Acker on the Shore


Trad Jazz clarinetist Acker Bilk died on Sunday. He was one of those faces that always seemed to crop up as the musical guest on Light Entertainment television shows in the 1970s, always with his distinctive bowler hat, waistcoat, and goateee. Put on Morecambe & Wise or Mike Yarwood on a Saturday night and there he’d be. If it wasn’t him it would be fellow Trad-Jazzer Kenny Ball (who died last year), it was like a refuge for all the pre-Beatles acts who’d had their pop careers wiped out by the Fabs.

So while I knew bugger all about him — I only just found out where his nickname “Acker” came from — and couldn’t tell you how good his Jazz chops were, he was ubiquitous in my youth so his death makes me rather sad. It’s like another little piece of my childhood as gone, if a very esoteric one. Acker Bilk was a household name back then but I doubt if anyone under 30 has ever heard of him.

This is the tune he’s most famous for and no apologies for that because I think it’s a gorgeous melody, even if it does sound like a proto-Kenny G record now. A huge hit in 1962, this became only the second record by an English artist to top the American chart (Vera Lynn was the first, trivia fans).

Download: Stranger On The Shore — Acker Bilk (mp3)

He plays it slightly jazzier on this version, but I’m including this clip mostly because it’s such a perfect example of the shabby tackiness of 1970s Light Entertainment television. The rubbish you had to sit through on a Saturday night while lying on your brown living room carpet in front of the television waiting for Match of The Day to come on.

The Life

Browsing Carnaby Street! God, before there was Tiles, that was what Sunshine used to do everyday at lunch. Sunshine, whose real name is Tony Newman, of Stamford Hill, Tottenham, and who used to be called Blossom (well, Sunshine tops Blossom anyway) Sunshine would cut out of the stationer’s store with the straight lunch mask on and then head straight for Carnaby Street and then just walk up and down Carnaby Street’s weird two blocks for an hour, past the Lord John, West One, the Tom Cat, men’s boutiques with strange enormous blow-up photographs in the windows, of young men flying through the air with some kind of Batman jockstraps on and rock music pouring out the doors, and kids just like him, Sunshine, promenading up and down, and tourists, christ, hundreds of tourists coming in there to photograph each other in front of Male West One instead of Big Ben, and busloads of schoolgirls with their green blazers on and embroidered crests on the breast pocket, all come to see the incredible Carnaby Street, which turns out to be a very small street with shops and awnings and people standing around with cameras in their hands, and Sunshines, all the Sunshines of this world trundling up and down for their whole lunch hour, not eating a goddamned thing, just immersing themselves in The Life.

Tom Wolfe, The Noonday Underground (1965)

Download: The ‘In’ Crowd – The Ramsey Lewis Trio (mp3)

Something for the Weekend



It may be cold outside but inside our Brazil nuts are nice and warm.

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The sentimental musings of an ageing expat in words, music, and pictures. Mp3 files are up for a limited time so drink them while they're hot. Contact me: lee at londonlee dot com

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