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Songs they don't play on the radio
In which our correspondent uncovers a secret history of great lost songs.
Eamonn McCann, 13 Mar 2007
If a flower billows with splendour as it blooms unseen, is it beautiful?
If a song to sweeten the soul goes all unheard, can we say it’s harmonious?
Some of the best songs, hardly anybody gets to hear. The sheet-music is shredded, the tapes discarded, the writer moves on, the band breaks up, the industry has ears of cloth, whatever. Maybe flibbertigibbet fashion just momentarily fails to notice, and the moment is gone.
I was lured up the stairs of Sandino’s the other night towards the sound of Paddy Nash and Diane Greer with ‘Martin’, a song about a suicide friend leaving only an ache to be savoured in sadness.
“When we were young
He was the first one out at night,
The last to come inside,
He never let you down in a fight.
When we were young,
He was the tallest in our street,
The captain of our team,
The boy with the biggest dream
“That’s one fucking great song,” I remarked to Keith Harkin, who crafts a moody, mean verse himself.
“Paddy’s a fucking great song-writer,” he responded.
Which he is. Although not many people know it. Not enough, anyway.
I find myself listening to Dory Previn much more since I worked out how to hook the iPod into the car stereo. Or maybe it’s that I’ve reached the right age for her. There was a time about 25 or so years ago Dory was all the rage with a particular set. She’d published an autobiography of intense eloquence and juddering horror, ‘Midnight Baby’, of how her father, back home mad from the war and Irish Catholicism – Dorothy Langdon is her real name – imprisoned herself and her mother for months in a sealed kitchen “My daddy says I ain’t his child, Ain’t that somethin’, Ain’t that wild?”
She was Howard Hughes’ lover when working as a showgirl at 16 in New York, then married Andre Previn, who later left for Mia Farrow. There isn’t a hint of celeb in the perfect, pointed songs she pieced her life together again with, of “Lemon-haired ladies or 20 or so, Of course you must see them, Of course you must go,” of friends, so-called, who’d stop by and “admire my unmade bed”.
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