WACE, Robert (The moneygoround on LVP&tH) :
“Robert owes half to Grenville / Who in turn gave half to Larry”
With Grenville Collins, Robert Wace was the other half of the original Hooray Henry Kinks management team. Public school educated (Marlborough) and bored working in his father’s business (‘block making’ it says in Jon Savage’s group bio, though he doesn’t say what sort of blocks), Wace initially fancied himself as a singer with the Kinks as his backing group, though that didn’t survive his being pelted with vegetables at an East End club gig. See the various group biographies and autobiographies for the full story. It was his and Collins’ naivety in the business that was at least in part responsible for the legal mess that was a cause of great angst for Ray 1965-67.
Jovanovic (2013) says, “Robert Wace and Grenville Collins both felt his [Ray’s] barbs and spoke out against the sentiment behind some of the songs,” and quotes from an interview Johnny Rogan did with Robert for his 1984 Kinks biography: “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 songwriting.”
After parting company with the Kinks soon after the release of ‘Muswell hillbillies’, he and Grenville formed Richochet Enterprises along with Elton John’s ex-manager Ray Williams, but despite their roster including Gerry Rafferty’s highly rated ‘Stealers Wheel’ (responsible for ‘Stuck in the middle with you’ – as brought to prominence much later in Tarantino’s ‘Pulp fiction’ ), Billboard reported in November 1974 that the firm had gone into voluntary liquidation due to cashflow problems.
Not quite sure of the chronology, but it seems later the same decade Wace re-emerged on the management scene with the successful MOR outfit ‘Sailor’ (‘Girls, girls, girls’); indeed, it was he, reportedly, who put them in sailor suits.
Those open to the odd bit of Jungian synchronicity may appreciate the prior existence of one Robert Wace (though apparently the attribution of the forename is disputed), an Anglo-Norman poet of the twelfth century responsible for ‘Roman de Brut’, a vernacular verse history of Britain that popularised Geoffrey of Monmouth’s pioneering ‘historical’ work, including the whole King Arthur story (and nothing to do with a popular gentleman’s eau de cologne popularised by the boxer Henry Cooper).
WALL, Max (London song on Storyteller): English music hall performer whose career in the halls, theatre, radio, tv and film spanned half a century; not to be confused with Max Miller. An extraordinary life. Born March 12 1908 to music hall stars Jock and Stella Lorrimer, Maxwell George Lorrimer first appeared on stage not long after as a babe in his father’s arms and grew up watching the greats of music hall – Max Robey, Little Tich, Harry Lauder – from the wings. His parents split in 1916 and he went to live with his mother and a song and dance man called Harry Wallace, who taught him his trade, or at least the dance side of it. Maxwell Wallace became Max Wall when he took to the stage himself in the 1920s and ’30s, as a successful aerobatic dancer who could make an audience laugh. It took him a while to be taken seriously, as he wished, as a comedian, but once established he thrived, expanding into radio in the ’40s, TV in the ’50s. There’s a monologue to be seen at Make ’em laugh, the Monologues website. His most famous creation was Professor Wallofski with his funny walk, later acknowledged by John Cleese as an inspiration for his Ministry of Silly Walks in ‘Monty Python’; as Wallofski, dressed in long clown boots, white socks and black tights, arse sticking out at a ridiculous angle, he pulled some very strange shapes. In 1977 Wall appeared in Terry Gilliam’s film ‘Jabberwocky’ (not the members of the Python team’s finest hour) and briefly in 1978 he appeared as Harry Payne in ‘Coronation street’, as unsuccessful suitor to Elsie Tanner on holiday in Majorca. He also appeared to acclaim on stage in some Samuel Becket plays. He recorded Ian Dury’s lovely, poignant and pointed list song ‘England’s glory’ for Stiff Records at their peak with Dave Edmunds as producer (just a snippet: “A nice bit of kipper, Jack the Ripper and Upton Park / Gracie, Cilla, Maxy Miller, Petula Clark / Winkles, Woodbines, Walnut Whips / Vera Lynn and Stafford Cripps”) and toured briefly with Dury and the Blockheads; I remember parts of the audience at the Hammersmith Odeon in May 1978 (I just looked it up) giving him a hard time and Dury coming out give them a lecture about respect. Van Morrison wrote a song called ‘Max Wall’, the lyric of which is a list of British comedians with his name repeated four times as the chorus, which he performed at 1989’s Glastonbury but has never appeared on disc. Max Wall died in 1990, and is buried – suitably enough given the context here – in Highgate Cemetery. You can pick up a Max Wall wig (as per the photo) on the web for £11.60 the last time I looked.
WALTER (Do you remember Walter on VGPS) : an old school chum, perhaps, like David Watts (the song). “Walter was a friend of mine, we used to play football together every Saturday. Then I met him again after about five years and we found out we didn’t have anything to talk about” – Ray Davies in a feature on VGPS in the Melody Maker, November 1968. Dave Davies says (VGPS 3cd de luxe edition 2004) he was in part inspired by cousin Terry, the son of sister Rose and Arthur, who all emigrated to Australia in 1963. Walter was quite an unusual name in post-war UK. I had an uncle Walter on my mum’s side who never moved away from Whittlesey, near Peterborough. They said he was a bit simple, and he probably was, but I recall a thin happy man in a sleeveless pullover with round glasses and a singsong East Anglian accent.
WATERHOUSE, Keith (Where are they now? on PA1) : fine writer, churning them out (in the best possible sense of the word) to within a month of his death. Journalist, columnist, playwrite and novelist, he was responsible for the much admired Daily Mirror style manual of the ’60s. Quite often very funny indeed. Wrote ‘Billy Liar’ among many other books. I happen to think this is one of the finest book covers ever – a ’70s Penguin based on a Woodbines packet. Woodbines were a very working class cigarette, small but deadly, already a thing of nostalgia when this masterpiece of book design appeared. Died in his sleep, September 2009, he was writing a column for the Daily Mail only weeks before his death. There will be major obits all over the web.
WATTS , David (David Watts on Something else) : the character in the song – a celebration of a distinct sort of archetypal Englishness, descended from “Tom Browne’s schooldays” and all that and possibly in the same school class as Walter.- is not necessarily he whose name blesses the song. Thereby hangs a tale better told in the Davies brothers’ respective autobiographies. The name came from an actual Rutland country mansion inhabiting toff who took a fancy to Dave. “I’ve fond memories of David Watts,” Ray told Nick Hasted in an interview of the September 2004 edition of ‘Uncut’ magazine. “I went to try and find him a few years ago and he’d died. David Watts was one of the Empire’s great characters. He went to the opera with Marlene Dietrich. Again, he was the sort of chap who was out of place.”
WAYNE, John (Duke previously unissued track from Picture book): movie actor (mostly Westerns) & American icon of rugged masculinity (1907-1979). There was a time when every impressionist felt honour bound to ‘do’ John Wayne, his walk and his talk (“The hell I won’t”), though I daresay such a performance would meet with many a blank stare from those under a certain age these days. His work with director John Ford defined the Western genre for a long time. He was always the good guy in his movies, which is what Ray is addressing in this song – a world in which the good guy and decency invariably prevails, or so it seems when you are young. When I was young, and Ray just a little bit older, in the days when a movie being shown on television was a big deal (which was part of what made Christmas special), for a few years the classic ‘Stagecoach’ – which I am amazed to discover was made as early as 1939 – was invariably a feature of the festive season for the whole family and I would guess the same thing applied in the Davies household in Fortess Green too. Ray, in ‘X-Ray’, describes his shock, on first touring in what he had found to be a “repressive” and “backward-thinking” America, on discovering the disparity between the source of his musical inspiration and the idea of freedom it had given him:
“I suppose I was naive, but I had to learn that freedom doesn’t mean going west on a wagon train, with John Wayne there to see that nobody comes to harm. freedom contains a lot of danger …”
The name John Wayne was born with, in Iowa, was, as every pub quizzer of a certain age knows, Marion Morrison; the nickname ‘Duke’ came from his youth, when the family owned an Airedale terrier called ‘Duke’ that he often walked out with, and the locals started calling him ‘Little Duke’, which name he adopted for himself. Won a (American) football scolarship to university, but an injury finished his academic career. Starting in the silents, he appeared in at least 175 movies, his breakthrough coming with ‘Stagecoach’. His best regarded performance was in John Ford’s ‘The searchers’ (1956), in which he said the line, “That’ll be the day” several times, an inspiration apparently for the Buddy Holly song of the same name, while Liverpool beat group The Searchers took their name from the film’s title. Wayne produced, directed and acted in ‘The Alamo’ (1960); he took the part of Davy Crockett. This right wing patriotic streak also lead him to direct and act in ‘The green berets’ (1968), a film supportive of the American involvement in Vietnam. He was a member of the John Birch Society, an organisation gloriously lampooned by Bob Dylan in his ‘John Birch society blues’, a track left off his ‘Freewheelin’ album for political reasons. A virulent anti-communist, he was a vocal supporter of the notorious Senator Joseph McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committee in the late ’40s and early ’50s – not American democracy’s finest hour, hounding and disrupting the careers of Charlie Chaplin, Paul Robeson and many others – and turned down a role in ‘High noon’, because of its anti-McCarthyite message. (15/01/2009)
WHITTINGTON, Dick (London song on Storyteller) : pantomime Lord Mayor of London, his cat was a relative of Robert Bruce’s spider in the perseverance stakes, and a sculpture of said puss (without the kinky boots) is enshrined at the bottom of Highgate Hill, just over the road from the Archway Tavern. The cat makes its first appearance on the stage in 1605, at the height of Shakespeare’s tragic period. Cloth merchant Richard was actually Mayor of London three times in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth century. Came to London as a poor boy believing the streets of London were paved with silver and gold, an enduring myth (cf. ‘Life on the road’).
WHO, The (The road on RL) : another London r’n’b combo, whose early singles were also produced by Shel Talmy; he even brought Jimmy Page along to the ‘I can’t explain’ session. Writer Pete Townsend has never hidden his debt to Ray Davies – that you didn’t have to fake it; it was all possible with an English accent. Responsible for the rock opera Tommy. And some good stuff. Singer owns a trout farm. Drummer Keith Moon and bassist John Entwistle are both dead from drug abuse. The Kinks do seem fairly unique among the major bands of their time in that they are all still alive. Pete has a model personal website with lots of personal input, unlike some others one could mention. Dave Davies’ is worth a look though.
WILDE, Oscar (Stand up on OPL): Irish dramatist (“A handbag?” – ‘The importance of being earnest’) and writer famed for his wit (the Monty Python lads did a sketch around it). Outed by the Marquis of Queensbury as a homosexual and gaoled for it (in Reading – he wrote a ballad about it), which wasn’t really cricket. Life as art. Dorian Gray (in the novel ‘The portrait of Dorian Gray’) was his invention – the image in the mirror aged while he stayed young (a bit like Cliff Richard). There’s an interesting and sometimes conveniently forgotten brilliantly argued moral essay called ‘The soul of man under socialism’ which is readily available on the web (though one of the American sites has managed to lose the ‘under socialism’ in the title). It’s the epitome of a Wildean paradox – the great individualist espouses the collective cause as the only saviour of the individual as he or she exists under capitalism. Makes you think. In ‘Stand up’ Ray suggests that the position he once enjoyed as the pinacle of wit is now filled by Jack the Lad; later it is Fancy Dan who has also descended culturally, a less engaging image. Oscar Wilde is featured – along with his Salome illustrator, Aubrey Beardsley – in Peter Blake’s Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band Beatles album cover collage; he’s to the right (our right) of cowboy Tom Mix’s huge hat, on John Lennon’s shoulder.
WONDERBOY (Wonderboy) : some mother’s son. What about his dad? John Lennon’s favourite Kinks song, allegedly.
WORDSWORTH, William (A well bred Englishman from 80 days) : Romantic poet, friend of dope fiends Samuel Taylor Coleridge and De Quincey, and Robert ‘Three bears’ Southey. Or, as the cryptic crossword has it, “The poet who knew the value of language?” His ‘Upon Westminster Bridge’ (“Earth has not anything to show more fair / Dull would he be of soul who could pass by / A sight so touching in its majesty”) was the ‘Waterloo sunset’ of its age. I’ve never really got Wordsworth … or rather I’ve never found the time to spend much time with him. When we first went to the Lake District in 2003 we decided to avoid anything to do with Beatrix Potter or this man. No offence intended; he almost certainly needs to be rescued from the heritage industry. “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive / But to be young was very heaven!” – that’s yer man on the French Revolution as news spread over to England.
And that was then and this ( February 2006) is now: a television series on the Romantics perked my interest. His ‘Lyrical ballads’, an originally anonymous anthology shared with Coleridge (it included ‘The ancient mariner’) published in 1798, “must have come on like punk rock to the public groaning under the weight of over-cooked Augustiniasms”, wrote a Guardian reviewer of a recent edition. Interesting. And in one of those outbursts of textual incest that tends to occur on these web pages, I have to report that that Julian Temple made a very good film about the pair of them – ‘Pandaemonium’ – in 2002, which was more ’60s than punk, although he was a bit down on our clean living William as opposed to his (Temple’s) druggy old hippy hero Coleridge. What is clear is that a lot of people feel they have to take sides between the two. We shall have to see. Oh, and we have been round Dove Cottage since, too – recommended.
And see we have – October 2008. I’ve grown fascinated by the whole gang. This is an organic website … like the Prelude, Wordworth’s major work (sub-title: Growth of a poet’s mind’), you can see this entry growing. Both Wordsworth (who actually spent time in France) and Coleridge were active in the democratic movement that developed in London and Cambridge in the wake of the French Revolution, but as things failed to progress, what with what was happening over the Channel (Robespierre’s mad terror etc) and the fierce repression that was imposed by the government in England on even the mildest and peaceful protest – the suggestion that maybe more people getting the vote was quite a good idea being treated as practically the equivalent of taking up arms and fighting on the side of the French, as was pointing out the difficulties war might bring (sound familiar?) – disillusionment with politics lead to the Romantic revolution in poetry, nay even the whole notion of the Artist which still holds sway today. I feel cheated that none of the parallels with my generation’s experience in the ’60s weren’t more pointedly explained to us; there is a kindredness of experience and spirit here. Is it too much to see the Lake Poets as the Beatles of their era? I know there’s no clear parallel between Lennon & McCartney and Wordsworth & the drug casualty Coleridge, there’s no way one could argue one was one and the other the other, but both pairs worked so well as a team for so long, and people do still tend to take sides on whose fault the break up was. Add in Robert Southey (among his solo highlights: ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears) as the George Harrison figure, which leaves the role of Ringo … William’s eccentric sister Dorothy?
As far as Ray Davies goes, the late Michael J.Kraus wrote a significant essay, published in the academic journal ‘Popular muic and society’ (Vol29, No2 May 2006), placing him firmly in the Wordsworthian Romantic tradition. ‘The Greatest Rock Star of the 19th Century: Ray Davies, Romanticism and the Art of Being English’ is well worth searching out for those of an academicish sort of mind. And Kraus’s pal, Thomas M.Kitts riffs further on the idea in his ‘Ray Davies: not like everybody else’ (Routledge, 2008), in the chapter ‘Waterloo sunset: the Romantic imagination of Ray Davies’.
WRAGG, Harry (Harry Rag on SE): popular and successful jockey – he won all the British flat race Classics – and later trainer, source of the cockney rhyming slang for ‘fag’ ie. a cigarette. Illustrated here rather nicely, I feel, with a cigarette card from 1925. The Scottish football team Partick Thistle are also sometimes referred to as the Harry Wraggs as it rhymes with the official club nickname, the Jags.
YOU (Berkeley Mews) : whoever, they lived in Berkeley Mews, London W1. I thought you were an intellect, but now that I reflect …
YOU (How are you on TV) : Oh you.know … all right. Not so bad. Mustn’t grumble. Can’t complain. Life goes on. Put the kettle on, mate.