Bad Penny… (Humph tribute, part two)

April 30, 2008 at 7:07 pm (good people, jazz, Jim D, Uncategorized)

The late, great Humph had only one chart hit, ‘Bad Penny Blues’, a boogie-woogie number with pianist Johnny Parker, played as an afterthought at the end of a recording session in April 1956. Largely as a result of producer Joe Meek’s addition of artificial echo to the sound (something that Humph did not agree to and, on initial hearing, recoiled in horror from), the record became a British hit-parade success.

Here’s a later (1970’s, by the looks of it) reprise, with added coda:

Thanks for that to Byas’d Opinion.

Whilst we’re at it: thanks to Bruce for pointing out that I hadn’t made it clear that despite his aristocratic origins, Humph was a committed socialist throughout his adult life.

I also forgot to mention the wonderful (and true) story about Humph’s ancestor’s involvement with the Gun Powder Plot: the first Humphey Lyttelton was a leading conspirator in the plot to blow up Parliament. Humph commented: “He (the first Humphrey Lyttelton) was hanged, drawn and quartered at Guildford…the family was, naturally, terribly upset…not so much about the hanging, drawing and quarterting…but… GUILDFORD!”

By a remarkable coincidence, Humph’s early jazz sidekick, the clarinetist Wally “Trog” Fawkes, is a decendent of Guy Fawkes.

And, finally: given the title “Bad Penny”, this number simply must be dedicated to that multiple recidivist ignoramous of both jazz and Marxism, the man whose surname cannot be given because he’s such a threat to the British ruling class…  Mr John ‘G’!


Permalink 9 Comments

A Meal and a Half

April 29, 2008 at 6:53 pm (food, voltairespriest, wine)

And now for a completely different subject. Here’s another random recipe, this time from Martin Blunos. Sure beats the crap out of spam casserole. Having recently been learning about new ingredients, I’m told the secret’s in the wild garlic leaves…

Roast best end of lamb with garlic fritters and a wild garlic cream sauce

Serves 4

Preparation time 30 mins to 1 hour

Cooking time 1 to 2 hours

21 small cloves of garlic, skins on
a little water and a little milk to cover garlic in a pan
sprig of thyme
a pinch of sugar
250ml/8fl oz chicken stock
250ml/8fl oz lamb stock
50ml/2fl oz quality white wine
double cream, approximately 100ml/6½tbsp
salt and pepper
1 lemon, juice only (to taste)
4 portions of best ends of spring lamb, trimmed and prepared
a little oil and butter (preferably clarified) to seal the lamb
flour for dusting
300ml/½ pint beer batter (see below)
enough oil to deep-fry the garlic
a handful of fresh wild garlic leaves, central stems cut out (or enough wild garlic to taste as it is is a pungent herb)
Beer Batter
180g/6oz plain flour
30g/1½oz fresh yeast
5-10ml/1-2tsp white wine vinegar
a pinch each of salt and sugar

1. Place 20 cloves of garlic in a pan and cover with half cold water and half full fat milk. Add a pinch of salt and sugar and the sprig of thyme.
2. Cut a round of greaseproof paper the size of the pan and butter one side. Place the round, butter side down in the pan to cover the garlic.
3. Place the pan on a high heat, bring to the boil and then reduce heat and simmer gently until the garlic is cooked through.
4. Remove the paper, strain off the liquid and allow the garlic to steam dry. When cool, peel off the outer skin of the garlic and cut out the germ of the garlic clove. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
5. Make the batter by mixing all batter ingredients together. Allow to stand for 20 minutes. Meanwhile to make the sauce: in another pan, add the white wine and the remaining garlic clove, crushed. Bring to the boil to remove the alcohol, then add the lamb stock and chicken stock. Bring back to the boil and let the liquid reduce by a third.
6. Add the double cream and bring back to a gentle simmer, reduce to a rich and creamy consistency. Adjust the seasoning and finish with a little lemon juice. Pass through a fine strainer or muslin into a clean pan and keep warm until required.
7. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
8. Heat a little oil and (clarified) butter in a pan. Season the lamb and then seal in pan on all sides.
9. Once sealed, place in a hot oven to roast for about 7-8 minutes. Remove from the oven and cover with foil and leave to rest in a hot place, like above the stove, for at least 20 minutes.
10. To make the garlic fritters: heat the oil for deep-frying in a pan. Dust the garlic cloves in a little flour and shake off the excess. Dip them into the beer batter and deep fry until golden and crisp. Drain on kitchen paper and drizzle with a little lemon juice and season with salt.
11. Cut the wild garlic leaves into squares and stir into the prepared sauce. Let the leaves wilt in the heat of the sauce.
12. Spoon the sauce onto plates spreading the garlic leaves evenly.
13. Cut the best ends into cutlets and lay cut side up on top of the sauce. Place five garlic fritters around the lamb and serve with seasonal vegetables of your choice.

Permalink 8 Comments

He Played as He Pleased

April 26, 2008 at 4:12 pm (good people, jazz, Jim D, Uncategorized)

Humphrey Lyttelton, b: 1921, d: April 2008.

“And one last thing. The good feeling you have attained may need a top-up from time to time through the day. If you go into the bathroom for any reason and catch a glimpse in the mirror of that old expression – the furrowed brow, the turned-down mouth, the grumpily sagging jowels, here’s what you do. Go up to the mirror, look straight at your reflection as if it’s another person – an alter ego, if you like – and give it a knowing, conspiratorial smile, with perhaps a wink for good measure, as if to say ‘Nobody else has a clue, but we do don’t we!’ You think I’m joking? Well try it – it’ll take ten years off you in seconds.

“Good heavens, is that the time? I started this book with a question posed by my hero, Robert Benchley. Let me end with another:

“‘What is the disease which manifests itself in an inability to leave a party until it’s it’s over and the lights are being put out?…I can’t bring myself to say, ‘Well, I guess I’ll be toddling along.’ Sometimes even my host asks me if I mind if he toddles along to bed…It’s that initial plunge that I can’t seem to negotiate. It isn’t that I can’t toddle along. it’s that I can’t guess I’ll toddle.’

“Well, I know the feeling. But I guess I’ll toddle along now. It’s been fun…


(H. Lyttelton, ‘It Just Occurred to Me…’, Avona Books, 2006)

Humph’s death, announced this morning, hit me in the way that the death of a close family member who’s been ill for a long time, hits you: you’re not surprised, but you’re still shocked. It still comes as a blow, even though you’ve been half expecting it.

Humph was tremendously influential in my life and in my appreciation of jazz. His weekly “Best Of Jazz” broadcasts on BBC Radio 2 introduced me (as an enthusiastic schoolboy) to such jazz heroes as (from memory): Vic Dickenson, Joe Thomas, George Wettling, Joe Bushkin,  Jay C. Higginbotham and Dave Tough – all “middle period” players that I might have missed altogether if Humph hadn’t drawn my attention to them. Sadly, BBC Radio now rarely features such players (except on Geoffrey Smith’s Saturday ‘Jazz Record Requests’, which keeps having its time changed – a sure sign that the BBC is preparing to axe it).

Humph was, first and foremost, a jazz musician. Even his later, better-known, career as the Chairman/Host of the comedy BBC radio quiz “I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue” (ISIHAC), owed its success to his impeccable timing, developed as an improvisor and jazz band leader. In fairness, it should be recorded that Humph recently (during his appearance on ‘Desert Island Discs’, I think) attributed his dead-pan “innocent” persona as Chairman of ISIHAC to a subconscious absorbtion of the persona/act of Kenneth Horne on ‘Round The Horne’ in the 1960’s.

Humph was born into an upper-class, aristocratic family. His father was an Eton schoolmaster, and he himself was educated at Eton, then serving in the Brigade of Guards, before veering off into bohemia and jazz.

He burst onto the late 1940’s amateur British ‘revivalist’ scene with a musical force and personal charisma that made everyone sit up and take notice. Some of this may have been down to what many people have described as his “imperious” (ie: upper-class) self-confidence. But there is also no doubting the fact (evidenced by the early recordings) that he was a damn fine trumpet player, in the early-Armstrong style, possessed of a power and technique that placed him well ahead of revivalist contemporaries like Owen Brice and Reg Rigden, and more in the league of ‘Archer Street’ professionals like Tommy McQuater, Max Goldberg and Kenny Baker. A few years later, Humph came under the spell of Buck Clayton with whom he developed a very close personal and professional relationship. But he never forgot his early debt to Armstrong (or the first British trumpet player to popularise the Armstrong style, Nat Gonnella). 

Humph joined the first British “revivalist” band, George Webb’s Dixielanders, which included Wally Fawkes, a superb, Sidney Bechet-influenced clarinet player who was also a highly-skilled cartoonist, working (under the name “Trog”) at the time for the Daily Mail. Fawkes moved on, from the Mail (which was not to his taste politically) and ensured that Lyttelton (who had attended Camberwell Art School), inherited his job on the Mail:

“His (Fawkes’ – JD) words were on the lines of, ‘Get some samples of your stuff together and go in to see the Features editor. I’ve already primed him.’ He had indeed. The man barely glanced at my work before saying, ‘You start tomorrow.’ And that led to eight years on the Daily Mail during which I graduated to pocket cartoonist and, for a year or two, librettist for ‘Flook’.”

It must have been at about this time (the mid-1950’s), that Lyttelton ran into a former Eton schoolmaster who enquired about what he (Lyttlelton) was doing. Humph replied that he was drawing a strip cartoon, doing freelance journalism, playing trumpet, leading a band, broadcasting and writing a book. The master replied, “I suppose you’ll have to give all that up one day and start to think about a career.”

Happily, Humph never had to “think about a career”, in that sense. His band went from success to success in the 1950’s, ’60’s, ’70’s…and up until last Tuesday, when they blew what was, by all accounts, a very enjoyable session at the Bull’s Head in Barnes (South West London, and one of Humph’s favourite venues). Humph remained a much loved figure on the British jazz scene, even though he regularly alienated the more staid sections of his fan-base by continually changing his stylistic approach, moving from ‘revivalism’ to ‘mainstream’, and beyond…although always remaining in touch with the eternal jazz verities as espoused by Louis, Fats, Duke, Basie, Billie, and Condon. 

Humph was a vigilant talent-scout and his band, over the years, included such outstanding British jazz personalities as Bruce Turner (alto sax/clarinet), Stan Greig (drums/piano), Johnny Pickard (trombone), Mick Pyne (trombone, cornet and piano), Jimmy Skidmore (tenor sax), Tony Coe (alto sax), Joe Temperley (baritone sax), Kathy Stobart (tenor sax) and Eddie Harvey (trombone, piano and arranger). He also championed female jazz players like Kathy Stobart and, more recently, Karen Sharpe (tenor and baritone saxes) and Jo Fooks (tenor sax).

His band, during the 1950’s and 60’s, accompanied and/or worked alongside such great US jazz masters as Sidney Bechet, Eddie Condon, Louis Armstrong, Jimmy Rushing, Big Joe Turner, Buck Clayton, etc, etc…

He also boosted the careers of singers Helen Shapiro, Elkie Brooks and Stacey Kent.

He played as he pleased. He lived his life as he pleased. He was this country’s most effective champion of jazz in all its manifestations, from early New Oleans to the avant garde. He stood up for fair play, equality and human decency whenever he could. He recently said (on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, when asked the inevitable “retirement” question), “When I finally slump forward, I hope it will be with the trumpet in my hand”: well, he very nearly did that, playing a successful and enjoyable gig a week before he died. A good life, and (insofar as there can be such a thing), a good death. Farewell, Humph.


Permalink 10 Comments

Who the Friends of Religion are and why they fight the Secular Left

April 25, 2008 at 6:00 am (Andrew C, religion, Respect, SWP)

This is a guest post from long-standing activist and left-wing blogosphere regular, Andrew Coates. May it be the first of many! VP

An “alliance against oppression” between progressive Muslims and the left is threatened by a “new generation of renegades” who have veered from socialism and liberalism to neo-conservatism. Over-generalising polemicist, Nick Cohen, second-rate novelist, Martin Amis, the author of elegant critiques of religion and half-baked backer of intervention in Iraq, Christopher Hitchens, former Caliphate admirer, Ed Husain, and the transparently genuine Andrew Anthony, are amongst those bundled into this group of outcasts. They have abandoned an “impoverished, beleaguered and demonised community”. Under the mask of secularism, and attacks on Islamist “fascism” they have retreated to “hierarchic and traditionalist thinking”. In plain language, Conservatism without the ‘neo’. Thus David Edgar (Guardian Review. 19.04.08). Seumas Milne has gone even further, Militant secularists are, “apologists for capitalism and war”. These traitors use “atheism as a banner of the global liberal capitalist order and the wars fought since 2001” (Guardian 27.3.08).

So the secular left is lumped together with backers of the American-led military interventions and globalising capitalism. A variety of charges are made. Christologist Terry Eagleton regards atheism as a vulgar intrusion into the mysteries of the Cross; John Gray welcomes the waning strength of loathsome ‘Secular fundamentalists’, Tobias Jones talks of secular ‘totalitarianism’. Christopher Brook. (New Left Review No 44. Mar/April 2007), states that militant secularists, those defending Enlightenment values, are “broadly sympathetic to the hawkish foreign policy of the ‘global war on terror’”. The Chair of the Stop the War Coalition (StWC), Andrew Murray, declared some time back that there was, “A serious political engagement by the left with the Muslim communities, united in opposition to war and support of civil liberties” (Guardian. 26.8.06). Milne could but concur: progressive religious forces are a central ally in the left’s struggle for justice.

There are two main answers to those who hold that religion can, at present, be positive political force in general and that Islamicism in particular is can be an ally of the left. And to their criticisms of secularism.

The first is that anyone who believes in the ‘religions of the book’ stands for documents that are less reliable than Heather Mills. We can leave the riddles of Being aside and point to the simple fact that the ‘divine’ they consider real, is not. This is the atheist argument. The secularist one is different. It is not the individual’s imagination, or claims to know that deities exist, that secularists criticise. It is religion as an institution, with public power, and privilege, and the dragooning of people into herds led by ‘community leaders’ (not elected, but with god’s authority). A neutral public space, in which religious politics are fought and removed, is the basis for secular freedom.

The second is that Islamism is not a cry of pain in the heartless capitalist world. It is part of the pain itself. The record stands for itself, from Indonesia, Iran to Algeria Islamists are right-wing, pro-capitalist adepts of violence. They reject human political rule and human rights for Divine Sovereignty and the revealed word of god. In brief, they are oppressors. As Peter Thatchell says, the left should stand with those who are the victims of these bullies, in the countries under the yoke of Political Islam. The planet is ever closer-knit: there are no Berlin Walls separating us from these lands and their politics. We ought never to ally ourselves with the off-shoots of global Islamicism in the UK, from the relatively moderate Muslim Initiative (who still believe in the rule of god), to the far-right Jamaat-i-Islami, passing through a kaleidoscope of other Islamicst formations. Edgar claims that some Muslims now think that human rights trump godly ones. This, it is true, is part of the noticeable evolution of former Islamists away from their former ideology. That is to break with Islamism. This process is not helped by coddling the Muslim religious right, as Murray, and Milne, the StWC, the SWP and Respect Renewal do: it is encouraged by frank democratic dialogue and criticism.

Instead of communalist appeals to religious ‘communities’ the left will only begin to rise again through a common identity against capitalist exploitation and oppression. That is called the class struggle, and ties not waged through Churches, Mosques and Temples and Synagogues. The existing liberal-warfare state has encouraged religious assertiveness, in education and a multitude of advisory bodies, and is privatising welfare to faith-groups. An alliance of religious leaders and the left (in reality one section of the left), is one of the greatest barriers to class unity and social justice. It splits, it mangles and it ruins the left’s democratic credentials.

Edgar is a hundred per cent right to criticise those who have dropped the left’s equalitarian principles for liberal economics. He cannot be answered by a ‘decent left’ which is mired in indecency by supporting the invasion and occupation of Iraq: an act of horror that has left tens of thousands dead, and millions of mutilated and crushed lives. Against the Friends of Religion and these ambiguous secularists could stand a new alliance: the Human Rights Left. This would be for the dignity of all human beings, rights (historical and which we try to make real), simply by virtue of being humans. No human right is derived from god.

This hostility to secularists is not new. Someone once said that, “Atheism is aristocratic. The conception of a great being who watches over oppressed innocence, and punishes successful crime, is democratic through and through.” Page 266 – 267. Fatal Purity. Robespierre and the French Revolution, Ruth Scurr 2006.)

That was Robespierre. Perhaps a good example of where religion can lead you

Permalink 108 Comments

Too Busy

April 24, 2008 at 11:09 pm (blogging, Guardian, Islam, jazz, Jim D, labour party)

Real life has been a bit pressing of late, which means I haven’t been able to comment upon:

1/ David Edgar’s tripe about “defectors” from the left;

2/ the 10p tax revolt;

3/ the Grangemouth oil strike;

4/ the 70th anniversary of the death of King Oliver;

5/ Why Ziauddin Sardar, in today’s Graun, is depressingly predicatable.

I hope to comment on all these matters shortly: in the meanwhile, please feel free to send me your thoughts.

Permalink 1 Comment


April 23, 2008 at 10:44 am (anonymous, Civil liberties, hell, Human rights, insanity, thuggery, TWP, United States)

Permalink 1 Comment

Torab Saleth on Iran, Belfast 10 April

April 22, 2008 at 10:45 am (Iran, left, liberation, TWP)

This is a bit long but a very good overview of both the Iranian Revolution in 1979 and the current situation given by Critique Editorial Board member Torab Saleth who is also on the Steering Committee of Hands Off the People of Iran (HOPI).

Part 1: Presentation

Part 2: Questions and Discussion

h/t Liam & Communist Students

Permalink Leave a Comment

The US electoral system explained (…and Beedlebaum)

April 22, 2008 at 12:34 am (comedy, Democratic Party, elections, Jim D, music)

Hak Mao brings the following tribute to Spike Jones and His City Slickers to our attention:

All clear, now?

Couldn’t find a You Tube of the Spike Jones version of Rossini’s ‘William Tell Overture’  (aka: “…and Beedlebaum”),  but here’s another recent homage:

Permalink Leave a Comment

He ain’t Nooman’s G…

April 20, 2008 at 10:22 pm (blogging, left, voltairespriest)

In another staggering breakthrough for left-wing coalition building, the politburo at the laughably misnamed “Socialist Unity Blog” appear to have issued a one month expulsion to SWP member (and occasional commenter here) John G for calling someone a “political nutter” – possibly on more than one occasion. Apparently this is simply “not acceptable on a socialist blog”, unlike, say, Ian “bites yer legs” Donovan’s civil and courteous vocabulary. The expulsion notice is repeated here for posterity. Hang your head in shame, G. There again, learn to act more like Donovan or “Gentleman” Ger Francis and you’ll soon be rehabilitated.

Given that SWP member John G has continued to use vocabulary related to mental distress as an insult in comments on this blog, and given that we have repeatedly asked him not to, then he is banned from commenting on this blog for a month.

Comments from John will be summarily deleted for a month.

This may seem excessive to some people, but we have a policy on this blog of treating the politics of mental distress seriously, and this is at least the second time, (and I think it is the third time) over the last few months that John G has been asked not to use this vocabulary. Each time he has responded with ill-grace. But this is our blog, and if we ask people not to use derogatory language related to mental distress, then we expect that policy to be respected. In our view these terms are no less offensive or divisive than sexist or racist abuse, even though they are regretably more socially accepted. We know that not everyone agrees, but that is our policy and we ask that it is respected.

This ban has nothing to do with the political content of John’s comments. It is simple bad manners that once John was asked not to use this vocabulary tonight, and after we warned him that he would be banned if he continued using it, then he repeated the use, and directed insults relating to mental distress towards me. That is not the behaviour we expect from someone commenting on a socialist blog.

In the last few weeks this blog has been systematically disrupted by trolling behaviour from many SWP members, regretably including John, but this is not the reason for the ban.

It is a shame because John often does seriously contribute to substantive debate, but that is all the more reason to expect better from him.

Original post here

(Edit: Altered to remove our hero’s surname, given that the original post has been similarly altered.)

Permalink 66 Comments

40 years on from “Rivers of Blood”

April 20, 2008 at 10:15 pm (anti-fascism, Anti-Racism, asylum, fascism, immigration, Jim D, politics, Racism, Tory scum)

It was 40 years ago today that Enoch Powell made his foul, racist and deliberately provocative speech here in my home town of Birmingham. A classicist as well as a senior Tory politician, he refered to Virgil: “As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding; like the Roman, I seem to see ‘the River Tiber foaming with much blood’.”

That was the quote that gave the speech its popular title of “Rivers of Blood”: but the really poisonous stuff was his claim that a constituent had told him, “In this country in 15 or 20 years’ time, the black man will have the whip hand over the white man”, and the story (almost certainly made up) of a widowed pensioner, the only white person left on her street, being persecuted by West Indian neighbours and afraid to venture out: “Windows are broken. She finds excretea pushed through her letterbox. When she goes out, she is followed by children, charming wide-eyed piccaninnies.”

His solution was an end to all immigration and for the “voluntary” repatriation of those immigrants already here: there could be no question, in this context, that when Powell talked of “immigration” he meant non-white immigration. “We must be mad, literally mad,” he proclaimed, “as a nation to be permitting the annual inflow of some 50,000 dependents. It is like watching a nation busily engaged in heaping up its own funeral pyre.”

Powell had made a similar speech two months earlier in nearby Walsall, but it hadn’t hit the headlines. This time, he sent out advance copies to the press, and spiced things up with the stories about excrement through letter boxes and the black man gaining the “whip hand”. For sure, this highly educated classicist knew exactly what he was doing and what the likely effect would be. His immediate intention was to make it impossible for the Labour govenment to procede with plans to extend the provisions of the Race Relations Act to cover employment, housing and services; his longer term plan was almost certainly to undermine Tory leader Edward Heath and put himself into poll position to become the next Tory leader. He failed in both ambitions (though Heath’s successor Thatcher made little secret of her admiration for Powell and his views on race and immigration). To achieve these ends Powell was willing to poison race relations in Britain and put the physical safety of all black and ethnic minority people at serious risk. Oh yes, he knew what he was doing. And the thugs of the National Front were only to happy to use his speech as justification for physical assaults.

But the “rivers of blood” and the racial conflagration predicted by Powell, never happened. Racial attacks, certainly. But not the riots and the social collapse he and his supporters predicted. Some commentators have tried to make out that the inner-city riots of 1981 vindicated Powell’s predictions, but anyone who witnessed them will confirm that they were not, primarily, race riots. And in any case, they soon blew over.

The truth is that although racism still abounds in the UK, the “rivers of blood” never flowed and the irrational anachronism that is racism, is very, very slowly declining. That’s not an excuse for complacency and -certainly – there are worrying signs that both New Labour and the Tories will play the immigration card as and when it suits them (Brown”s disgraceful cry of “British jobs for British workers”, for instance). And whilst it’s no longer considered acceptable for any mainstream politician to disparage non-white British citizens, migrant workers and asylum seekers are very much fair game. But Darcus Howe, writing in the present New Statesman is probably right when he notes that “any member of Parliament who speaks in Powellite language would find him or herself charged with incitement to commit terrorism.”

NB: Much of the above piece was lifted from an excellent article  by Sarfraz Manzoor that appeared in The Observer of 24.02.08


Permalink 2 Comments

Next page »