one of the most distinctive – understated but strong, insinuating and sensual – voices in rock. Couple of very decent Kinks covers too in ‘Stop your sobbing’ and ‘I go to sleep’, a couple of alltime classics with ‘Back on the chain gang’ and ‘Brass in pocket’ and a staple on the better Xmas compilation with ‘2000 miles’, she continues to make interesting music which is lyrically bracing and musically embracing. 1995’s Isle of view album, an acoustic reworking of her best songs, with the Pretenders this time accompanied by a string quartet is a fine piece of work indeed. High profile animal rights activist and vegan restauranteur. Reckless: my life, an autobiography concentrating on her early years in the US and London, was published in 2015.
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