You all know that I don’t subscribe to ‘The Cult of Celebrity’. but in a fairly long lifetime, there have been a few exceptions, in the field of popular music there is only one, and we’re going to talk about her today.

One of you this week linked to my all time favorite singer, and one of my favorite songs, that she sang. When it burst out of the car speaker, late in 1964, a lot of things changed, for American music, for her, and maybe more.

This is the version from The Dean Martin Show in early 1967, and yes it was still getting some airplay.

When Downtown came on the radio, it was completely different, and it spoke to something in us all, I think. her voice is very obviously British, in that exact way, that Americans adore, and as far as us kids were concerned she was was one of us, although our dads (sometimes) did tell us that she had been recording since during World War II, and was a TV star as well, in the UK.

That’s all true, but she was also the first British female to make it onto the Billboard chart since Vera Wang in 1952. Downtown was #1 starting the week of 23 January 1965. The song was also #2 in the UK, and Ireland, and number one in  Australia, New Zealand, Rhodesia and South Africa, and was also a hit in Denmark (#2), India (#3), the Netherlands (#3) and Norway (#8). She was far from the last, though, the Atlantic got very narrow there for a few years, and American top 40 radio sounded an awful lot like BBC 1. And after Downtown, she would have fourteen more consecutive hit on the Billboard chart, and there was plenty of competition those days.

When asked why he approved it for a quick release in the States since it was so very English. Joe Smith of Warner Brothers replied: “It’s perfect. It’s just an observation from outside of America and it’s just beautiful and just perfect.” And you know, it was, and it is still.

But there was a lot more to Pet, than that wonderful voice, she is perhaps one of the greatest female entertainers of the twentieth century, like Julie Andrews, Judy Garland and such. In fact I think she could have been  better than them all, by a fairly wide margin. here’s a bit more about her.

When they talk about how she became Norma Desmond in the play, it’s sort of creepy, isn’t it, but that is what the great actors do, it’s why we are able to suspend our disbelief for a while. Petula could, and did, do it too, even on the concert stage. Watch her eyes her, closely, this is more than singing, I think she is feeling it, even as she shares the emotions with us.

So let’s head on Downtown, but remember Don’t Sleep on the Subway.

HMS Pinafore X2

I’m in the mood to mostly screw off today, so here’s an old friend, for your (and my) enjoyment.

There’s no deep message intended here, it’s Saturday, and time to wind down from another week. Cause we ain’t gonna fix it before Monday, anyway. So sit back and enjoy some of the first (semi) serious music that I fell in love with as a kid. The old Golden Records survey of music opened a lot of doors for me, and this is one of them.

From the 2005 Proms: HMS Pinafore

Any resemblance to the US Government is (I hope) coincidental,

but I wouldn’t bet much on it.

70 Years Ago Today: VE Day

A Lancaster from the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight drops poppies over London during the 50th Anniversary of the VE Day Celebrations in 1995.

A Lancaster from the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight drops poppies over London during the 50th Anniversary of the VE Day Celebrations in 1995.

70 Years ago GEN Eisenhower sent this message to GEN Marshall.

At 0001 hrs BDST 7 May 1945 the mission of this Allied force was accomplished.

signed Eisenhower.

And so it ended. The war in Europe. Hitler had committed suicide. The Germans had surrendered unconditionally. Here read it for yourselves.

This was the result in London.

Here is the Prime Minister Winston Churchill

On 4 April 1945, elements of the United States Army’s 89th Infantry Division and the 4th Armored Division captured the Ohrdruf concentration camp outside the town of Gotha in south central Germany. Although the Americans didn’t know it at the time, Ohrdruf was one of several sub-camps serving the Buchenwald extermination camp, which was close to the city of Weimar several miles north of Gotha. Ohrdruf was a holding facility for over 11,000 prisoners on their way to the gas chambers and crematoria at Buchenwald. A few days before the Americans arrived to liberate Ohrdruf, the SS guards had assembled all of the inmates who could walk and marched them off to Buchenwald. They left in the sub-camp more than a thousand bodies of prisoners who had died of bullet wounds, starvation, abuse, and disease. The scene was an indescribable horror even to the combat-hardened troops who captured the camp. Bodies were piled throughout the camp. There was evidence everywhere of systematic butchery. Many of the mounds of dead bodies were still smoldering from failed attempts by the departing SS guards to burn them. The stench was horrible.

When General Eisenhower learned about the camp, he immediately arranged to meet Generals Bradley and Patton at Ohrdruf on the morning of April 12th. By that time, Buchenwald itself had been captured. Consequently, Ike decided to extend the group’s visit to include a tour of the Buchenwald extermination camp the next day. Eisenhower also ordered every American soldier in the area who was not on the front lines to visit Ohrdruf and Buchenwald. He wanted them to see for themselves what they were fighting against.

During the camp inspections with his top commanders Eisenhower said that the atrocities were “beyond the American mind to comprehend.” He ordered that every citizen of the town of Gotha personally tour the camp and, after having done so, the mayor and his wife went home and hanged themselves. Later on Ike wrote to Mamie, “I never dreamed that such cruelty, bestiality, and savagery could really exist in this world.” He cabled General Marshall to suggest that he come to Germany and see these camps for himself. He encouraged Marshall to bring Congressmen and journalists with him. It would be many months before the world would know the full scope of the Holocaust — many months before they knew that the Nazi murder apparatus that was being discovered at Buchenwald and dozens of other death camps had slaughtered millions of innocent people.

Read the entire account.

Most of the American, British, and Canadian forces, having defeated the Germans were soon preparing to be transhipped to Asia to assist in the invasion of Japan, with the realism of veterans few expected to survive. But President Truman saved the allies perhaps 1 Million casualties and possibly the entire population of Japan with his decision to drop the Atomic bomb.

Thus ended the war that Hitler had started on 17 Sept 1939, soon another and greater foe of liberty would arise in Europe, and the Allies would face that one down until it disappeared in 1990. Thus lending point to the old adage: “If you would have peace, prepare for war”.

American troops went on to occupation duty, soon General Patton at a review in Berlin would pronounce the 82d Airborne as ‘America’s Honor Guard’. In 1950, the Bundesrepublik Deutschland would be formed and would soon become the eastern bulwark of NATO, along with the Norwegians, British, Dutch, Italians, Turks, Canadians, and Americans. thus would freedom be sustained in western Europe and in God’s own time the Soviet Empire would fall, restoring freedom to all of Europe. The Americans are still in Germany, no longer as an occupation force but, as an ally, and as a friend.

The result of the Second World War was thus the Liberation of Europe as a result of what was in Eisenhower’s term The Mighty Endeavor.


Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.

So it was spoken; And so it was done.

A Triptych of England and the English

Procession_of_Characters_from_Shakespeare's_Plays_-_Google_Art_ProjectThis royal throne of kings,this scepter’d isle, This earth of majesty,this seat of Mars, This other Eden, Demi-paradise, This fortress, built by Nature for herself, Against infection,and the hand of war; This happy breed of men, this little world, This precious stone set in the silver sea, Which serves it in the office of a wall, Or as a moat defensive to a house, Against the envy of less happier lands; This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England..

Seems a good way to start since we mark three things today, a triptych, if you will. In 1564 William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-on-Avon, and 52 years later on this date he died there, as well. In between he became the greatest author to ever write in the English tongue, and simply perhaps the best, ever.

A man whose works we have read, and honored in all our generations, and whose phrases like the one above, continue to grace our everyday tongue. There’s little more for me to say, except that it would be a good day to reread some of your favorites.

st-george (1)The third pane of our triptych today is that it is St. George’s day, and so as we celebrate the greatest author in English, we also celebrate the patron Saint of England herself.

Wikipedia tells us:

St George was born sometime around the year 280 in what is now Turkey. He was a soldier and rose up through the ranks of the Roman army, eventually becoming a personal guard to the Emperor Diocletian. He was executed for being a Christian on April 23, 303, and is buried in the town of Lod in Israel.

St George is most widely known for slaying a dragon. According to legend, the only well in the town of Silene was guarded by a dragon. In order to get water, the inhabitants of the town had to offer a human sacrifice every day to the dragon. The person to be sacrificed was chosen by lots.

On the day that St George was visiting, a princess had been selected to be sacrificed. However, he killed the dragon, saved the princess and gave the people of Silene access to water. In gratitude, they converted to Christianity. It is thought that the dragon represents a certain type of pagan belief that included the sacrifice of human beings.

St George is the patron saint of a number of places, such as Bulgaria, England, Ethiopia, Georgia, Greece, Portugal and Russia. He is also remembered in some regional holidays, such as in the province ofNewfoundland and Labrador in Canada and among the Gorani people who live in a mountainous area in the Balkans and were converted to Islam many centuries ago, but still observe St George’s Day. Around the world, a number of days are devoted to St George, including April 23 and dates in November and December of the Gregorian calendar.

Sir Winston Churchill said:

There is a forgotten -nay almost forbidden word,
. . . . a word which means more to me than any other. . . .
That word is

This morning in an article on the Watchtower, I said this:

Seems to me he wasn’t far wrong. We hear much of Great Britain, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, and even of the former Empires: America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Singapore, and even India, but we hear little of the source of the glory: England. For without the driving force of English ideas, our world would simply not exist.

The Late Rt Hon Enoch Powell MBE gave the following speech to a dinner of The Royal Society of St George, in London, on St George’s Day, April 23rd 1961

There was a saying, not heard today so often as formerly . .

What do they know of England who only England know?”

It is a saying which dates. It has a period aroma, like Kipling’s “Recessional” or the state rooms at Osborne. That phase is ended, so plainly ended, that even the generation born at its zenith, for whom the realisation is the hardest, no longer deceive themselves as to the fact. That power and that glory have vanished, as surely, if not as tracelessly, as the imperial fleet from the waters of Spithead.

And yet England is not as Nineveh and Tyre, nor as Rome, nor as Spain. Herodotus relates how the Athenians, returning to their city after it had been sacked and burnt by Xerxes and the Persian army, were astonished to find, alive and flourishing in the blackened ruins, the sacred olive tree, the native symbol of their country.

So we today, at the heart of a vanished empire, amid the fragments of demolished glory, seem to find, like one of her own oak trees, standing and growing, the sap still rising from her ancient roots to meet the spring, England herself.


Perhaps, after all, we know most of England “who only England know”. 

So the continuity of her existence was unbroken when the looser connections which had linked her with distant continents and strange races fell away. Thus our generation is one which comes home again from years of distant wandering. We discover affinities with earlier generations of English who felt no country but this to be their own. We discover affinities with earlier generations of English who felt there was this deep this providential difference between our empire and those others, that the nationhood of the mother country remained unaltered through it all, almost unconscious of the strange fantastic structure built around her – in modern parlance “uninvolved”.

Backward travels our gaze, beyond the grenadiers and the philosophers of the 18th century, beyond the pikemen and the preachers of the 17th, back through the brash adventurous days of the first Elizabeth and the hard materialism of the Tudors and there at last we find them, or seem to find them, in many a village church, beneath the tall tracery of a perpendicular East window and the coffered ceiling of the chantry chapel.

From brass and stone, from line and effigy, their eyes look out at us, and we gaze into them, as if we would win some answer from their silence.”Tell us what it is that binds us together; show us the clue that leads through a thousand years; whisper to us the secret of this charmed life of England, that we in our time may know how to hold it fast.

“What would they say”?

They would speak to us in our own English tongue, the tongue made for telling truth in, tuned already to songs that haunt the hearer like the sadness of spring. They would tell us of that marvellous land, so sweetly mixed of opposites in climate that all the seasons of the year appear there in their greatest perfection; of the fields amid which they built their halls, their cottages, their churches, and where the same blackthorn showered its petals upon them as upon us; they would tell us, surely of the rivers the hills and of the island coasts of England.

One thing above all they assuredly would not forget; Lancastrian or Yorkist, squire or lord, priest or layman; they would point to the kingship of England, and its emblems everywhere visible.

They would tell us too of a palace near the great city which the Romans built at a ford of the River Thames, to which men resorted out of all England to speak on behalf of their fellows, a thing called ‘Parliament’; and from that hall went out their fellows with fur trimmed gowns and strange caps on their heads, to judge the same judgments, and dispense the same justice, to all the people of England.

Symbol, yet source of power; person of flesh and blood, yet incarnation of an idea; the kingship would have seemed to them, as it seems to us, to express the qualities that are peculiarly England’s: the unity of England, effortless and unconstrained, which accepts the unlimited supremacy of Crown in Parliament so naturally as not to be aware of it; the homogeneity of England, so profound and embracing that the counties and the regions make it a hobby to discover their differences and assert their peculiarities; the continuity of England, which has brought this unity and this homogeneity about by the slow alchemy of centuries.

For the unbroken life of the English nation over a thousand years and more is a phenomenon unique in history, the product of a specific set of circumstances like those which in biology are supposed to start by chance a new line of evolution. Institutions which elsewhere are recent and artificial creations appear in England almost as works of nature, spontaneous and unquestioned.

From this continuous life of a united people in its island home spring, as from the soil of England, all that is peculiar in the gifts and the achievements of the English nation. All its impact on the outer world in earlier colonies, in the later Pax Britannica, in government and lawgiving, in commerce and in thought has flowed from impulses generated here. And this continuing life of England is symbolised and expressed, as by nothing else, by the English kingship. English it is, for all the leeks and thistles grafted upon it here and elsewhere. The stock that received all these grafts is English, the sap that rises through it to the extremities rises from roots in English earth, the earth of England’s history.


We in our day ought well to guard, as highly to honour, the parent stem of England, and its royal talisman; for we know not what branches yet that wonderful tree will have the power to put forth.The danger is not always violence and force; them we have withstood before and can again.The peril can also be indifference and humbug, which might squander the accumulated wealth of tradition and devalue our sacred symbolism to achieve some cheap compromise or some evanescent purpose.

Good advice there for all of us who are members of ancient and honorable countries.

69387_1It’s a low key day in England, much like the 4th of July celebrations I remember in small town America, although with Morris dancing. so enjoy. Sadly, it’s no longer a holiday tough, although some are trying to rectify that.

Happy St. George’s day to the cousins

The Music of Texas, and the Rest of Us

[First a programming note, the Newman Lecture for this week hit a technical snag, and so will be delayed, likely till next Saturday.  I followed the live Tweeting and I think it worth waiting for, so we’ll merely delay it. Stuff happens!]

So my self-imposed penance for that, and for forgetting the fall of the Alamo, we’ll just present some of the music of Texas.


That Mexican Army that was delayed at the Alamo got itself surprised at San Jacinto with a bit of help from an unlikely source.

Yeah, I know that this is the cleaned up Mitch Miller version but, I suspect we all know the story, and like this one. Something about those Texas girls, isn’t there?

Then came the big war, and over Sam Houston’s objections, Texas cast its lot with the South.

Those of us that keep up with history will notice something in that song, in the English speaking world revolutions are fought to restore rights that government has taken away. It’s a tradition that reaches back, at least, 800 years to Magna Charta, and it still lives.

Back in 1898 in that “Splendid Little War” with Spain, well there were a lot of cowboy boots that went up San Juan Hill, with those Yalies.

And you know, it just going on, there were a fair number of those boots flying in those Mustangs and Fortresses, back in the Forties as well. To the point that one officer in the Eighth US Air Force provoked a protest from the Ambassador from Ireland when he commented that the Allies would have lost if it weren’t for Ireland and Texas. But he may have been right, although he actually meant the Irish-Americans.

But you kind of have to feel for the Mexican Army, they’ve always done there best, and twice they’ve won engagements fought to last man but both times the glory has gone to the losers. The first was the Alamo, and the second made this unit famous.

Who are of course no one but the French Foreign Legion



O Holy Night

nativitybg22I wanted to give you something for Christmas Eve as we are thinking about the birth of our Saviour. I found I didn’t have much to say, at least that was new or interesting.

Most of what I want to remind you has been said, and better than I can, and on this blog, no less. Last year Jessica wrote on Christmas Eve and she said this:

In the Christian calendar, Christmas is of secondary importance when compared to Easter; although the former brings us the Word made Flesh, the latter brings us eternal life. As our society here in the West sees little in either of these concepts, it tends to focus upon Christmas, because it is a time of the year when merchants can move much merchandise; let there be a celebration of all the wealth we have; that is a temptation to which only a rich society can succumb.

But that first Christmas Eve was not given to the rich, the powerful and the elite; it was given to the poor, the marginalised and the ordinary. There was nothing special about Joseph or Mary in human terms. Joseph probably got a decent living from his hands, but it is unlikely that his house was anything special; and Mary, well, a young girl with child is, to any decent society, and object of love and sympathy, but nowadays someone would be telling her she was too young and should be considering her career, and pointing her to ‘Planned Parenthood’. These were simple people.

God could have chosen anyone for His purposes, but He chose these people. we cannot know why, except to know that they were obedient to Him; they did not question His will, they did not argue or suggest they knew better; in them the self-will of our first parents burnt low. Joseph did what men through countless ages have done. He earned his living by the sweat of his brow and he looked after his family. He does not seem to have made a great fuss about things, and even when he discovered that his betrothed was pregnant and he was not the father, being a righteous man, he was minded not to have her stoned, but just to set her aside; sadness rather than wrath seems to have been his reaction; and he believed what he was told in his vision. Upright, straightforward, Joseph did his duty, and that first Christmas Eve it involved making sure there was somewhere for the baby to be born where his betrothed and the child could be sheltered; the primeval task of all men.

Her post is called Silent Night, Holy Night and it is one of the best posts on the site.

Frankly I have little to add except for this

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