Monday, 21 January 2013
Tuesday, 15 January 2013
I had a query in the comments from Ann who was looking for information about The Happy Wanderers Jazz Band (seen above in a photo taken at the Busker's Concert rehearsal), a bunch of buskers who were very well known round the West End for many years. I never had a lot of contact with them and they didn't mix as far as I knew with the other older buskers round the West End - probably because their pitches were different so they didn't drink on the same manors, as it it were. Did a bit of googling, came across a thread I had commented on with regard to the Road Stars on the Mudcat site and noticed a link to a short film that I hadn't bothered/forgot to check. And it's brilliant, a short documentary about buskers, labelled on the site 'The Happy Wanderers' except it's not. It's Ronnie Ross, Road Stars and solo and his wife Peg, plus one of his sons. Ron is in his tower block flat waxing philosophical and this was a great reminder of what a clever, sharp man he was. The section where he is busking in Leicester Square is superb - accompanied by a very good female accordion player called Mikky, if I remember correctly, who is also playing a bass drum. With the words: 'Happy Wanderers' on it. Was it borrowed from them? Or maybe there were connections I knew nothing about. A great find and thanks to CJB on Mudcat for this...
Movie is here...
Monday, 25 June 2012
Patrick rang me today to confirm the text that the great guitar player John Renbourn wrote to him after he read the book and that he is happy for us to use for publicity. We are proud to repeat the following:
'What a great book! Full of bullshit, of course, but GREAT bullshit! The text is right on the money and the photos really make it...'
Thanks for the kind words, John!
Wednesday, 9 November 2011
Once Don had made the initial breakthrough into the Biz after 'Rosie' became a hit, other offers presented themselves. One rather obscure one was when he was commissioned to write the lyrics (Stanley Myers did the music) for the opening theme over the titles for the film 'Otley.' The resulting song was, 'Homeless Bones,' a quirky little ditty, backed by Don's one man band, heavily featuring harmonica and banjo rather than guitar, with some background orchestration - minimal strings and a tuba. (He often used plectrum banjo on the street - as did Alan Young, his oldest friend - because it cut through the surrounding noise very efficiently). 'Otley' was released in 1968, with Tom Courtenay in the lead (alongside Romy Schneider) as a jack the lad about town in the 'Swinging Sixties.' The movie is actually somewhat better than that description might suggest...
'Gerald Arthur Otley (Tom Courtenay) is a born loser.While asleep,drunk,his host is murdered and Otley himself is taken and interrogated by two separate sets of kidnappers before he has a chance to talk to the Police. The bemused Otley blunders from one near-fatal crisis to another with no idea who is on whose side, and especially who is on his side. This spoof comedy-thriller combines elements of ‘James-Bondery’ with the swinging London set as the confused Otley unintentionally finds himself keeping company with spies and murderers in all manner of comical situations.'
The opening sequences show Tom Courtenay walking along a busy london street and is a time capsule of late 1960s london, the people, the hair styles, the clothes and cars bringing memories of the era flooding back if you were in london at that time. Covertly filmed unlike many films you can see that most people are totally unaware they are being filmed as the actor walks amongst them. I find this part of the film alone fascinating. Shot in colour OTLEY is a must see for any British comedy film fan.'
(Taken from here).
The 'busy London street' is Portobello Road, one of those iconic London settings of the time. Not sure who the busker is on the left as the camera follows Courtenay's progress through the crowds - could be John McCarthy ('Scouse')? Height and moustache would be about right.
When the film opened in the US in March 1969, Vincent Canby, writing in the New York Times, was not overly impressed:
'"OTLEY," the British comedy that opened yesterday at the Cinema I, is like one of Billy Liar's had dreams. An occasional antiques dealer and gigolo to Soho landladies. Otley wakes up one morning to find himself wanted for a murder he did not commit, and the prize of rival intelligence agencies, whose intentions he cannot fathom.
Like Otley, the movie is a bad risk. Everything in it is borrowed and badly used—actors (Tom Courtenay, Alan Badel), situations (the triumph of the fraudulent fool), and even settings, including a rather handsome Thames houseboat that reminded me wistfully of "The Horse's Mouth." "Otley" is the kind of movie that allows you to think about other movies, in those great gaps of time between the setting up of a gag and the moment when it is ritualistically executed.
Tom Courtenay, who used to appear in good, intelligent movies ("The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner," "Billy Liar") plays Otley with a certain commendable desperation. ("Have a go at me psyche," he tells a hood who's about to beat him up, "but leave me body alone!") However, if he continues in films like this and "Dandy in Aspic," he's going to wind up as an actor who will be described—throughout his career — as "a rising young star," a talent as immobilized in mediocrity as a leaf frozen in recite.
You pays your money, as they say. But the match-up between Don's song and ongoing street vibe with Courtenay's youthful roguish energy and good looks works well enough for this period piece.
Monday, 31 October 2011
Frank Brown and his old Gibson Twelve String.
Leicester Square 1968.
A very nice review of the book from John Bentham in the Tiger Folk Newsletter (not available on their site but via Dave Sutherland's monthly newsletter):
'Three years ago on a Friday night Don Partridge played the Pack Horse Folk Club in Loughborough. It wasn’t a turn up, perform and off down the road jobs, oh no. Saturday saw him busking in the Market Place; one of his old haunts from the 80’s when he was living on a narrow boat in the town. In the pub later in the afternoon, an old chum of Dons, Rod Warner broached the idea of writing a biography of Don. His response was that it shouldn’t be a biography but a book about buskers. After all both he and Rod were on the busking scene at the same time. It became more than a suggestion and the prospect of writing such a book started to become a reality. Perhaps the catalyst was when Don... contacted Pat Keene. Now Pat had also been earning his living busking but was also a photographer with rolls and rolls of film that he had taken at the time. Of course, busking was nothing new, there had always been street performers, but nearly all of them were “The Old School”, accordion players, banjo and spoon players, jazz bands, individual singers and their ilk but now, suddenly, there appeared in their midst young, guitar carrying lads and the busking world was about to change and Pat was there to capture it on film.
In the book we are taken, in photographs some of which have never been published before and through the reminiscences of Don, Pat and Rod, back to a world that the majority of people only saw or ignored as they passed by on their own journeys. And it would possibly have remained a twilight world if Don Partridge hadn’t have mackled up his one man band kit, worn a snake skin jacket and started singing a song called “Rosie”. The smart thing to say now would be;” And the rest is history”. Well, yes it is, and you can now read the first-hand accounts of that history. Because I know Rod quite well, I felt a little uneasy at times reading some of the intimate details of his life but also fascinated by them, is this just curiosity or voyeurism? Whatever it might be, it proves yet again that we might think we know someone but how much do we really know.
Life was good on the streets and life was bad on the streets. The streets weren’t just in London. They were up and down the country. They were up and down the Europe. They were east of Europe and west to Ireland. Sometimes travelling in style, sometimes bumming it, sometimes with money to burn, sometimes with a scarce two ha’pennies to rub together, sometimes travelling alone, sometimes with fellow buskers and bottlers, sometimes as a loner sometimes with a lover, travelling, travelling, always moving on. Even when the times were good the road would beckon and so they would up sticks and away. Bohemian, I guess it was.
The highlight was The Buskers Concert in 1969 when Don hired The Royal Albert Hall.....read all about it!
Sadly Don passed away before the book was finished but Pat and Rod were determined to complete the project in memory of their old mate and a damn good job they have done of it.
“If you don’t see me next spring, I’ll be in Berlin”
“Transworld Blues”-Don Partridge.'
“Transworld Blues”-Don Partridge.'
Thursday, 27 October 2011
The book is now launched, people are buying it, which is gratifying, with not too many problems so far.
Of course, after publication, one is always thinking of the material you wanted to put in, things that you might have approached differently, stylistic choices that were or were not made. The list goes on... Pat and myself hit the basic problem when Don suddenly and tragically died: should we continue or should we abandon the book in its planned form and try to resurrect it as something else? In the end, we fell somewhere in the middle, deciding that, yes, the book would be incomplete from the original ideas that had been thrashed out, because we needed more of Don's input for that, and short of a Doris Stokes moment or two, this was not going to happen in this life. But what we had was maybe enough to justify the project. So we went with that. Three stories that elliptically reflect and refract on each other. The other issue was: time and mortality. With Don gone, the two of us not exactly spring chickens, the owld wingèd chariot was hurrying near behind us somewhat. Et in busking arcadia ego... (I have a rather drunken fancy that after death, crossing the bar (to borrow from Tennyson) might be turned from the sombre process of changing continuum, so to speak, if the Pilot suddenly turned round and revealed himself as my old friend, professional loon and busking partner, Jumping Jack/Earl of Mustard/Norman Norris: 'I'm the guv'nor. Whorr hor hor.' I assume the old bugger has left this level sometime back and would like to think he found a good gig beyond... ).
In the end, the book followed one of the literary precepts which CharlesOlson appropriated from his younger friend and fellow poet, Robert Creeley: 'FORM IS NEVER MORE THAN AN EXTENSION OF CONTENT .'.
Many years later, when asked about his famous quote, Creeley responded:
'I would now almost amend the statement to say, "Form is
what happens." It's the fact of things in the world, however
they are. So that form in that way is simply the presence of
From here... (scroll down).
So the form of the book is created by what we had left to play with. 'Form is what happens.' Hopefully something interesting came of it.
Monday, 26 September 2011
Finally we have arrived! 'Don Partridge and Company' is now on sale from my online store.
'Three young men hit the road with their guitars and music and became buskers. One of them became famous...'
Go here to BUY...
The book is available in either paperback hard copy or pdf digital download.
The photo above is one I found a few days ago and the last one I took of Don before his tragic death just over a year ago. This was on my last visit - we'd broken from recording his interviews to go to Brighton for a few hours. It was a glorious day and we drank too much. But great fun... as time spent with Don always was...